By Doug Fraser - Bangor Daily News
Portland-based treasure hunter Greg Brooks has burned through at least $8 million of investor money in his hunt for a supposed fortune in platinum, gold and jewels on a sunken World War II freighter 50 miles northeast of Provincetown, Mass.
But now he is considering ending his hunt and selling off expedition assets, including the main salvage vessel.
According to his own records and status reports filed in court, Brooks spent fewer than 80 days at sea in his first five years attempting to salvage treasure from the S.S. Port Nicholson, which sank after being torpedoed by a German submarine.
He gained wide publicity but now appears to be quietly giving up, despite insisting there are billions on board the ship, according to documents filed in a court case contesting ownership of the freighter’s contents.
Brooks did not respond to phone messages requesting an interview but sent an email that pending litigation prohibited him from answering any questions and designating his chief engineer, Brian Ryder, as company spokesman.
In a phone interview Thursday from the company’s main salvage ship Sea Hunter, docked in East Boston, Ryder said Brooks has secured more funds and would be headed back out to the Port Nicholson when the weather improves.
In trip reports and interviews over the past two years, Brooks has said that his company, Sea Hunters, is literally one trip away from recovering a portion or all of the $3 billion in treasure from the freighter — although his estimates in media reports have soared as high as $6 billion.
Meanwhile, representatives of the British government, which insists it owns the vessel and whatever it contains, continue to say official documents show nothing on board beyond rusted automobile parts, military supplies and ballast.
Their dispute with Brooks is now in U.S. District Court in Portland. Another lawsuit against the company has been filed in a Maine court by a company that supplied one of the remotely operated vehicles, seeking payment for the equipment rental and technicians, Ryder said.
On Friday, Brooks’ company filed an inventory in U.S. District Court in Portland of items that have been retrieved from the Nicholson. The objects — including a waterlogged compass, a busted compass housing, a brass fire extinguisher and a brick — are so low in value they are not worth haggling over, attorneys for the British government said.