16th-century shipwreck off Florida coast is worth millions

The French fleur-de-lis symbol engraved on a 16th-century bronze cannon found in a shipwreck off the coast of Cape Canaveral, in Florida. Credit: Global Marine Exploration, Inc.

A 16th-century shipwreck that may be what’s left of one of the first European voyages to America, holds treasures worth millions of dollars. But now a judge has ruled that the company discovered the wreck off the coast of Florida has no right to the salvage of valuable artifacts.

That is because the artifacts can be of a small fleet of French ships, under the leadership of the explorer Jean Ribault, who sailed to the establishment of a colony in Florida in 1562 and 1565. In a decision on the dispute, released last week, U.S. judge Karla Spaulding gave the ownership of the wreck and the valuable artefacts to the people of France.

The Florida marine salvage company Global Marine Enterprises (GME) is the wreck of the three ornate bronze cannons — each worth more than $1 million and a private marble monument (which is now considered to be “unaffordable”) off the coast of Cape Canaveral in May and June 2016. [The 20 Most Mysterious Shipwrecks Ever]

In his evidence to the court, GME claimed that the Spanish robbers had looted the guns and monument from the beginning of the French colony at Fort Caroline in Florida in 1565 — and so they were on board a Spanish ship, probably on the way to Cuba, when the ship sank off the coast of Florida.

But the court ruled that she is likely to be carried out on Ribault’s flagship, La Trinité, which sank during a storm off Florida in 1565, and that all objects from the wreck still from France.

Sunken treasures

GME was active under the permits of the state of Florida to explore seven areas of the seabed in the vicinity of Cape Canaveral, when the company located the cannons and monument in May and June 2016 wreck artifacts.

In addition to the three bronze cannons and the monument bearing the coat of arms of the king of France, the GME is also divers found 19 iron guns, 12 anchors, and other objects buried under about 3 feet of sand, Robert Pritchett, GME’s chief executive, told Live Science in August 2016.

The argument that the artifacts were carried out on a Spanish ship loot after the raid on the Fort Caroline colony, Pritchett had expressed hopes that the GME would be allowed to rescue them.

But within a few months, the people of France to claim the remains of the wreck in a U.S. court, alleging they came from Ribault’s flagship La Trinité. [See photos of the Colonial-Era Shipwrecks Found off the coast of Cape Canaveral]

France, which was supported in his case by the state of Florida, argued the wreck of La Trinité was protected by sovereign right, recognized in the AMERICAN law, that prevented the unauthorised storage of sea-going vessels — and the court has accepted that argument.

Pritchett declined Live Science to a request for comment on the recent decision of the court. It is not known whether GME will file an appeal against the judgment of the court.

Colonial conflicts

The judgment of the court is received by the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, which is performed in a maritime archaeology program that has sought in the past, although in vain, for the wrecks of Ribault’s “lost fleet.”

The museum and the maritime archaeology program are partly funded by grants from the state of Florida, but they were not involved in this case.

“Under the Federal Sunken Military Craft Act, the court has ruled that the country of France in ownership of the wreck and all the items that are within”, the museum said in a statement. “In essence, this statement is the excavation of the wreck will be organized by the State of Florida, in cooperation with the French.”

“This is St. Augustine’s creation story, the clash between the European powers on the First Coast,” said the museum executive director Kathy Fleming. “This shipwreck is the most important found in Florida waters.”

The scientists of the museum said that they hope to be a part of the project for the preservation of the wreck estimate.

Original article on Live Science.


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