Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pirate Wednesday - Sunken Treasure

The fourth installment of Indiana Jones is coming out very soon, and I couldn't be more excited. The popularity of this series is a testament to the romantic image of hunting for lost treasure - facing danger to acquire valuable artifacts - the essence of piracy.

While Indy scours the land for golden idols, it is Davy Jones who holds the treasure of the seas. Treasure that may well have once belonged to true pirates, and today this treasure is being found.

This is no mere fantasy, three reports of sunken treasure being discovered and recovered have crossed my desk in the past few weeks, and it makes me giddy as a schoolchild to know the profession of Treasure Hunter is alive and well.


Steve Libert, an underwater explorer from Virginia, believes he has found the remains of:

The Griffon, which was built near Niagara Falls in 1679 and became the first sailing ship on the Great Lakes, was lost in a storm on its maiden voyage and now ranks among North America's most sought-after wrecks.
Libert is in a legal battle with the state of Michigan for rights to explore the wreck. The value of the Griffon is mostly historical (it is described as "one of the Holy Grails of Canadian marine history"), but surely there must be a number of shiny baubles aboard. When it sunk, it was carrying "thousands of furs and other cargo obtained from native traders."


The next one is particularly exciting, due to its age, value, and mystery:

On the other hand, why did the captain have so many coins? Shouldn't they have been traded for the ivory and copper?

"Either he did a very, very good deal. Or he was a pirate," Noli said. "I'm convinced we'll find out what the ship was and who the captain was."

This 500 year old wreck was found off the coast of Africa by the De Beers diamond corporation. It's a little more romantic when these things are discovered by intrepid individuals, but incorporation seems to be the way to go these days. As for the monetary value of this find...

The ship was laden with tons of copper ingots, elephant tusks, gold coins - and cannons to fend off pirates. "You don't turn a skipper loose with a cargo of that value and have no record of it," Noli said.


Finally, a more recent - certainly post-pirate - wreck, but what she lacks in age and intrigue she more than makes up for in sheer wealth.

She was the British government's secret treasure ship, packed with 43 tons of gold and intended for Halifax to pay Canadian and American munitions suppliers at the height of the First World War.

But that was the mission that doomed the SS Laurentic - along with 354 of her British and Canadian crew - when the ocean liner dressed in cannons for the occasion struck a German mine off the Irish coast, slipping to the North Atlantic's depths with her cargo of 3,211 ingots.
Yes, a good year for Canadian maritime history, and for lost riches. As I stated above, there are companies devoted solely to the exploration and recovery of sunken treasure. Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered an absolutely amazing cache of treasure not long ago. Check out their site, they've got some cool stuff. Perhaps I'll do a future PW post about them. Or maybe I'll submit a resume and become rich off pirate booty.

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