Last month, researchers aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Okeanos Explorer discovered an unexpected shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico. No diagnostic artifacts reflecting the rig, trade, nationality, or crew have been identified, and everything above the waterline of the ship is missing. Shipwreck expert and underwater archaeologist, Dr. Lee Spence joined guest host Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss this recent find, along with the vast history of shipwrecks throughout the ages. The NOAA robotic submersible was able to read a number on the rudder (#2109), and Spence said that he would be able to easily look up the registry of the vessel either online or in his "million dollar shipwreck library" in order to identify the remains.
Spence made his first mark in ocean salvage in 1970 with the discovery of the wreck of the first submarine to actually sink an enemy ship during wartime, during the U.S. Civil War. The Hunley was able to dive completely under a ship and stay submerged for over an hour, according to Spence, and although it achieved its objective, it sank with all hands in 1864 while it was making its escape. Spence says his specialty is researching and uncovering shipwrecks from the 1700s and early 1800s. He has looked at the "ghost ship" phenomenon, and found records of sightings of ships drifting for years in the 18th and 19th centuries. Crews would lash themselves to the rigging to keep from being swept overboard in storms but would drown anyway and be discovered later still tied to the ship and even at the helm as the vessels drifted the oceans.
Spence said that there are "literally millions of shipwrecks" all over the world and quoted a Smithsonian article which claimed "over 2/3 of the gold and silver ever mined in human history now lies on the ocean floor." Because of this fact, Spence estimates that there are "billions and billions" of dollars worth of precious metals waiting to be raised from the bottom of the sea. Almost 20 years ago, Spence said he was contacted by a group of men from the Pentagon who wanted his advice on how they could personally profit from information on shipwrecks that was in government hands. The first meeting with this group was supposed to happen on September 11 of 2001 at the Pentagon itself. Spence said he, of course, couldn’t attend the meeting and never heard from the shadowy group after that. Looking at his career, he concluded that he likes the money it offers, but looks at the pay "as a sideline of doing what I want to do." For more, check out images Spence sent us.
The first hour featured Open Lines.