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The British warship HMS Sussex Lost in a storm off Gibraltar in 1694

With billions of dollars worth of gold bullion and 500 seamen, will have to stay lost a little longer. USA, Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, which was to start archaeological and treasure recovery work on the wreck put the project on hold after last-minute objections despite prior Spanish central government approval  Odyssey, announced that it would concentrate on five other ‘high-value targets’ until things are ironed out. The ease with which the firm has shifted operations to other sites is a testimonial to how many potentially lucrative shipwrecks litter the Mediterranean, and how successful the firm’s advanced deep-
water search technology has been in locating them. The sudden snag in the Sussex project, after years of preparation, also provides a glimpse of the political and emotional gulf that divides those who seek treasure in the deep ocean floor and those who see it as a repository of maritime history. Odyssey, which last year recovered 51,000 gold and silver coins and thousands of other artefacts from the Civil War era wreck of the SS Republic off the Georgia coast, claims that it serves both goals: raising saleable artefacts that it says have little value to archaeology and items of unique cultural importance for preservation and exhibit. Archaeologists fear such ambitions are no idle boast. Although there are an estimated 3 million undiscovered shipwrecks worldwide, archaeologists say advanced deep-water technology such as Odyssey’s side-scan sonar and deep-diving robots will expose these cultural ‘time capsules’ to commercial exploitation.

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