Gold rush: The battle over sunken treasure





Shipwrecks! Treasure! Gold, gold, gold! The hallmarks of treasure-hunting are the stuff of adventure stories, more than fun enough to make archaeologists, who are mounting increasing complaints against the pillaging of sunken ships, seem like wet blankets.

But more is at stake than just a few loose doubloons, they say. "The big picture is that a fair amount of humanity's past we don't know, and it's important we don't let it become lost forever," says maritime archaeologist James Delgado, head of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.

The latest flashpoint comes with the recent premiere of the show Treasure Quest on cable's Discovery Channel (Thurs. 10 pm ET/PT), which follows deepwater exploration company Odyssey Marine Exploration as its teams explore two historic shipwrecks. Odyssey is in hot water with Spain over one of them, fighting it out in U.S. federal court over rights to the wreckage code-named the "Black Swan." Odyssey announced the discovery of the shipwreck site in 2007.


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