Robert MacKinnon was born into a coal-mining family at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, in 1950. From an early age he exhibited an above-average interest in the sea. Of particular interest to him were wooden sailing ships wrecked along the shores of Nova Scotia and lost in her territorial sea during the colonial period. He began his diving career at the age of 16 and went on to work on treasure ships until the completion of his last major permitted shipwreck recovery project in 2008. From that time on, he began to negotiate for shipwreck claim rights in Massachusetts and Florida.
After the location of many treasure trove items along the shores of Scatarie Island in his early teens, he was accepted into the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at age 18. He trained at Depot Division in Regina, Saskatchewan and was eventually transferred to ‘O’ Division in Ontario. Here he was involved in everything from prosecuting Federal Income Tax and Immigration cases in the Supreme Courts of Ontario, working as a shift supervisor at the Old Malton Airport and finally to be transferred after a stint in Quebec during the FLQ crisis to S & I (Security & Intelligence) now referred to as CSIS. In 1972 he did not re-enlist and returned home to the great love of his life, the ocean and treasure hunting.
In a presentation to the renowned Explorers Club in NYC, he detailed many of his famous and historically-significant shipwreck discoveries, including subsequent recoveries of treasure trove from these sites relating to the colonial period of North America. All of this was accomplished under Nova Scotia heritage research permits and ministerial licenses issued exclusively to him over a time span of 30 plus years by that jurisdictional authority.
Over his long career the author has been responsible for over 90 percent of all treasure trove recovered in, reported to and turned over to the Province of Nova Scotia under the terms and conditions of the now repealed (in 2010) Nova Scotia Treasure Trove Act. Many of his discoveries can be seen at the Nova Scotia Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, as well as various world museums. They have been traded and sold at many of the most prestigious colonial coin auctions on both sides of the Atlantic.