Culture and Defence Ministries

Spain’s sea treasure – Not up for grabs

Odyssey Marine exploration ship

From The Leader

The Spanish sea bed is alleged to be littered with treasure from sunken ships dating back over 4 centuries.

Now that a multitude of new technology makes finding the sunken gold and valuable antiques a lot easier, the race is on to see who is capable of locating the booty first.

Odyssey Marine Exploration took home a trove of gold and silver from the wreck of the Spanish vessel Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes two years ago, not without a fair amount of controversy. The treasure hunters have yet to return their find, despite several court decisions in Spain’s favour.

Ever since, authorities have started taking the protection of the country’s underwater archaeological heritage seriously.

Until recently, only the regions of Catalonia, Valencia and Andalusia had specific centres devoted to this type of cultural asset. But now, the central government is getting involved and the navy recently sent the minesweeper Sella out for a month to comb the bottom of the Gulf of Cádiz in search of archaeological remains.

This was the first time that military units were involved in such a task, following an agreement reached last year between the Culture and Defence Ministries. But this kind of cooperation is expected to become commonplace as authorities seek to chart the archaeological remains lying in waters off the entire coast of Spain.

Experts estimate that there may be around 3,000 shipwrecks yet to be explored in this vestige-rich part of the world.

During the month that the minesweeper was out in the Gulf of Cádiz, it located 128 wrecks at depths of no more than 200 meters. Archaeologists are now determining how many of these, if any, are of historical value.

When a shipwreck is located less than 50 meters below the surface, the initial analysis will be carried out by divers. For ships deeper down mechanical devices will be deployed.