Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Odyssey clears lines with Madrid and heads for submerged treasure

HMS Sussex

Odyssey Marine Exploration said it would soon resume work on the wreck of HMS Sussex, the English treasure ship believed to be lying on the seabed close to Gibraltar.

Work was brought to a halt earlier this year after Spanish authorities queried aspects of the project and asked for closer involvement.

The project has been stalled for months while the company, the British government and the US State Department negotiated with Spain.

Technically speaking, Spain has no say in the matter because the ship belongs to the UK and is outside the country’s territorial waters.

But the American company is keen to stay on Madrid’s good books, not least because it has its eye on a number of potentially lucrative shipwrecks in international waters around the world that are, in legal terms, owned by Spain.

After months of talks, Odyssey has agreed to allow an archaeologist appointed by the Junta de Andalucia to remain on board its vessel and monitor all work on the wreck of the Sussex.

The HMS Sussex is a large 80-gun English warship that sank in 1694 with a reported cargo of money that could be worth up to $1 billion. The ship remains the exclusive property of the Government of the United Kingdom and Odyssey has an exclusive partnering agreement for the archaeological excavation of the Sussex.

“We’re pleased that by working together with the United Kingdom, Spain and the Junta de Andalucia, we have been able to develop a cooperative relationship that allows us to proceed with the Sussex in a collaborative and friendly manner,” said John Morris, Odyssey’s chief executive and co-founder.

“Pursuant to a series of official exchanges this year with Spain and the Autonomous Region of Andalucia through the U.S. State Department, Odyssey has agreed to allow an archaeologist appointed by Andalucia to accompany the expedition in order to confirm the identity of the Sussex and to assess the archaeological protocols relating to the project."

"We believe that Odyssey’s cooperation with the Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain serves to underscore our commitment to the management and preservation of underwater cultural heritage throughout the world,” he added.

While the negotiations with Spain were ongoing, the company’s vessels were engaged in a separate research programme known as ‘the Atlas project.’

Odyssey is closely guarding the identities of the vessels it is trying to find as part of this latest survey but said that the programme was well under way. The company is searching for five high-value shipwrecks in an undisclosed area covering over 5,000 square miles. Since the start of the project on May 4, 2005, Odyssey has searched over 3,700 square miles and located over 2,100 anomalies on the sea floor using an advanced high-resolution side-scan sonar system.

After the weather window closes for the company’s ship, Odyssey Explorer, on the Atlas project for 2005, the company plans to relocate the vessel to the Western Mediterranean, where work can continue through the winter.

Immediately after mobilization of additional equipment and the archaeological team, Odyssey plans to begin operations on the shipwreck site believed to be HMS Sussex.

Related Articles and Links:

30 June 2005 - Treasure off Gibraltar leads to talks with Junta

21 April 2005 - HMS Sussex Treasure Hunt suspended

16 March 2005 - Ship set for Sussex Treasure hunt

Abridged version of the Sussex Project Plan.


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