Treasure hunt: Are there still any shipwrecks left to find?
Particularly considering all the technology available now, you may wonder: Is there any old pirate treasure — or are there any shipwrecks — yet to be discovered?
A source of fascination for centuries, TV shows like Discovery Channel’s Treasure Quest and specials like National Geographic’s Sunken Treasure Of The Nile — not to mention the stories regularly appearing in books, movies and television dramas — have all served to keep the allure of treasure-seeking alive.
Millions and billions
Fear not — there is lots and lots of treasure left to discover… if you have the time, the skill, the financial backing, the equipment and the luck to find it.
The Underwater Cultural Heritage division of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) notes, “It can be estimated that over 3 million wrecks are spread across ocean floors around the planet. While this is, of course, only an estimate, and while the preservation of their remains depends much on the environment, some of these wrecks are thousands of years old.”
Greg Stemm, co-founder of OME said in a 2007 interview with Fortune magazine, “There’s billions of dollars scattered on the ocean floor — that’s a fact — and we have the technology to find it.” But, as he added, just because you have the know-how doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. “The business model is very simple. The execution is complex.”
Can you hang on to any treasure you find? Ah — therein lies the rub.
Technically, seas and oceans are governed by the UN Laws of the Sea — and ownership of sunken property found in international waters are governed by the law of salvage and the law of finds. But, particularly since the booty is of mixed heritage — for example, Country A might have plundered Country B, and then sunk their ship off the coast of Country C — sorting out the issues of ownership and profitability are anything but simple.