Research and Project Development
Meticulous research is essential to identifying viable shipwreck targets and is the foundation for all of Odyssey’s projects. Odyssey supports a team of professional researchers whose full-time focus is investigating information on multiple shipwreck targets by using an extensive internal library and network of resources. Our international research network has unique expertise in the field and ready access to libraries and archives around the world.
Project research typically focuses on a particular search area containing multiple targets, as opposed to one specific shipwreck. These projects include areas where historical documents suggest several unrecorded and recorded high-value targets may rest due to the proximity of shipping routes frequented by vessels carrying rich cargoes.
The objective of our research is to evaluate the potential value, location, ownership and the viability of finding the targeted wrecks. Research is also necessary to establish the historical significance of the sunken ship and helps to define the context in which the ship sank, essential for preparing a project plan and the complex logistics that precede excavation or recovery of cargo from a site.
Odyssey's skilled marine research department continuously conducts research in an attempt to identify shipwreck projects that meet the following criteria:
Documented Cargo Value
The research must indicate that the shipwreck was carrying enough intrinsically valuable cargo to cover the high costs associated with deep-ocean exploration and recovery. Commercially viable cargo typically includes gold, silver, jewels or other high-value items.
In order to minimize the search area, cost, and time involved, the research must provide reliable navigational information that documents the sinking location (or a particular area). This information also helps to provide reasonable proof that the shipwreck can be found. A multitude of sources, including archival records, contemporary narratives, weather patterns and local fishermen, are used to derive this evidence.
Path to Ownership
The research must resolve, or reasonably predict, any issues relating to ownership of the shipwreck and its cargo prior to recovery efforts. Some of the considerations that must be understood in advance of any recovery include whether there are any potential claimants, if the wreck’s location is inside or outside of territorial waters, and if the nature of the ship's last mission was commercial or military in nature. Odyssey makes every attempt to notify potential claimants when a ship's identity is established.
Odyssey continues to develop relationships with governments around the world in order to recover their lost valuable assets. Our agreement with the United Kingdom Department for Transport for the SS Gairsoppa project is an example of a successful government/private sector relationship. The contract followed standard commercial practices and, as part of the agreement, Odyssey assumed the risk, expense and responsibility for the search, cargo, recovery, documentation and marketing of the cargo. Odyssey recovered over 110 tons of silver from the Gairsoppa and retained 80% of the net salved value of the silver cargo after recovery of expenses.
In some cases, other parties may have an interest or ownership claim in a shipwreck or cargo, such as an insurance company. Odyssey strives to reach agreements with legitimate claimants whenever possible. Our agreement with the insurance company that originally paid a claim on the SS Republic in the 19th century allowed Odyssey to swiftly obtain the full title and ownership to the SS Republic shipwreck.