I see that Odyssey Marine Exploration is in the news again, both negatively and positively.
On the negative side, the company was ordered last month to hand over to Spain some 17 tons of treasure recovered from a ship believed to be the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, sunk in 1804. The treasure was salvaged by Odyssey and flown to the USA in 2007. The company has announced its intention to appeal the ruling, but I think international maritime law is definitely on Spain's side. I note that the company has deliberately failed to positively identify which ship the treasure came from - a sure sign, in my opinion, that they know damn well what ship it is, and they're trying to conceal its identity because they know they don't have a legal leg to stand on. I think their tactics give an overwhelming impression of dishonesty.
Be that as it may, less than a week later, Odyssey announced its discovery of the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa, a British merchant ship sunk during World War II with a fortune in silver on board.
Odyssey Marine Exploration said it had confirmed the identity and location of the shipwreck site, nearly 4,700 metres [well over 15,000 feet] below the surface of the North Atlantic, about 300 miles off the coast of Ireland in international waters.A torpedo hole in the side of SS Gairsoppa
The company said in a statement: "Contemporary research and official documents indicate that the ship was carrying £600,000 (1941 value) or seven million total ounces of silver, including over three million ounces of private silver bullion insured by the UK government, which would make it the largest known precious metal cargo ever recovered from the sea."
In 2010 the UK Department for Transport awarded the company, through a competitive tender process, the exclusive salvage contract for the cargo of the ship.
Under the agreement, Odyssey will retain 80 percent of the value of the silver.
There's more at the link. A video clip of footage shot by Odyssey's underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) may be viewed here. At today's prices, the SS Gairsoppa's cargo may be worth as much as US $243 million.
The good news didn't stop there. Odyssey announced today that its exploration vessel, the Odyssey Explorer, has discovered the wreck of another British merchant ship, the SS Mantola, which was sunk by a German submarine during World War I. It lies only about 100 miles from the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa.
An Odyssey spokesman said the Mantola was insured to carry silver worth £110,000 when it sailed in 1917.
That value would mean the ship could hold as much as 600,000 ounces of silver, based on silver prices in 1917. At current market prices, that much silver would be worth more than $19 million.
Odyssey will retain 80 per cent of the value of the silver that's recovered.
Again, more at the link.
So, the company may (depending on the final outcome of a protracted legal battle) have to surrender several hundred million dollars' worth of treasure to Spain; but it may be able to refill its coffers with a couple of hundred million dollars' worth of silver from the two recently discovered British merchant ships. You lose some, you win some . . . but I wish the company would have acted more legally and ethically in the case of the Spanish ship. When greed leads to shenanigans such as those that have been exposed in court, it doesn't matter how praiseworthy or exciting a company's discoveries may be; they're tainted by the impression of dishonesty. Quite frankly, I don't know that Odyssey will ever be able to free itself of that. Their behavior has been heavily criticized in the past, and the most recent court ruling appears to have agreed with that perspective.