When gold was found in California, Georgia’s miners moved westward and, like Georgia before it, California’s population exploded.
Gold discoveries in Utah Territory brought miners there and soon thereafter came America’s first major silver strike (the Comstock Lode in what is now Nevada). Again the settlers came.
Gold found in the Klondike region of the Yukon in Canada sparked a virtual stampede of 100,000 prospectors and miners (accompanied by merchants and saloon & tavern keepers) to the region and with it came more exploration and settlement. In turn, that increased interest in Alaska, especially after gold was found in Nome starting a rush there.
Besides in America, major 19th century gold rushes took place in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and South Africa. Like in the United States, these gold rushes helped spur immigration to new regions and opened new frontiers.
With each of these rushes for wealth there has come a transition of progressively higher capital investments, larger organizations, and more specialized knowledge. They have affected migration, trade, colonization, the environment and our collective history.
If the world’s oceans were opened for commercial salvage (capitalistic underwater archaeology), it would cause an “undersea gold rush” with more exploration taking place. I hope more people will understand that capitalistic underwater archaeology can be a socially beneficial business approach to treasure hunting. Standards can be put in place to insure that shipwreck sites aren’t simply looted and that appropriate archaeological guidelines and protocols are followed. It should be a win, win.
At the very least, such commercially oriented expeditions would create many new jobs. And, because the exploration would be for profit (at the risks of the shareholders) and not just for “pure” academic research (where taxpayers bear the burden of the costs), the companies doing the work would seek new and better techniques to both make and save money.
The capitalistic approach of such companies would undoubtedly result in innovative techniques and inventions.
Like the gold rushes mentioned above, an underwater gold rush in search of valuable shipwrecks would definitely mean more discovery and more wealth brought into society.