Old British naval wreck may hold $1 billion in gold

Mon Feb 2, 2009 1:35pm EST
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - U.S. salvage teams said on Monday they had found the wreck of a British naval ship which sank in 1744 and may still be laden with a cargo of gold coins now worth over a billion dollars.

Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc said it had discovered the remains of the HMS Victory, the pride of the British fleet before it was lost in a storm with more than 900 crew aboard somewhere in the Channel between England and France.

The man-of-war, which took its complement of over 110 bronze cannons to a watery grave, was the predecessor to the ship commanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

"Finding this shipwreck has solved one of the greatest shipwreck mysteries in history," said Gregg Stemm, Odyssey's chief executive officer.

"There is some very strong evidence that there are some valuables on this wreck which may create a bit of a free for all and we just hope we will be able to keep the site hidden," Stemm told a press conference in London.

He said Odyssey had kept the find secret for nine months while it negotiated with the British government over salvage rights and how to proceed in examining the site.

"Fortunately, this shipwreck is not in waters claimed by any other country, so we do not expect any interference in further exploration of the site," Stemm said.

Odyssey discovered the site nearly 100 km (62 miles) from where the ship was believed to have been wrecked on a reef near the Channel Islands. It has not disclosed a more precise location.   Continued...