Losers Keepers, Finders Weepers

Read something this morning that kind of irked me into an off-topic rant:

In May 2007 a marine exploration and salvage company discovered the largest find of sunken treasure in history. Estimated to be worth as much a $500 million.

However, it now looks as if they will lose all their hard work as Spain has claimed ownership and the courts have decided in Spain’s favor.

So let me see if I have my facts straight?

1. Spain believes the treasure to be from the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes.  Though there is no confirmation.

2. It was supposedly on a commercial voyage at the time.

3. The Spain of today is NOT the Spain of the 1800’s. There has been a number of regime change. Spain no longer has a king.

4. Spain did not find the lost ship nor salvage the contents. 

5. Where did the gold and silver in fact come from? Is this really Spain’s or was it the property of South Americans in Puru?  Why would it be in the Americas?
What this comes across to me is a typical “Bigger Begets Better”, Spain is big. Here’s a small little firm. We can’t let them have a 1/2 a billion dollar find. So we’ll grant it to Spain.

Frankly, if I were Odyssey Marine Exploration, I’d be tempted to fly it all on a plane and drop it back into the sea and tell Spain to go get it if they want it. Only thing that’d keep me from doing that is the historical nature of the discovery.

There has been a growing policy against finders of valuables. There was a time that if you found something, you could turn it into the police who would hold it for a period of time to allow someone to claim the lost good. After which time you would receive the item back if no one claimed it.  And while most places require you to turn in goods you’ve found, the policy enacted by most departments is to simply auction it off for their own benefit.

It’s a bad policy, as it discourages people from reporting finds. I am of the opinion, that a far more honest and equitable action regarding the “Black Swan” discovery would be to mandate the find be split 50/50 between the discoverers and original verifiable owners.  But to expect “Black Swan” to turn over the entire treasure to Spain is ridiculous.  It will put an end to efforts of discovery. Such a treasure trove would have helped Odyssey Marine Exploration to launch many more explorations in the future. Purchase new equipment. And lead to even more archeological discovery. 

We are systematically removing the benefit of hardwork from our society.

Imagine you stumble across an old box in the attic of a house you just purchased in Pennsylvania. Inside is a rifle and a note from one Danielle Boone leaving said rifle until he can pick it up later.  You’ve got a verifiable and documentable rifle of Danielle Boone. And suddenly,  the courts say you must turn it over to Danielle Boone’s descendents. Is that equitable?



(salvage company’s page on the discovery)

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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