Who Owns The Black Swan?

Last week I reported on the potential $500 million dollar haul of coins pulled by Odyssey Marine Exploration of a wreck referred to the “Black Swan”. Several papers are reporting on the possible identity of the wreck and the potential ownership of the wreck by Spain. Spain has claimed that the wreck is both in Spain’s territorial waters and of Spanish origin. Current speculation places the wreck either 40 miles off the coast of Cornwall in southwestern England, opposite Spain’s northwestern coastline, or in the Strait of Gibraltar.

A Spanish newspaper boldly stated the “Black Swan” was indeed off Gibraltar and published a picture from a port employee showing a coin with a bust of King Charles III, ruler of Spain in the 18th century, suggesting the ship was indeed Spanish.

“What we’re seeing here is a presumed incidence of plundering,” First Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday in the papers.

Greg Stemm, co-founder of Odysssey Marine Exploration,  denies the accusations.  First stating that “Black Swan” is located in the Atlantic in international waters and the coin featuring Charles pictured in the papers is not from the wreck.  “We have stated clearly that the recovery was conducted in conformity with Salvage Law and the Law of the Sea Convention, beyond the territorial waters or legal jurisdiction of any country. We do not believe that the recovery is subject to sovereign immunity by any nation pursuant to the Law of the Sea Convention.”  

Of course everyone is speculating about the identity of the ship.  Some are saying the Black Swan is  HMS Sussex or the Merchant Royal.  As to the Sussex, Odyessy maintains that they “can confirm the Black Swan is not HMS Sussex“.  The Merchant Royal was a English Merchant Ship from the 17th century lost of Corwall in 1641.  On board 100,000 lbs of gold, 400 bars of Silver, and another 500,000 coins.  The Sussex was a 80-gun English warship lost off Gibraltar 1694 with a possible 10 tons of coins. 

But don’t fret! It looks like you may be able to purchase one of the coins through the Franklin Mint.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


9 Replies to “Who Owns The Black Swan?”

  1. “What we’re seeing here is a presumed incidence of plundering,” First Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday in the papers.

    What a perfect opportunity for some Latin American country to point out that the gold carried by Spanish ships of hte time was plundered from Latin America.

  2. Roy…I looked around through the internet for the picture from ABC. Where did you find the information that they stole the Franklin Mint picture?

    Tegumai…Excellent point

  3. If Spain want the money for the treasure I would give them what the money was worth back in the 1600’s and end it. that is what it was worth when the ship was sunk and that is all they are intitled too? Everybody wants to jump on the band wagon after someone else has laid out the money and done all the work?? So if the Treasuer was worth $50,000 and they need it that badly that is all I would give up. Besides can they prove that the ship was the BLACK SWAN?? Can they prove that the spin was not in internationl waters? I don’t think so and all they want to do is keep there name in the papers?? They did nothingn to find the ship so why should they benifit from its find??

  4. This ship has been lost for 400 years…if Spain wanted it so badly, why didn’t they go looking for it themselves?

  5. LOL. The Spanish have some nerve, first they murder, then they plunder, then they claim the stolen loot from the Americas that sunk hundreds of years ago is theirs.

    If I murder some folks, steal their gold/silver/ then claim it after I lose it in a storm, I should be arrested and put on trial. So it looks like the Pirates of Spain should be locked up.

  6. I have to echo Tom Green’s point. My own theory is that the money was in return for or payment for slaves. The money ought to go to the ancestors of African slaves or some credible foundation representing their interests. This would be no more a scattering of the funds than giving it to some Euro-dominated nation-state. Is there any doubt that the true identity of the shipwreck is within the grasp of current forensic research? Is there any more doubt that the purpose of a ship laden with gold and a farily accurate record of the loss of that ship at sea can be found somewhere? The salvagers certainly ought to get a good sized sum of the find, maybe even all of it. But for this plundered booty to go to the Spanish government would be kind of outrageous. We hear so many empty apologies for past sins, meanwhile no-one gives up any of the material benefit delivered through the sins of the ancestors. This is a true opportunity for some small reparation to be made for the barbarity of the colonial age. There is little doubt that the spoils of the ugly past have come to visit the supposedly enlightened present. Unfortunately, there is as yet no indication that the old greedy appetites are any less sharp.

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