The allures of Jose Gaspar’s mythical treasure and Tampa’s giant pirate parade have pulled strongly on producers of reality television lately.
Sarasota’s Michael Gattuso and members of his crew the Real Treasure Hunters are set to make their cable TV debut at 9 p.m. Wednesday in an episode of Discovery’s Expedition Unknown. The following week they’ll appear on the Travel Channel’s Code of the Wild in an episode titled “Lost Treasure of Panther Key" at 10 p.m. Sept. 17.
A video preview of Expedition Unknown shows host Josh Gates attending Gasparilla in full pirate gear and other scenes from the festival.
The Tampa Bay Times tagged along with Gattuso and friends in January on an expedition in search of gold along the Peace River south of Arcadia. Gattuso claims his crew, assembled from friends whose day jobs include postal worker, general contractor, former firefighter, repo men and dabblers in mixed martial arts, are hot on the trail of the lost treasure of Gaspar.
Gaspar is a legendary pirate for whom Tampa’s Gasparilla pirate festival is named, and who most likely never existed. Gattuso, undeterred, says there was enough pirate activity around Charlotte Harbor, and that he has tracked down enough evidence, to believe something valuable is out there, even if it didn’t belong to Gaspar.
The network’s description for the Expedition Unknown episode, featuring Gattuso and Real Treasure Hunters member Dennis R. Neal, says “Josh (Gates) joins marine archaeologists and treasure hunters working to crack the mysteries of the pirate’s life so they can find the riches he left behind.”
Code of the Wild is a new hourlong series in which brothers Chris and Casey Keefer, described as “extreme adventurers turned wilderness private eyes," travel to remote locations to seek the truth behind “baffling mysteries.”
A Travel Channel description of the upcoming episode featuring Mike Gattuso and Lauren Hennessey Gattuso says the couple “recently tracked down a family member related to Lady Boggess, a name mentioned in many journals and newspapers relating to Jose Gaspar. ... The Keefer brothers head out with the Gattusos in an airboat to an undisclosed location deep in the Peace River. Equipped with GPR, they see a large box-sized anomaly below the ground."
The episode will also delve into Juan Gomez, another murky figure associated with the treasure, and show the Keefer brothers traveling to Panther Key, where Gomez was said to live, and using an underwater drone to search for clues.
Gattuso said The Real Treasure Hunters “are currently being reviewed by Discovery and waiting for a decision” on whether they will be given their own TV show.