January 4, 2006

White House loot in Nova Scotia salvage dispute

A U.S. treasure hunter's bid to scavenge a famed War of 1812-era shipwreck off the coast of Nova Scotia has met a storm of protest from underwater experts, who say the province's rich maritime history is being pillaged by modern-day pirates.

HMS Fantome was laden with loot believed to have been stolen from Washington -- including from the White House and Capitol building -- when it ran aground on a treacherous shoal south of Halifax in November, 1814. The crew of the British naval vessel survived, but its cargo was lost to the stormy sea. . .

Nova Scotia is the only [Canadian] province that permits the private sector to mine sunken ships for their potential treasures. . .

In mid-December, the U.S. State Department and the Smithsonian Institution weighed in, warning that if the wreck site does contain American artifacts, they should be returned to the U.S. government.

Full story here. There's a further twist to Nova Scotia's salvage policy, too:
Divers and underwater archeologists interviewed say Nova Scotia's lax laws lure underwater gold-diggers to the province. They say the same law that fails to protect shipwrecks leaves modern disaster sites equally vulnerable, namely the Swissair crash site off Peggy's Cove, just a few kilometres from where the Fantome sank.

Already, three applicants have asked permission to excavate the Swissair debris site, including the London insurer Lloyds. The passenger jet, which crashed off Peggy's Cove in 1998, killing 229 passengers, was carrying millions of dollars worth of diamonds, gold and bank notes. All three applications have been turned down, said Tim Dunne, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Ministry, which is responsible for the treasure act.

Posted by David on January 4, 2006 7:56 AM

Comments

If they've all been turned down, it hardly seems like they're "lax laws."

Posted by: Mike Rentner on January 4, 2006 3:58 PM
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