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Robert Trigaux

Did Tampa's Odyssey Marine find HMS Victory?



Hmsvictoryrendering Wake up and good morning. This morning, Feb. 2, in London, Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration is expected to announce that it has found HMS Victory, the forerunner of British Admiral Nelson's famous flagship of the same name. The salvage firm is believed to have found remains of the legendary British warship which sank in the English Channel in 1744, reports the BBC. (Rendering shows what some think how the ship may have looked.)

In another coup for Odyssey -- but like recent ones before it, this one seems bound for international controversy, this time with the British government -- the valuables from the vessel, including brass cannons, could be worth millions of pounds, some experts say.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, the AP reports, is still looking for the 100,000 gold coins believed to be aboard the HMS Victory when it sank. The Florida-based company found the shipwreck in May and has recovered cannons and other artifacts. The ship was the largest and most heavily armed vessel of its day.

Gregstemmodyssey Odyssey made a splash two years ago when it brought up coins from the wreck of a Spanish galleon that could turn out to be worth $500 million. The coins from the Victory could be worth even more.

Said BBC: Ahead of Monday's expected news conference, Odyssey Marine Exploration CEO Greg Stemm said the firm was negotiating with Britain over collaborating on the project. (Photo of Stemm courtesy of Odyssey Marine.) Said  Stemm:

"This is a big one, just because of the history. Very rarely do you solve an age-old mystery like this."

Stemm declined to reveal the exact location of the warship's remains. "We found this more than 50 miles from where anybody would have thought it went down," he said.

In an SEC filing last week, Odyssey said that on Jan. 29 the Discovery Channel would broadcast the third episode of "Treasure Quest," an 11-episode TV series that covers some of Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.'s shipwreck exploration operations and related activities during 2008. Here's some Discovery Channel video on how Odyssey works. According to Odyssey's SEC filing, the third episode would include the following information:

Odysseyshipwreckhmsvictory 1: Odyssey has discovered a shipwreck in the English Channel that it has code-named the "Legend." 2: Odyssey has found at least 16 bronze cannon at the Legend shipwreck site. 3: At least four of the cannon are of the type that fired 42-pound projectiles. And 4:. At least one of the cannon bears the royal arms of King George I of England.

Look at this photo released on Sunday, Feb. 1, by Odyssey Marine. The company says its ROV (remotely operated vehicle) took a photo of a bronze cannon on the shipwreck site of HMS Victory bearing the royal crest of King George I. (Photo courtesy of AP.)

In 2007, Odyssey said it had salvaged 17 tons of gold and silver coins, worth $500 million, from a shipwreck in the North Atlantic. The Spanish government later sued the company, claiming the the sunken ship was a famous 19th-century Spanish galleon. The case is pending.

You've got to give Odyssey some financial credit. In a rollercoaster stock market, Odyssey's stock (ticker: OMEX) has traded in a pretty narrow band. Five years ago it traded just under $5 a share. It closed Friday at $3.95. Impressive for a business based on treasure hunting.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:23am]


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