Archaeologists are racing against the little time left to salvage a fortune in coins and items from a 500-year-old Portuguese shipwreck found recently off Namibia's rough southern coast.
Despite its importance, the project, in a restricted diamond mining area, is itself costing a fortune in sea-walling that cannot be sustained after October 10.
"The vast amounts of gold coins would possibly make this discovery the largest one in Africa outside Egypt," said Francisco Alves, a Lisbon-based maritime archaeologist.
"This vessel is the best preserved of its time outside Portugal," he said.
"But the cultural uniqueness of this find is priceless."
Alves is part of a multi-national team combing the seabed where the wreck was discovered six months ago.
The 16th-century "Portuguese trade vessel was found by chance this April as mine workers created an artificial sand wall with bulldozers to push back the sea for diamond dredging," Namibian archaeologist Dieter Noli told reporters invited to view the site.