The Curse of the $500 Million Treasure

(Fortune Magazine) – On April 10, a Gulfstream G-V took off from the British territory of Gibraltar en route to Tampa with a load of Colonial-era silver and gold coins salvaged from a centuries-old shipwreck.

On May 16 a chartered Boeing 757 made the same journey, its cargo hold jammed with even more coins - this time over half a million of them, weighing about 17 tons.

Today all those coins are locked up at a secret location in Florida. And if those who discovered the loot are to be believed, there’s plenty more where that came from - some estimates put the total haul at $500 million, which would make it the richest find of sunken treasure in history.

Where is this treasure, exactly? Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Tampa-based company that found it, won’t say. The company won’t even reveal the name of the sunken ship; the site is code-named Black Swan, after a book of the same name about unpredictable but consequential events.

All we really know about Black Swan is that it’s in international waters 100 miles west of Gibraltar under 3,600 feet of ocean - and that the Spanish believe it all belongs to them. It’s a wonderful drama, straight out of a Clive Cussler thriller: precious metals, races against time, undersea robots, and international intrigue. How that intrigue turns out could be a watershed for Odyssey and its shareholders.

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