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Author Topic: Odyssey Marine Exploration and HMS Sussex  (Read 7548 times)
Description: Is the Sussex found and did she carry money for Savoy?
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« on: August 12, 2006, 06:34:50 PM »

The Story of a Shipwreck lost off Gibraltar in 1694

Painting of HMS Sussex by John Batchelor, a renowned British marine history artist commissioned by Odyssey Marine Exploration.
HMS Sussex by John Batchelor

MS Sussex was a large 80-gun, 500 sailor, English warship lost in a severe storm in 1694. The story of her mission and place in the unfolding events of the late 17th and early 18th centuries presents a fascinating scenario to archaeologists, historians, and those with a general interest in European and international developments.

Built in the reign of William and Mary, HMS Sussex was Admiral Sir Francis Wheeler's flagship, escorting a fleet of 40 warships and 166 merchant ships to the Mediterranean when she was lost on her first major voyage. Research indicates that her Admiral also had a secret mission; to pay a large sum of money to the Duke of Savoy, an ally of Britain in the War of the League of Augsburg. France under King Louis XIV was then an enemy. Evidence suggests that the payment, most likely consisting of tons of gold coins, was lost with the ship.

These two cannon, which are partially buried, are being measured to aid in identification of the shipwreck site during Odyssey Marine Explorations 2001 expedition. After further review and study, the site is believed to be the remains of HMS Sussex.

Two cannon partially buried

The fleet was caught in a violent "levante" (strong easterly wind better known to windsurfers in nearby Tarifa), and facing the risk of being forced against the rocky Spanish coastline the captain, Sir Francis Wheeler, attempted to tack into the wind and tuck back behind Gibraltar. Water entered the open gun ports and the end came swiftly, while the Admiral slept. The date was February 19, 1694 the ship was one day out of Gibraltar. Only two persons survived the sinking and several days later the fleet Admiral Francis Wheeler's body, clad in a nightshirt, washed up on shore. The funds never reached the Duke. A year later, England again attempted to ship money to Savoy - but too late. The Duke of Savoy secretly changed sides and took the French offer. His defection brought the war to an end in a stalemate.

The Sussex caught the attention of Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Tampa Florida- based company in 1995. A researcher showed the company a diplomatic letter written shortly after the sinking that said the ship carried a small fortune. The Sussex had no special renown in nautical history, unlike famous sunken galleons. So Odyssey hired researchers to comb archives in England, France, the Netherlands and the United States for clues to the cargo and resting place.

The 251 foot Odyssey Explorer provides a stable platform for deep ocean archaeological recovery operatons.

The 251 foot Odyssey Explorer

Odyssey have been conducting offshore search and survey operations since 1998 and believe they have identified a shipwreck site off the coast of Andalucia, Southern Spain in the wreck of the vessel at a depth of 1,000 metres. During the course of Odyssey's search expeditions, 418 targets were located. Several of those targets turned out to be ancient shipwreck sites, including the "Melkarth", an ancient shipwreck covered by ceramic jars, or amphorae, which suggests that it was a Punic or Phoenician merchant vessel dating from the 3rd to 5th Century BC. A Punic/Phoenician wreck of this era, especially one in deep water, is a tremendously important archaeological find. They also found Roman sites over 2,000 years old as well as many modern shipwrecks, geology and debris. Only one site contained a cannon - and it was very close to the position where the Fleet secretary reported in1694 that the Sussex had foundered.

Greg Stemm, cofounder of Odyssey said, "After years of research, millions of dollars of exhaustive underwater search, and extensive due diligence by Her Majesty's Government, we are finally able to begin the excavation. This will be the deepest archaeological excavation of a 17th century shipwreck ever undertaken and we are excited to be working with the Government of the United Kingdom on this historic project."

ZEUS, Odyssey's seven ton, 205 horsepower remotely operated vehicle (ROV) being launched for a dive to the SS Republic shipwreck site 1700 feet below. ZEUS is rated to 2,500 meters (8,200 ft) and has two Schilling seven-function spatial correspondent manipulators, which provide for exceptional dexterity and fine control of delicate archaeological procedures.

ZEUS, remotely operated vehicle (ROV)

Odyssey Marine Exploration has agreed to a strategy with the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for implementing the project plan relating to the shipwreck believed to be HMS Sussex. This is the first time any government has entered into an agreement with the private sector for the archaeological excavation of a sovereign warship.

Odyssey submitted two drafts of the project plan, which were subjected to several months of detailed scrutiny, analysis and comment by the Project Board, assisted by an independent Archaeological Review Group (a panel of expert archaeologists) chaired by English Heritage.

The meetings resulted in an agreement to create an advisory committee to provide advice relating to the Project Plan's archaeological management team and archaeological best practice. The body is named the Sussex Archaeological Executive (SAE) and in the spirit of collaboration, Odyssey and the Government will appoint an equal number of members. All members are subject to approval by both parties. It is intended that the SAE will streamline project oversight and interface between the Government and Odyssey during time-sensitive offshore operations. The Project Plan will be implemented in a modular manner with SAE review at agreed stages.

The partnership is to split the profits or appraised values of the recovered coins on a sliding scale that favours Odyssey at first and then the government. Odyssey is to get 80 percent of the proceeds up to $45 million, 50 percent from $45 million to $500 million and 40 percent above $500 million. The British government gets the rest.

Archaeologists have criticized the British Government's treasure hunt approach. The Council for British Archaeology states that the wreck is understood to be in waters that are disputed as being either Spanish or International. It is over 2,500 feet down and can only be investigated using robots. It is not proven that properly recorded archaeological investigation is feasible for an ancient vessel of this age at this depth using current remote technology.

Further exploration, identification and archaeological excavation of the shipwreck site believed to be HMS Sussex will begin once the archaeological team has been appointed, financing is finalized, and the appropriate vessel, equipment, and personnel are mobilized. Odyssey plans to be on-site in the Mediterranean Sea during the summer of 2003.

Odyssey had planned to be on-site in the Mediterranean Sea during the summer of 2003 but this was delayed until early 2005. Just as Odyssey was about to start excavation it withdrew for 15 days "in order to allow the Spanish Government time to review the archaeological methods and administrative issues relating to the project and to discuss protocols for the exploration and protection of Spanish shipwrecks that Odyssey finds in the area or elsewhere throughout the world." It then tactfully began search operations on the "Atlas" project which consists of five target shipwrecks in the western Mediterranean.

Information on the projects slow progress has only been forthcoming from Odyssey press releases. The paragraphs below are quoted directly from this March 2006 source as it offers an interesting insight to the diplomatic problems. We are aware of any public communications by any government on the subject

In December 2005, Odyssey's 251' deep-ocean archaeological platform, the Odyssey Explorer, returned to the western Mediterranean from the "Atlas" search area. The ship and crew conducted the initial phases of Odyssey's Sussex project plan approved by HMG.

During January 2006, Odyssey announced it had completed archaeological and environmental survey operations believed to fulfil the requirements of Phase 1A, and a substantial portion of Phase 1B. A report was submitted to HMG, which detailed the work completed by Odyssey to satisfy Phase 1A requirements of the Sussex project plan. The report was reviewed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Sussex Archaeological Executive committee.

HMG notified Odyssey that the work detailed in the report met or exceeded all requirements of Phase 1A of the Sussex Project plan and Odyssey is authorized to proceed to complete Phase 1B of the project. (A public version of the project plan is available at www.shipwreck.net.) Odyssey's archaeological team has also completed a report detailing results of Phase 1B accomplished during the month of January, which was submitted to HMG in March 2006. On January 26, 2006, a nota verbal was communicated to Odyssey through diplomatic channels requesting the Company suspend operations until the Junta of Andalucia - the regional government of the Spanish state of Andalucia - appointed an expert to observe operations on the site believed to be the Sussex. It was further declared the Junta did not appoint an expert because they believed Odyssey was working without appropriate authorization and that the Project Plan presented by the Company did not comply with the applicable Andalucian legislation as requested by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Odyssey did, in fact, submit a Project Plan to the Spanish Government through diplomatic channels that was believed to comply with all applicable requirements. In good faith, the Company began operations on the Sussex after submission of the Project Plan and subsequent assurance by the Spanish Government through diplomatic channels that failure of the Junta to appoint an expert to join the operation would not be considered a failure of Odyssey to comply with the cooperative agreement pursuant to the nota verbal. In addition, assurances were provided to Odyssey through diplomatic channels during January 2006 that there would be no interference with Sussex operations.

The January 2006 nota verbal from Spain appears to have been a contradiction of that position, and Odyssey trusts the inconsistency resulted from ambiguity and possible miscommunication relative to jurisdictional issues.

When operating in territorial waters of any country, Odyssey has always done so with the appropriate authorizations. In the case of the Sussex project, because of regional sensitivities over the issue of the territorial status of the waters, and in accordance with diplomatic requests, the Company's agreements of cooperation were made without prejudice to any jurisdictional claims relative to the territorial status of waters. Thus, the assertion of any claim to those waters or the assertion of any rights based on such claims is not consistent with the diplomatic discussions relative to the project.

During meetings held in Spain in February 2006 with the Spanish Government, the Junta de Andalucia and the Government of the United Kingdom, Odyssey agreed to re-submit an archaeological project plan pursuant to specific requirements requested by Spanish authorities to move the project forward. This plan, which included collaboration with Spanish archaeologists, was delivered to the appropriate authorities in March 2006.

In May 2006, a response was received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with several technical questions raised by the Junta of Andaluc?a. In early June, the Company provided clarification on these points to the Kingdom of Spain's Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the offices of the Embassy of the United Kingdom. Odyssey is awaiting final comments on the plan before resuming operations on the shipwreck believed to be HMS Sussex.

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« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2006, 06:36:54 PM »

Diplomatic row looms over HMS Sussex wreck

By David Eade

These acts have now escalated to such a level that the vessel sought shelter in Gibraltar and was last week escorted there by the Gibraltar Squadron and Gibraltar Services Police.

Efforts are now underway in diplomatic circles to try and prevent a fully blown row between Spain, Britain and the USA. Indeed, although the ?Odyssey Explorer? is working on a British government owned wreck it is the US Embassy that is taking the lead in defence of the US company although its British counterpart is also fully involved.

The Sussex is an English warship that sank in 1694 with a cargo of gold that could now be worth up to $1.2 billion. An international convention, to which Spain is a signatory, recognises the original flag carrier of a wreck as the rightful owner. Indeed it is in Spain?s interests to uphold the convention as it is estimated it owns 4,000 wrecks around the world, many of which too will have valuable treasure onboard.

The fly in the ointment seems not to be Madrid but Sevilla as recently the regional government?s culture ministry stated that the US company did not have its permission to search for the wreck. Since then the Andaluc?a president, Manuel Chaves, has warned that the regional body would not allow the site to be ?ransacked?.

The exploration company Odyssey has an exclusive licensing agreement with the British government to salvage the HMS Sussex and its cargo. It insists that the governments in both Madrid and London have cleared the project and are kept fully briefed on progress. It has agreed to allow an archaeologist appointed by the Andaluc?a government to be on board the ?Odyssey Explorer? to monitor the recovery work.

Last week, Odyssey?s lawyer in Spain, Jos? Luis Go?i, appeared before La L?nea court to explain the company?s position. Sr Go?i, a maritime law expert, stated that no permission was needed from the Spanish authorities, and certainly not the Andaluc?a government, as HMS Sussex belongs to the British government under international law. He also pointed out that the wreck was in international waters.

As a side issue a sea borne protest organised by environmental group ?Verdemar? took to the waters off Gibraltar. Around 20 vessels took part to demand the ?Odyssey Explorer?s? treasure hunters leave local waters to cries of ?Fuera el cazatesoros? (?Out with the treasure hunters?).

As the CDSN went to press it was being suggested that Odyssey may stop working on HMS Sussex and move on to another project in the Mediterranean. There has been no confirmation from the company but whilst it insists that it has the full approval of the British and Spanish governments Odyssey has been shocked by the hostility towards its operations in southern Spain. Hence its possible decision to let the waters calm down before continuing with the project.

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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2006, 06:40:05 PM »


The Council for British Archaeology and a number of other archaeological organisations have voiced extreme concerns about a commercial treasure hunting contract between the UK Government (negotiated by the Ministry of Defence, Disposal Services Agency (DSA)) and a US underwater salvage company, Marine Odyssey Exploration Inc., to recover bullion from a wreck which the salvors believe to be that of the 17th century Warship Sussex, which sank off Gibraltar in 1694. The CBA belives that through this deal the British Government has engaged in a joint venture selling antiquities to pay for an investigation of questionable archaeological feasibility, and in a way which contravenes UK commitments to international conventions as well as basic principles of the Government's own heritage policy. Below you can find links to documents setting out the concerns of the CBA and others about this deal:

    * CBA Press Release, 8th October 2002: Council for British Archaeology Slams Government Treasure Hunt

    * Government and the Treasure Hunters - Article by George Lambrick in British Archaeology, December 2002

    * Battle of the Bullion - Article on Higher Education Research Organsiation website

    * ICOMOS General Assembly Resolution noting concern about "The Sussex" deal - proposed by the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH) and agreed in Madrid, December 2002

    * House of Commons Early Day Motion criticising the Sussex deal - text and list of MPs who signed the motion

    * Note on joint-letter from CBA, Nautical Archaeology Society, ICOMOS UK, European Association of Archaeologists & Institute of Field Archaeologists - brief note in British Archaeology (May 2003) about joint-letter sent to MPs about the deal

« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2006, 06:13:37 PM »

So, whether the burning research vessel was theirs or not, the fact that they didn't bother to state the fact of the matter is an indication of the company's careless management.

« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2006, 03:15:12 PM »

See the main Odyssey Marine thread for full details of this press release:

The Sussex Project

The Sussex was an 80-gun English warship lost in a severe storm in the western Mediterranean in 1694. Research suggests the Sussex was carrying a large cargo of coins when she sank. Odyssey believes it has located the shipwreck of HMS Sussex and has signed an exclusive partnering agreement with the legal owner of the shipwreck, the Government of the United Kingdom, for the archaeological excavation of the shipwreck.

In late 2005 and early 2006, Odyssey completed to the satisfaction of the Government of the United Kingdom all work detailed in Phase 1A of the Sussex archaeological project plan. The Company has also completed a portion of Phase 1B. (A public version of the project plan is available for viewing at http://www.shipwreck.net/sussexpp.html.) The company temporarily halted operations on the project at the request of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs while issues relative to the archaeological plan for excavation of the site, territorial and cultural resource management issues were negotiated.

In March 2006, Odyssey submitted an archaeological plan to the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs which addressed questions raised by the Government of the Autonomous Region of Andaluc?a in reference to the ongoing HMS Sussex project. As part of this proposed plan, Odyssey agreed with the British Government to undertake additional survey operations in the area and to provide Spain with a detailed assessment of the region's underwater cultural heritage in deep water, as well as assistance in developing a plan for managing and protecting those resources.

In August, additional clarifications and a response to additional questions were provided at a meeting in Seville arranged by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs with representatives of the Government of Andaluc?a through the offices of the Embassy of the United Kingdom. As a result of that meeting, the outstanding matters were narrowed to three issues relating to site mapping, positional information and formalization of the submission of the plan through the project archaeologists.

Odyssey is working closely with the offices of the Embassy of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom?s Ministry of Defence to address these final issues and anticipates that they will be resolved in time to resume operations later this year.

Throughout the duration of this complicated multi-national situation, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence, the United States Department of State and representatives of the Autonomous Region of Andalucia have all contributed resources and attention to solving a complex series of issues relating to the Sussex project. While it has taken longer to resolve these issues than anticipated, we believe that the results will translate to goodwill between all the parties and serve to provide a platform for future cooperation in underwater exploration and management of deep ocean cultural heritage.
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« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2006, 12:44:14 AM »

So this is the Spanish opposition to the HMS Sussex recovery. Do you think that Odyssey Marine Exploration might really be after something other than the HMS Sussex? I wonder if this is the reasoning of the Spanish Council? Odyssey did just about everything right to begin this recovery correctly and I don't understand what the Spanish Patrimony would have to do with a British warship.


« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2006, 12:52:22 AM »

The MOD contract is for HMS Sussex - I have checked the entry of the contract in the Parliamentary Library. It is easy to imagine that the fuss being made by poverty-stricken Andalusia is born of pride, but I think that would be over-stating the case. All the local governments down there are as bent as a 'nine-bob note'. More likely, I think, is that a local fixer wants a cut, or a chance to divert artefacts. They're all lovely people, I'm sure, but a little can go a long way...

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« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2006, 01:15:41 AM »

So to speak, the Spanish have thrown a cudgel into the spokes of Odyssey Marine in the hope of receiving an honorarium to remove it, is that about right Solomon? They have no real basis for opposition but they did run them off the site anyway in hope of a piece of the pie.


Jeff K
« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2006, 04:17:01 PM »

Espa?a/EEUU. - Odyssey anticipates to reinitiate the works of identification of the ?Sussex? before end of year

The American company Odyssey Marine Exploration, with base in Tampa (Flowery) and proprietor of the boat ?Odyssey Explorer?, announced today in an official notice that it anticipates to reinitiate before end of this year the 2006 works of his archaeological plan to locate the ?HMS British Sussex? in waters of the bay of Cadiz.

Odyssey is ?working closely? with the offices of the Embassy of the United Kingdom and the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom to give the ?additional clarifications? that the Meeting of Andalusia through Ministry of Outer Subjects demanded Spanish and ?anticipates that they will be resolute in time to reinitiate the operations at the end of this year?.

The North American company remembered that the past month of August the Spanish part demanded new explanations on three subjects in particular: of the work place on the position of 1694 delivery and the information, the maps pecio British sunk of a plan on the basis of an archaeological project.

During the transaction of this ?multinational complicated situation? around the project of the ?Sussex?, all the parts have contributed ?with resources and attention to solve a series of complex subjects?, thought the American company.

?We think that the results will transfer the good will between all the parts and will serve to provide a platform of future cooperation in the marine exploration and the management of the cultural patrimony of the ocean?, concluded.

DOCTRINE the INTERNATIONAL FOR THESE CASES Spanish diplomatic Sources needed to Europe Press at the beginning of year that in case finally the workings of identification of the ?Sussex? are authorized and the results are positive, the Odyssey could soon extract pecio and their possible gold shipment without restrictions, as long as it has the necessary authorization of London.

?The Meeting (of Andalusia) will not have anything to say. First it is to see if the boat is or it is not and nothing removes, but to verify if one treats or not of the British ship. If it is thus, the Meeting will not be able to do nothing because the British will decide what he even takes control of the Spanish water ship being?, warned on the matter then.

In this sense, they remembered that the international doctrine determines that the sunk ships belong to the States of the pavilion. ?It is just like we applied and we demanded in the Caribbean or in Gulf of Mexico, for example, where they want that they are the boats, as much if they are in national waters like in international?, insisted.

Odyssey Marine Exploration already transmitted to the Spanish Government at the beginning of June the technical questions that to him the Meeting of Andalusia through central Executive requested initially, after sending a first archaeological plan on the ?HMS Sussex? in which it tried to respond to the claims of the authorities Andalusian.

The American company insists on which the ?legal proprietor? of the boat is the British Government, whom he authorized to him to make the ?archaeological excavation? of the sunk galleon in 1694 with an important gold shipment. Odyssey declared in March that London had given the approval him to complete the second phase of identification of the ?HMS Sussex?.
« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2006, 04:31:47 PM »

Yes, Jeff, we have seen this before.

Odyssey is ?working closely? with the offices of the Embassy of the United Kingdom and the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom to give the ?additional clarifications? that the Meeting of Andalusia through Ministry of Outer Subjects demanded Spanish and ?anticipates that they will be resolute in time to reinitiate the operations at the end of this year?.

It was this and earlier reports that prompted my post, above.

Jeff K
« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2006, 04:44:34 PM »

Solomon... The Andalusians have changed their stance on the matter, and are now saying that if this is a British warship the excavation will be allowed to proceed.

?The Meeting (of Andalusia) will not have anything to say. First it is to see if the boat is or it is not and nothing removes, but to verify if one treats or not of the British ship. If it is thus, the Meeting will not be able to do nothing because the British will decide what he even takes control of the Spanish water ship being?, warned on the matter then."
« Reply #11 on: November 02, 2006, 02:12:06 PM »

From LEAFAR?S DESK Issue No 75

But whilst the key parties are focused on trying bring positions closer there has been increasing concern in diplomatic circles that the row over Odyssey, the vessel seeking to lift treasure from the wreck of what is believed to be HMS Sussex, could sour the atmosphere. The Junta de Andalucia unsuccessfully tried to take a seat in the talks process at the early stages although there has been careful deference to its jurisdiction in certain areas of Campo political life. Now the Junta appears to have found in the Odyssey saga an opportunity to exert its interests in the area. In turn the Spanish Foreign Ministry has attempted to placate the Junta making statements that suspended works but have kept the door open to a resolution with the US backed exploration company leading the Odyssey project. The last thing the diplomats want is a fiasco at sea detracting from their efforts. Less still would they want the row to move towards questions of sovereign waters or litigation over jurisdiction.

The Convent said yesterday that only Britain can decide the fate of HMS Sussex, the English galleon that sank off Gibraltar in 1694 carrying a valuable cargo of gold. In its first official statement since the row over the Sussex first flared up over a fortnight ago, the Office of the Governor said Spain cannot claim sovereignty over the waters in which the wreck lies.
?As the Sussex is a British military wreck it is entitled to sovereign immunity,? the statement said. ?As it is resting in international waters it is for the UK alone, as the Flag State of the vessel, to decide what happens to it.? The dispute over who controls the waters around Gibraltar is an old one and hinges on an arcane international agreement known as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Coastal states customarily claimed three nautical miles as their territorial sea but, in 1982, UNCLOS gave states the option of extending that to 12 miles. The convention adds that ?where the coasts of two States are opposite or adjacent to each other, neither of the two States is entitled, failing agreement between them to the contrary, to extend its territorial sea beyond the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial seas of each of the two States is measured.?
The UK claims a territorial sea of three nautical miles for Gibraltar in accordance with UNCLOS, but has not claimed the full 12 miles. This leaves a ?funnel? of international waters on the Gibraltar side of the median beyond the three nautical miles up to the 12 mile limit.
It is these waters that are disputed in the Sussex controversy. ?The UK has not agreed that Spain may extend its territorial sea into this ?funnel? and therefore the Spanish cannot claim sovereignty over this area which is where the Sussex lies,? the Convent?s statement said.
Disputes over interpretation of the convention are resolved in a special court in Hamburg known as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. But all parties in the dispute must first agree to bring the case to court before it can proceed.
Although the UK has in the past considered using the legal route to clear up the dispute, the case has never made it before a judge.

?Claim ?full? territorial waters, Opposition demands
As the GSLP/Liberal Opposition yesterday waded into the growing row over the HMS Sussex gold recovery expedition, the statement from the Convent this week on British territorial waters around the Rock prompted a formal protest from Spain. The Opposition has declared that the United Kingdom Government should now extend the territorial waters of Gibraltar from three miles to twelve.
The British Embassy in Madrid last night confirmed that the Spanish Foreign Ministry had delivered a verbal note, but it declined to comment further. However the note reportedly declared that the waters around Gibraltar, including those where Sussex may lie, are Spanish, said Madrid wire services. The note also repeats the traditional line that Spain only recognises the British possession as set out in the Treaty of Utrecht 1713. This remains the valid legal position; Spanish diplomatic sources were quoted as saying last night. The Spanish Government has expressed surprise at the Convent statement and has also reiterated that this has no effect on their claim over the waters.
They also said that they only accept the British sovereignty within the Gibraltar port area. However there was also a line emerging from Madrid that this matter should not contaminate the current trilateral forum, due to meet in just over a fortnight. The exchange follows a statement from The Convent setting out the UK official position on waters around the Rock and the ?Odyssey? expedition.
The Opposition read the Convent statement as ?confirmation? that there is a dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain over the status of the waters. On the question of extending the demarcation of waters the Opposition said: ?This is something than can be done unilaterally and which does not require Spanish consent under the terms of the Convention. Quite apart from the immediate issue relating to HMS Sussex, there may well be many things that Gibraltar may want to do within twelve nautical miles in the future.?
The Opposition said it was apparent to them that there may have been a potential problem to do with the status of the waters given the statements issued by the Spanish Foreign Ministry, the Junta de Andalucia and the American company Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.
?The Convent has also confirmed that Gibraltar?s territorial waters on the eastern side are at present three miles, but that we have the right to claim twelve miles under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention says that Gibraltar is entitled to twelve nautical miles on the east side, or out to median lines where the coastline of other states are under 24 nautical miles distance from Gibraltar,? said the GSLP/Liberals. They argue that the Spanish Government has already claimed the full twelve nautical miles for itself and that it also entered into a reservation, at the time of ratification of the Convention, that such ratification ?cannot be construed as recognition of any rights or status regarding the maritime space of Gibraltar that are not included in Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht of 13 July 1713.? Madrid further added that it considered that aspects of the Convention were not applicable to Gibraltar because it was a colony subject to a process of decolonisation in which only the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are applicable, said the Opposition.
They add that the reservation made by Spain, which is still in place, is not binding and does not have any legal effect.
?Moreover, the United Kingdom responded at the time by declaring that it had no doubt as to its sovereignty over Gibraltar, including its territorial waters. London added that as the administering power, she had extended the Convention and ratification to Gibraltar.?
?It is clear to the Opposition that there are serious issues of sovereignty at stake in the dispute over the wreck of HMS Sussex. Spain has no right to interfere in the Sussex exploration in the same way as she would also have no right to interfere with the Sovereign Bay project on the east side. These are not Spanish waters and what happens there has got nothing to do with Spain.?

Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano has linked the row over the HMS Sussex treasure ship with statements by Campo PSOE MP Salvador de la Encina who, speaking on the subject, declared that Spain?s policy in relation to Gibraltar is ?to use a mailed fist in a velvet glove.?
Mr Bossano said that if this is the message of the ?new climate? in Madrid, ?then the moral of the story is that we should not drop our guard.? A GSLP-Liberal spokesman said: ?We note reports that a court in La Linea has now issued a warrant for the arrest of the Odyssey Explorer and its crew. This is in line with the policy of the Spanish Government that the vessel has been operating in Spanish waters and is therefore subject to Spanish law.?
?It will be recalled that last month the Civil Guard intercepted the vessel and instructed the Master to appear before the court in La Linea. The lawyers for the Odyssey Explorer refused and made it clear at the time that ?neither the ship nor the Master of the vessel fall under the jurisdiction of the authorities that delivered the request.??
?Meanwhile, PSOE MP for Cadiz Salvador de la Encina has said that the policy of the Spanish Government in relation to Gibraltar is to use a ?mailed fist in a velvet glove?. He made these comments when speaking about the controversy surrounding the salvage operations of HMS Sussex.?
?In this context, it is possible that Mr de la Encina may be saying that Spain will stick to its position for the sake of appearances (the velvet glove), but that in practice they will make no attempt to stop us at this moment in time and reserve the right to make use of the mailed fist at some point in the future.?
?The Spanish Government has already said in an official statement issued by its Foreign Ministry that, as far as they are concerned, Gibraltar does not have any territorial waters at all, other than the waters inside the Port which were ceded under the Treaty of Utrecht. Mr de la Encina himself recalled this statement over the weekend.?
?These developments are totally unacceptable. Firstly, the court in La Linea continues to behave as if the waters on the east side are Spanish and has issued an arrest warrant on that basis. Secondly, the metaphor a mailed fist in a velvet glove is intended to imply a situation in which a person assumes the disappearance of a threat i.e. the mailed fist because of the external appearances i.e. the velvet glove. If that is indeed the message of the ?new climate? in Madrid then the moral of the story is that we should not drop our guard.?
?There is one way in which we can establish whether the Spanish Government is making all these hostile noises simply for effect in Spain or whether they really mean what they say. The sooner UK challenges the Spanish position as to the sovereignty of the waters on the east side and around Gibraltar the better it will be. We welcome the initial clarification that has been made by the Convent last week that there is no question of the unclaimed 9 miles of our territorial sea being available for the Spanish Government to claim as their own. However, having said this, action must now be taken to close the loophole.?
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2006, 03:52:04 PM »

The company said that it expected their two vessels to work off Land's End for a couple of weeks in November, before moving to Gibraltar for HMS Susssex. However:

1. I do not believe the ROV story. They ignored your advice, Doc, about the difficulty in operating the ROV is heavy seas and I think they are paying the consequences.

2. Winter came early and the weather coming in from the west is foul. I do not believe that they can operate Atlas now.

3. The negotiations with Spain have not concluded. There is therefore no need for the vessels in that area.

Dismal, isn't it?
Diving Doc
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Treasure is In books

« Reply #13 on: November 17, 2006, 03:55:42 PM »

I had no idea that the Spanish negotiations hadn't been concluded, at least not judging from their news release. Yes, dismal indeed. It would do them well to say something, anything truthful.

"The Odyssey Explorer is due in dry dock the first week of November 2006 for what is expected to be a relatively short class inspection and re-fitting of ZEUS. During that time, artifacts and data from the arrested site will be further analyzed. The Company may return to the site after the dry dock period, depending on the Sussex project schedule and weather conditions."

OMR last news release to date.

« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2006, 03:30:35 PM »

My position has now moved to oppose private treasure hunting at sea.
- Marine Treasure Hunts: why I will avoid them

The activities of Odyssey Marine have had some role in my coming to this conclusion.

I am a member of the Council for British Archaeology and support its position on this.

The Council for British Archaeology(1) today voiced their extreme concern about a commercial treasure hunting contract between the UK Government and an American underwater salvage company to recover bullion from the 17th century wreck off Gibraltar which the salvors belive to be that of HMS Sussex (2). Through this deal the British Government are engaged in a joint venture selling antiquities to pay for an investigation of doubtful archaeological feasibility, while also lining its own pockets and those of a foreign company(3). The wreck is said to be under threat from several salvage companies wanting to get their hands on the booty, though few have the technical expertise required to recover such deeply sunk material. The CBA fears that Governments all over the world will now be pressurised to sign up to similar or worse deals, putting their own underwater heritage, as well as Britain?s, at peril.

Commenting on the recently signed deal, Dr Francis Pryor, President of the Council for British Archaeology said:

    ?This is getting UK heritage policy into some very murky waters. It is Public Private Partnerships gone mad. It contravenes UK commitments to international conventions(4),(5) as well as basic principles of the Government?s own heritage policy(6). If you applied these principles to on-land archaeology it would drive a coach and horses through hard-won foundations of responsible heritage management."

The CBA believes that instead of promoting ? and benefiting from ? commercial treasure hunting under the guise of archaeology, Britain should sign up to the UNESCO Convention on Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage(5) and use the nearby naval base at Gibraltar to develop and demonstrate ways in which governments might patrol and monitor their historic wreck sites in international waters. This would do far more to promote better international collaboration to protect the underwater heritage in international waters.

George Lambrick, Director of the CBA said:

    ?This is a blatant piece of heritage asset stripping. It is saying to the rest of the world ?if the price is right, come on down?. We now have to question whether the British Government have any real commitment to protecting British and international underwater heritage across the world?s oceans, or are just in it for the money(7).

    ?It is questionable, to say the least, whether a government agency responsible for selling off defence equipment should be in charge of such a sensitive heritage issue(Cool. If the Government believes this deal is ethical, it should publish full details of the agreement and its policy in this matter(9).?

Government and the treasure hunters
The Government should find better ways of protecting historic wrecks than by taking part in commercial treasure hunts and sharing out the bullion, writes George Lambrick.
George Lambrick is Director of the CBA

In a coup for the highly speculative, multi-million dollar underwater treasure-hunting industry, an American salvage company has struck an unprecedented profit-sharing deal with the UK Government.

In 1694 a British warship, the Sussex, sank in a storm off Gibraltar on the way to provide British financial support to the Duke of Savoy during the war against Louis XIV. She was believed to have been carrying a million pounds-worth of bullion (some say worth ?2.5 billion today). Following five years of prospection, Odyssey Marine Explorations, a commercial salvage company based in Florida, believes it has found the wreck in waters too deep to explore except by using submersibles or robots. It is not certain that the wreck is that of the Sussex.
Secret agreement

Notwithstanding the highly speculative nature of the venture, the British Government - in the unlikely shape of the Ministry of Defence Disposal Services Agency - has now signed an extraordinary agreement with Odyssey to recover the bullion. In return for taking on the whole financial risk, the deal entitles the company to 80 per cent of the first $45m (?29m) of the proceeds from selling artefacts from the wreck, reducing to 40 per cent when the total haul is worth over $500m (?320m).

In return for various financial bonds and other profit-sharing arrangements the Government has also handed over exclusive merchandising rights and committed itself to joint marketing of artefacts. Arrangements have been made for archaeological supervision, but the scope and status of such control is unclear in the published summary of the secret agreement.

The mod has claimed that the deal represents 'an important step in the development of a "partnering" approach to deep sea archaeology whereby any recoveries from the wreck will be conducted under accepted archaeological methodologies.'

So is this the start of a grand new chapter in how to do archaeological research? - No, it is not. This deal would not have been struck if millions (perhaps billions) of dollars were not at stake. With its eye firmly on booty not culture, it looks as if the Government is reneging on basic principles of archaeological management that it has championed elsewhere.

Last year the Government did not sign, but did publicly endorse the unesco Convention on Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, especially its Annex which states that 'the commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage for trade or speculation or its irretrievable dispersal is . . . incompatible with the protection and proper management of underwater cultural heritage. Underwater cultural heritage shall not be traded, sold, bought or bartered as commercial goods.'

Going for the gold
On land, this sort of deal would be completely out of line with policy on Treasure finds, or with well-established archaeological procedures in public-private finance contracts for roads. The Government has also had some success in encouraging metal detectorists to work with archaeologists in seeking not merely treasure, but also knowledge.

There is nothing inherently wrong in working with private companies to recover cultural heritage. The vast majority of archaeological investigations carried out in Britain - to the tune of an estimated ?68m a year - are funded by developers using archaeological contractors and consultants on a commercial basis. But such excavations are never financed by selling off the cultural assets that are being recovered. In the Odyssey deal, archaeology has been used to legitimize commercial treasure hunting for financial rewards on the grand scale.

Nobody denies that the protection of underwater heritage is fraught with problems, especially in international waters. But this deal does not remove the threat of treasure hunting, nor is it the only scenario for commercial partnering to protect wreck sites. What is more, the deal is already being seen around the world as a dangerous precedent for the exploitation of wrecks in other waters.

Instead of twisting the unesco convention into a treasure hunter's charter, the British Government should get on with signing the convention and helping to make it work.

Battle of the bullion
THE WARSHIP HMS SUSSEX had politics ingrained in its seasoned timbers. When the ship sank in a storm in 1694 it carried to the bottom a massive bribe in gold bullion, intended for the Duke of Savoy, England?s shaky ally in the war against Louis XIV. Now, with the probable discovery of the wreck, and plans to recover its precious cargo, the ship is sailing into fresh controversy.

The Council for British Archaeology (CBA) issued an enraged press release in October over a contract signed between the UK government and Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida-based commercial salvage company. The deal, which received much press attention, recognizes the UK as the owner of the wreck but entitles Odyssey to a share of artefacts sold from the salvage operation, rising from 40 to 60 percent depending on value: hence the company?s interest ? the ship is believed to have had up to ten tons of gold on board when it went down off the coast of Gibraltar.

The CBA is concerned that the deal flouts basic principles of modern archaeological practice. The Council questions, firstly, whether the salvage operation needs to take place at all: the wreck has lain undisturbed for three centuries, subject to gradual decay but safe, at half a mile?s depth, from human damage ? it is most at risk from the salvors themselves, operating by robotic excavator. With robotics technology still in its infancy, why, after all, is there such a hurry?

Chris Underwood, project director of the Nautical Archaeological Society, expressed serious scepticism as to the project?s feasibility, both on technical and ethical grounds: ?This is a war grave, the last resting place of the ship?s crew. To use robots alone, with no human input, would be less than sensitive.? He added: ?We don?t know whether it is the Sussex. It will be difficult with current technology to ascertain this without being intrusive on the wreck.?

The project, argues the CBA, is a commercial treasure hunt, rather than a work of scientific archaeology. Instead of investigating the wreck?s antiquities, the venture will strip them and sell them off ? the archaeological value of any bullion is, curiously, discounted. Such a procedure, the CBA points out, flies in the face of international attempts to outlaw the trade in antiquities, and would never be allowed on a UK land excavation. The Council fears that governments all over the world will now be pressured to sign up to similar or worse deals, putting their own underwater heritage, as well as Britain?s, at peril.

Dr Francis Pryor, President of the CBA, said: ?This is getting UK heritage policy into some very murky waters. It is Public Private Partnerships gone mad. It contravenes UK commitments to international conventions, as well as basic principles of the Government?s own heritage policy. If you applied these principles to on-land archaeology it would drive a coach and horses through hard-won foundations of responsible heritage management.?

Instead of rushing into the arms of the underwater treasure-hunting industry, critics including the CBA and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS UK) are calling on the Government to sign up to the 1998 UNESCO Convention on Underwater Heritage. Last year, though the Government did not ratify the Convention, it publicly endorsed its provisions, including Rule 2 of the Annex, which runs:

    The commercial exploitation of underwater cultural heritage for trade or speculation or its irretrievable dispersal is fundamentally incompatible with the protection and proper management of underwater cultural heritage. Underwater cultural heritage shall not be traded, sold, bought or bartered as commercial goods.

In the case of the Sussex salvage, how the ?cultural value? of objects brought to the surface will be assessed remains uncertain. The Government, in the shape of a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman, said: ?It is too early to comment on what sort of security measures will be implemented if the contents of the vessel are as valuable as some say. Archaeologically, it's a very good thing if we can salvage parts that go to help the analysis of that period.? The impression remains that discussions on artefacts will take place after they are in the hands of the salvage company.

So far Odyssey has salvaged 19 cannons and an anchor from the sunken vessel, typical of British naval manufacture of the late seventeenth century. Whether the wreck proves to be the Sussex, and whether it has the fabled bullion on board, awaits future recoveries. As the company admits on its corporate website, the salvage project relies on ?the accuracy of 300-year-old documents? ? in this case a court paper establishing that William III had ordered the exchequer to approve ?a million of money? in coins ? equal to 10 tons of gold.

The ship which was to carry this massive bribe was one of the most modern vessels in William and Mary?s navy: a 1200 ton warship with 80 cannons ? the sheer weight of its armoury may have contributed to its loss in the 1694 storm. All but two of the 500 soldiers and sailors aboard were lost, while the body of Admiral Sir Francis Wheeler, who commanded the fleet, was reputedly washed up on Gibraltar in a nightshirt.

Odyssey has now issued new stock in light of the deal with the UK government. Carlos Leon, a Spanish marine archaeologist quoted in The Daily Telegraph, spoke for many in the archaeological community:

?Let?s not fool ourselves. This is not an archaeological expedition. You cannot use divers at 900 metres so you have to rely on robots and sonar. This is gold fever.?

International Council on Monuments & Sites UK
Resolution 19
HMS Sussex
Proposal by the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Underwater Cultural Heritage
Considering the world-wide importance of a consistent and common approach to the protection
and management of underwater cultural heritage,
Reaffirming that the 1996 General Assembly in Sofia adopted the ICOMOS charter on the
Protection and Management of the Underwater Cultural Heritage to this end,
Noting that the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage of
2001 has not yet been ratified, but that all countries present at the vote on its adoption, including
the United Kingdom, committed themselves to apply the Rules in the Annex of the Convention
ICUCH has noted that the Ministry of Defence of the United Kingdom, in contravention of the
Charter and in contravention of Rule 2 of the Convention, is negotiating with a U.S. based
commercial company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, to salvage bullion from the wrecksite of
HMS Sussex (sunk in 1694), located in deep water close to Gibraltar, which may cause
irreparable damage and sets an unacceptable precedent.
ICUCH asks the General Assembly to:
Express its extreme concern with this situation, and
Asks the Executive Committee to take positive action to assess the situation and to bring this
grave concern to the attention of the United Kingdom government in the most emphatic way.


See also:

1. Marine salvage: Memorandum submitted by the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee

2. Underwater Cultural Heritage: UNESCO has prepared an international convention aimed at protecting this treasure of humanity and preserving it for future generations. The experts nominated by their governments have agreed on a text taking into account the principles set forth in the  ICOMOS Charter for the Protection and Management of the Underwater Cultural Heritage and various international conventions of major significance, such as the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and UNESCO?s 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage was adopted on Friday 2 November 2001 by the 31st General Conference.

3. Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage

* icomosresolution.pdf (5.63 KB - downloaded 82 times.)
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