We keep reading superlatives connected with shipwreck discoveries. Are they true?
Part is undoubtedly hype. Some companies release PR with bogus or over-reaching claims, hoping to increase public interest and raise the market value of both the salvaged artifacts and their company’s stock. Such claims make great headlines, so newspapers are eager to publish them. But, a major part of the reason we are hearing such claims is that many are accurate. I firmly believe that new record high values are being reached simply because archaeological treasure salvage is just coming into its own as a legitimate business. As a result, we will be seeing more and more superlatives used in headlines to describe treasure finds.
Much of the equipment now being used to search, locate and salvage shipwrecks wasn’t available even a few years ago. There have been some amazing advances in technology. I’ve been researching and finding shipwrecks for decades, so I understand just how important this new technology is. I now look at my own, half century of shipwreck research, which was done mainly out of a love for history and archaeology, as a potential multi-billion dollar gold mine (if it is ever properly exploited).
Although I know nothing (except what I have read on line) about the shipwreck now being billed as the “Biggest Shipwreck Cargo of Ming Porcelain Ever”, I have no doubt that there are many more shipwrecks out there with even more valuable cargos of porcelain and that they will, or at least can, be discovered. I wish all archaeological salvage companies lots of success and I hope their investors get rich and that they will fund even more projects.
This is the real way you save shipwrecks. You certainly don’t do it by declaring vast areas an underwater preserve and making wrecks off limits, except to government archaeologists (who have a relatively poor record when it comes to actually making discoveries even though they are freely spending your tax money).