Deep Dive: Recovering the sunken treasures of Lake Travis

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VOLENTE (KXAN) — Have you ever been out on the lake and dropped something valuable in the water? If your first thought is that it’s lost forever, you should think again. 

Robert Weiss and his team of two originally started Lake Travis Scuba as a charter boat scuba company.

“We first started finding goodies and valuable items and things like that and actually came up with the idea of a business for search and recovery,” Weiss said. “What’s on the bottom is our little playground.” 

Along with Weiss, divemaster Brian Waddell uses imaging equipment to see what’s on the bottom of the lake.

The team is most often hired to find cell phones and Apple Watches, but it’s not always technology falling overboard.

Party barges and the people who go on them are so prolific for dropping things in Lake Travis, that some local divers call them “sunglasses dispensers.”

There are ways you can help the dive team find your item after it’s fallen overboard.

“A white trash bag with a rock in it. Drop that where the item was lost. That gives us a marker location underwater,” suggested Weiss.

Pictures of the location are also helpful.

During our 15 minute search of the bottom of  Lake Travis, Weiss and Waddell collected some treasure.
“Found an earring, somebody’s lost their earring, these sunglasses,” said Weiss. 

Over the years they’ve been hired to find wedding rings, Rolex watches and important family heirlooms, but the most unusual item?

“A prosthetic leg, we had to recover for a gentleman that lost it on his dock, that was about 50 feet down,” Weiss recalled. 

Searches can be hampered by low visibility underwater and boat traffic above, but they claim a 95% success rate.

Joe Berti, from Spicewood, hired the company on behalf of his daughter.

“She was carrying her phone and she actually bumped into the side of the dock and it fell out of her hand and it went down into the Pedernales River,” Berti said.

And after a 45-minute search …

“She was ecstatic, so obviously I get the dad award for helping her out,” Berti added.

Recovering items isn’t cheap. Each search costs around $150, whether the crew finds the item or not.

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