Finders Keepers, Unless You’re The Government

Rat bastards. Eff ‘em all with a tent pole. From now on all treasure hunter ships should have smelters on board. Fuck history. Find some gold or silver and melt it down. Shipwreck? We dint find no steenkin shipwreck!

(last February) Atlanta Federal Court Rules Against Odyssey Marine Exploration; Treasure Hunters Must Return Golden Fortune To Spain

An attorney for the Spanish government said a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday means Florida deep-sea explorers will have to start making plans to hand over 17 tons of silver coins and other treasure from a sunken 19th century galleon. Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. found the treasure off the Portuguese coast in 2007 in the wreck of what is believed to be the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, which was sunk by British warships in 1804. Last year, a federal appeals court in Atlanta affirmed a Tampa judge’s ruling that Odyssey must give the treasure back to Spain. The company then requested a stay of court proceedings as it continued its legal fight to keep the treasure. In court documents, the exploration firm said a stay of the court proceedings is needed to prevent Spain from keeping the treasure as U.S. courts continue to consider the case. But in an order Tuesday, a federal judge in Atlanta denied Odyssey’s motion for a stay.

Odyssey made an international splash in 2007 when it recovered the coins and other artifacts from the depths using a remote-control underwater vehicle and brought the loot back to Tampa via Gibraltar. At the time, experts speculated the coins could be worth as much a $500 million. They are still in Odyssey’s possession in an undisclosed location. Almost immediately, the Spanish government filed a claim in federal court in Tampa claiming that it never relinquished ownership of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes and its cargo. Odyssey had argued that the wreck was never positively identified as the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. And if it was that vessel, then the ship was on a commercial trade trip — not a sovereign mission — at the time it sank, meaning Spain would have no firm claim to the cargo. International treaties generally hold that warships sunk in battle are protected from treasure seekers. The Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes was sunk by British warships in the Atlantic while sailing back from South America with more than 200 people on board.

The Mercedes exploded and sank about 10 minutes into the Battle of Cape Santa Maria, during the Napoleonic Wars. While technically Britain was not at war with Spain at the time (2 months later they were), they were about to be, and much of the treasure on board this fleet - the very last Spanish treasure fleet from the New World to the Old - was to be used both to prepare Spain for war and to pay off Napoleon. The British intercepted them at sea, shot them to bits, and captured the other ships in the fleet. Mercedes took a hit in the powder magazine, blew herself to shreds, and sank. A couple minutes of internet research does not tell me whether the Mercedes was an armed merchantman or an official ship of the Spanish Navy, although such distinctions may have been nebulous at the time.

Either way, pretty damned ballsy for Spain to lay claim to a treasure that they had lost 203 years ago, that was in essence STOLEN in the first place. And even ballsier for the US courts to give it to them. As precedent, this may put the kabosh on future treasure hunting expeditions. Why bother, if the governments are going to collude to steal it away?

Anyway, in their snooty victorious arrogance, Spain put a tiny amount of the treasure on display today. A very tiny bit: tons and tons of gold and silver make up this hoard; it’s too easy to search up hundreds of pictures of the stash from when Odyssey Marine held it.

MADRID – Spanish cultural officials have allowed the first peep at 16 tons of shipwreck treasure worth an estimated $500 million that a U.S. salvage company gave up after a five-year international ownership dispute.

A tiny portion of the loot from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, a galleon that sank off Portugal’s Atlantic coast near the straits of Gibraltar in 1804, was shown to the media: 12 individual silver coins, a block of encrusted silver coins, two gold tobacco boxes and a bronze pulley.

Officials on Friday said some of the treasure will be put on display in museums next year. Spain got it from Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration in February after U.S. courts rejected arguments that the company was entitled to all or most of the treasure.

The company [Odyssey Marine] has said in earnings statements that it has spent $2.6million salvaging, transporting, storing and conserving the treasure.

But it is not expected to receive any compensation from the Spanish government for recovering it because the European nation has maintained that the company should not have tried to do so in the first place.

Meanwhile, Spain said the coins are classified as national heritage and must stay inside that country where they will be exhibited in one or more Spanish museums.

It ruled out the idea of the treasure being sold to ease Spain’s national debt in a country grappling with a 23 percent jobless rate and a stagnant economy.


old photo: Odyssey workers sort through TONS of treasure from the Mercedes

... and all Spain puts on display is a Ziploc baggy full of coins and a pulley? Yeah. Right. And all the rest is going in a museum. Sure, sure it is. A “museum” in the Cayman Islands with a numbered account is my bet. I wonder if the bullion is worth more, now that’s it’s thrice stolen?

PS - and since Britain paid an indemnity to Spain for the whole fleet, because the capture and sinking thereof was considered an act of piracy at the time, then why didn’t the treasure go to the UK? WTH, they’d paid for it, more than 200 years ago.

PPS - to all nations of the world: a big SCREW YOU for your sunken ships. Once they’ve been on the bottom long enough for the bones to rot away - call it a decade - then what’s left is open to salvage by one and all. You want it back, then you’d better act in that first decade. Or you’d better control the whole area the entire time and build a memorial thingy over it ... or else it’s fair game. Not one bit of any of it that’s out in the open ocean can be declared some sort of bullshit World Heritage Site, unless the ship is in such shallow water that people can hold their breath and swim down to it. It’s all salvage. Riches from the deep. Sunken treasure, arrgh. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Posted by Drew458    United States   on 12/05/2012 at 03:43 PM   
  1. Drew, First.
    Sorry to read you were under the weather all at the same time as the move and work related stuff. Feel guilty absent last day could not be avoided. And looks like you have today covered.
    Damn good post and I have to tell you. Read about this almost a year ago and the Spanish claim, and was as outraged as you are. Had I posted the article I’d read, I would not have been up to the commentary done as well as you have here. So good that you posted it. You’re right in all areas.  I could not understand this total lack of justice and fair play. So ok. Forget justice, there’s damn little of it. Logic should have won the day for the guys who risked much and found the treasure. Sadly, there isn’t much logic being used these days either.
    Why couldn’t they have hauled and hoarded some of it?

    Posted by peiper    United Kingdom   12/05/2012  at  05:39 PM  
  2. The South Americans should sue Spain to return the treasure they stole from them in the first place.

    Posted by LyndonB    United Kingdom   12/05/2012  at  07:23 PM  
  3. Too bad they couldn’t have taken it back and dumped it in a deep trench.

    Posted by Ranting Right Wing Howler    United States   12/05/2012  at  08:29 PM  
  4. John Galt, Treasure Hunter? Why not.

    Posted by Drew458    United States   12/05/2012  at  09:32 PM  
  5. Peiper’s #2 comment is correct.  If we gotta give treasure back to Spain, shouldn’t we first deduct all the treasure they stole from the Americas?  I’m sure good old Montezuma’s decendants would like the some of their treasure back.  Charge interest compounded daily and punitive costs on top and old spain will still owe billions. 

    I agree, melt it all down and screw ‘em.  All this does is either stop exploration altogether (which we then lose all the history yet to be discovered) or force it to be done when no one is looking.  Spain could have asked for a small percentage and I could have agreed with that.  But now, after this, they will get NOTHING, as no one is going to go looking anymore.  And if they do, they ain’t saying nothing. 

    Is it me, or does it seem that all governments are getting a little too bossy and way too greedy?

    Posted by sdkar    United States   12/06/2012  at  04:52 AM  
  6. I’m confused - what happened to the old “marine salvage”?

    Also, how does Spain get away with NOT paying for the recovery of this treasure?

    I’d “accidentally” drop in in the deepest part of the Atlantic on it’s way to Spain - happens all the time with shipping traffic.

    Posted by jackal40    United States   12/06/2012  at  01:25 PM  
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