From designing his own dive gear and finding his first shipwrecks at age 12, Dr. E. Lee Spence has gone on to become an internationally known expert on shipwrecks and has long been considered one of the founding fathers of marine archaeology.
Dr. Spence's past work has been funded by such institutions as the Savannah Ships of the Sea Museum, the College of Charleston, the South Carolina Committee for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1991 and '92, Spence served as Chief of Underwater Archaeology for Providencia, a 40,000 square-mile archipelago in the Western Caribbean. He has worked on the wrecks of Spanish galleons, pirate ships, Great Lakes freighters, modern luxury liners, Civil War blockade-runners and submarines. He has authored more than two dozen books, and has served as editor for a number of nationally distributed magazines.
Spence was the discoverer of the Civil War submarine Hunley, and in 1995, at the official request of the State of South Carolina Hunley Commission, he donated all of his rights to the wreck to the State. The Hunley has been described as the most important underwater archaeological discovery of the 20th century.
Although Spence has discovered numerous historically significant shipwrecks, including the Confederate cruiser Georgiana, and has salvaged millions of valuable artifacts, he considers his identification of George Trenholm, who was the owner of the Georgiana, as the "Real Rhett Butler" to have been his most important literary discovery.
His work has been written up in hundreds of periodicals including the New York Times; USA Today; Heutzu (Germany); Vi Menn (Norway); MacLeans (Canada); Tresors de l'histoire (France); Life; and People. He has also been a guest on numerous radio and televisions shows including NBC's Today Show where he was interviewed by Jane Pawley.
His book, "Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The 'real Rhett Butler' & Other Revelations," prompted major features in such international publications as the London Sunday Express and Italy's Oggi magazine.
Spence is also an award-winning cartographer and has published a number of maps and charts dealing with shipwrecks and treasure.
He is married to Lauren McEntire and was previously married to her cousin, the former Sherry Shealy Martschink. Sherry served in both the South Carolina House and Senate.