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29967NEWS: British, US treasure hunters fight over War of 1812 loot in Canada

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  • Gordon Deans
    Sep 29, 2006
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      It seems that the War Of 1812 is still going on. See the following
      news item. Anyone interested in a sailing expedition "down east" to
      fetch "the thousands of coins" next summer?



      Gord Deans



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      British, US treasure hunters fight over War of 1812 loot in Canada



      Thu Sep 21, 1:48 PM ET



      OTTAWA (AFP) - Almost two centuries after a British gunship sank off
      Canada's east coast, British and American treasure hunters are at odds
      over who should claim its precious cargo -- spoils from the War of
      1812.



      The famed frigate HMS Fantome and a small commercial fleet sank in a
      storm off the coast of Nova Scotia province in November 1814 with loot
      from a sacked White House, Capitol Building and Treasury in
      Washington.



      Now, Philadelphia-based Sovereign Exploration Associates (SEA)
      believes it has found the sunken fleet in Canadian waters.



      But the salvage firm has been denied further access to the underwater
      site by Canadian authorities after the British High Commission in
      Ottawa intervened to claim the wrecks and the swag.



      "We received a letter from the British High Commission claiming
      sovereign immunity on two ships, Fantome and (cargo ship) Tilbury,"
      Wendy Barnable, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia ministry of tourism,
      culture and heritage, told AFP.



      "They claimed that because these ships weren't captured or weren't
      surrendered before sinking, they remain the property of the British
      government," she said.



      "We acknowledged the UK's claim to its military property and denied
      (SEA) a heritage research permit needed for (salvage) work to
      continue," Barnable said.



      SEA president and chief executive Robert Baca said in a statement that
      his firm is willing to work with "multiple" governments to "coordinate
      a historic recovery of this significance."



      "The historical importance of the Fantome and associated vessels to
      the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada must be addressed,"
      Baca said.



      But the company's offer has gone unanswered since its divers were
      banned from the site in late August.



      London has not said whether it plans to try to recover the loot.



      In August 1814, British soldiers invaded Washington and looted the
      White House and the Capitol Building, setting fire to both. A
      rainstorm prevented the rest of the city from burning.



      SEA said its divers had observed "flatware, artifacts, ship fittings
      and thousands of coins" at the underwater site near Cape Breton.
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