Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Odyssey Uncovers French Privateer

Odyssey Marine Exploration (OMEX) yesterday released extensive details about their discovery and archaeological investigation of La Marquise de Tourny, the first privateering frigate to be found in the international waters of the western English Channel. The shipwreck site, discovered at a depth of 80 meters during Odyssey’s ‘Atlas’ shipwreck survey – the most extensive offshore archaeological survey ever conducted – reveals a pile of iron cannon, mystery concretions, ballast and small artifacts, which are all significant clues to revealing La Marquise de Tourny’s fascinating place in history.

“The Marquise de Tourny is one of our most important discoveries in the English Channel”, said Greg Stemm, Odyssey’s Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “Odyssey is committed to exploring and investigating deep-ocean shipwreck sites, such as the Marquise de Tourny, as part of our ongoing mission to bring the mystery and history of shipwrecks back to the light of day for the benefit of both the public and academic communities. Our advanced remote archaeological tools and technology allow us to conduct extensive archaeological documentation of sites like this, which sadly have revealed extensive signs of trawling damage and natural deterioration. Unfortunately this type of damage has been common to virtually every site we have discovered in the English Channel, which makes it clear that the policy of in situ preservation of shipwrecks, at least in this area, is simply not practical. It won’t be long before this site will be completely erased from history, which makes it all the more important for the private sector to step in and help with projects like this.”

The wreckage covers 35 x 25 meters from a frigate heavily armed with 25 iron cannon up to 3.2 meters long, some incised with French fleur de lis symbols. The Odyssey marine operation’s team painstakingly recorded fragments of blue glass French bottles, patches of lead hull sheathing and 13 massive concretions holding around 600 iron ingots. The star find was the ship’s bell, a crucial piece of information that names the vessel in Latin as La Marquise de Tourny and gives its launch date as the year 1744. The bell is lavishly decorated with a Cross of Calvary, a dolphin and three royal French fleur de lis.

Historical research by Odyssey shows that La Marquise de Tourny was a product of the War of the Austrian Succession, a great colonial struggle for control of maritime trade in the Caribbean, Americas and Europe between England, Spain and France that lasted from 1739 to 1748. The ship was a 460-ton frigate of Bordeaux named in honor of the wife of the Marquis de Tourny, Louis Urbain Aubert de Tourny, the royal administrative appointee who transformed Bordeaux into the most beautiful city in France.

The frigate was built for privateering, a legal form of piracy in which governments gave individuals a ‘letter of marque’ to attack enemy vessels and seize and sell their cargoes. La Marquise de Tourny was quite successful in her career as a privateer, having captured a number of English vessels among her prizes, including the Mortimer in 1747 and both the Finey and Charleston of Liverpool in 1746. Her final voyage likely took her from Bordeaux up the Channel to the French ports of St. Malo, Cherbourg, Dunkirk or Calais when she was lost in the late 1740s or early 1750s. The wreck of the Marquise de Tourny is the first privateer to be found off the UK.

According to Dr. Sean Kingsley, Director of Wreck Watch Int., who consulted with Odyssey on the research of the wreck, “Other than two French privateers found off Canada and France, the Marquise de Tourny is the only other corsair of this age known in the world. It is a rare symbol of the mid-18th century need to fuse business with warfare at a time when naval fleets were small. Many sea captains dreamed of finding enemy ships stuffed with treasure and becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams. In reality, the art of privateering was fool’s gold. In the war of 1739 to 1748 our new research shows that while the English seized 3,316 enemy ships, the French and Spanish in turn captured 3,493 English vessels. This was ultimately a lose-lose situation for the economy of Europe that ended in a political stalemate.”

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (NasdaqCM: OMEX) is engaged in the exploration of deep-ocean shipwrecks and uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive search and archaeological recovery operations around the world.

Since its inauguration in 1994, Odyssey has mapped more than 10,000 square miles of seabed and discovered hundreds of shipwrecks ranging from 3rd century BC Punic sites to U-boats and Colonial warships. Odyssey discovered the Civil War era shipwreck of the SS Republic® in 2003 and recovered over 50,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts from the site nearly 1,700 feet deep. In May

2007, the Company announced the historic deep-ocean treasure recovery of over 500,000 silver and gold coins, weighing 17 tons, from a Colonial era site code-named “Black Swan.”

In February 2009, Odyssey announced the discovery in the English Channel of Admiral Sir John Balchin’s HMS Victory, the greatest warship in the age of sail. Odyssey also has an exclusive agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom for the archaeological excavation of HMS Sussex, an English warship that sank near Gibraltar in 1694.

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