Deep sea treasure hunters may evoke storybook images of swashbuckling buccaneers on daring ocean adventures. For those in the rapidly expanding sector of marine archeology however, scouring the depths of the sea for sunken riches is business -- big business.
"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. based historical shipwreck and salvage exploration company.
"Treasure bearing ships that have historical artifacts, coins, emeralds" dating back hundreds of years are 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 30,000 of these are likely to bear treasure of any value, discoveries such as the $3 billion of platinum located on a World War II merchant vessel by American salvage company, Sub Sea Research, last month confirm the industry's potential.
The possibility to reap such bountiful rewards has inevitably led to increased industry investment in recent years, says Tucker.
Hedge funds, private equity firms as well as cash rich individual investors have all been eager to provide the capital to back increasingly specialized treasure ventures.
As a result, the biggest salvage companies are now able to utilize the same advanced tools used by big oil firms to locate deep sea drilling opportunities, explains Tucker.
The most expensive exploration projects, which are almost always in a deep sea environment, can cost in the region of $30 million dollars to undertake, he adds.
High tech developments are a logical progression for a sector where the rewards for success are so high.
But Tucker also points out that the potential to make vast profits has led some companies to explore wrecks that modern day governments still claim ownership over without permission.