Odyssey Marine Exploration, the world leader in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, announced today that it has reached an agreement with shipwreck exploration firm Intersal, Inc. to pursue operations at a site off the coast of North Carolina.
Intersal holds an exploration permit from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, which includes the site and additional surrounding areas, some of which correlate with Odyssey's "Firefly" shipwreck project. Odyssey and Intersal are committed to continuing Intersal's policy of maintaining high archaeological standards and close co-operation with the North Carolina State Government.
The agreement also entitles Odyssey to share in substantial research and data acquired by Intersal over the years relating to the target shipwreck and the work completed to date in the permit area. A number of artifacts have been recovered from the site, which is the subject of an admiralty arrest action by Intersal in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Documents are being prepared to request the substitution of Odyssey as Plaintiff in the case. By taking over the arrest, Odyssey will assume certain rights and obligations associated with continuing operations at the site.
The area covered by this permit and arrest is located near Odyssey's current "Firefly" project, which was acquired by Odyssey from BDJ Discovery Group in 2007 and includes one arrested site that has already produced a small number of gold and silver artifacts. This new Intersal site and permit area may also be related to the high-value, Colonial-era merchant vessel believed to be located in the area. The agreements with BDJ and Intersal are similar but separate and the areas do not overlap.
"This agreement with Intersal is a win/win situation for both parties. Intersal's remarkable body of research and preliminary work has already yielded promising results, including the recovery of several interesting artifacts from the site. We are looking forward to using our own advanced technology and expertise to further explore the search area and are committed to continuing Intersal's excellent relationship with the state and local governments of North Carolina," said Mark Gordon, President of Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. "Even though our own arrested "Firefly" site falls outside the State's jurisdiction, we anticipate including them in archaeological activities at that site as well as Intersal's."
Renowned for his work associated with the Queen Anne's Revenge shipwreck project, Intersal's late President Phil Masters spent 15 years conducting research around the world before moving to Beaufort, NC in 1998. During the ensuing decade he developed close relationships with the local community there as well as within the North Carolina State Government. Masters and Odyssey's CEO Greg Stemm worked together in the creation of the Code of Ethics and best practice commercial archaeological standards promoted by the Professional Shipwreck Explorers Association.
"We lost a great friend and spokesperson for responsible commercial underwater archaeology last year when we lost Phil" commented Greg Stemm, Odyssey's co-founder and CEO. "Phil made a great impression on everyone he met, and really took the lead in proving that private groups can excel in underwater archaeology through his work in North Carolina. Continuing his work on this project with his son John, who brings a lot of experience to the table himself, is a real privilege."
"Odyssey is the recognized world leader in ocean exploration, and best able to complete the work my father began years ago. He would not have partnered with anyone but the best in the industry, and I believe teaming up with a company of Odyssey's caliber and quality is the surest way to make his vision a reality," said John Masters, who is Director of Operations for Intersal.
Since late Spring 2008, Odyssey has been focusing marine resources and personnel on the "Atlas" project, which covers over 5,000 square miles in the area of the English Channel.
"The "Atlas" project has shown some productive results this year and has demanded our full focus. Not including the Ocean Alert, which has remained in Falmouth, the Odyssey Explorer and several other ships were utilized in the course of our survey, inspection and archaeological operations during 2008. This unprecedented level of activity has stretched our operational capacity and prevented us from putting a team off the coast of North Carolina so far this year. As the weather window in the "Atlas" area closes this fall, we will be shifting some of our focus to pursuing projects closer to home and plan to see significant progress on this North Carolina project during 2009," added Greg Stemm.
Intersal was represented in the negotiations by David Paul Horan, the admiralty attorney who in 1982 won Mel Fisher's high-profile Atocha case before the Supreme Court.