Yo ho ! new shipwreck find raises legal questions from the Muck

By Brian Baxter

An American salvage company revealed on Monday that it had discovered the remains of a famous British warship at the bottom of the English Channel, more than 50 miles from where it was thought to have foundered during a violent storm in 1744.

The BBC reports that the HMS Victory sank with more than 1,100 seamen aboard, including Admiral Sir John Balchen, just off the Channel Islands.

Numerous previous attempts by salvagers to locate the vessel have proven unsuccessful.The cargo aboard the Victory--thought to include 110 bronze cannons and some 100,000 gold coins--could be worth more than $1 billion.

It's the latest high-profile shipwreck uncovered by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, which has made a business of profiting from undersea salvage operations of wrecks loaded with precious cargo.

But the litigation arising from those discoveries has salvagers of sunken artifacts and maritime archeologists trading enough accusations to make Blackbeard blush.

The American Lawyer has previously reported on litigation between Odyssey and the Spanish government over the company's attempts to recover riches from centuries-old Spanish galleons.

(Spanish authorities even seized an Odyssey salvage ship operating out of Gibraltar as part of an investigation into whether the company was in violation of Spanish heritage laws.)

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odyssey marine exploration HMS Victory Channel Islands British warship Maritime Heritage Foundation