Tuesday, February 28, 2023


28 February 2023: 

Having just returned from a visit to Key West Florida and specifically, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, [ you may recall that he found the shipwreck of the Spanish treasure Galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha off the coast of Florida in the 1990's and became fabulously wealthy in spite of the personal losses he experienced including the life of his son]. The museum is wonderfully done, focusing on the catch phrase Mel used to inspire his team, "Today's the day!" and leading the visitor through years of heartbreaking disappointment to the ultimate "mother lode" of treasure worth millions. A lengthy court fight eventually gave him ownership. So here's a bit of treasure hunter law for those of you inspired to dive for treasure by last week's post on the Spanish galleon awaiting recovery off Columbia South America. [not that one though - it's a bit deep at 3600 feet! Atocha was only 60' down.] From IFL Science:


With an estimated three million shipwrecks littering the ocean floor, chances of stumbling across one during your routine deep-sea scuba dive are higher than you might think. So, what should you do if you find a shipwrecked treasure trove, and can you keep the booty?

The laws surrounding the discovery of shipwrecks, and who’s entitled to the cash, are complicated and entirely dependent on where the ship is found.

The first step, however, involves informing the correct authorities so the site can be properly investigated by marine archaeologists to determine historical significance. Once jurisdiction is established for the site, then two maritime laws can be applied.

The law of finds

Your best chance of being able to keep any monetary value from a shipwreck is by arguing "finders keepers, losers weepers", more officially known as the law of finds.

This law states the finder of valuable property to be entitled to the full monetary worth, so long as the property doesn’t have a declared owner. In the case of a shipwreck, it should have been abandoned for a number of years, and the owner must not be actively searching for it.

This could be you!


The law of salvage

When attempting to establish ownership over the property, both the law of finds and the law of salvage can be pleaded simultaneously. If the law of finds is dismissed, the law of salvage will be the next best thing.

If the owner of the vessel comes forward, thus negating the law of finds, you still might be entitled to a percentage of that sweet sweet cash. The law of salvage states that the salvor is working to retrieve lost goods on behalf of the owner. To repay the salvor for the retrieval, they can be compensated a percentage of the ship’s value.

The amount the salvor is awarded depends on the amount of risk they undertook, how difficult the recovery was, and the value of the goods. This law also applies to ships that are in the process of sinking, whereby the salvor is able to help the ship and crew.

Jurisdiction laws

While these maritime laws will apply to vessels found in waters without a distinct jurisdiction, each country will have its own laws regarding shipwrecks discovered in areas close to their land. Generally, countries will state claim on any wreckages found in their water.

In the US, laws can vary dependent on state. Under the 1987 Abandoned Shipwreck Act, US states have ownership of any shipwreck found up to three miles off the coastline, meaning you won’t receive any financial gain for these finds.

Some states, like Florida, have even stricter jurisdiction on their coastlines. The Florida Historical Resources Act extends jurisdictions to 10 miles out to sea, and includes lakes and rivers, so anything found remotely near Florida is automatically state-owned.

The Ocean Dumping Act, also known as the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), predominantly refers to the illegality of dumping things unlikely to biodegrade into the ocean, but it also covers archaeological finds.

The removal of artefacts or disturbance of a shipwreck site, without the proper permits, is illegal under this law. In short, if you find anything resembling a shipwreck along the US coast, don’t touch it and alert the Coast Guard.

Additionally, if a wreckage found anywhere in the world is a US military ship, the 2004 Sunken Military Craft Act states the ship automatically belongs to the US.

So, you could stand to make a bit of cash by becoming a law-abiding, treasure-hunting pirate, but more importantly, you might just make a significant historical discovery.


So, there you have it. I suspect few of you will be suitably inspired, but for those who are check the laws first!

See you next time - in MARCH (wow! where does the time go!)

                       Fair Winds,

                              Old Salt


Friday, February 17, 2023


 17 February 2023: Sorry about last week, folks; it was my chief mate's birthday and we were celebrating out of town and out of computer land! But here we are again with a follow on to some neat info we posted a couple of years ago. This is going to be HUGE when they actually start recovering the artifacts.  From the British SUN:


THE sunken treasures of a vessel dubbed the "holy grail" of shipwrecks have been uncovered in extraordinary underwater footage.

The £15billion spoils of the legendary San Jose Galleon have survived over 300 years at sea, resting inside its rusting remains.

The 64-gun, three-mast galleon, the jewel in the crown of the Spanish Navy, was claimed by the waves of the Caribbean Sea.

It sailed as the flagship on its final voyage during the War of the Spanish Succession before being blown up by Brits in 1708.

Powder magazines onboard the San Jose detonated during the battle of Wager's Action, taking the souls of the 600-strong crew down along with it.

Its megabucks bounty was also a victim of the ambush - leaving a hoard of gold, silver and emeralds lost at sea.

The treasure is believed to today be worth a whopping £15billion, sparking an incredible hunt for the shipwreck.

It was eventually discovered in 2015 by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), who identified the San Jose thanks to its bronze guns engraved with dolphins.

The Colombian government then announced a salvage operation two years later, delving below the surface in a bid to recover its spectacular treasures.

The world was then given a glimpse of the glitzy valuables thanks to state-of-the-art underwater equipment.

The Colombian Navy sent a remotely operated vehicle to a depth of 3,100ft to assess the notorious wreckage.

Incredible images show gold pieces, cannons and perfectly preserved Chinese porcelain cups scattered across the San Jose. 

The eerie snaps hint at the wealth of artifacts hidden among the wreckage, with trinkets twinkling under the light.

Bronze cannons, swords, and clay vessels can also be spotted on the seafloor.

Former Colombian President Iván Duque said: "The idea is to recover it and to have sustainable financing mechanisms for future extractions.

"In this way, we protect the treasure, the patrimony of the San Jose Galleon."

Historians dubbed the San Jose the "holy grail" of shipwrecks because it was carrying one of the largest amounts of treasure ever lost at sea.

The riches have inevitably sparked a fiery row over which country is the rightful owner of the famous booty.

At least 200 tonnes of gold, silver, gems and jewellery collected in Spain’s South American colonies were being shipped to King Philip V to finance his war of succession against the British.

Spain insists the treasure belongs to them, as it was their ship - but Bolivia's indigenous Qhara Qhara nation believes it is theirs as they were forced to mine the precious metals by the Spanish.

Colombia, which considers San Jose as part of its cultural heritage, has also laid claim to the wreckage as it was found in its territorial waters.

The nation's government have asserted regulatory control over the wreckage and the treasure, while classifying its location as a state secret.

Over three centuries on from its demise, the San Jose still remains a point of discontent between the three nations.

An explosive legal challenge is expected whenever the recovery of the ship and its treasure takes place.

But as investigations into the vessel continue, they may face a lengthy wait due to its abyssal depth underwater.

Last year, a Colombian court order put excavation on hold until the various legal claims were worked out.

During Colombia's underwater missions, experts uncovered two previously unknown shipwrecks close to the San Jose.

Navy commander Admiral Gabriel Perez said: "We now have two other discoveries in the same area, that show other options for archaeological exploration, so the work is just beginning."


Pretty exciting stuff, we think and we are looking forward to more detail and plans to recover these priceless artifacts. Don't rush to don your SCUBA gear quite yet, though. It's 3,100 ft down and the governments of at least 3 countries are fighting over who owns it. Stay tuned!

Until next time!

                                              Fair Winds,

                                                      Old Salt


Saturday, February 4, 2023


 4 February 2023:

February already and the Arctic "blast" is in full swing with record setting temperatures happening all over the place! And the groundhog said "6 more weeks of winter!" Looks like we gonna be staying in winter quarters for a while! 

We don't often publish current events in this blog, but this article caught our eye as an outrageous and irresponsible act by a foreign government. From the Business Insider and Guardian:


Brazil wants to abandon a 34,000-ton warship in international waters, and it could become one of the biggest pieces of garbage in the ocean

Brazil plans to abandon its biggest warship, the "São Paulo," out at sea. 

The ship was en-route to a Turkish scrapyard to be taken apart, but was denied entry.

It's believed to contain asbestos, and the Brazilian army now plans to abandon it in international waters.

Brazil is planning to abandon its biggest warship in international waters after failing to get it scrapped, and, as Ciara Nugent reported for Time, it could become one of the biggest pieces of garbage in the ocean. 

The São Paulo, a 60-year-old aircraft carrier, has been floating abandoned in the South Atlantic Ocean for five months.

Weighing 34,000 tons and reaching a length of 870 feet, it's the largest Brazilian warship in existence. Brazil sold the ship to a Turkish scrapyard to be dismantled, per Time, and it started sailing to Turkey in August, but it was not allowed to dock in the country. Turkish authorities said the ship had asbestos, a toxic material commonly found in ships made in the 20th century.

The ship then turned around and returned to Brazil, but in September, it was prevented from docking on the coast of Pernambuco state, per Time. It was left to circle aimlessly along the Brazilian coast for five months.

On January 20, the Brazilian navy finally moved the ship into international waters. 

The Brazilian navy said in a statement on January 20 that it prevented the ship from docking because its hull had been severely damaged, posing a risk to other boats in Brazilian waters.

The Brazilian military now wants to abandon the ship at sea, according to Time. The navy's next move may be to sink it with explosives, military sources told Folha de São Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper. 

But sinking the ship would be "gross negligence," Jim Puckett, the executive of the anti-waste non-profit Basel Action Network, told Time.

"We're talking about a ship containing both hazardous materials and valuable materials — it's supposed to be brought into the territory of Brazil and managed in an environmentally sound way," Puckett told Time. "You can't just sink it."

The navy's plan to abandon and sink the ship was also criticized by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment, which is worried about the environmental impact the asbestos could have if it's released into the ocean.

Asbestos fibers may cause serious diseases like lung cancer and asbestosis, the scarring of the lungs, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

According to Folha de São Paulo, the country's environment minister, Marina Silva, also expressed concerns about asbestos to the Brazilian defence minister, José Múcio Monteiro. However, the navy will have the final say on how to handle the ship.

Decommissioned ships are often sent to shipyards to be broken down. The Alang-Sosiya Shipyard on India's western coast is one such place where big boats are scrapped. Cruise ships are also taken apart and sold for parts in Turkey's Aliaga shipyard.

There are other ships that have been left to rot on the high seas. However, a warship of this length — close to two-thirds of the height of the Empire State Building — might well become one of the biggest singular pieces of garbage in the ocean.

However, it still pales in size to the Pacific trash vortex, a gargantuan collection of plastic waste and marine debris in the waters off the US's west coast.

It's unclear where exactly the São Paulo will be left, and when — if ever — the Brazilian navy plans to sink it.


Friday (3 Feb): Brazil has sunk a decommissioned aircraft carrier despite environmental groups claiming the former French ship was packed with toxic materials.

en route to sinking site

 The “planned and controlled sinking occurred late in the afternoon” on Friday, 350km off the Brazilian coast in the Atlantic Ocean, in an area with an approximate depth of 5,000 meters (16,000 feet), the navy said in a statement.

The decision to scuttle the six-decade-old São Paulo, announced Thursday, came after Brazilian authorities had tried in vain to find a port willing to welcome it.

Though defence officials said they would sink the vessel in the “safest area”, environmentalists criticised the decision, saying the aircraft carrier contained tons of asbestos, heavy metals and other toxic materials that could leach into the water and pollute the marine food chain.


They are not telling us exactly where they sunk it, but suffice it to say, 16,000 feet deep should preclude further investigation! Let's hope the environmentalists are wrong and it doesn't leach bad stuff into the ocean - which is already full of nasty stuff! 

I hope some of you had a look (listen?) to the podcast we mentioned last week, STUB ME DOWN, available where you get your podcasts.

Until next time,

                                          Fair Winds. 

                                                  Old Salt