Diving for Treasure
This is a pastime that many divers would like to take up - however - the laws were changed a couple of decades or so ago and it is now not as easy as it once was. Things are definitely not the way they were for Kelly Tarlton, the renowned New Zealand diver who was able to profit and set up a museum with his finds. But that isn't to say it's not possible. What’s important is that you make yourself aware of the laws that govern the finding of lost treasures and artefacts. Around the U.S it is unlawful to dive for and keep any discovered salvage as title belongs to the government within a 3 mile distance from the coastline. Any waters further out than that and the laws of the Admiralty apply and that is to say that any operation to find and rescue salvage has to be performed voluntarily - the ship and it's cargo has to be shown to be abandoned by it's rightful owners and what is salvaged has to have been in peril. So it is safe to say that quite a bit of research and paperwork needs to be completed if you are to go in search of shipwrecks and their sunken treasure.
Diving for treasure is a topic that is hotly debated by two camps. There are those who hunt for artefacts to study history and lost civilizations and there are those who hope to find treasure that has monetary value. So there are marine archaeologists and then there are treasure hunters. Whichever camp you fall into, it bears remembering that any finds could hold great historical information and therefore should be treated in the manner it deserves.
- Questions you may want to ask yourself before undertaking any search for treasure are as follows:-
- Do I want to go solo or would it be better to do it in an archaeological group?
- Where am I going to search? Creeks, rivers, shallow water along the coastline? Depending upon your answer your equipment needs will differ. IN shallow water you only need a metal detector that is waterproof. Deep water requires proper diving equipment, perhaps a side scan sonar, larger equipment for detection, underwater camera etc;
- Be aware of the different types of sunken treasure - it is not just about doubloons and jewels. Other things which are considered "treasure" are every day items such as toothbrushes, combs, buttons, and weapons - such as a gun or a sword, etc;
- Different countries and even different states have their own laws governing the waters in which you search. Research what these are before making any attempt to retrieve lost treasure. For example, it is illegal to take anything from a U.S government owned ship.
- Research online where ships may have gone down, what the conditions may have been and even the currents in the area. All of this will give you a much better chance of locating anything that was lost. Learn as much as you can from shipping logs and even from historians and archaeologists.
Another thing you will want to do is keep a log, both pictorial and written, as accurately as possible. This is not only to cover you in the event of any questions about rightful ownership it could also help answer questions about a time period in history. So, if you find some artefacts that don't mean a whole lot to you, it may mean something much more if you pass it along to the local museum or archaeology department of the university.
Above all - enjoy what can be an exciting and educational experience!
We here at Divetime loved this topic and had a fruitful discussion about treasure salvaging movies, here are a few movies we would like to recommend:
The Deep (1977)
Into the Blue (2005)
Fools Gold (2008)