Cablegate: Mfa Demarches On Odyssey's New Shipwreck Find


DE RUEHMD #1001 1441701
P 241701Z MAY 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 07 MADRID 0118

1. (U) This is an action request. See paragraph 5.

2. (SBU) Summary. A recent discovery by Odyssey Marine
Exploration company of an unidentified shipwreck, currently
referred to as the "Black Swan", has created some controversy
in the Spanish press and in GoS days before the local
elections. La Gaceta, a right wing paper, has run
consecutive front page stories over the past few days
criticizing both the Odyssey as well as the Spanish
government for failing to stop the "treasure hunters".
Inherent in these criticism is the belief that the discovery
is either in Spanish waters or of Spanish provenance.
Odyssey representatives in response have asserted that the
unidentified wreck is located in undisputed international
waters, and that they have followed all legal procedures
required. Nonetheless, GoS - both MFA and Ministry of
Culture - have expressed their disappointment with Odyssey
to us and have said that they will suspend all cooperation on
the HMS Sussex salvaging operations as a result (see above

3. (SBU) MFA delivered the following urgent diplomatic note
dated May 22. Begin text of our unofficial translation:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation presents its
compliments to the Embassy of the United States of America
and would like to refer to the finding and removal by the US
company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, of objects of
archeological value from the wreck of a ship referred to in
code as "Black Swan" which reached Tampa Airport on May 17
from Gibraltar in an American Airlines Boeing 757,
registration N-750NA, arranged by "Transport Service".

In light of Odyssey Marine Exploration communiques, dated 18
and 21 May 2007, referring to legal importation into the
United States of sub-aquatic archeological objects recovered
through operation "Black Swan", and the lack of any precise
information regarding the location and the exact identity of
the wreck, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
has the honor of requesting confirmation (from the United
States) of the transfer by plane from Gibraltar of said
objects, as well as the issuance of the necessary customs
permits, for entry into the United States. The purpose of
this request is to preserve any potential rights the Spanish
Government may have over the aforementioned objects.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has requested
confirmation from the Odyssey Marine Exploration company of
the identity and location of the wreck from which the
archeological objects were taken.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation would like to
inform the United States that the Spanish Government will
continue channeling the information it obtains relating to
the removal and transfer of the objects from the wreck of the
so-called "Black Swan" and will, as necessary, take any
action it deems appropriate to duly protect its sub-aquatic
cultural heritage.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation renews to
the Embassy of the United States of North America the
assurances of its consideration. End text.

4. (SBU) Comment: MFA officials made clear that they feel
"had" by Odyssey. They felt that, having intervened in
Odyssey's behalf with the Ministry of Culture and the Junta
de Andalucia on the Sussex issue, they should have received
some sort of heads up before Odyssey went public with its
announcement. They understand that Odyssey believes that it
has, thus far, complied with the letter of salvage law, but
they believe that it has not been respectful of the spirit of
conventions and laws governing undersea heritage sites.
Spanish press coverage has been fairly inaccurate, with a
great deal of confusion between the "Black Swan" and
"Sussex". Although the press stories seem focused on the
possibility that Odyssey took the 17 tons of gold and silver
coins from Spanish territorial waters, the Spanish government
is more realistically focused on the ownership of the wreck
from which the coins were taken. We were called in to receive
the Nota Verbale May 23, and the UK went in just before us to
be told officially that cooperation on the Sussex project was

5. (U) Post kindly requests guidance on the response to the


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