Thursday, 17 March 2016

Wreck: science and media, part one

Peter Monamy, Loss of HMS Victory, 4 October 1745
Yesterday, I was wondering about what had been happening with Odyssey Marine Exploration and the wreck of HMS Victory. Finding two incompatible papers, I decided to look at what lies below, so to speak.

One of the papers, from its title of HMS Victory; the full story so far (2014), offered a complete picture ,but gave only an ideological academic archaeologist perspective about the fate of the wreck, its contents, and the future of such things. The other paper (of the same year) was scientific and focused: Benthic Species on the Wreck of the Victory (1744), Western English Channel by Neil Cunningham Dobson (Odyssey Marine Exploration, Tampa, Florida, USA, Silje-Kristin Jensen (Scottish Oceans Institute, School of Biology, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK), and Sean A. Kingsley, (Wreck Watch Int., London, UK). Benthic species refers to the organisms living at the benthic zone ("the ecological region at the lowest level of a body of water such as an ocean or a lake, including the sediment surface and some sub-surface layers").

As ideology and subterfuge are bedfellows, and because the definitions of ecology include both the biological and the political, I thought it might be a good idea to look at the "ecology" of the media history of the story as well as those of the divergent issues. The earliest articles, such as The $1billion shipwreck: Centuries after it sank in the Channel the race is on to raise Victory's goldonce you get past its sensationalist headline, keeps largely to the facts and is marred only slightly by the fact that Robert Balchin, according to a later report, is not a direct descendent of the ship's commander.

Things soon fall apart:
"US treasure hunters ready to snatch gold from the jaws of Victory:
"US treasure hunters should be banned from raising the wreck of one of Britain’s greatest warships and taking some of the millions of pounds of gold coins she is believed to contain, leading archaeologists and descendants of the crew demand today"
"American bounty hunters submit plans to raise gold coins worth hundreds of millions from the wreck of HMS Victory
"In 2008, the wreck was discovered by Odyssey Marine Exploration, 264 years after it sank
"It is believed it could contain gold worth hundreds of millions of pounds and 100 bronze cannon
"Descendants of crew and experts say it could betray those killed to exploit it for commercial gain"
Pandering to anti-American sentiments within British society and manipulatingly using "treasure hunters" and "bounty hunters", the press does what it is best at and incites anger and discrimination.If you look at the url of the second title, the word "Anger" precedes its displayed title in an attempt at subliminal reinforcement.

The scent of blood in the water soon attracts the smiling political sharks to the kill-site (sharks do not really smile, it just looks that way as they start to open their jaws in preparation for an attack):
"Tory Lord defends the treasure hunt for HMS Victory
"Following an astonishing attack in Parliament on the ongoing attempts to raise the lost 18th century warship HMS Victory and lay claim to the rumoured £128 million treasure on board, Conservative peer Lord Lingfield returns the fire in an exclusive interview"
Because I have given you rather a lot to read, and because it is lunch time and I have not even had breakfast yet, I will be back tomorrow to discuss the real issues.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. As has always been the case, as soon as the word "gold" or "bullion" been uttered, civilized discussion of anything concerning the item(s) being salvaged(I noticed I did not see the word "salvage" mentioned anywhere)is no longer possible. Interestingly the politics of manipulation is well apparent, with claims made of "possible" looting ("...just the facts, Madam!")and the "furious" group of archeologists and others, who had no clue it was there in the first place, and never lifted a finger to find her themselves anyway. Nothing new here; throes of jealous humanity and shysters doing what they do best, causing problems and sticking their noses in business that is not theirs. Odyssey Marine Exploration was, not so long ago, handed their hat by the U.S. Government courts and made to give millions of dollars in gold from a deeply sunken lost Spanish wreck to the Spanish Government who laid claim to it...once Odyssey had spent millions of dollars and hundreds of man-hours finding it. Our feelings here in Florida, was that Odyssey Marine Exploration should have availed itself of it's right to go back to the site of the Spanish wreck and return ALL the gold to the bottom, and let Spain come get it.

  2. The attitude is always the same, whether it is taking gold from those who had worked for it; stealing credit where none is deserved; and even taking lives: the stench of "moral superiority" permeates history.

    Nice to hear from you again, James.



  3. If you want to discuss the 'real issues' I suggest rather than the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph you try

    1. Media is about numbers and the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph are hardly threatened by any blog. The blogs do, however, highlight the ideological opposition that Odyssey faces and thus supports my view.

      When you look at the actual performance and the quality of the papers published on the 1744 wreck by Odyssey you see real science, and a truly multidisciplinary perspective, not theory and ideologically driven propaganda. What is reported is what is found. The information is also made freely available. I do not have to spend $30 to read a paper that says nothing.

      As for the financial matters, they are hardly alone at the moment. Who is not facing cutbacks and crunches? These things are cyclical.It would seem a good time to buy stock.

      In part two, marine conservation and the larger picture are identified as the real issues. This might not be important to you, but I think it is important to most people, and as I said, it is about the numbers.

  4. The inference that the 'real issues' are elsewhere barely conceals to my mind, the barely concealed arrogance of 'Anonymous' - whoever he or she is - in that he/she holds the monopoly of the 'real issues.'

    Indeed, those who hide behind the cloak of anonymity and lack the courage of their convictions, render their opinions and/or so-called 'facts' worthless by virtue of that anonymity.

    I'm afraid I would have given 'Anonymous' two words in reply; the second one would have been 'off'.

    You are too gracious.


    John Howland

  5. Hi John,

    It's a Canadian thing ;-)

    Incidentally, tomorrow's post has a MD find that ties into the recently excavated Celtic cemetery in East Yorkshire. I'm looking forward to writing it and I hope you will look forward to reading it. It's always nice to present discoveries which add to a body of knowledge.