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The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 18, May 3, 2009, Article 30

TREASURE HUNTER WHO TRIED TO GOOGLE GOLD LOSES COURT BID

Technology changes everything ... or does it? Here's a novel article about a would-be treasure ship salvor who went to court to claim ownership of a wreck based on his research on the Internet. -Editor
So much for the romantic notion that a Los Angeles treasure hunter using Google Earth could get rights to dig up abandoned gold and silver from a 19th century ship buried in South Texas muck.

On Monday a federal judge ruled that Nathan Smith didn’t present any credible evidence that the vessel is where he thinks it is or that he’s done anything to help recover it.

“Smith has received no artifacts, and presents no evidence, other than his own testimony regarding metal detector readings, that anything of value or historical significance actually exists where he claims it exists,” wrote U.S. District Judge David Hittner in a 44-page opinion.

Smith did show the judge a fuzzy picture of a piece of wood he found and then lost. Smith testified his metal detector showed gold and silver under the spot where he thinks the treasure sits, 160 miles southwest of Houston, near the Mission River in Refugio County.

The judge found Smith didn’t sue to be vexatious but because “Smith genuinely believes in his own mind that he actually has discovered the resting place of an ancient shipwreck.”

Others may have thought so, too. The Texas Historical Commission wanted in on the case and when Hittner refused, the state vowed to appeal.

In a December hearing on Smith’s claims, the Californian said he was looking for a way to finance his music and film ventures and was inspired by the National Treasure movies. He read up on all sorts of missing loot and used the Internet to look for a barkentine that got lost in South Texas in an 1822 hurricane that killed half the crew, leaving the other half to a local cannibal tribe.

Smith thought he’d found the ship under a shoe print-shaped spot using Google Earth. He visited the spot several times and then monitored it using Google Earth.

Applying laws of “finds” and of “salvage,” the judge basically found Smith’s evidence and efforts to be short of what’s required to get legal rights to try to dig it up.

To read the complete article, see: Treasure hunter who tried to Google gold loses court bid (www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/metro/6395001.html)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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