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Discovery Channel's Treasure Quest

Press Release - Episode Guide - Photos  - Film Clips - Cast Bio's - Q and A with Greg Stemm


-- World Premiere 11-Part Series Kicks Off Thursday, January 15 at 10PM ET/PT --
(Silver Spring, Md.) – TREASURE QUEST takes the meaning of “cold case” to a new level – it’s not always what you find, but what you find out. Discovery Channel and Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME), the world’s only publicly-traded company dedicated to deep ocean shipwreck exploration, plunges viewers to the ocean floor as they track the unsolved mysteries of the deep sea in this 11-part world premiere series. The nonstop race against time, secret locations and international intrigue will make the viewer’s pulse race and remind them of their childhood fantasies. For the Odyssey crew and the Discovery Channel production team, it is a dream job -- but not one without its major challenges. TREASURE QUEST premieres Thursdays at 10PM ET/PT, beginning January 15, 2009.

Taking viewers on the hunt for precious artifacts, TREASURE QUEST combines the exciting search for valuable treasure with cutting edge technology and the captivating stories of the historic ships and those who sailed them. With over three million shipwrecks estimated on the ocean’s floor, Odyssey has abundant opportunity for both tremendous successes -- and huge failures. There’s a ton at stake, and what they find could contribute not only to the historical record, but could make Odyssey’s shareholders immensely rich.

Led by their driven Chairman and CEO Greg Stemm, a pioneer in deep-ocean exploration, the Odyssey team includes some of the world’s finest researchers, deep-ocean marine archaeologists, ROV pilots and technicians, shipwreck artifact conservators, information technology developers and data managers. Rounding out the team is Tom Dettweiler, who was the leader of the team that discovered the Titanic, and whose resume reads like an encyclopedia of deep-ocean adventure. As the Odyssey crew identifies high-value targets across the world’s oceans, TREASURE QUEST provides an intimate look at the adventure, drama and high stakes involved in deep ocean exploration – and the amazing things they often find at the shipwreck sites. From scrutiny by international military forces to investigating the wreckage of the Lusitania and a 19th century paddle-wheel steamer, few challenges are too great for Stemm and his crew.

Online, viewers can dive deeper into the shipwrecks featured in TREASURE QUEST at Online features will include shipwreck tours, disaster timelines and a treasure chest that details the types of coins and artifacts brought up from the depths. Users will get a closer look at life on a modern-day exploration vessel in exclusive webisodes, from gourmet meals (fruit sculptures!?) to MacGyver-like ingenuity and high-seas hijinks. Odyssey’s unique and spectacular shipwreck photomosaics and crystal clear images of previously undiscovered deep ocean sites will also be available on the site.

TREASURE QUEST is produced for Discovery Channel by JWM Productions. Jason Williams and Bill Morgan are executive producers for JWM. Paul Gasek is executive producer for Discovery Channel.

About Discovery Channel:
DISCOVERY CHANNEL (DSC) is dedicated to creating the highest quality non-fiction content that informs and entertains its consumers about the world in all its wonder, diversity and amazement. The network, which reaches 98.1 million viewers in the US, can be seen in over 170 countries, offering a signature mix of compelling, high-end production values and vivid cinematography across genres including, science and technology, exploration, adventure, history and in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the people, places and organizations that shape and share our world. For more information, please visit

About Discovery Communications:
Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISAD, DISBD, DISCK) is the world’s number one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries. Discovery empowers people to explore their world and satisfy their curiosity through 100-plus worldwide networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Planet Green, Investigation Discovery and HD Theater, as well as leading consumer and educational products and services, and a diversified portfolio of digital media services including For more information, please visit

About Odyssey
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) is engaged in the exploration of deep-ocean shipwrecks and uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive search and archaeological recovery operations around the world.

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TREASURE QUEST, a Discovery Channel world premiere 11-part series premiering Thursdays at 10PM beginning January 15, takes the meaning of "cold case" to a new level -- it's not always what you find, but what you find out about the ships and those who sailed them. Viewers are transported to secret locations, often in international waters, as Odyssey Marine Exploration hunts for the ocean's greatest lost treasures. Odyssey's team of researchers, deep-ocean marine archaeologists, shipwreck artifact conservators and ROV pilots and technicians all have one goal in mind: to find and recover lost treasures scattered among thousands of centuries-old shipwrecks -- and become rich in the process. As the only publicly-traded company in the world whose business is finding sunken treasure, it's a high stakes gamble that could make or break Odyssey.

  • Merchant Royal -- Thursday, January 15 at 10PM ET/PT
    It’s Odyssey Marine Exploration’s first search season since the astounding “Black Swan” treasure recovery in 2007 -- and the crew is ready to hit it big once again. This time they’re on the trail of some shipwrecks that could yield an even bigger treasure -- including the billion dollar Merchant Royal. As their 251-foot ship, Odyssey Explorer, heads to a top-secret location, the crew prepares ZEUS, a multi-million dollar, 8-ton robot to dive on two high priority targets. After struggling with non-existent visibility and an unexpected visit from the French Navy at one location, can they gather enough clues from the other site to identify the Merchant Royal?

  • Pirates! -- Thursday, January 22 at 10PM ET/PT
    With improving visibility and no additional visits from a French military plane, the Odyssey Explorer is back on site 33C looking for clues. The sonar image of the site shows a large number of cannons. The 17th Century treasure ship Merchant Royal was armed with 32 cannons – and it’s time for a closer look. ZEUS’s HD camera sends live images back to the control room that reveal a bronze ship’s bell -- and it has an inscription. Will the clues revealed by the bell point to the Merchant Royal…or add to the mystery? A little more sleuthing suggests a privateer – or pirate ship. Is pirate treasure far behind?

  • The Legend -- Thursday, January 29 at 10PM ET/PT
    The Odyssey Marine Exploration team has found a very interesting shipwreck site, code-named “Legend.” Dozens of large Colonial era cannon are visible through ZEUS’s camera feed. It’s a sight that astounds even the most seasoned explorers on the crew. They believe this is something monumental, but Odyssey’s operations are under constant surveillance by adversaries and foreign governments and they need to throw off the competition. So the Odyssey Explorer moves off to investigate other sites between short visits to the “Legend” site to measure its cannons and take pictures of the markings. It’s an elaborate game of cat and mouse, but when the stakes are this high, there are chances you can’t afford to take.

  • Return to the Legend -- Thursday, February 5 at 10PM ET/PT
    Odyssey is back at the “Legend” site in another attempt to identify the shipwreck. On the first visit to the site, the crew found more than 30 cannons, but the real value of the guns is what they say about the wreck and its age and identity. The crew’s next task is to recover one of these massive guns to get a closer look at the markings, and perhaps find the proof they need to ID the site.

  • Turning Lead Into Gold -- Thursday, February 12 at 10PM ET/PT
    The Odyssey team wants to return to a site loaded with lead ingots. When the wreck was first discovered, it was quickly dismissed – it wasn’t their treasure-laden target. But since then, they’ve learned that the ingots could be an extremely valuable type of lead, called low-alpha lead, that fetches a huge premium in the specialized electronics industry. On the way to the lead site, the team plans to stop at two other sites -- a German U-Boat and a WWI era ship carrying a huge load of military supplies. While the team doesn’t expect treasure at these sites, the archaeologists can gather valuable forensic data. They find both sites heavily damaged by fishing trawlers and heavy weather is moving in. The crew now only has one day to investigate what could be the cash prize of the expedition. Will the lead test to be truly low-alpha? If so, they’re looking at a multi-million dollar find that will see lead . . . turned into gold.

  • U-Boats -- Thursday, February 19 at 10PM ET/PT
    World-renowned U-boat expert, Dr. Axel Niestlé, joins Odyssey's crew for an expedition into the most dangerous waters and wreck sites of WWII. Together they take on the daunting challenge of identifying four German U-boats, or submarines, in four days. Scattered around the English Channel lie the rusting shells of many of the lost and unidentified submarines of Hitler’s deadly fleet. Most are so badly corroded they defy identification, but armed with OME's technology -- especially ZEUS, an eight million dollar submersible ROV -- Dr. Niestlé gets the chance to examine the underwater evidence and ponder the U-boats’ fates more completely than ever before. What weapon or accident could sink a U-boat without leaving a trace? What could have ripped another one to shreds like a tin can? While the crew of the Explorer navigates minefields, Dr. Niestlé puts his reputation on the line to set the historical record straight and rescue the memories of lost submariners from anonymous graves in the deep.

  • Lusitania Revealed -- Thursday, March 5 at 10PM ET/PT
    Odyssey Marine Exploration is a company dedicated to finding and recovering sunken treasure, but sometimes recovering information and solving a mystery takes center stage. In this episode, they’re taking a look at the second most famous shipwreck in history, The Lusitania. When Odyssey is approached by the wreck’s American owner, Gregg Bemis, to do an archaeological survey of the site in preparation for a recovery attempt, they jump at the chance. But when they arrive, they find the wreck is badly deteriorated and covered in fishing nets. Under the watchful eye of the Irish Navy, Odyssey dodges ROV-eating fish nets while conducting scientific tests to track the ship’s decay. It’s the most thorough survey ever done on this historical site -- and may be the last chance to learn from the wreck itself what caused the massive second explosion that brought her down.

  • Malta -- Thursday, February 26 at 10PM ET/PT
    With their survey ship assembling a list of targets for their primary inspection vessel Odyssey Explorer to dive on, Odyssey Marine Exploration is hitting on all cylinders. At the midpoint of their season, they’re on the hunt for a ship code-named Malta -- and its cargo that could be worth tens, or even hundreds, of millions. While every shipwreck expedition has its challenges, this voyage will be one to remember. With their season suddenly on the line, every decision and every action could make the difference between success and failure.

  • A Voyage Interrupted: The Liberty Ship -- Thursday, March 12 at 10PM ET/PT
    On board the survey vessel, search expert Ernie Tapanes is doing what he does best -- combing the far reaches of the ocean for signs of a valuable wreck. He gets one. One sat-phone call, and the Explorer is en route to a fantastic discovery. Odyssey has found the location of one of the most famous U-Boats in history -- U103, and it’s just the first part of an incredible confrontation with history in store for the Explorer crew. On an earlier voyage, Odyssey discovered the previously unknown wreckage of the Cyrus H. McCormack -- the last of the WWII convoy ships to be sunk by German U-Boats. Convoy survivor Jim McDonald joins the ship to pay a last visit to the doomed McCormack, lying on the bottom with its tanks and jeeps still on deck, but when mechanical problems with their ROV ZEUS threaten to derail the mission, it’s up to archaeologist Neil Cunningham Dobson and Senior Project Manager Tom Dettweiler to find a way to save the voyage and take Jim to see the McCormack one last time.

  • Mysterious Cargo -- Thursday, March 19 at 10PM ET/PT
    For thousands of years, mankind has been transporting cargo on ships -- and for just as long, ships and their cargos have been lost at sea. The crew of the Odyssey Explorer is on the trail of more modern cargo in a series of merchant ships, when they find a mystery ship on the seabed with piles of champagne bottles littering the area. Could this be a shipment of rare and valuable wine?

  • The Silver Queen -- Thursday, March 26 at 10PM ET/PT
    The season is winding down and weather is heading in. The Odyssey team has had their eye on a target code-named “Spencer” nearly all season, but it’s quite a distance from the prime search area and they haven’t been able to make the trip. Now they have one last chance to slide in between squalls of winter weather to locate and lay claim to the site. It should be pretty easy to find -- it’s a 20th Century steel hulled ship, and its reported cargo could be worth more than $100 million today. Can the Odyssey team get there before the winter storms? And has a competitor’s ship beat them to the area?

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Film Clips

Bomb on Board
Bowling and Beer
Doris the Sub
Halloween Pranks
Hawk the Hawkologist
Lucifers Hammer
Meet Zeus
Production Crew Confessional
Techie Tools
Were Rolling What

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    Co-Founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Odyssey Marine Exploration
    A love of the sea and all things nautical led Greg Stemm to join forces with co-founder John Morris to create the world’s first public company dedicated specifically to deep ocean shipwreck exploration and archaeology. Since the acquisition of their first research vessel in 1986, Greg has played an important role in the development of new technologies and standards for deep ocean shipwreck archaeology and has dedicated his life to creating a sensible approach to sharing the excitement and knowledge that can be gained from shipwreck exploration with the world.
    Their first major deep-ocean shipwreck discovery was in 1989, a Colonial Spanish shipwreck discovered at a depth of over 1,500 feet. Dubbed the “Tortugas shipwreck”, the 1622 site was the world’s first complete remote robotic archaeological excavation. Since that time, the team has discovered hundreds of shipwrecks in the deep oceans of the world, documenting the thrill of discovery and drawing attention to the plight of these deep historical sites that are rapidly decomposing and being destroyed by man’s activities and the force of nature.
    In 2003, Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered and excavated over 51,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts from the SS Republic, a Civil-War era steamship at a depth of nearly 1,700 feet. In 2007 Odyssey announced the discovery and archaeological recovery of over 500,000 (more than 17 tons) of silver and gold coins from a site in the Atlantic code-named “Black Swan”, the largest quantity of coins ever recovered from a deep-ocean site. During the two decades that Greg has been involved in shipwreck exploration projects, he has directed operations which have resulted in the discovery of shipwrecks ranging from ancient Roman and Phoenician sites to German U-boats and pirate ships in the deep oceans of the world.
    The author of many papers and articles on deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, Greg has lectured extensively around the world and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs.

    Senior Project Manager, Odyssey Marine Exploration
    Exploring the world’s oceans for 35 years, Tom Dettweiler been involved with many of the greatest discoveries in deep ocean exploration. His resume reads like an encyclopedia of deep-ocean adventure, and he’s the “go-to” guy when you need something found or recovered from the deep sea.
    Tom spent five years as Robert Ballard’s operations director, and led the team that discovered the Titanic. His crew also discovered a 2,300 year-old-vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, believed to be the deepest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. Tom was the Science Officer on Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso for two years and was also the Expedition Leader that discovered the Japanese Submarine I-52 more than 17,000 feet deep. Tom received a special commendation medal from the Government of Israel for the discovery, exploration and recovery of the lost submarine DAKAR. With Odyssey Marine Exploration since February 2004, Tom also directed the historic discovery and recovery of the treasure from the “Black Swan” site in 2007.
    Tom earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and MS Degrees in Marine Science and Ocean Engineering. In addition to academic study, his unmatched experience in the deep ocean has made him tops in his field.

    Principal Field Archeologist, Odyssey Marine Exploration
    As Odyssey Marine Exploration’s principal field archeologist, Neil has more experience viewing shipwrecks through ROV cameras than any other archaeologist in the world. With Odyssey since 2001, Neil’s passion for sharing the shipwrecks he investigates with the public has earned him the affectionate nickname, The People’s Archaeologist.
    Neil is an experienced deep-water marine archaeologist with more than 30 years experience in the marine industry. After graduating from St. Andrews University with a Masters in marine archaeology, Neil decided to test the theory that robots and manned-submersibles could be an archaeologist’s hands and eyes. He has worked on scores of shipwreck sites and supervised work on Odyssey Marine Exploration’s SS Republic recovery as well as other projects in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

    Executive Producer, President and Co-Founder, JWM Productions
    Jason Williams is the president and co-founder of JWM Productions (
    A multiple Emmy® award-winning producer, director and executive producer, Jason is best known for bringing the stories of the ancient world to life. The creator of the hit series Digging for the Truth and the series producer of the Primetime Emmy® award-winning Lost Civilizations, he has written about archaeology for the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, and his treasure-seeking exploits in war-torn Iraq have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
    Before founding JWM Productions with Bill Morgan in 1996, Jason was the Time Life's executive producer for the Emmy® award-winning series Submarines: Sharks of Steel for Discovery Channel and the executive in charge of production for Sir David Attenborough's Trials of Life for TBS and the BBC. He began his career in television as a journalist with CNN.

    Executive Producer, Discovery Channel
    Paul Gasek is an Emmy®-nominated, Emmy® award-winning executive producer for Discovery Channel. In addition to TREASURE QUEST, Gasek has overseen hundreds of hours of programming, including DEADLIEST CATCH 2, 3, 4, and 5, DISCOVERY PROJECT EARTH, MYSTERIES OF THE DINOSAUR MUMMY, EXPEDITION PACIFIC ABYSS , and ENGINEERING THE UNIVERSE.
    Gasek joined Discovery in 2006, and took on the co-production of GLOBAL WARMING: WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW with Tom Brokaw. It won an Emmy® in September of that year. Prior to joining Discovery, Gasek worked for Science Channel for three years as a freelance executive producer. Previously, Gasek was owner and director of Stony Brook Films, located in Brewster, Massachusetts. His clients included Discovery Pictures, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Cronkite Ward, PBS Science Unit (WGHB), HITEntertainment, and National Geographic, among others.
    Gasek has served as a guest lecturer at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and Boston University’s College of Communications. He received a BA in English Literature from Hobart College in 1972 and a MS in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University in 1982. In the interim, he was a commercial fisherman out of Chatham, Massachusetts.

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Co-Founder, CEO & Chairman,
Odyssey Marine Exploration

  • Q: How did you get involved in deep sea shipwreck exploration?

    • A: My earliest dreams of underwater exploration coincided with the Jacques Cousteau TV specials and the earliest adventures of the first underwater archeologists in the 1960s. With no underwater archaeology programs available when I went to college, I focused on Marine Biology instead, which seemed to get me at least closer to mucking about underwater.

      I dropped out of college and was sidetracked from my real passion by the offer of a job working with Bob Hope, which in turn led into a career in marketing, advertising and public relations. Through a serendipitous series of events, in 1984 I met John Morris, who shared my passion for offshore adventure. In 1986, we bought our first research vessel and invested in our first ROV system, which we purchased from deep ocean technology pioneers Graham Hawkes and Sylvia Earle, whom I credit with sparking our imagination with the possibilities of this emerging field. One thing led to another and we found ourselves acquiring quite a collection of deep ocean search and exploration equipment.

      Since that time, we have pursued our passion for archaeology and deep-ocean exploration. John has since retired for health reasons, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

  • Q: Did you know from the beginning how critical technology would be to your goals?

    • A: Since we are working in depths well beyond the reach of human divers, marine technology suited to explore the deep-ocean environment was part of the equation from the very beginning. To some extent, the fact that John and I weren’t raised in the scientific world probably helped -- we weren’t stuck in the “way that it had always been done before,” which led us to some pretty novel approaches to deep ocean operations.

      We have always surrounded ourselves with offshore technicians, engineers and scientists that share our passion for figuring out new ways to apply technology to improve our performance underwater. We have come up with some interesting approaches to search and excavation -- many of which were conceived in some pretty crazy operational meetings. Not every idea works, but many of our most important advances started with suggestions that started out with “This may sound like a crazy idea, but what if we tried this…?”

  • Q: How many people do you have in the field and in how many countries?

    • A: Currently we have about 50 full-time employees and approximately 100 contracted researchers, technicians, archaeologists, translators, and other specialists working around the world. We’re proud to have some of the world’s finest specialists in their relevant disciplines working for Odyssey. The offshore team typically consists of survey and ROV technicians, pilots, engineers, archaeologists, conservationists, ship’s crew, researchers, historians, logistical and administrative support staff.

  • Q: How do you choose your target sites?

    • A: Research, research, research. Exhaustive and meticulous research is essential to identifying viable shipwreck targets. We support a team of professional researchers, including an in-house staff whose full-time occupation is researching multiple shipwreck projects using our extensive internal library and network of resources. We also maintain relationships with many of the world's top shipwreck researchers who help us investigate viable projects.

      Project research may focus on a particular search area, as opposed to a specific shipwreck. Sometimes we focus on areas where historical documents suggest unrecorded and recorded high value targets may be found because of the proximity to shipping routes frequented by vessels carrying rich cargos. When targeting specific shipwrecks, we’ll generally look for ships that have a documented valuable cargo, good data on a sinking location, and a clear path to ownership.

  • Q: What are the resources you utilize to identify and verify your findings, especially when the find or artifacts don’t easily show identifiable characteristics?

    • A: The identification of a vessel related to a site or artifacts begins with in-depth research into all the information, archival evidence, and historical records that we can access. We compare that data against the results of our archaeological investigation and the evaluation of the artifacts after the conservation process. We look for consistencies with contemporaneous records, but we also look for inconsistencies.

      For example, we might find artifacts among the ones we recover that do not belong to the era we think a particular wreck site dates to. That could mean that it’s not the wreck we think it is -- as an example, it could have been a much more recent ship carrying a cargo of antiques. Likewise, a non-matching artifact could have ended up at that wreck site by chance -- there is a lot of debris scattered around the ocean floor. For instance, we found a Coca-Cola bottle at the site of the SS Republic … clearly not a product of the mid 1800s, but it was commingled with the Republic cargo many years after its sinking.

      Identifying a shipwreck or site can be one of the most challenging aspects of our business. People tend to rush to identification theories, but that can lead to huge errors. We therefore prefer to use a methodical, objective approach, gathering a wide variety of resources and expert opinions, to avoid jumping to premature, unprofessional conclusions.

  • Q: What has been the most exciting project so far for you? What has been your biggest find, both historically and in value?

    • A: Projects are unique and exciting for different reasons. Being the first humans to see a shipwreck site never gets old -- and we have been privileged to see more shipwrecks than probably any other individual or company in history. Many people assume finding gold or silver must be the most thrilling part, but some of the most exciting finds have been our ancient Roman and Phoenician shipwrecks. Likewise, our archaeologists will get much more excited over a navigational instrument or piece of armament than trade goods like coins.

      In terms of monetary value and historical significance, Odyssey’s two most significant shipwreck finds to date are the SS Republic and the site code-named “Black Swan.”

      The SS Republic was a Civil War era shipwreck which was lost in a hurricane in 1865, 100 miles off the coast of Georgia. We located the wreck in 2003 and recovered over 51,000 coins and more than 14,000 artifacts from the site. The collection provides a fascinating glimpse into life in the 1800s, and has provided the platform for our travelling museum exhibit and an educational curriculum that we have been sharing with schools.

      The “Black Swan” site, which we discovered in 2007, constitutes the largest historic treasure find to date, with over 17 tons of silver and hundreds of gold coins recovered. Spain has claimed rights to the site, and the case is currently being litigated in US Federal Court.

      Another major project we have been involved in for a number of years is HMS Sussex, a British warship that sank off of Gibraltar in 1694. We have a partnering agreement with the British Government for the archaeological excavation of the vessel, and that groundbreaking agreement documents just how beneficial it can be to a country to contract our expertise and technology in the restoration of its maritime heritage.
      In addition to those, we also occasionally work on shipwreck projects that are more significant from a cultural standpoint than a commercial one. The “Blue China” wreck is a good example of that. We found “Blue China” in 2003 when looking for the Republic, and documented it carefully. When we returned to the site in 2005, we found that the site had suffered extensive damage caused by fishing trawl nets, which unfortunately destroyed a culturally interesting site, even at its extreme depth. That case also documents that recovery and restoration of shipwreck artifacts is often more desirable than the in-situ preservation called for by some people in the academic community.

  • Q: To that end, describe the process of ocean floor recovery. Are you interrupting the organic process of the ocean itself, by removing artifacts that have rested on the floor for centuries?

    • A: The key to proper archaeology is to disturb the site and its surrounding marine biological environment as little as possible, and to record as much of the site as possible during the excavation. We fully document a site before we ever begin excavation. We record every second of every excavation on video so archaeologists can review the entire project at any time. We use best practice archaeological techniques and have more experience at deep ocean archaeological excavations than anyone else in the world.

      We have an array of specialized tools developed specifically for our archaeological work, and we choose them depending on the specific artifact or technique we need to employ. For instance, we will use soft silicone limpets to recover delicate items. Our proprietary Sediment Removal and Filtration (SeRF) system ensures that even when removing sediment from a site, small virtually invisible artifacts are filtered out and deposited undamaged in a container on the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

      Our ROV ZEUS has robotic arms which are fitted with the appropriate device for a specific job and carefully maneuvered by the ROV pilot from the vessel above. Each artifact is picked up carefully from the ocean floor, one piece at a time, and transferred into a basket for safe storage and transported to the ship’s surface where it is immediately turned over to the on-board conservator and archaeological team for stabilization and conservation. We have recovered hundreds of thousands of valuable coins, bottles, small delicate porcelain angels and ink pots, and other fragile artifacts from the SS Republic and other sites using this proven method.

      We have come across many shipwreck sites that have been damaged by fishing trawl nets or marine salvage firms who use grab bucket technology to tear apart a wreck site to look for treasure. It is clear from our first-hand experience that leaving a shipwreck site in-situ -- especially if it is believed to have valuable cargo -- will not protect the site.

  • Q: What happens to the treasure after it’s been brought back to land?

    • A: The first step is to record and stabilize an artifact as soon as it is brought out of the water. This is done by the marine archaeologist, in close collaboration with the conservator, on the deck of the ship. As soon as they are stable enough to be transported, they are shipped to our conservation lab, or in the case of coins, to a specialized coin conservation facility, where they undergo a conservation process that can take up to several years. Every step of the way -- from the actual recovery on the ocean floor all the way through conservation -- the process is meticulously documented and photographed.

      After completion of the conservation process, the artifacts are divided into artifacts of cultural/historical value or trade goods. Cultural or historically significant artifacts become part of our permanent collection and are made available for study, education, and research by museums or other educational or cultural institutions upon request. Trade goods -- items that we recover large quantities of duplicates of, such as coins -- are made available to collectors and shipwreck enthusiasts after thorough documentation and study.

      It is our experience that private collectors can care for these items on an individual basis as well as any educational institute or museum, and that the public should be entrusted in the process of curating and managing cultural heritage. In some cases, for instance, if a coin or artifact is deemed culturally sensitive, such as the religious artifacts we recovered from the SS Republic, only replicas will be available for purchase, even if we have found a number of them on the site.

      If the identity of the shipwreck or shipwreck site is determined conclusively, the entire collection may be acquired by an individual or sovereign nation with a cultural heritage interest in the shipwreck, thereby keeping the entire collection intact.

  • Q: How do you reconcile the need for historical preservation and protection with the potential for profit?

    • A: Odyssey is proving that shipwreck exploration can be done responsibly and in an archaeologically sound manner by the private sector. We have worked hard to develop a practical standard for commercial and academic protocols on deep ocean shipwreck exploration and recovery. I was appointed for four consecutive terms to the United States delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expert meeting to negotiate the "Draft Convention for the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage." This enabled Odyssey to forge a path of cooperation between governments, research institutions, academics, and the small universe of commercial deep sea explorers.

      Nevertheless, there are some government officials and archaeologists who do not feel like the private sector should be involved in shipwreck exploration -- and that no artifact from any shipwreck should ever be sold -- even if it is one of 100,000 identical coins. These same people typically do not have the funding to conduct deep ocean archaeological work themselves, so they have been promoting the idea that shipwrecks should be left untouched on the ocean bottom.

      A terrestrial archaeological site can often be preserved in-situ. In the case of shipwrecks, in situ preservation is quite a different matter. Exposed to water, waves, storms, seaquakes, and other hazards such as ship traffic, trawl nets dredging, treasure hunters, grab buckets and other dangers, shipwrecks will deteriorate and are often destroyed. While some new in-situ stabilization techniques using geotextile matting, or cathodic protection for steel ships and cannon may slow down this process, they ultimately don’t halt it.

      We have seen firsthand how there is virtually nothing left of many deep ocean shipwrecks -- a fact that is ignored by the promoters of the policy of in situ preservation. I believe that in most cases it is best to recover the artifacts to the surface while it is still possible for the public and archaeological community to study and enjoy what we can learn from our underwater cultural heritage before it is lost forever.

  • Q: What have you learned from your experiences and how do you share that knowledge?

    • A: Shipwrecks tell wonderful stories of the past, and we are passionate about sharing these stories and the treasures recovered with the world. I have seen first-hand how shipwrecks excite both young and old. I love watching grandfathers with their young grandkids talking about the exhibits in our museum. There is something about shipwrecks that capture the imagination and spirit of adventure that virtually everyone shares.

      We present our treasures in interactive exhibits where our visitors can step in the shoes of an ocean explorer, marine archaeologist, or pirate for a day to experience for themselves the excitement this fascinating field has to offer. Our “SHIPWRECK! Pirates & Treasure” exhibit is currently on display at the Science Museum Oklahoma. The adventure and excitement that is inherent to our field also motivates young students to get interested in ocean sciences, and we support that interest by creating educational curricula.

      We have a permanent collection of artifacts which we make available to researchers and the academic community for study purposes, and are always open to proposals for sharing the excitement and knowledge about our finds with the public. We are just about to launch the first of a series of archaeological papers on our website, and have been working with some smaller museums to develop exhibits that are geared to their local areas.

      TV programming is another avenue we use to chronicle the stories of our work and the shipwrecks we discover. It was great to have Discovery Channel following us on our deep-ocean expeditions this year -- I can’t wait to share the excitement of our discoveries with the public in the TREASURE QUEST series.
      We also share the excitement of shipwreck exploration through various opportunities including books (Lost Gold of the Republic and Bottles from the Deep), scientific reports, articles and lectures. Via our website we also have a web store that features a wide selection of authentic shipwreck artifacts and coins, replicas, and unique shipwreck products and merchandise - all in an effort to allow as many people as possible to share in the adventure.

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Updated 1/23/09  


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