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The Shipwrecks and Treasure Thread
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PostPosted: 11-03-2005 11:17    Post subject: The Shipwrecks and Treasure Thread Reply with quote



By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent

09 March 2005

The site of a Bronze Age shipwreck, loaded with French-made weapons and jewellery, found off the coast of Devon, has been hailed as the most important prehistoric find of its kind for 30 years.

The discovery, half a mile out to sea near Salcombe, sheds new light on Britain's overseas trade 3,350 years ago.

A team of amateur marine archaeologists, the South West Maritime Archaeological Group, found at least two dozen French-made weapons, tools and pieces of gold and bronze jewellery beneath 18 metres of water.

Although the boat itself has long since rotted, the French imports survived extremely well. They include a solid gold neck ring, a gold bracelet, three bronze rapiers, three spear heads, three axe heads, several dagger blades, an arrow head and part of a bronze cauldron.

Chris Yates, one of the archaeologists, described the discovery as extremely exciting. He said: "We are now working with the Receiver of Wreck and English Heritage to ensure that these important artefacts are put on permanent display."

The curator of Bronze Age collections at the British Museum, Stuart Needham, said: "The evidence from Salcombe and other rare sites, such as Langdon Bay, Kent, help us to build up a picture of object movements, the organisation of trade, and the character of seafaring."

Only three other Bronze Age shipwreck sites are known in British waters - another site near Salcombe, one off East Anglia and one off Dover.

Based on other finds, the boat which came to grief off Salcombe 33 centuries ago was probably at least a dozen metres long, more than two metres wide and built of oak planks sewn together with yew withies, made watertight with moss and beeswax. It might not have sunk, but merely broken up or capsized.

There is a dangerous reef 600 metres to the west and this may conceivably have been responsible for the vessel's demise.

During the Bronze Age thousands of tons of bronze - and lots of gold as well - were imported into mainland Britain from France and Ireland. The evidence suggests that there were a number of major trading centres along the south coast of Britain. The latest discovery suggests that Salcombe's impressive natural harbour was much more important in prehistoric times than previously thought.

The finds have been brought up from the seabed over the past six months and were reported to English Heritage and declared to the Receiver of Wreck at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The South West Maritime archaeologists found the shipwreck site while they were investigating another wreck site dating from the 17th century which has already yielded the largest collection of 17th century Moroccan gold coins found in Europe, together with numerous items of jewellery and personal effects.

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PostPosted: 19-11-2006 15:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not so ancient, but still interesting:
Java sunken treasure to be sold
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta

Scientists in Indonesia are preparing to auction tens of thousands of artefacts salvaged from a sunken ship off the coast of Java.

The items, which are believed to be more than 1,000 years old, include ceramics, tombstones and swords.

The ancient treasure, which was discovered 18 months ago, is expected to fetch several million US dollars.

About 150,000 pieces are still intact and some of them are expected to go to Indonesia's museums.

Salvaged after 1,000 years at the bottom of the sea, the haul includes bowls from China, Thailand and Vietnam; perfume bottles from Persia; and swords and tablets engraved with Koranic inscriptions.

They were only discovered when fishermen off the coast of Java brought up nets clogged with shards of ancient ceramics.

According to Hirst Leedna, an expert involved in cataloguing the find, the artefacts probably came from onboard an Indonesian trading ship.

"There is a chance of about 70% that the cargo was loaded in China and then traded down the coast of Palembang and then was heading for Java.

"It's a very funny ship. It's very broad, it's very flat on the bottom, it's very sharp in the bow. It must have been very high if you see the amount of cargo which was on there - about four metres high, maybe four-and-a-half," he said.

'Rewriting history'

According to Indonesia's committee on sunken treasure, the 150,000 pieces could fetch between two and 10 million US dollars if sold off individually.

But the committee is hoping that a museum will buy the collection as a whole. According to committee secretary Siawaori Nissia, that would increase its value about 10-fold due to is its historical value as a picture of Indonesia 1,000 years ago.

"It is an extraordinary finding because on the ship we can find artefacts that come from five Chinese dynasties. And also we can find another artefact that indicates there was a spread of Islam in Indonesia from the 10th Century.

"But before, in the Indonesian history itself, we learned that the first Muslim kingdom is under 12 centuries so we have to revise all the history of the spreading out of Islam in Indonesia," he said.

Indonesia has had problems in the past verifying its ancient artefacts. Several wrecks off its vast coastline have been pilfered by thieves and the artefacts sold off illegally.

In order to avoid the problem this time, the country is rolling out a new system of authentication - certificates for each and every one of the items going on sale.

With tens of thousands of pieces to certify, the auction date could be some way off yet.
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PostPosted: 19-05-2007 07:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another treasure ship (though probably much more recent):
Golden treasure trove worth £250m found off coast of Cornwall
Helen Nugent

Gold and silver coins with an estimated value of more than £250 million are thought to have been found off the Isles of Scilly.

The salvage company Odyssey Marine Exploration said yesterday that it believed that the 17 tonnes of coins from a shipwreck, 500,000 in all, were each worth an average of $1,000 (£506)

“For this colonial era, I think [the find] is unprecedented,” Nick Bruyer, an expert on rare coins who examined a batch from the wreck, said. “I don’t know of anything equal or comparable to it.”

The site of the 400-year-old wreck, codenamed the Black Swan, has not been disclosed by the company, which flew the hoard back to its Florida base in the United States. But experts suspect that the remains may be lying just off the British coast.

This week a US court granted Odyssey ownership of the contents of a sunken ship 100m (328ft) below the surface and 40 miles off Land’s End.

As the shipwreck was found in an area where many colonial-era vessels went down, there is some uncertainty about its nationality, size and age, Greg Stemm, Odyssey’s co-chairman, said, although evidence pointed to a known wreck.

The site is beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country, he added.

“Rather than a shout of glee, it’s more being able to exhale for the first time in a long time,” Mr Stemm said. The haul is by far the biggest in Odyssey’s 13-year history. The company is likely to return to the same spot for more coins and artefacts.

“We have treated this site with kid gloves and the archaeological work done by our team out there is unsurpassed,” John Morris, Odyssey’s chief executive, said. “We are thoroughly documenting and recording the site, which we believe will have immense historical significance.”

The new find could surpass the previous largest haul, a Spanish galleon that sank in a hurricane off Florida Keys in 1622. Mel Fisher, a treasure-hunter, found it in 1985, retrieving a reported $400 million in coins and other loot.

The news is timely for Odyssey, the only publicly traded company of its kind. It salvaged more than 50,000 coins and other artefacts from a wreck off Savannah, Georgia, in 2003, making millions. But Odyssey, which used high-tech search equipment, posted losses in 2005 and 2006.
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PostPosted: 19-05-2007 22:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

More info here:
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PostPosted: 20-05-2007 09:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

You wait ages for a pirate treasure ship story, then two come along at once...


11:00 - 19 May 2007

He was the Robin Hood of the high seas. By the age of 29, notorious pirate Captain "Black Sam" Bellamy had looted 54 ships off the Atlantic coast of America in less than a year and divided the tons of treasures seized between his crew equally.

But battling 70mph winds and 30ft waves during a violent storm on the night of April 26, 1717, the Whydah and all but two of her men were lost.

Testimonies of one of the survivors tell of the "mother lode - the money which was counted over, in the cabin, and put up in bags, 50lb to every man's share, there being 180 men on board. Their money was kept in chests between decks".

Along with the great ship and crew, the legendary hoard - according to some estimates worth £200 million in today's money - was lost to the unforgiving sea.

Now, 290 years since the Whydah sank, a team of divers is hoping to salvage the ill-gotten booty - hundreds of bags of coins, ingots, jewels and ivory stored in wooden chests - live before millions of viewers in a unique TV experiment next weekend.

American salvage expert and treasure hunter Barry Clifford, who has been fascinated by the story of Devon-born Bellamy and the Whydah since he was a child, made it his lifelong mission to discover the wreck.

After years of painstaking research to discover its location, buried beneath 20ft of sand on the ocean bed, he finally realised his boyhood dream in 1984.

Since then, more than 200,000 artefacts, including the ship's bell bearing the vessel's name, pistols and pirates' personal effects, have been recovered during the mammoth underwater archaeological excavation.

The shoe, silk stocking and part of the leg bone belonging to the world's youngest known pirate, nine-year-old John King - who was aboard a ship plundered by Bellamy when the boy threatened to kill himself if his mother would not allow him to join the Whydah crew - have also been found.

But the famously documented "mother lode" remained elusive.

Then, just as the divers were ending their scheduled operations last winter, they stumbled across a section of the wreck set apart from the previously dived areas, undiscovered because the remains of the Whydah are strewn beneath loose shifting sand over a 50,000 sq ft area off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The team hopes to bring the treasures to the surface for the first time since 1717 in a special live TV programme hosted by pirate fan and comedian Vic Reeves.

A Channel Five spokesman said: "The fact that the Whydah lay untouched under 20 feet of sand for so long means that it is the only 'time capsule' of pirate history ever found.

"In the months before the ship sank in 1717, the pirate crew looted 54 other ships and stored their treasures, leaving an unprecedented cross- section of 18th-century cultural material - and an almost unimaginable task of excavation.

"Pirate Ship...Live! will follow the experts as they X-ray the mysterious concretions brought up from the seabed which could contain anything from human bones to gold dust.

"Through a mixture of live broadcast from the dive site, dramatic reconstructions and CGI technology, Pirate Ship... Live! will flow between the modern-day adventures of the archaeologists and scientists, and those of the formidable Black Sam Bellamy and his lawless pirate crew."

Born in February 1689 in Hittis- leigh, near Exeter, Bellamy was the youngest of six children. His mother died during childbirth.

He was raised in the parish before moving, aged nine, with his father to Plymouth.

Local historian Chris Robinson said: "The dockyard at Plymouth started up only ten years before he moved here. It was a big town so the work opportunities would have been good.

"Living in Hittisleigh, he wasn't going to come across many stories that would make his eyes pop out with excitement. But in Plymouth, people like Francis Drake were coming back with amazing tales of people and animals that no one had ever heard of."

Bellamy earned his nickname "Black Sam" from his rejection of the powdered wig, which was fashionable at the time. Instead, he tied his long black hair with a black bow.

Bellamy became renowned for his generosity to his crew and mercy shown to those he captured and his crew dubbed themselves "Robin Hood's Band".

Pirate Ship ??? Live! is being broadcast at 8pm on Sunday May 27 on Channel Five.
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PostPosted: 31-05-2007 06:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Gold and silver coins with an estimated value of more than £250 million are thought to have been found off the Isles of Scilly."

..or not...

Spain sues over shipwreck bonanza

Spain has launched legal action against US marine explorers over a wreck they have found laden with treasure.
The wreck has been described, speculatively, as a 17th Century vessel, found off the coast of England, containing $500m (£253m) in coins.

However, there have also been rumours that it was found off Spain. Odyssey Marine Exploration would only say it was found in the Atlantic Ocean.

A lawyer said if the vessel was Spanish any treasure would belong to Spain.

Jim Goold, of the law firm Covington & Burling, representing the Spanish government, told the BBC: "The lawsuit will challenge Odyssey Marine Explorers' right to recover or possess any property of the Kingdom of Spain recovered from sunken ships.

"Odyssey has been requested to provide information concerning the identity of the ship and the material recovered, and has failed to respond."

Odyssey would not make any further comment when contacted by BBC News.

It has so far sent 17 tons of coins recovered from the wreck back to the US for examination. It says the discovery is the biggest of its kind.

Mr Goold has represented the Kingdom of Spain over shipwreck cases before, involving the recovery of material from two ships, Juno and La Galga, in a 2000 court case. The Spanish government won the case.

Mr Goold said the Spanish government had never abandoned its sunken ships. "Salvage operations without Spanish permission are not acceptable," he said.

'Contraband dealing'

Spanish media have reported that Odyssey Marine Exploration vessels had been seen with flags denoting they were undertaking marine research in Spanish waters in recent months.

Odyssey's co-founder Greg Stemm denied any wrongdoing in an interview with the El Pais newspaper last weekend, AFP news agency said.

Spanish Culture Minister Carmen Calvo said on Tuesday the Spanish government was monitoring the case, AFP said.

"If the discovery were made in Spanish waters, the firm would be guilty of plundering and undertaking contraband dealing in cultural goods," she was quoted as saying.

Earlier reports suggested the wreck was found 40 miles from Land's End, in Cornwall, England.

Shipwreck expert and historian Richard Larn said a Dartmouth-based ship called the Merchant Royal sank in that area in 1641.

It was laden with bullion from Mexico and there had been speculation that this was the wreck salvaged by Odyssey.

Odyssey said it had kept the location secret for security and legal reasons.

"The gold coins are almost all dazzling mint state specimens," Odyssey co-founder Greg Stemm said.

The artefacts, including more than 17 tons of silver coins plus a few hundred gold coins, have been shipped to the US and are being examined by experts at an undisclosed location.

The mammoth haul was salvaged using a tethered underwater robot.

Odyssey, which used the code name Black Swan for its operation, said it expected the wreck to become one of the "most publicised in history".
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PostPosted: 13-07-2007 07:01    Post subject: Reply with quote

From history to front page news...

Spain seizes ship in treasure row

The Spanish Civil Guard has intercepted a boat operated by a US company amid a row over treasure from a shipwreck.
The guard had been ordered by a Spanish judge to seize the vessel as soon as it left the British colony of Gibraltar.

Gibraltar officials and Odyssey Marine Exploration, which owns the ship, said Spain had boarded the ship illegally as it was in international waters.

In May, Odyssey said it had found $500m (£253m) in coins from a 17th Century wreck somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

Madrid suspects the sunken galleon may either have been Spanish or have gone down in Spanish waters.

The salvaged booty, which included half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects, has already been flown back to the US.

'Threat of force'

After leaving Gibraltar, the Ocean Alert was picked up at about 0700 GMT on Thursday off Europa Point and sent to the Spanish port of Algeciras to be searched, the Civil Guard said.

The guard was investigating a possible "offence against Spanish historic heritage", it said in a statement.

Odyssey said the boarding was illegal and said the Civil Guard threatened to use force if Ocean Alert's captain did not follow orders. It said Spain had earlier promised the ship would be searched at sea.

"At this point, Odyssey is assuming that the action on the part of the Guardia Civil is a miscommunication between Spanish authorities," the Florida-based company said in a statement.

A spokesman for the governor of Gibraltar said the ship was in international waters at the time it was seized.

A lawyer for Odyssey, Allen von Spiegelfeld, told Reuters news agency that Spain had not sought permission to board Ocean Alert from officials in Panama, where it is registered.

"The owners of the vessel have contacted the Panamanian maritime authorities protesting the seizure on international waters," Mr von Spiegelfeld said.

Spain has launched legal action over the treasure and the wreck.

Some experts believe the wreck to be the Merchant Royal, an English ship carrying stolen Spanish treasure which sank in 1641.

US coin expert Dr Lane Brunner has said there is evidence the shipwreck was found off England's Cornish coast.

Odyssey has kept the location of its find secret, citing security and legal reasons.
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PostPosted: 14-07-2007 08:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

Presumably the Spanish authorities intend to seize the gold and return it to its rightful Aztec owners.

Or not.

Yes, the English privateers stole the gold from the Spanish (if indeed it is a English wreck); but the Spanish stole it from the Mesoamericans, so they don't have any claim on it either.
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PostPosted: 18-07-2007 06:43    Post subject: Reply with quote

eburacum wrote:
Yes, the English privateers stole the gold from the Spanish (if indeed it is a English wreck); but the Spanish stole it from the Mesoamericans, so they don't have any claim on it either.

Good point. Cool

So who really owns this (yet to be recovered) hoard...?

Rommel's sunken gold 'found' by British expert
By Henry Samuel in Paris
Last Updated: 2:11am BST 18/07/2007

A British researcher claims to have located Rommel's elusive sunken treasure just weeks after a team of German divers scouring the Mediterranean failed to find the hoard.

The famed treasure has long been reputed to have been dumped somewhere off the coast of Corsica by fleeing SS men, who planned to recover it after the war.

However, Terry Hodgkinson, who has been researching the missing gold for 15 years, told The Daily Telegraph that he was now "confident" he knew its exact location in waters less than a nautical mile from the town of Bastia.

Mr Hodgkinson, who is also a television scriptwriter, has teamed up with Corsican experts and won permission from the French authorities to enter the race to find six steel cases said to contain 440lb of gold bullion plus other precious objects pillaged from the Jewish community in Tunisia during the war.

"We are confident of the location, but it will require the latest techniques to retrieve it, as the cases, which were once soldered, have no doubt separated and sunk deep into the sand," he said.

The only way to reach the loot would be to "hoover" up the seabed - a costly and time-consuming method. Now the main obstacle is funding.

After months of research in Tunisia, he believes he has uncovered the truth not just about the treasure spot, but also previously unknown aspects of the story behind its arrival in Corsican waters.

Accounts suggest that it was not Field Marshal Erwin Rommel but the ruthless SS colonel Walter Rauff who stripped Tunisian Jews of their wealth.

Rauff, who created the Nazis' notorious "gas vans" - mobile gas chambers - commanded a special Middle East extermination unit called in a month after Rommel's victory against the British at Tobruk in June 1942.

However, his mission came to an abrupt halt after the British overcame Rommel, also known as "the Desert Fox", at El Alamein in October 1942.

The Nazis left North Africa and are believed to have deliberately sunk the treasure as they later fled Corsica under heavy British and American bombardment.

There have since been several attempts to find it, inspiring films and even a Goon Show episode.

In February, French maritime police came across a German television crew hunting the treasure without authorisation.

They were fined but later resumed their search after receiving the go-ahead to shoot a "cultural film".

Under French law, the proceeds from the treasure would be split between the state and those who found it. However, in this case, the state would seemingly also try to find any surviving relatives of those stripped of their gold.
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PostPosted: 22-07-2007 15:22    Post subject: Reply with quote

And there's more...

Could a wartime photo help locate looted Nazi gold worth £20m?
Last updated at 22:02pm on 21st July 2007

A young German soldier poses proudly with his parents in a crumpled and torn old photograph.

It is typical of the type of photo thousands of soldiers would have had taken during the early days of Second World War to remind them of family and home.

But this particular snapshot holds a secret that could unlock a 60-year-old mystery – the whereabouts of a fabled hoard of looted Nazi gold worth £20million.

For scrawled in fading blue ink on the back of the photo is a code which investigators hope will pinpoint Rommel's Treasure – a cache of ingots, jewellery and works of art hidden by the SS as they retreated at the end of the war.

Terry Hodgkinson, the British investigator leading the chase for the treasure, said: 'We have now worked out the code and are pretty confident of where the treasure is. We feel certain that the latest techniques can be used to retrieve it.'

He believes the co-ordinates refer to a point less than a mile off a tourist beach close to the port of Bastia, on the French island of Corsica.

Mr Hodgkinson would confirm only that he would be searching an area just off Marana beach – where hundreds of holidaymakers top up their tans completely oblivious to the fact that the key to one of the greatest mysteries of the Third Reich might be just a few hundred yards away.

The hoard was amassed by fanatical SS units operating alongside Rommel's Afrika Korps. It is believed to be made up of 440lb of gold bullion and other precious objects looted from Jews in Tunisia during the North Africa campaign.

The Germans stashed the loot on Corsica – a convenient stopping-off point en route from Africa to Germany. But as the Allies advanced in 1943 it was collected in six steel cases which were then sealed and hidden off the coast, with their whereabouts known only by German cartographers.

The man at the centre of solving the mystery is Corporal Walter Kirner, who had his picture taken when he was 20 and had just joined the notorious Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, founded as Hitler's bodyguard regiment in 1933. It later became a Waffen SS combat unit.

At the end of the war Kirner, along with other SS men, was imprisoned in the Dachau death camp and it is here that he is said to have learned the legend of Rommel's Treasure from fellow inmates.

He would have been told about Colonel Walter Rauff, Rommel's subordinate, who created mobile gas chambers and amassed the treasure from victims of his extermination units.

Threatened by heavy bombardment from Allied forces, he saw little prospect of getting his hoard off Corsica and back to Germany, so decided to hide it. The SS thought they might be able to retrieve it if the war swung back in their favour but, of course, they never returned.

The picture of Kirner came to light when Mr Hodgkinson, who has spent the past 15 years searching for the treasure, was investigating German archives.

He knew a man named Kirner had claimed to know the secret of the treasure when interrogated in 1948 and his search for an image of him led him to the family snapshot. Mr Hodgkinson said: 'Only a few SS men knew where the treasure was, and Kirner was one of them, so his story is crucial to solving the mystery.

'There's a good chance that he didn't understand the co-ordinates himself, but he was clearly told about them and wrote them on his treasured family photograph for safekeeping. It's an astonishing breakthrough, and one which we need to act on as quickly as possible.

'We're hoping to get funding for an expedition which will involve using a sophisticated device to hoover up the seabed. The mystery has been around for far too long, and we need to solve it once and for all.'

Mr Hodgkinson is a TV scriptwriter who has worked for shows such as Midsomer Murders and Lovejoy. He has a French-born wife and divides his time between London and Corsica.

The Rommel Treasure has been a target for bounty hunters for decades.

Some of Mr Hodgkinson's original research was based on a previous expedition whose members included the 3rd Lord Kilbracken, who died last year, aged 85.

As well as serving as a Swordfish pilot for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm during the war, Lord Kilbracken worked as a journalist for the London Evening Standard, and led an unsuccessful trip to Corsica to try to retrieve the treasure in 1963.

Lord Kilbracken had been looking for the treasure as far back as 1952, when he was commissioned by an American journal to report from Corsica. He also had an arrangement with the Daily Mail.

His 1963 expedition was based on Kirner's 1948 testimony, made to French secret servicemen when the former SS man turned himself in after escaping from Dachau. He is now dead.

Mr Hodgkinson said: 'Kirner used a false name and said he could lead people to the treasure, but all the schemes he was involved with collapsed because of a lack of funds and the poor diving technology available at the time. Kilbracken had similar problems, but he was heading in the right direction before his own expedition collapsed.'

Mr Hodgkinson said his next step would be to find a list of other SS prisoners who were in Dachau with Kirner to try to learn more about what the treasure might include.

He said: 'Kirner was interviewed at length by all kinds of security agencies – there are CIA and MI6 files on the subject – but no one has ever been successful in tracking down exactly where it is.'

Mr Hodgkinson is concerned about German efforts to beat him to the hoard.

Berlin-based TV station ZDF carried out secret research missions last year and sailed to the east coast of Corsica in February to conduct a search but found nothing.

Under French law, the proceeds from the treasure would be split between the state and those who found it. But the French would also try to find any surviving relatives of those stripped of their gold.
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PostPosted: 24-03-2008 09:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

eburacum wrote:
Presumably the Spanish authorities intend to seize the gold and return it to its rightful Aztec owners.

Or not.

The saga continues...

£254m battle of the Black Swan
Dispute over sunken ship involves US firm, Spain and Peru, and raises British fears

Sam Jones Monday March 24, 2008 The Guardian

The crew of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes must have thought their ship had fought its final battle on the morning of October 5 1804. A little after 10 o'clock, their seven-month voyage from Peru, via Uruguay, to almost within sight of the Iberian peninsula came to an end with the British broadside that sent the treasure-laden frigate and 200 souls to the bottom of the Atlantic and brought Spain into the Napoleonic wars.

But after lying undisturbed on the seabed off Portugal for more than two centuries, the Mercedes is now at the centre of the biggest treasure grab in history.
The battle for ownership of its £254m cargo of gold and silver coins, which has already pitted a US treasure-hunting company against the Spanish government, has been joined by a third party. An emotive campaign is welling up from within Peru to reclaim the treasures the conquistadores and their descendants took by force over the course of almost three centuries.

Last May, the Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration announced that it had recovered 500,000 gold and silver coins weighing 17 tonnes from a wreck in international waters in the Atlantic and flown them back to the US from Gibraltar.

The company has refused to speculate on the identity - or nationality - of the vessel and has further ratcheted up the intrigue by referring to the find only as the Black Swan.

Despite the secrecy and Odyssey's unwillingness to confirm anything about its discovery, the Spanish government is convinced that the Black Swan is Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.

Spain is so sure of its claim to the ship's treasure that over the last six months it has dispatched gunboats to search one of Odyssey's salvage vessels in the Mediterranean and lawyers to Florida to fight its corner in the courts.

After months of legal wrangling, Odyssey has agreed to reveal the wreck's location to Spain, hand over photographs and documents, and allow experts access to the artefacts it has recovered.

Spain's case is simple enough: if Odyssey has found the Spanish ship, Madrid wants its cut. The treasure hunters, however, are confident that they will profit whatever happens.

Natja Igney, Odyssey's head of corporate communications, said the company was expecting a number of claims, but added: "It is the opinion of our legal counsel that even if a claim is deemed to be legitimate by the courts, Odyssey should still receive title to a significant majority of the recovered goods."

The Mercedes was one of a squadron of four Spanish frigates returning to Cádiz from what was then the viceroyalty of Peru with a cargo of millions of gold and silver coins.

The quartet was ambushed by a British squadron off Cape Santa María on the Portuguese coast and the Mercedes blown to pieces after a volley of shots ripped through the ship's magazine.

The other three Spanish ships - the Fama, the Medea and the Santa Clara - were taken to Plymouth, relieved of their cargo and pressed into service as Royal Navy vessels. Two months later, Spain declared war on Great Britain.

Since news of the find emerged last year, some Spanish newspapers have denounced treasure-hunting outfits as "the new pirates of this century" who are hell-bent on ransacking Spain's archaeological heritage for profit.

But Madrid and Odyssey are now facing growing calls from Peru for some, or all, of the Mercedes' cargo to be returned to the South American country.

Peruvian campaigners say that because the gold and silver coins were probably minted from metal taken without permission by the Spaniards, they belong to the modern-day country, not its former colonial master.

Last year, Peru's production minister, Rafael Rey, said it was only "logical" that his country would seek the treasure's return.

Blanca Alva Guerrero, director of the defence of cultural patrimony at Peru's National Institute of Culture, said: "If we can establish that some or all of the recovered artefacts came from Peru, we are ready to reclaim them as material remnants of our past."

She added that Peru had a legal right to recover any items deemed part of its "cultural heritage".

Mariana Mould de Pease, a Peruvian historian who has successfully campaigned to oblige Yale University to return hundreds of artefacts taken from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, said that although Spain had "acted duplicitously, and - where necessary - brutally" during the colonial period, she hoped a deal could be reached. "Given the historical ties between the two countries, I think Peru should join Spain in taking part in the scientific recovery of the ship's contents."

She said that Italy's recent success in securing the return of Roman items from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty Museum in the US had "already influenced countries such as Peru when it comes to taking legal action founded on cultural restitution".

Spain, however, has so far dismissed the Peruvian claim, saying that the Mercedes was sailing under a Spanish flag and pointing out that Peru did not exist as a country in 1804.

Odyssey, meanwhile, remains confident of its legal position - and a 90% share of the proceeds from the ship.

"If Peru or any other country believes [it has] a claim," said Igney, "it is invited to file it."

The company may be optimistic, but the international tug-of-war over the wreck has brought the issue of profit-making firms' involvement in historical salvage back to the surface.

"There's a world of difference between the archaeological approach and the treasure-hunting approach," said Dr Peter Marsden, a marine archaeologist and the founder of the Shipwreck and Coastal Heritage Centre in Hastings. "What we don't know about Odyssey is what they are doing, because they are keeping things very close to their chests. But they are making their money from the sale of historical items that really should be in museums."

Odyssey's secretive behaviour has raised concerns in the archaeological community about the deal the British government has signed with the company to salvage HMS Sussex, an English warship which sank in the western Mediterranean in 1694 while carrying a large cargo of gold coins.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was confident that the contract required Odyssey to "respect the relevant international archaeological standards", adding: "We keep this under continual review."

But as the first shots are fired in what could be a long legal battle for the cargo of the Mercedes, Marsden cannot help wondering whether the lustre of the treasure has blinded the world to the wreck's true value.

"You have to remember that the ship was just carrying cargo from A to B," he says.

"What was the purpose of the journey and of that money? What is its real story? The important thing is what it tells us about what was going on.",,2267728,00.html
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PostPosted: 01-05-2008 06:40    Post subject: Reply with quote

500-year-old shipwreck found by diamond firm
Last Updated: 1:47AM BST 01/05/2008

A shipwreck, believed to be 500 years old, containing a treasure trove of coins and ivory has been discovered off the southern African coast.

The site yielded a wealth of objects including thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins
A Namibian diamond company, Namdeb, said on Wednesday that it found the wreck during mining operations in the Atlantic.

"The site yielded a wealth of objects including six bronze cannon, several tons of copper, more than 50 elephant tusks, pewter tableware, navigational instruments, weapons and thousands of Spanish and Portuguese gold coins, minted in the late 1400s and early 1500s," said Hilifa Mbako, a company spokesman.

Dieter Noli, an archaeologist, identified the cannon as Spanish, dating from about 1500.

Company sources said that human remains and ornaments linked to royalty suggested it could be the caravel of Bartolomeu Dias, the Portuguese explorer, which went down off the Cape of Good Hope in 1500.

Dias, a nobleman from the Portuguese royal family, was the first European to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, in 1488, opening the lucrative trading route with the Far East.
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PostPosted: 17-09-2008 20:56    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wrecked ship could be the Nancy

Two divers believe they have found the wreck of a treasure-laden ship which sank more than two centuries ago off the Isles of Scilly.

Forty-nine people lost their lives when the packet ship Nancy hit rocks during storms in 1784.

One of those who perished was Ann Cargill, a famous opera singer who was returning to England from India.

Now Todd Stevens and Ed Cumming think they have found the wreck and hope to recover some of the lost treasure.

Mrs Cargill's body was recovered - claimed by some newspaper articles to be clutching a small child - but it is believed several of her cases containing valuable jewels sank to the bottom of the sea.

The 23-year-old singer made her name in Covent Garden and Drury Lane before leaving her husband to travel to India and perform in Calcutta where her lover was stationed with the British East India Company.

Mr Stevens, who moved to St Mary's on the Isles of Scilly several years ago, said it had taken a year to track down the wreck, but he and Mr Cumming now believe they have enough evidence to prove it is the Nancy.

"Everything points to it being the Nancy - the location, the size," the 46-year-old said.

"It has been a real thrill. This kind of discovery is what you go diving for."

Museum donation

Tests carried out on of pieces of pottery show they came from India at that time, Mr Stevens said.

The divers said if other items of treasure are found, they will be donated to the museum on St Mary's.

"We are hoping that there is some jewellery left down there," he said

"That would prove that it is definitely the Nancy."

The divers are trying to piece together the human stories surrounding the wreck.

The ship was sailing to London when it ran into fierce storms near treacherous rocks west of the Scillies.

Mr Cumming, 62, said: "It would have been an almost hopeless position.

"Up until then it had been a good passage, but then they hit the storm. There was no lighthouse."

Any wreck material found within UK territorial waters must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
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PostPosted: 08-01-2009 21:55    Post subject: Reply with quote

Annoying lack of detail here, but clearly treasure hunting is still a big deal in some quarters:

Divers face trial over shipwreck

A team of Cornish divers accused of plundering a shipwreck off the Spanish coast are to face trial in Spain.

Peter Devlin, from Falmouth, Malcolm Cubin, from Truro, and Steve Russ, from Helston, are accused of taking gold and diamonds from the wreck in June 2002.

They say they were diving for tin ingots from a nearby wreck, for which they had a contract.

The men, who all deny a charge of theft, are due to appear for trial at the Court of Santiago on 24 March.

The men are each charged with one count of theft. They also each face a further charge of destruction of the patrimonial heritage of Spain, which they also deny.

The trio said they were working as divers on a salvage contract awarded by the Spanish government when they were arrested.

If they are found guilty, the men each face up to six years in jail.
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PostPosted: 25-01-2009 09:15    Post subject: Reply with quote

British shipwreck holds £2.6 billion treasure, explorers claim
Salvagers claim to have found the world's richest wreck – a British ship sunk by a Nazi submarine while laden with a £2.6 billion cargo that included gold, platinum and diamonds.

By Jasper Copping
Last Updated: 12:03AM GMT 25 Jan 2009

In a project shrouded in secrecy, work is due to start on recovering the cargo, which was being transported to the United States to help pay for the Allied effort in the Second World War.

The scale of the treasure trove is likely to unleash a series of competing claims from interested parties. Salvage laws are notoriously complex and experts say there could be many years of legal wrangling ahead.

In order to protect its find until the cargo is brought to the surface, the company that located the wreck has not released the name of the vessel or its exact location, but has given the ship the code name "Blue Baron".

It says the merchant ship, which had a predominantly British crew, had left a European port, laden with goods for the US Treasury under the Lend-Lease scheme, whereby the American government gave material support to the Allied war effort in exchange for payments.

The Blue Baron first sailed to a port in South America, where it unloaded some general cargo, before continuing north in a convoy, heading for New York.

However, the company claim it was intercepted by German U-boat U87 and sent to the bottom by two torpedoes in June 1942, with the loss of three crew members. Their nationalities are not known.

Sub Sea Research, a US-based marine research and recovery firm, claims it has now located the wreck under 800ft of water about 40 miles off Guyana.

Greg Brooks, the company's founder and co-manager, said: "This British freighter had an extremely valuable cargo and we decided there wasn't a lot of point in leaving it at the bottom of the sea. This will definitely be the richest wreck ever."

Until now, historians have not credited U87 with sinking any vessels in that area in June 1942 and it was thought to have been operating further north in the Atlantic.

However, Sub Sea Research claims to have located the submarine's log book which prove it did sink the "Blue Baron", as well as documents from the port of origin, the US Treasury and the Lend-Lease programme giving clues as to what was on board.

A picture of the Blue Baron supplied to The Sunday Telegraph by the company shows it is a tramp steamer and her funnel appears to resemble those of the shipping line Hogarth and Co, of Glasgow, whose ships were known as Hungry Hogarths.

Tantalisingly, the names of its ships all began with the word Baron – indicating that the Blue Baron could be one of them. However, none of the fleet's 17 ships lost in the war appear to have been sunk in this area in June 1942.

The picture also resembles Port Nicholson, a steamer sunk by U87 in June 1942 but 2,000 miles north of Guyana off Cape Cod. Sub Sea Research insists that the Port Nicholson is not the Blue Baron.

It claims that the Blue Baron's cargo included at least ten tons of gold bullion, 70 tons of platinum, one a half tons of industrial diamonds and 16 million carats of gem quality diamonds.

In addition, there were several thousands tons of tin and a few thousand tons of copper ingots. Although the tin and copper may have lost some value after years on the sea bed, the precious metals and diamonds would not have done so.

The haul's total worth is calculated at £2.6 billion at today's prices, according to the firm.

Captain Richard Woodman, author of The Real Cruel Sea, a history of the merchant navy in the Second World War, said: "A lot of merchant ships did have to carry valuable cargoes like this.

Any heavy materials had to go by sea. It was the only way to get from A to B. There would have been an element of protection for them, but in the end it is just the coincidence of war that a ship happens to stop a torpedo."

A 220ft salvage vessel is currently being equipped to recover the cargo. It is due to sail next week from the US state of Louisiana to the wreck site, which lies in international waters.

The company has refused to reveal which government sent the valuables to the US or which was the Blue Baron's final port of call in Europe.

It is thought much of the treasure could be Russian, although part, including the diamonds, may have been British.

Britain and Russia were the two main beneficiaries of the Lend-Lease scheme, under which the US provided $50 billion of supplies - equivalent to $700 billion (£510 billion) in today's money.

Although explorers are permitted in law to stake claims on items they recover from the seabed, the original owners can make counter claims.

Sub Sea Research was forced to go public with its discovery when it filed a claim on the treasure in a US federal admiralty court, to which no counter claims have been lodged so far.

Mr Brooks said: "No one has stepped forward to make a claim yet, probably because the government that lost it does not realise.

"We are trying to keep it as quiet as possible until we have it in our possession. We think the possessions on board may belong to more than one country.

"I know for a fact that everyone possible will try to take it from us, but we are doing everything by the book. I think the worst case scenario, under salvage law, is that we would get 90 per cent of it. But we are trying to go for 100 per cent."

Mike Williams, an expert in salvage law at Wolverhampton University, said the Government which had owned the cargo would retain a strong claim on it.

He said: "Both Britain and Russia transhipped large quantities of precious goods to the US to pay for their war effort. It would be unlikely the salvors would be able to keep it all.

"The real winners will be the lawyers. There is a marine lawyers' saying that treasure is trouble."
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