Headline, March18, 2014



TWO CENTURIES,  Yes!...... Two centuries underwater had dulled their sparkle, yet the first glimpse of silver coins drew excited cheers on board  Odyssey Marine Exploration's flagship.

The gold coins that came next really caught the Iberian sun- and of course, the spirits:   The entire haul was worth around  !!!  $500m  !!!

A record find for Gregg Stemm,  Odyssey's boss.

He dislikes the  ""treasure hunter""  label,  but sports a beard and cracks pirates jokes.

Like old buccaneers,  he also tangles with the authorities. After five years of legal wrangling,  America's Supreme Court  in 2012  upheld a ruling that:

Because the wreck was a Spanish warship, it enjoyed sovereign immunity.

Odyssey has already returned most of the trove, nearly  600,000 coins. A ruling by a Florida court (last year) could make it pay Spain's legal costs  -which run into millions of dollars.

A former chicken farmer called Mel Fisher took eight years to secure his rights to the wreck of  Nuestra Senora de Atocha,  a  17th century Spanish galleon.

When he found it after more than a decade's searching off the Florida coast, a hotbed for treasure hunters, the state claimed ownership of its cargo of silver coins and emerald jewellery.

Eventually the Supreme Court ruled that the site was in international waters, where finders' rights prevail.

Such struggles with officialdom make a tough business even harder. Some 3m wrecks pepper the ocean floors, according to the UN  -though few contain riches.

Finding them involves lengthy research and lucky breaks. Recovery can take months of work by specialist crews. Of 52 annual reports filed by publicly listed shipwreck-recovery firms since 1996, only five show net profit.

In that time Odyssey, the biggest, has racked up losses of early $150m. The "treasure"   consists of money extracted from  ""starry-eyed investors"", according to James Goold, a lawyer represented Spain in the Odyssey case.  

If profits are low, the broader costs are high. Archaeologists accuse treasure hunters of smashing wrecks while looting them. Indonesia complains that a rare Arab dhow site was ravaged in its waters:

Thousand-year old ceramics, judged commercially worthless. were thrown back in the sea. The firm's boss, Tilman Walterfang, stands by his crew's decisions and blames government meddling. 

A UN convention in 2009 banned the sale of artefacts from wrecks over 100 years old and champion their conservation. But only 42 countries have ratified it -not including Britain and America.

The opposition of salvage firms shows the convention's power, argues Ulrike Guerin, who runs its Paris based secretariat. Where many states sign up, as in Latin America, treasure-hunting venture are foundering. 

Sean Tucker of  Galleon Ventures, a salvage firm, says the convention and the Spanish government's persistence are squeezing out legitimate business

Michael Scaglione of  Marine Exploration, another treasure-hunting outfit, has found the flagship of the famous buccaneer Henry Morgan, near Haiti. But because that country is party to the convention, his firm cannot profit from its salvage.

One response is to work more closely  with governments. Odyssey has three contracts with Britain, with expenses paid on successful recovery. Galleon Ventures, is talking to Colombia about some of the 600 wrecks in its waters.

Treasure is not only on the seabed. Odyssey has its eye on subsea minerals. Mr Stemm says revenues could dwarf those from wrecks. Mr Fisher's old firm now offers  pirate-themed holidays to adventure hungry tourists.

Arqueonautas Worldwide, another firm, has a successful fashion line and plans for a video game and theme park.

That may be more fun than most investors have had so far. Hahaha!

And the obvious lesson is that Treasure hunters' misdeeds have led to tougher laws. To go forward, now, their business model must adapt.

The great and  -Professional  Pirates-  famous song and war cry certainly comes to mind :............          
""Yo ho ho!.......Mate !!!.......And a bottle of Rum""

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on  !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

""Great Find Cap'n""

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


  1. The original interview of The Economist with Tilman Walterfang you find on his web page. http://www.tilmanwalterfang.org/news/ Here the part which refers to the obviously untrue statement of Guy Scriven that artifacts without commercial value were thrown over board by the scientists who managed the excavation: 7. The Economist, Guy Scriven: "How do you respond to accusations that the Belitung salvage did not meet archaeological standards?"
    Tilman Walterfang: "Most of our critics have made their careers as academics and they don’t operate under the practical and political pressure we were presented with. I use this metaphor: the first paramedic to arrive in an emergency applies a standard of medical care that the surgeon in her operating theatre will say does not meet ‘medical standards’. But the first paramedic saves the person’s life. The first season on the Belitung wreck was a first aid rescue operation. It was a triage. The team of scientists on site had the qualifications to meet archaeological standards, however the immense pressure by the government to finish the operation within only a few weeks and the volatile situation in the country [the fall of the Suharto regime] compelled the scientists to make compromises. Great sacrifices and risks were involved for the team and I stand by them and their decisions.
    In the second season we were better prepared and when we reached a settlement with the government we were able to employ Dr Mike Flecker to record the site and the hull of the ship without too much pressure. Unfortunately the site was heavily looted and destroyed during the monsoon season despite the permanent presence of navy personnel. Nothing about these ventures is simple."
    It seems that the journalist Guy Scriven who delivered The piece to the Economist was somehow economical with the truth.


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