Sub Sea Research has worked on many shipwrecks, and each one has an interesting backstory and history. Most are tragic in some way (the Royal Tar shipwreck, for instance). The Notre Dame de Deliverance is one example of an extraordinarily sad story.
In 2003, Sub Sea attempted to lay claim on the Notre Dame de Deliverance wreck, which was located off the coast of the Florida Keys. The Florida court awarded them limited rights to the treasure aboard the wreck, which was estimated at around $3.2 billion dollars. Unfortunately, Sub Sea never gained full access to the wreck. Both Spain and France were invested in the outcome of this project, and the two nations fought for absolute ownership of the cargo. The legality of the situation was quite shaky for Sub Sea, and so they were forced to abandon the project and move on to a different one. Their current project, the Port Nicholson, has attracted some skeptics who say that England will likely fight for the cargo. However, Sub Sea has a higher legal ground to stand on in this case and will continue pursuing their goal.
The Notre Dame, though no longer a current goal of Sub Sea’s, still has a rich history and is worth taking a look at. It is considered one of the wealthiest shipwrecks in the world. In 1755, France and Spain teamed up to bring back supplies from the New World. Spain and England were at war, and so Spanish ships could not travel freely across the sea. The French ship, the Notre Dame de Deliverance, was hired to bring back trade goods and precious metals to Spain. Upon delivery, France would be given a portion of the profit. The expansive list of goods onboard included but was not limited to over 400 kilos of gold bullion, around 15k gold coins, 150 gold snuffboxes, golden swords and watches, 24 kilos of silver and 14 of silver ore, and other assorted silver and diamond artifacts. These pieces were mined from Mexico, Peru and other South American destinations.
The Notre Dame de Deliverance was caught in an intense hurricane off the coast of the Florida Keys on November 1st, 1755. Its convoy of ships hurried into a harbor for safety, but the actual Notre Dame vessel perished that night. It is believed that many of the 500 crew members who fled to safety on the shores of Florida were eaten by the Calusa tribe that resided there. It is not known for certain whether this native tribe was, in fact, cannibalistic, but there are many anecdotes and reports that seem to attest to this.
While almost all of the men perished, either due to the sea or due to the humans who resided on the shore, neither Spain nor France received payment for their losses. It is a tragic story indeed. As we have seen, it becomes exceedingly difficult to pursue shipwrecks whose home nations were never reimbursed for their cargo. The legal battles alone require more payment than it would be worth to continue fighting. It is worth noting that the Port Nicholson does not fall into this category – the debt was paid off by the Soviet Union. Despite this, three nations are tied to this wreck (The Soviet Union, US, and Britain) and so it is likely one of them may attempt a claim, though they may not have much ground to stand on. The Port Nicholson is not a sovereign warship; it was a cargo vessel, and so it is not protected in the eyes of the court by any laws tying it back to its home nation.
The logistics of legal matters involving shipwrecks are quite complex, but it is safe to say that Sub Sea is in a better position now than they were in 2003 with the Notre Dame de Deliverance.