Odyssey Marine has announced today in a news conference in London the apparent discovery of the HMS Victory, which sank in the English Channel in 1744. The wreck was discovered in May 2008. The company has recovered two of the vessel’s one-hundred brass cannons, pictured here. The wreck is rumored to contain more than a billion dollars in gold.
Note that Odyssey won’t have the rights to this gold, unlike the “Black Swan” wreck, this vessel was clearly a British navy man-of-war, and as such any salvage will be property of the crown. Odyssey is now negotiating with the UK Government. A far different relationships than with the Spanish, who have been strongly critical of the company, including bringing suit in federal court in Tampa Florida over the “Black Swan“.
From the Guardian:
The Ministry of Defence has given the company permission to go back down to the wreck to try to find the treasure.
The British Government will legally own any gold that is recovered, but Greg Stemm, chief executive officer of Odyssey Marine Exploration, said he was in negotiations and would expect to be rewarded for the find.
Mr Stemm said: “The money is not as important as the cultural and historical significance of the discovery. It is a monumental event, not only for Odyssey but for the world.
“It is probably the most significant shipwreck find to date. HMS Victory was the mightiest vessel of the 18th century and the eclectic mix of guns we found on the site will prove essential in further refining our understanding of naval weaponry used during the era.”
Stemm certainly appears to be playing up the heritage and cultural significance angle. Again the question worth asking is, will Odyssey be undertaking serious archaeological study? Will the Government insist upon such an examination? It’s worth noting as well that Odyssey is traded on Nasdaq. Might its stock increase today? Should we be treating the discovery of underwater heritage in this way?