Marine archeology is quickly emerging as the next, big investment opportunity.
With professional exploration companies developing more sensitive and detailed underwater search equipment, the odds are increasing of a huge payday for some and reclamation of precious artifacts for many countries and their museums.
Sonar detectors and sophisticated radar have replaced the swashbuckling eye patches and bottles of rum from days gone by. But the adventurers on the high seas today are after much larger conquests.
The largest shipwreck salvage companies are now using the same type of tools used by big oil firms to locate deep sea drilling potential. The most expensive projects, usually in very deep waters, can cost upwards of $30 million dollars to complete.
“There are multi-hundreds of billions of dollars of potential in this industry,” says Sean Tucker, founder and managing member of Galleon Ventures, a U.S. shipwreck and salvage exploration company. “
Treasure bearing ships that have historical artifacts, coins, and emeralds dating back hundreds of years, lying at the bottom of the sea just waiting to be brought to the surface“, he adds.
UNESCO estimates there to be as many as three million shipwrecks scattered across the bottom of the world’s oceans. Although Tucker points out that only 3,000 of these are likely to bear treasure of any value, recent discoveries such as the $3 billion of platinum located on a World War II merchant vessel by Sub Sea Research, confirm the industry’s potential.
Dr. Lucy Blue from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the UK’s University of Southampton, voices concern about the methods of some smaller operators in the industry.
She says that some companies plunder sunken wrecks without concern for their archaeological and academic value, leading to the destruction of important sites.