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  1. #1
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
    1,264
    2 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Odyssey Marine Article...

    Will Finders Be Keepers of Salvaged Treasure?
    17-Ton Haul of Silver and Gold From Atlantic Pits U.S. Firm Against Spain

    By John Ward Anderson
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Monday, August 27, 2007

    GIBRALTAR -- Returning 200 years ago from the New World to a Europe engulfed by the Napoleonic wars, Spanish Rear Adm. Don Jose Bustamente led a fleet of four frigates to a tragic homecoming. South of Portugal's Cape St. Mary, British warships spotted the Spaniards in October 1804 and ordered them to change course and sail for England. Bustamente refused, a battle erupted, and Spain's 36-gun Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes exploded and sank, "breaking like an egg, dumping her yolk into the deep," according to a Spanish account.

    The ship took with it more than a million silver dollars freshly minted in Spain's American colonies, documents of the time suggest. The lost booty became the stuff of legend, one of the world's great sunken treasures.

    This spring, modern technology caught up with sea-hunting lore when a U.S.-based salvage company, Odyssey Marine Explorations, announced that it had found a 17-ton hoard of silver and gold artifacts, including about 500,000 coins, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Estimated value: $500 million.

    But Odyssey, citing a need to keep looters at bay, isn't saying where it found the wreck, except that it was in international waters in the Atlantic, and claims to be unsure what ship it has found. It has given the wreck the code name Black Swan. But people familiar with the search say the evidence points to the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes.

    Odyssey's secrecy has touched off a three-month international legal battle. Spanish officials, convinced that the loot could be Spain's, filed suit in the United States to force disclosure of the wreck's name and location, block future recovery efforts and claim what has already been hauled up.

    The Spanish coast guard has effectively barricaded Odyssey's main salvage vessel, the 251-foot Odyssey Explorer, in the port of Britain's overseas territory of Gibraltar, by threatening to seize it if it ventures out.

    The fight renews a dispute between archaeologists and commercial salvors over rights to historic wrecks, a quarrel that is growing as new search technology and submersible robots bring to light more graves of ancient ships. It has raised old tensions between Spain on one side and Gibraltar and its mother country, Britain, on the other. And it has pitted a small, Tampa-based U.S. company, which essentially argues that finders are keepers, against Spain, which says it has a right to protect its national heritage.

    The next battle over the ship will be fought not on the high seas but under arcane maritime laws in a federal courtroom in Tampa, the city to which Odyssey quietly flew the salvaged treasure before announcing its recovery in May.

    In interviews in Gibraltar, Odyssey Explorer crew members described their methodical search for the wreck. First, the company's main survey ship, Ocean Alert, spent weeks at sea towing a sonar device back and forth, at 5 mph, 24 hours a day, producing picture-quality images of the ocean bottom -- a tedious process known as "mowing the lawn."

    Company experts on the Odyssey read the digital printouts, identified anomalies on the ocean floor, then returned in the Ocean Explorer with a deep-sea robot called Zeus. Controlled from the surface, Zeus deploys an array of brilliant strobe lights and cameras as it delicately pokes through debris on the bottom. Its operators say the 8.5-ton robot can pick up an egg without breaking it.

    Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odyssey, said the company conducts more thorough, archaeologically sensitive excavations of deep-sea sites than any organization in the world. But at the same time, he said, they are in business to find treasure, and the Black Swan was no fluke.

    "Shipwrecks are a resource like any other resource, and every other resource -- scientific, cultural or otherwise, whether it's coins, whether it's stamps, whether it's antiques -- it's all owned, bought, sold and traded all the time," Stemm said.

    Many archaeologists, citing the United Nations' 2001 convention on protecting underwater heritage, say that shipwreck sites should not be raided for profit. "In this case, you're looking at something which is a bottom-line business, and the guy is seeking to find things with pressure from investors and their own bottom line, so what protocols work for them certainly are not the same for us," said James Delgado, director of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University. "What's fascinating is seeing Greg Stemm trying to straddle the two worlds."

    Given the value of the Black Swan site, Stemm said, "why in the world should we be disclosing where it is, when it's practically impossible to protect it?" Meanwhile, he said, Odyssey wants to return to the wreck to continue analyzing its identity, because for every ship it could be, "there is something that contradicts the evidence."

    Spain's attorney in the case, James A. Goold of the Washington firm of Covington & Burling, called that "intentional ignorance."

    "Everything points to Odyssey having known exactly what ship they were looking for and having then decided to claim it was unidentified," he said in a telephone interview.

    "The law is quite clear that an owner of a ship remains the owner after it sinks, and a sovereign nation has a right to protect its cultural heritage," Goold said. "Spain has cultural heritage laws, and Spain has a program of underwater archeology, and there are projects Spain undertakes by itself or with archaeological institutes for the public benefit, but not so someone can scoop up gold coins and sell them on eBay."

    Odyssey's announcement in May that it had found a huge treasure stunned the Spanish government, which had just completed an agreement allowing the firm to begin work on another wreck found off Gibraltar, believed to be the 80-gun HMS Sussex. The Sussex sank in a severe storm in 1694 in waters that Britain and Gibraltar claim are international but that Spain claims as its own.

    Spanish officials initially took the announcement to mean that Odyssey had excavated the Sussex in violation of the agreement, which they immediately canceled. Odyssey countered with a second announcement that the Black Swan was not the Sussex and that it lay in international waters.

    "They say it's not the Sussex, but who knows?" said a spokesman for the Spanish Foreign Ministry who commented on condition of anonymity, citing ministry rules. "The information they have given regarding the so-called treasure is not complete, and it's very difficult to be certain where it comes from -- which oceans, what water, international or not, and from which ship," he said. People familiar with the case say that Spain has since concluded that the wreck is the Spanish galleon.

    Spanish newspapers accused Gibraltar and Britain of complicity, accusing them of allowing the U.S. company to spirit away Spanish treasures through the tiny British territory at the entrance to the Mediterranean. Odyssey and the governments of Britain and Gibraltar denied that allegation, saying that Odyssey flew the haul out of the main airport in Gibraltar legally, complying with all customs requirements.

    Within days, a Spanish judge launched an investigation and issued search and arrest warrants against Odyssey's two main ships, the recovery vessel Odyssey Explorer and the survey ship Ocean Alert.

    On July 12, as the Ocean Alert tried to leave Gibraltar, it was stopped and forcibly boarded by Spanish maritime police just outside the three-mile limit of British-declared waters but inside the 12-mile zone that Spain declares as its territorial waters and that Britain asserts is international. Police took the boat into the nearby Spanish port of Algeciras, where it was searched and stripped of computer hard drives, maps and other items before being released a week later.

    The British government sent Spain a strong note of protest, a spokeswoman at the British Embassy in Madrid said. But at the same time, she said, "We pushed Odyssey to be as transparent as possible, as quickly as possible."

    The Odyssey Explorer remains docked here, at a cost of more than $20,000 a day, company officials said. "We have nothing to hide," said Aladar Nesser, a former U.S. Navy officer who is now Odyssey's director for international business development. "But we're afraid they'll confiscate everything on it."

    Archaeologists, historians and treasure buffs also joined in the hunt for the Black Swan, which took them to the Federal Admiralty Court in Tampa, where filings by Odyssey hint that the firm has found three of the most significant shipwrecks ever.

    The papers, in which Odyssey asks to be named "custodian" of the wrecks, do not name any of the ships and give only vague descriptions of their graves, but undersea archaeologists and other experts say there is little doubt what they refer to: the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes; the Merchant Royal, a 36-gun British navy vessel that sank in 1641 in bad weather off southwestern England with a fortune in silver, gold and jewels; and the SS Ancona, an Italian passenger liner torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 off the southeastern coast of Sardinia, taking 12 barrels of gold and a shipment of silver bars with it to the bottom.

    Spain has filed to compel Odyssey to disclose the three sites, contending that some of the ships might have been Spanish naval vessels; if they were, they would be covered by sovereign immunity and would still belong to Spain even if lost in international waters. In another legal scenario, the treasures they carried might have belonged to the Spanish government, which could now file claims for them.

    Either way, the judge in the case could still award Odyssey a reward for salvaging the vessels, ranging from a pittance to the entire wreck, Texas A&M's Delgado said.

    If the court rules that one of the wrecks is the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, legal experts say, Spain will certainly claim that it has sovereign immunity and that it lost but never abandoned the ship, a key criterion.

    Much of what was recovered was in the form of large, rocklike collections of encrusted coins, weighing an average of 60 pounds apiece and discovered in a "debris field" rather than in a single area that might be the remains of a ship, according to Odyssey's Nesser. That suggests that people aboard the ship might have thrown the cargo overboard to try to prevent a sinking, he said.

    Underwater and treasure Web sites, which are brimming with online chats about the Black Swan, have suggested that the absence of a ship indicates that the booty was from the Spanish galleon, which by some accounts disintegrated in a tremendous explosion.

    Citing comments by Stemm, some online participants have speculated that the company is preparing to argue that the loot was, in fact, abandoned by people throwing it overboard.

    Odyssey remains mum on the location. "We are very, very concerned about protecting that site, and it is irresponsible for people to try to figure out where it is," Stemm said. He compared giving hints about it to dropping clues about the location of someone in a witness protection program.

    "It's in the Atlantic," he said. "I'm not going to get into guessing games."

  2. #2
    whydah 1717

    Jun 2006
    newport, Rhode Island
    264
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    From N.Y. Times today, another take on Odyssey and what should happen to the treasure they recently recovered.



    Pirate Diver



    From today's N.Y. Times:
    Editorial
    Whose Treasure Is It Really?
    The United Nations 2001 convention on protecting underwater cultural heritage was right to oppose the plundering of sunken archaeological treasures for profit. Unfortunately, only 15 countries have ratified the agreement, and the plundering has begun.

    In what may become the biggest underwater find ever, Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial operation from Tampa, Fla., has reportedly hauled 17 tons of gold and silver from a ship widely believed to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes that was sunk by a British warship off the coast of Portugal in October 1804.

    The company claims ownership of its find. And, of course, Spain is hiring lawyers and preparing its legal claim to the trove, claiming a sovereign nation’s right over its cultural heritage.

    It’s clearly going to be a protracted legal battle, but we think it would only be right to let another set of plaintiffs stake their claim to the treasure, too: Spain’s former colonies in Latin America, where the loot was looted in the first place.

    The hoard of gold and silver coins that sunk with the Mercedes was probably minted in Peru — where the galleon sailed for Cádiz, via Montevideo, in March of 1804.

    Though a potential Peruvian claim to the treasure would rest on tenuous legal grounds — Peru wasn’t even an independent country in 1804, but part of the Spanish empire — it certainly could make a sound case based on moral considerations: The Inca didn’t freely give gold and silver to the Spanish invaders. Spain took it by force.

    The moment seems ripe to reclaim long lost treasure. After stonewalling Italian officials for years, the Getty, the Met and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have all agreed to return looted antiquities to Italy. Peru is negotiating with Yale to recover thousands of pieces taken by Hiram Bingham III from Machu Picchu in 1912 for a “loan” to the Peabody museum.

    Two years ago, Italy returned to Ethiopia the 1,700-year-old Axum obelisk, taken to Rome in 1937 on the orders of Benito Mussolini. And it has promised to return a second-century Roman statue of Venus to Libya, where Italian troops stole it in 1913.

    Admittedly, these cases of theft are much more recent, not on the appalling scale of the Spanish crown’s conquest and plunder of Latin American treasure hundreds of years ago.

    But if Greece can insist on the ownership of the Elgin Marbles, which Lord Elgin took from the Parthenon to ship to the British Museum in 1801 — when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire — Peru surely has a shot at the gold of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.

    The fate of the recovered treasure is likely to be defined now in a federal court in Tampa, where Odyssey quietly stashed the hoard before announcing its find. When the lawyers from Odyssey face off with those representing Spain, perhaps Peru’s lawyers should come, too.



  3. #3

    Jun 2007
    774
    22 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...


    i find it odd the coins would be cemented togather, i would think the coins would flutter, not stay togather. no ship is realy odd as well.
    i wounder wgat has cemented the coins, calsite would cement the sand, but not in that enviroment.

    i quote
    "Much of what was recovered was in the form of large, rocklike collections of encrusted coins, weighing an average of 60 pounds apiece and discovered in a "debris field" rather than in a single area that might be the remains of a ship, according to Odyssey's Nesser. That suggests that people aboard the ship might have thrown the cargo overboard to try to prevent a sinking, he said.

    Underwater and treasure Web sites, which are brimming with online chats about the Black Swan, have suggested that the absence of a ship indicates that the booty was from the Spanish galleon, which by some accounts disintegrated in a tremendous explosion.

    Citing comments by Stemm, some online participants have speculated that the company is preparing to argue that the loot was, in fact, abandoned by people throwing it overboard."

  4. #4

    Jul 2007
    ENGLAND & CALIFORNIA
    Eyes, ears and common sense
    910

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Quote Originally Posted by piratediver
    From N.Y. Times today, another take on Odyssey and what should happen to the treasure they recently recovered.



    Pirate Diver



    From today's N.Y. Times:
    Editorial
    Whose Treasure Is It Really?
    The United Nations 2001 convention on protecting underwater cultural heritage was right to oppose the plundering of sunken archaeological treasures for profit. Unfortunately, only 15 countries have ratified the agreement, and the plundering has begun.

    In what may become the biggest underwater find ever, Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial operation from Tampa, Fla., has reportedly hauled 17 tons of gold and silver from a ship widely believed to be the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes that was sunk by a British warship off the coast of Portugal in October 1804.

    The company claims ownership of its find. And, of course, Spain is hiring lawyers and preparing its legal claim to the trove, claiming a sovereign nation’s right over its cultural heritage.

    It’s clearly going to be a protracted legal battle, but we think it would only be right to let another set of plaintiffs stake their claim to the treasure, too: Spain’s former colonies in Latin America, where the loot was looted in the first place.

    The hoard of gold and silver coins that sunk with the Mercedes was probably minted in Peru — where the galleon sailed for Cádiz, via Montevideo, in March of 1804.

    Though a potential Peruvian claim to the treasure would rest on tenuous legal grounds — Peru wasn’t even an independent country in 1804, but part of the Spanish empire — it certainly could make a sound case based on moral considerations: The Inca didn’t freely give gold and silver to the Spanish invaders. Spain took it by force.

    The moment seems ripe to reclaim long lost treasure. After stonewalling Italian officials for years, the Getty, the Met and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts have all agreed to return looted antiquities to Italy. Peru is negotiating with Yale to recover thousands of pieces taken by Hiram Bingham III from Machu Picchu in 1912 for a “loan” to the Peabody museum.

    Two years ago, Italy returned to Ethiopia the 1,700-year-old Axum obelisk, taken to Rome in 1937 on the orders of Benito Mussolini. And it has promised to return a second-century Roman statue of Venus to Libya, where Italian troops stole it in 1913.

    Admittedly, these cases of theft are much more recent, not on the appalling scale of the Spanish crown’s conquest and plunder of Latin American treasure hundreds of years ago.

    But if Greece can insist on the ownership of the Elgin Marbles, which Lord Elgin took from the Parthenon to ship to the British Museum in 1801 — when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire — Peru surely has a shot at the gold of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.

    The fate of the recovered treasure is likely to be defined now in a federal court in Tampa, where Odyssey quietly stashed the hoard before announcing its find. When the lawyers from Odyssey face off with those representing Spain, perhaps Peru’s lawyers should come, too.




    Dont want to go back to far though Imagine if America had to hand back its land to the Indians who lived there 1000s of years before they arrived. I personally think the salvage company should get to keep the lot. To much ***** footing with spain for my liking. But im guessing the crew have something to hide because they refuse to give the cords for the find which does look suspect, if it was found in international waters what is the problem with giving the location?
    You can't always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you just might find, you get what you need- Mick Jagger

  5. #5
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
    1,264
    2 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Peerless... The location of the recovery has been put under seal by the Court. I'm sure the Judge can decide whether or not it's in international waters.

    THE UNIDENTIFIED, SHIPWRECKED
    VESSEL, its apparel, tackle
    appurtenances and cargo located within
    center point coordinates:
    (to be provided to the Court under seal)

  6. #6
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
    1,264
    2 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    LA RAZON – SPAIN

    September 10, 2007

    Stemm: “The Spanish Government has been very aggressive with Odyssey”
    El cofundador de la empresa «caza-tesoros» recibe a LA RAZÓN en Tampa (Florida) y asegura que quiere seguir trabajando con España

    Marta Torres

    Tampa (FLORIDA)- His employees call him Greg and talk of him like a big brother they admire, but that they know is knowledgeable about some things. If the image that comes to us is that of an unreachable and inaccessible man, in Tampa (Florida), where the central base of Odyssey is, a company dedicated to underwater archaeology, has nothing to do with him. The people that work for him justify it because “he is always very busy”. But when it is a matter of presenting documentation before the international jurisdiction we speak of Mr. Stemm and things become much more serious. In the middle of May Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME) made public the find of a treasure of 500,000 coins of gold and silver after the shipwreck of a boat from which, at the moment, it has only said was in international waters. It has not revealed anything of its identify because it assures that it does not know it, nor a word about its exact place. “There is no law that protects the treasure in international waters”, is his reply.

    “Do I seem like the devil?”

    The meeting of LA RAZON with Greg Stemm, one of the co-founders of Odyssey Marine Exploration, takes place in a restaurant in Tampa (Florida) to lunch after visit to the Museum of Science and Industry. There can be seen an exposition where it traces a route in five rooms with some of the objects recovered in the explorations of Odyssey, like the shipwrecks of the “SS Republic” and of the “Blue China”. Stemm does not extend his hand with force, he smiles and, at least, in our meeting can’t help but joking. Things are clear. We sit at the table and then when he skewers me, it is always with a smile. “Do I seem like the devil?”. You see sport pants, with maroon shoes and a light blue polo where you can read the word Odyssey.

    - I would like it if you gave me your version of the story of the project ‘Black Swan’ or ‘Cisne Negro’.
    - One of the things that has surprised me the most, and that has not been picked up much on the part of the Spanish press, is that we came to the Ministry of Culture before the ‘Black Swan’ project and invited them to participate. It is not correct, therefore, to say that we have not been transparent. When someone doesn’t want to do it, why would you invite the Government of this country to take part in a project?

    - What then was the response of the Spanish Government?
    - They told us “We already answered”. And they didn’t do it.
    - It has been said that your proposal was not good enough, that it lacked a scientific basis.
    - I personally attended some meetings. In them was emphasized that our archaeological plan was better than any other that had been presented before. I have the impression that the matter has to do with politics, not with the project.
    - Why with politics?
    - For a very simple reason: the “Odyssey case” has turned into a political matter.
    - What are you referring to?
    - For many years, Odyssey has had a very good reputation and an excellent relationship with the Government of your country. When we undertook the “Sussex” Project all was approved by Spain, including the archaeological plan. The only thing that remained was observers named by Spain. Politically the problem has to do with the central Government and the autonomous, in this case the Andalusian community. When we began with the ‘Sussex’ the central Government said that it was a matter of a special situation and that it was under its control and that we did not need autonomous permissions.
    - Why have you still not revealed the place where the wreck was found?
    - Why do you think we must make this information public?
    - Because it is one of the keys to settle the controversy
    - I am going to pose you a question: if you knew the exact place of something very valuable that, further, is without protection by international legislation, would you tell the rest of the world where it is? Do you think that is of a responsible person? We have already said publicly that there are more objects of value in the place of the shipwreck and that it is not in Spanish waters. In fact, Carmen Calvo recognized it.
    - Does it take you so much time to verify the identity of a shipwreck?
    - How do you think the identity of a boat can be known?
    - You are the expert
    - Then good, I as an expert tell you that there is absolutely nothing that allows us to verify the identify of the boat. When we went to search for the ‘Sussex’ we found a boat in the place of the shipwreck that fit with it. Then we bring the archaeologists to study the place and we were there for a year. We presented a detailed archaeological report of the place to the British Government. “Based on all the archaeological evidence it seems that this is that of the ‘Sussex’”, was its verdict. And we moved the report to Andalusia. There they told us it was not sufficient. “It does not probe that it is the ‘Sussex’”, they said. It is the position that they took at the time when we presented our exhaustive report. Now, when scarcely four months have passed and we have assured that we do not have confirmation of the sunken wreck, is it normal that they press us so much over the identify of the shipwreck? What side are they on? Do they want scientific certainties or is it better to give a response even if it is for pure lucubration?
    - Did you expect that the Spanish Government would act has it has done?
    - We were surprised that, after the way in which Odyssey is acting and after presenting the project before an American Federal court and following all the procedures that frame the law, some members of the Spanish Government have taken such an aggressive posture in this matter, like, for example, Carmen Calvo. The case is in a Federal Court that is the only one that protects the places of the shipwreck in international waters. We would have to wait for the pronouncement before emitting judgments and condemning. Why do you call someone a pirate if he is ready to do everything in conformance with the law?
    - Is this one of the reasons for which you look to the US Court, that pronounced in favor of who found the “Nuestra Senora de Atocha” years ago?
    - No, It is because the American Federal Court is the only one in the world that extends jurisdiction in international waters.
    - How is the relationship of Odyssey with the Spanish Government of now going to be going forward?
    - The matter is in the courts. I regret the positions that they have taken based on rumors and false information that intoxicates them. I hope that the people can see what Odyssey has done – that many times does not coincide with the information that is published – to collaborate with the Spanish Government. When this occurs they will look at us with other eyes. I am sure.
    - Will you work with Spain again?
    - I hope to able to do it again. With this case, Spain is taking notice that it does not have the legal resources to protect is cultural patrimony lost on shipwrecks that are found in international waters. It is very nice to say “we are going to claim all the Spanish shipwrecks in the world”, but this does not follow the Convention of the Sea. In accordance with the law of the Convention of the Sea, for a shipwreck to have sovereign immunity, it has to be exclusively on a non-commercial mission. If the Government has no way to protect those boats in international waters they will end up being pirated. Odyssey is, at this time, the first company in the world that can undertake archaeological mission of this kind. We continue offering our hand to the Spanish Government to offer them our services.
    - Why did you decide to take the coins to Tampa?
    - They were sent to a place in which they could be conserved. There is not center for conservation of this kind in Europe.
    - Are their more coins?
    - Perhaps there are more …
    - A mystery … can you explain to me where the name of the project ‘Black Swan’ comes from?
    - It comes from a book whose author is Nassim Nicholas Taleb. When we found the wreck I was reading it. And in this case in particular we thought that it could be called ‘Black Swan’ because we were sure that it was going to be an enormous surprise for the international community.
    - What would happen if the boat had a Spanish flag and was in international waters?
    - For the Spanish Government to a shipwreck that is in international waters it would have to prove that the boat is subject to sovereign immunity. This would be the challenge of the Spanish Government. According to the Convention of the Sea only military boats that did not form a part of mercantile missions can be subject to sovereign immunity. There is no doubt: the majority of the Spanish boats that transported objects of value did so from the New to the Old World.
    - Why do you not like to be qualified as a ‘treasure hunter’?
    - ‘Treasure hunters’ are motivated by money and do not govern themselves by archaeological principles. We do today the best underwater archaeology that exists. We have found many interesting and valuable shipwrecks that we have analyzed, simply analyzed, without extracting one single object. All the information remains stored in a database and can be consulted by the countries that have an interest. This is not what a treasure hunter does.
    - The Odyssey matter has forced Spain to work on a Plan for Protection of Underwater Patrimony. Days ago it was put forward by the Minister of Culture. What do you think about it?
    - For years we have expressed our concern for this fact and we have offered our services to help with the protection of those places without any charge added. It’s ironic that it finally has an initiative in response to the discovery of Odyssey of the ‘Black Swan’, above all, when at the time Spain was invited to participate in this project and it rejected the opportunity.

  7. #7
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
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    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Fortune Mag. Article...

    Subject: Curse of the Black Swan
    Author: TIM ARANGO
    Date: Sep 17, 2007
    Edition: U.S. Edition
    Source: Fortune
    Section: DISPATCHES: REPORTS FROM THE FRONT LINES OF BUSINESS
    Volume: 156
    Issue: 6
    Page: 45
    Status: New article
    Word Count: 1655

    Greg Stemm's company found the richest trove of sunken treasure ever. Now comes the hard part: keeping it.

    ON APRIL 10, a Gulfstream G-V took off from the British territory of Gibraltar en route to Tampa with a load of Colonial-era silver and gold coins salvaged from a centuries-old shipwreck. On May 16 a chartered Boeing 757 made the same journey, its cargo hold jammed with even more coins - this time over half a million of them, weighing about 17 tons. Today all those coins are locked up at a secret location in Florida. And if those who discovered the loot are to be believed, there's plenty more where that came from - some estimates put the total haul at $500 million, which would make it the richest find of sunken treasure in history.

    Where is this treasure, exactly? Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Tampa-based company that found it, won't say. The company won't even reveal the name of the sunken ship; the site is code-named Black Swan, after a book of the same name about unpredictable but consequential events. All we really know about Black Swan is that it's in international waters 100 miles west of Gibraltar under 3,600 feet of ocean - and that the Spanish believe it all belongs to them. It's a wonderful drama, straight out of a Clive Cussler thriller: precious metals, races against time, undersea robots, and international intrigue. How that intrigue turns out could be a watershed for Odyssey and its shareholders.

    Wait. Shareholders? That's right, Odyssey is a public company (Nasdaq ticker: OMEX). The idea of searching for sunken treasure might strike some as a boyish fantasy - fine for Cussler et. al., but not for a sophisticated modern corporation. And Greg Stemm, co-founder and co-chairman of Odyssey, probably wouldn't disagree with that. "Let's see. You have no experience, and you're going to buy a research vessel to look for shipwrecks. Oh, sure, I'll invest in that," says Stemm, a trim, gray-bearded man of 50 whose only remotely relevant work experience before getting into the business in 1986 was running a dinner cruise in Jamaica. (He also worked in advertising and was once Bob Hope's press man.)

    But Odyssey has proved seductive to investors - even after a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation forced Stemm and his partner, Odyssey's co-founder, John Morris, from their first company, Seahawk Deep Ocean Technology, in 1994 for allegedly overstating the value of artifacts it recovered from a wreck off the Florida Keys. Stemm and Morris fought the SEC in court and won - which paved the way for the pair's return to the ocean's depths.

    There's plenty to find down there. Unesco has estimated there are about three million shipwrecks worldwide, but in only a fraction of case - fewer than 1,000, by Stemm's reckoning - does it make economic sense to send a $4 million underwater robot to look for treasure. "There's billions of dollars scattered on the ocean floor - that's a fact - and we have the technology to find it," says Stemm, working through a seafood lunch in a Tampa mall five minutes from Odyssey's offices. "The business model is very simple. The execution is complex."

    The company holds a pitch meeting every Thursday in which its researchers, each of whom covers a part of the world, toss out ideas culled from studying old maps and ship logs. It's a slow process: Odyssey has been in business since 1997 but, pre-Black Swan, had found just one big revenue-generating trove. That was the 2003 discovery of the S.S. Republic, a Civil War--era steamship that sank in a hurricane off the coast of Georgia in 1865. According to an SEC filing, as of the end of last year Odyssey had sold $33 million worth of coins from the Republic, and it has plenty more in its inventory. "It might take us 20 years to sell all the coins from the Republic," Stemm says.

    Odyssey, which doesn't issue financial guidance nor hold quarterly earnings calls, is still waiting for sustained profits: In 2004, when the coins from the Republic first hit the market, the company earned $5.2 million in net income on revenue of $17.6 million. By last year revenue had slipped to $5.1 million, and the company lost $19.1 million. Then, in mid-May, on the day after Black Swan was announced, Odyssey's stock jumped 81%. (The price fell in subsequent days, but as FORTUNE went to press, OMEX remains about 32% above where it was trading before the discovery announcement.)

    The goal is to find enough shipwrecks to sustain the business in other ways.
    Odyssey sells tickets to an exhibit at Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, which features a replica of Zeus, a submersible robot that uses a claw and suction device to pick up artifacts from the ocean floor; every one of the Republic's thousands of coins was retrieved that way. And the company is close to announcing a TV show Stemm describes as "Jacques Cousteau meets Deadliest Catch," the latter being the Discovery Channel show about crab fishermen in Alaska. "Another shipwreck or so and we'll have enough inventory for the foreseeable future," says Stemm. For that to happen, Odyssey will need lots of luck - and, as the kingdom of Spain has made clear, really good lawyers.

    When news of the Black Swan discovery hit newspapers in mid-May, Spanish officials sprang into action. On May 31, Madrid made a claim in U.S. District Court in Tampa - a legal maneuver aimed at forcing Odyssey to reveal details about the ship. Jim Goold, a Washington, D.C., attorney and underwater archaeologist who represents Spain, told FORTUNE, "There's very strong reason to believe that what Odyssey has done is strip a sunken Spanish ship of valuables. That's why we're seeing an extraordinary effort to maintain secrecy."

    That's one interpretation of Odyssey's silence. Another is that it's simply afraid of a gold rush. "This is an industry that no one cares about until someone finds something," says professor David Bederman, a maritime-law expert at Emory University School of Law and an Odyssey board member. "If you're lucky enough to find something, everyone will make a claim, whether it's legitimate or not."

    Back in Spain a judge ordered a criminal investigation, and when Odyssey's vessel Ocean Alert, a 240-foot boat loaded with millions of dollars of sonar equipment, was leaving the Port of Gibraltar in July, armed members of the Guardia Civil boarded the ship and forced it to dock in the Spanish port of Algeciras. "Odyssey's crew and attorneys were forced by the Spanish officials to sit in the scalding sun for approximately seven hours without food or water or use of the restroom," according to a court filing. Authorities seized the hard drive belonging to a company attorney and the notebooks of a reporter for the Gibraltar Chronicle, who was along writing a story. The company's other ship, Odyssey Explorer, a 251-footer that deploys the Zeus, remains effectively blockaded in Gibraltar. (The company often charters boats to foil amateur treasure hunters, who tend to track Odyssey's two-vessel fleet rather obsessively.)

    The controversy created a media storm in Spain. "It's probably as big a story as our subprime meltdown is here," Stemm says. In the States the story took on a political tinge. Noting that presidential candidate John Edwards is an investor in Fortress, the big hedge fund that is one of Odyssey's largest shareholders, a New York tabloid blared: "Avast, matey! Is John Edwards a pirate? The Spaniards say yes, and they want their plundered loot back."

    Odyssey stores most of its shipwreck take in its conservation center, a squat building near the company's headquarters. The walls are covered with undersea photos, including a tantalizing shot of coins scattered at the Republic site called "Carpet of Gold." On shelves are bric-a-brac from other explorations: old medicine bottles, shot glasses, religious artifacts, and porcelain. In the fridge are still-corked bottles of beer, peaches, and gooseberries from the Civil War era. "It's all about sharing the excitement with the public," Stemm says.

    What you won't see in the conservation center, for now, are the real valuables, the coins that fuel Odyssey's business. Those are kept at that secret location - the same place that holds the Black Swan haul as it awaits various court decisions. If the company prevails, it'll have that massive hoard to draw on for years to come. But even if it loses, Black Swan won't be Odyssey's last big project. Up next is a deal with Britain to salvage the H.M.S. Sussex, a Royal Navy ship that sank in the Mediterranean in 1694 carrying gold for the Duke of Savoy. Estimated value: a cool $1 billion.

  8. #8
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
    1,264
    2 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    History Channel...

    Odyssey Marine Exploration helps Hunter Ellis, the host of the hit History Channel series Digging For The Truth tell the story of Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean this Monday night, September 24, at 9pm.

    In the episode, titled Digging For The Truth: Pirates! Terror in the Mediterranean, Odyssey Marine Exploration shares underwater video, artifacts and photomosaics of two Mediterranean shipwrecks. Both sites, discovered by Odyssey, are suggestive of the remains of wooden Xebec ships, a type of ship favored by the Barbary Pirates.

    Digging For The Truth visits with Odyssey co-founder Greg Stemm on board Odyssey's archaeological recovery platform, the Odyssey Explorer, to discuss these shipwreck discoveries. The show also examines the history of the Barbary Pirates and several others shipwrecks in their search for an authentic Barbary Pirate shipwreck.

    Digging For The Truth: Pirates: Terror in the Mediterranean
    The History Channel
    Premiere: Monday, September 24, 9:00pm
    Encore: Tuesday, September 25, 1:00am

    Episode Synopsis from The History Channel:
    The dastardly deeds of the Barbary Pirates are little known today, despite the fact that they terrorized the seas and the shores of Europe for more than 400 years. Join host Hunter Ellis, Kara Cooney and Charles Ingram, as they mount a special expedition to find the first-ever bona fide Barbary pirate vessel at the bottom of the sea.

  9. #9

    May 2007
    Florida
    90
    1 times

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    pretend the land across from my house is international land... I heard there was lots of buried artifacts and treasure there and have done alot of research and finally one day, i found it!!! I took what i could so i can protect it but dont want to tell anybody about it because everyone will start wanting to grab treasure for themself after i did all the hard work in pinpointing where it was,plus those little grubby fingers of others might destroy precious artifacts in their greedy haste. That there my friend is why they are not telling anybody where it is in international waters. Is that so hard to comprehend?

    malady

  10. #10

    Apr 2007
    51

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Sincerely, I don't understand from where the idea that OMR can have recovered the Mercedes' load is born. It is possible that everything comes from some "dark" public character that had necessity to give explanations "absurd" and "incoherent" to wash his hands from some specify responsibilities.

  11. #11
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
    1,264
    2 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

  12. #12
    us
    Mar 2006
    Florida
    1,264
    2 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Quote Originally Posted by Claudio
    Sincerely, I don't understand from where the idea that OMR can have recovered the Mercedes' load is born. It is possible that everything comes from some "dark" public character that had necessity to give explanations "absurd" and "incoherent" to wash his hands from some specify responsibilities.
    When you see the dates on the coins you'll understand. :P

  13. #13

    Jun 2007
    774
    22 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    TELL US JEFF , WHAT ARE THE DATES, 1616ish

  14. #14
    shipresearcher1

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    TELL US JEFF , WHAT ARE THE DATES, 1616ish
    So far 1754-1804

  15. #15
    shipresearcher1

    Re: Odyssey Marine Article...

    Quote Originally Posted by shipresearcher1
    Quote Originally Posted by hmmm
    TELL US JEFF , WHAT ARE THE DATES, 1616ish
    So far 1754-1804
    Very similar to the Carolus dollar on Mr Jeff K's website near the Mercedes remarks. Very nice coin by the way.

 

 
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