The news of a record-breaking salvage operation yielding over £250 million worth of silver and gold coins, which has been in all the newspapers today, is pretty damn interesting.
There's a history, and even a culture, of treasure-hunting and wreck salvaging around the Isles of Scilly and the Cornish coast, but this is something else. A professional operation run by a salvage company based in Florida, it has apparently taken them seven years to locate the wreck, using underwater robotos.
The legal issues around salvage operations of this kind are, I imagine, pretty complicated, but it seems that this operation was totally legit. The wreck was outside of UK territorial waters, and the company was apparently granted a license to salvage from a court in Florida.
That said, all the details about this seem to be pretty sketchy so far. Salvage companies understandably work in a cloak-and-dagger fashion, and I expect that more details will emerge over the coming weeks. The company is quoted as saying that they think the find will become the 'most publicised in history'.
The big question, of course, is what will happen with the treasure? Will it be sold to someone wealthy? Or perhaps split up and sold to thousands of individuals (each coin is said to be worth £500)? Or perhaps the UK, or American, governments will step in and purchase the haul for a museum, or for their own treasuries?
There's lots of ethical questions too. Should the company be allowed to make a massive profit from this? Should the treasure be kept as a collection owned by the public, as part of the world's heritage? Should we even salvage goods from shipwrecks in the first place, given that they are perfectly preserved underwater?
I've not seen a huge amount of analysis about this story online yet, so if you spot any good links, post them in the comments box below...