Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Treasure-Diving Days

PHOTO: Spanish Main Treasure Company/

When I found out that Sir Arthur C. Clarke had been hospitalized and that our January interview had to be postponed temporarily, I used the time to visit the sun-drenched coast of southwestern Sri Lanka, off which Clarke had frequently dived. It was there, in 1961, that Clarke and his friend Mike Wilson found a shipwreck full of silver coins dating from the early 1700s. Clarke, along with Wilson and Hector Ekanayake, helped haul the 250-year-old galleon's loot to the surface, which came to be called the Treasure of the Great Basses Reef. Some of it can be seen in the Smithsonian Institution today—coins from the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1618–1707).

Not many know that Clarke was an accomplished diver. In fact, it was scuba diving that first brought him to Sri Lanka, where he made his home from 1956 until his death in March 2008.

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