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Marine Exploration- The Odyssey Explorer

Updated on April 19, 2011

When you think of a shipwreck, you might think of an old wooden cargo ship that was carrying tons of gold from the Americas back to Europe. As the ship sailed east it sunk, either because of pirates or just because the weather was so bad that no ship could make such a journey. Most of us will never think about a shipwreck as anything more than a passing curiousity, but for others, that shipwreck is a profession. Odyssey Marine is a company that invests millions of dollars into search the oceans of the world, looking for shipwrecks and sunken treasure. Some consider them to be archaeologists, others consider them to be nothing more than treasure hunters. There is one thing that is hard to argue with though, few other companies or even governments in the world have the resources or experience that Odyssey Marine has.

Odyssey Explorer Becomes Famous

 Starting in 1998 Odyssey Marine and its flagship, the Odyssey Explorer started searching for the HMS Sussex.  Using high tech sonar equipment to scan the bottom of the ocean, the Odyssey Marine group was able to search huge sections of ocean floor, then using the images of the sea floor they were able to determine possible wreck sites.

Once a possible wreck site was located, the Odyssey Explorer would travel to the location and deploy the remotely operated vehicle (ROV), to the site to search for possible clues as to what the site belonged to.  Hundreds of year of ship wrecks mean that each site they dive could yield almost anything.  From modern fishing trawlers to steam powered ships to concrete ships, the crew of the Odyssey Explorer have found a little bit of everything.

The HMS Sussex was located in 2001, after negotiating with the British government about salvage fees and how much Odyssey Marine would keep, an agreement was reached in 2002 to allow recovery of the wreck to begin.

The Black Swan Treasure

In 2007 it became public that the Odyssey Explorer had located a wreck worth as much as $500 million dollars. The Odyssey had recovered 17 tons of coins from an undisclosed location. The coins, mostly silver, but also some gold, where loaded on to a plane from Gibraltar and flown to another undisclosed location in Florida for safe keeping.

Some speculation lead to belief that the Odyssey may have found an English ship known as the Mercahnt Royale. Spain believed that they had uncovered the location of Nuestra Senora de la Mercedes. Spain began to seek legal action to have the recovered coins turned over to the Spanish government. Spanish warships claimed that the Odyssey Explorer was in their waters and on more than one occasion forced the Odyssey to dock so that it could be searched.

As of 2009 the "Black Swan" treasure was still being fought over in courtrooms in the U.S. Odyssey Marine still uses the Black Swan title to refer to the wreck, refusing to name or give the actual coordinates to the wreck.

Check out more on the Black Swan Treasure.

Treasure Quest

In 2009 the Discovery Channel aired a series titled Treasure Quest. This series followed the Odyssey Explorer around as it search shipwrecks. On the TV show, the Odyssey made several significant discoveries, including the HMS Victory, several U-Boats and a visit to the Lusitania.

Personal opinions aside, the experience and technology used by Odyssey Marine is unmatched through out the world. They continue to discover ships that have been lost for decades or even hundreds of years. What will they find next, watch the headlines to find out.


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