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The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 45, November 4, 2007, Article 19

THE INDEPENDENT'S ARTICLE ON THE ODYSSEY SITUATION

An E-Sylum reader writes: "I found the article below in
a recent web edition of the British newspaper 'The Independent'.
This article presents a broader picture of the Odyssey situation
and the sea salvage business in general than most of the
articles that have been printed lately."

[I located a copy of the article on the web site of the
Belfast Telegraph. A few excerpts appear below.  -Editor]

There is mounting concern among marine archaeologists,
academics and heritage groups at the activities of commercially
driven salvage teams currently scouring the ocean floor
checking out the worth of the estimated three million wrecks
that languish there. Not all of them are laden with glittering
baubles, but there are enough  around 3,000, according to
some estimates  to drive the kind of high risk, get-rich-quick
adventure business that would have set Captain Limbrey's
pulse racing.

But the search for submarine treasure is running into choppy
seas. This month the master of the Odyssey Explorer, a diving
support vessel owned by the Nasdaq-listed company Odyssey
Marine Exploration, was arrested and put in jail in Algeciras
in Spain.

In May, Odyssey stunned the world when it announced that it
had recovered 500,000 silver coins weighing 17 tons from a
vessel it would describe only as the fictional "Black Swan"
after the 1942 swashbuckling Hollywood classic of the same
name. The coins, said to be worth 250m, were taken to
Gibraltar and then on to Florida where the question of
ownership is now being settled in the courts.

The British media were certain that the booty came from the
Merchant Royal. The Spanish press remain equally convinced
that it was instead recovered from the Nuestra Senora de las
Mercedes, a Spanish warship sunk by the British off Portugal.

Odyssey refuses to reveal exactly where it found the treasure,
insisting it cannot identify with certainty the vessel on
which it was found. The scrutiny of the bounty continues.

Dr David Gaimster, general secretary of the Society of
Antiquaries, believes time is running out for the world's
most important wrecks with the ever-growing fleets of
private treasure hunters taking to the seas bristling
with the latest in sonar, GPS and remotely operated vehicles.

"For generations these hugely important sites were safe
because they were too far down to be safely reached. But
improvements in technology mean they are now quite easily
accessible. These irreplaceable cultural resources are now
being stripped. They are not being archaeologically recorded
but looted for profit with the bullion and other precious
metals being melted down or sold to collectors ...with the
result that they are lost for ever," he said.

For Robert Yorke, chairman of the Joint Nautical Archaeology
Policy Committee, organisations such as Odyssey operate
with little more than a "veneer of archaeology". "It is
very difficult to recover seven tons of coin without destroying
the organic material such as the barber surgeon's chest or
the musical instruments that we found in the Mary Rose and
tell us so much about life at that time. That sort of archaeology
is incompatible with a ship that costs hundreds of thousands
of dollars a day to run and when you are working with
shareholders on the Nasdaq," he said.

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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