Phil Masters & the History of Intersal


When Intersal founder Philip Masters began his investigation of the Spanish treasure ship, El Salvador, he conducted research in various American, British and Spanish libraries. During his investigation, Mr. Masters uncovered evidence indicating that El Salvador, a richly laden Spanish merchant ship, had been lost near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, sunk in a hurricane in August of 1750.

Further research conducted at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain, uncovered original documentation which confirmed that when she wrecked, El Salvador was carrying a valuable consignment of gold, silver and emeralds. Mr Masters decided to apply for a permit to search for El Salvador. The permit, issued by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources (“DCR”), covers an area of at Beaufort Inlet where the research indicates El Salvador was lost. 

At the same time, Mr. Masters began research to determine the validity of reports suggesting that another historically significant vessel, Blackbeard’s 1718 flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR,) had also been lost within the same area.   Following confirmation of that fact, in late 1987, application was made for a state permit covering QAR, which was granted in January 1988.  A year thereafter, a second Blackbeard vessel, the pirate sloop Adventure, was added to the permit.

Intersal founder, Phil Masters poses next cannon from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, June 2, 2006
Intersal founder, Phil Masters poses next cannon from Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge, at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort, June 2, 2006

Initial diving reconnaissance in 1987 established that conditions in the prime target area, while not ideal, were adequate for search and salvage operations.  Mr. Masters and his long-time friend Dr. Allan Fields then enlisted the aid of attorney Louis J. Pleeter, accountant Glenn R Haft, and others.  In early 1988, Intersal Inc. was incorporated in Florida with an expressed goal of helping to increase knowledge and awareness of America’s rich maritime heritage by researching, locating and excavating valuable historic shipwrecks.  Presentations were made to prospective investors, and funds were raised to allow for commencement of field operations in the fall of 1988.

For approximately one month in 1988, and again in 1989, the Company conducted preliminary magnetometer survey operations in the shallower portions of the target area.  Many groups of anomalies (possible shipwreck sites) were electronically pinpointed for follow-up sand removal and diving investigation.  In 1990, Pelican III, a forty-two foot steel-hulled crew boat powered by two large diesel engines, was purchased, refitted, and equipped with twin twenty-six inch diameter custom-built prop-wash diverters. In 1991,  questions arose as to the status of the state permits, requiring that fund-raising and field operations be suspended. In 1995, the DCR granted Intersal clear title to the permits, and field operations resumed. In 1996, guided by Mr. Masters research, Intersal discovered the shipwreck of Blackbeard the Pirate’s Flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.