"Black Swan" Project Overview
In May 2007, Odyssey announced the discovery of the "Black Swan," a Colonial period site located in the Atlantic Ocean. Yielding nearly 600,000 silver coins weighing more than 17 tons, hundreds of gold coins, worked gold, and other artifacts, it is believed that this recovery constituted the largest collection of coins ever excavated from a deep-ocean site.
Odyssey Marine Exploration completed an extensive pre-disturbance archaeological survey of the "Black Swan" site, including recording over 14,000 digital still images which were used to create a photomosaic of the site. During the preliminary excavation, the recovery of artifacts was accomplished under the supervision of qualified archaeologists and followed rigorous archaeological protocols using advanced robotic technology.
The “Black Swan” site was located in waters where a number of Colonial period ships were believed to have sunk. There was no apparent hull of a shipwreck or other sufficient evidence at the site to conclusively identify a vessel from which the treasure may have originated. The leading hypothesis suggested the coins and artifacts discovered at the "Black Swan" site may have been associated with the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a Spanish vessel that had been assigned to transport mail, private passengers and consignments of merchant goods and other cargoes at the time of its sinking in 1804. Historical records indicate that approximately 72% of the coins transported aboard the Mercedes were owned by private merchants and not the Spanish government.
The coins and artifacts were brought into the United States with a valid export license, and imported legally pursuant to US Law. Odyssey brought the recovered items under the jurisdiction of the US Federal Court by filing an Admiralty arrest action. This procedure allows any legitimate claimant with an interest in the property to make a claim. Spain, Peru and various groups of individuals claiming to be descendants of those who shipped private property on the Mercedes all filed claims in the case. The US Federal Court, without a hearing or trial, dismissed the case upon determining it did not have jurisdiction and in 2012 ordered the coins and artifacts be turned over to the claimant, Spain. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, but also noted that it did not conclude the property belonged to Spain.
The “Black Swan” project was the subject of a one hour special on Discovery Channel’s Treasure Quest which aired worldwide.