Treasure hunting

The stuff of dreams! Financially significant artifacts recovered from shipwrecks off the coast of Florida

Returning cultural heritage to its rightful owner

Earlier that summer, the government of Spain successfully argued that, under the terms of international Sovereign Immunity, it never abandoned or otherwise relinquished its ownership of the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, which sunk during a sea battle with the British Navy in 1804. At the time of its loss, the Mercedes was sailing back to Spain from South America.

Polluce Wreck - the Recovery

This is what a treasure looks like, just being hauled from the seabed and rinsed

It was one of those highly unlikely chains of unforeseable events that led us to Elba the pictoresque but somewhat mislaid lump of land in the Meditterean made famous by emperor Napoleon’s exile here: The fact that the treasureship Polluce was finally being excavated.

Polluce wreck

Like every grand tale of shipwreck and lost treasure, the story about the Polluce has it all. A paddlewheel steamboat shipwrecked in 1841, it is the centrepiece of a drama spanning more than one and a half centuries and has all the necessary ingredients: drama and tragedy, greed and crime, passion and politics. And it is still ongoing. Polluce is about to be excavated once more as this story goes to press.

Who Owns a Shipwreck?

Wreck of the African's Company Steamship Soudan in Funchal Bay, Madeira, ILN 1875

New technology now allows for the exploration of deep-water wrecks previously not accessible. But, who really owns a shipwreck?

Most countries, especially coastal states, have their own legislation that regulates the exploration and exploitation of shipwrecks as a cultural or economic resource.