Not sure if you’ve seen the news about Odyssey Marine Exploration (AMEX:OMR) but this publicly traded company is in the business of treasure hunting, go figure! Recent news is that they’ve found a shipwreck (dubbed “Black Swan”) off the coast of England and have hauled back 500,000 silver and gold coins worth up to perhaps, $500 million. This find is the second for the company, having discovered the SS Republic earlier for $75 million.
So on Friday afternoon, the news comes across the internet and after some frantic research, I take the plunge and purchase some shares (full disclosure here). As the news flows in, there’s tremendous speculation as to why OMR has been so secretive about the project, whether the estimated value of the haul is accurate and whether or not there will be questions of ownership. Archaeologists and amateurs decry OMR’s “looting” of the shipwreck site. The whole affair strikes me as identical to when somebody hits the lotto jackpot and all sorts of nutties come out of the woodwork to lay claim to the fortune.
In the end, OMR took some tremendous risks in a grey area of global marine law to make their fortune and they finally hit it big. The same circumstances faced Mel Fisher in 1985 when he uncovered the Atocha, where has the concern been for the legalities of treasure-hunting in the last twenty years? Why hasn’t there been more discussion by archaeologists and governments as to how future shipwreck discoveries should be handled in the future? My sense is that they nay-sayers and criticism is unfounded and OMR would have welcomed more transparent laws and rulings in this arena. Would it have been better to have left the shipwreck untouched and undiscovered forever? If this shipwreck is so historically valuable, why haven’t any other non-profit organizations sought to discover it? Why the sudden criticism when there has been twenty years to iron out archaeological and ownership concerns over future discoveries?
I just find it a bit convenient that suddenly, critics start voicing their concerns after OMR’s discovery. It’s very easy to be a nay-sayer for any position or discussion. It’s a lot more difficult to actually commit to a project or passion and bring it to fruition. Give OMR the credit and reward it deserves for undertaking this “Black Swan” project. If not, I suggest the nay-sayers get millions of dollars of funding, get a ship, develop some expertise, spend years of their lives on the water and go find the remaining shipwrecks to preserve for future generations if they truly believe in their positions.