Thursday, September 06, 2007

Spain claims sunken Inca treasure ship . . . and so do the Incas

Tampa, Florida USA - LAWYERS are preparing for battle over the spoils from a sunken Inca treasure galleon found in international waters off the coast of Spain by Odyssey Marine Explorations. The hoard contained 17 tons of gold and silver, believed to have come from the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes, sunk off the coast of Portugal by the British.

John Andersen of the Washington Post writes:
British warships spotted the Spaniards in October 1804 and ordered them to change course and sail for England. Bustamente refused, a battle erupted, and Spain's 36-gun Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes exploded and sank, "breaking like an egg, dumping her yolk into the deep," according to a Spanish account. The ship took with it more than a million silver dollars freshly minted in Spain's American colonies, documents of the time suggest. The lost booty became the stuff of legend, one of the world's great sunken treasures. This spring, modern technology caught up with sea-hunting lore when a U.S.-based salvage company, Odyssey Marine Explorations, announced that it had found a 17-ton hoard of silver and gold artifacts, including about 500,000 coins, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Estimated value: $500 million. But Odyssey, citing a need to keep looters at bay, isn't saying where it found the wreck, except that it was in international waters in the Atlantic, and claims to be unsure what ship it has found. It has given the wreck the code name Black Swan. But people familiar with the search say the evidence points to the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes. Odyssey's secrecy has touched off a three-month international legal battle. Spanish officials, convinced that the loot could be Spain's, filed suit in the United States to force disclosure of the wreck's name and location, block future recovery efforts and claim what has already been hauled up. The Spanish coast guard has effectively barricaded Odyssey's main salvage vessel, the 251-foot Odyssey Explorer, in the port of Britain's overseas territory of Gibraltar, by threatening to seize it if it ventures out. The fight renews a dispute between archaeologists and commercial salvors over rights to historic wrecks, a quarrel that is growing as new search technology and submersible robots bring to light more graves of ancient ships. It has raised old tensions between Spain on one side and Gibraltar and its mother country, Britain, on the other. And it has pitted a small, Tampa-based U.S. company, which essentially argues that finders are keepers, against Spain, which says it has a right to protect its national heritage.

Not so fast . . . Peru, former home to the Inca civilization, plundered and looted by Spain, is now saying that the gold and silver was stolen from them by the Spanish, a historically fair point one would have thought. Two slight problems: Peru was not a sovereign country in 1804, and did the Inca give the gold to Spain or was it taken by force?

New York Times | Washington Post


  1. Hi, I'm From PERU




    GReetings from Lima, Peru

  2. The gold should go back to Peru to be put in the Museum. The gold was TAKEN from us.


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