DIG 'BILLION DOLLAR' SITE
& Partners has been named as the archaeological consultant
for the salvage of the HMS Sussex. The warship sunk with its
cargo of coins in the Mediterranean in the 17th century.
The project has attracted
controversy because artefacts will be sold off and the proceeds
split between the British government and the US salvage company.
Odyssey Marine Exploration say that ‘value estimates for
the cargo range from several hundred million to a billion dollars
An Early Day Motion
signed by over 60 MPs condemned the ‘treasure hunting’
and the CBA, Rescue and the IFA have questioned whether an archaeological
excavation is even feasible at the extreme depth of the Sussex.
Rescue webpage: http://www.rescue-archaeology.freeserve.co.uk/news/hms-sussex.html
Press release : http://shipwreck.net/gppr01.html
CBA Details: http://www.britarch.ac.uk/conserve/sussex.html
Gifford & Partners website : http://www.gifford-consulting.co.uk/disciplines/index.html#archaeology
Background to Story
The largest treasure
trove in marine history could soon emerge from Mediterranean
waters, thanks to an unprecedented public-private partnership.
Focusing on a 17th-century
British warship, the treasure hunt has been launched by a 20-year-old
deal between Britain and U.S. salvage company Odyssey Marine
HMS Sussex, an 80-gun
ship, was said to be on a secret mission taking gold and silver
coins to the Duke of Savoy Victor Amadeus II, a shaky ally in
Britain's Nine Years' War against France.
But King William III's huge bribe — a million pounds sterling,
according to historical records — never reached the Duke.
On Feb. 19, 1694, a violent storm hit the flotilla near the
Strait of Gibraltar. The Sussex sank and its 500 crew drowned.
With the approval of the British government — under international
law the 154-foot (47-meter) warship and its cargo is considered
to be the property of its home country — Odyssey first
traced the wreck in a series of expeditions between 1998 and
The company used
side scan sonar, bathymetric surveys to measure water depth,
and underwater robots to locate 418 potential targets, which
included Roman and Phoenician wrecks over 2,000 years old.
"Out of all
these targets, only one site, nearly 3000 feet deep, contained
cannon — and it was very close to the position where the
Fleet's secretary reported in 1694 that the Sussex had foundered,"
Odyssey said in a statement.
The current partnership
is a legal breakthrough that could be a new model for locating
and salvaging shipwrecks worldwide. Odyssey will cover the initial
costs, which could be more than $5 million. However, the company's
gamble could pay off.
The contract allows
Odyssey to claim 80 per cent of the first $45 million made from
selling the coins from the ship. Any proceeds up to $500 million
would be split evenly between the company and Britain, which
would get 60 percent of any additional proceeds.
The biggest risk
in the entire operation, supposing the shipwreck is the Sussex,
is existence of the treasure.
extensively on Victor Amadeus II, but I've never come across
any sign of this type of payment in cash. As far as I know,
the English and Dutch subsidies were paid through international
bankers, mainly through neutral Geneva. Sending cash was unusual,"
Geoffrey Symcox of University of California at Los Angeles told
An authority on the
history of France during that time, Symcox doesn't believe that
the loss of the money made the Duke of Savoy side with France's
King Louis XIV, as Odyssey suggested.
did change sides, but not until the summer of 1696, nearly 3
years later. In the meantime, he had continued to fight alongside
"The sheer size
of the sum suggests that there may have been more involved than
a bribe. Perhaps the money was meant to finance a big campaign
to invade southern France, liberate Nice and raise the Huguenots
of Languedoc in revolt — a big blow that might have finished
the war," he said.