I've wanted to respond to the post made by "ussgtgunny" from 4-29-11. It took me awhile as I have been buried in work for the last few weeks. Gunny wrote
"I think any wreck in the coastal waters of there own country should be claimed by that country any where in the world or who finds it from that country."
I couldn't agree more. Most ships lost in U.S. waters be they Spanish, German, Japanese or whatever, are the end result of Acts of God, or War. Some maybe the result of criminal activity. In the case of Acts of God (weather) or War if no attempt was made to recover those vessels or cargo within a reasonable period of time, or as a condition of a peace treaty to end war, it has been abandoned.
Historically abandoned property belongs to the finder, hence Finders-Keepers. But in our modern world Finders-Keepers is a thing of the past, I'm afraid. No one wants to invest time, money and effort in searching for something that has been abandoned or lost (where there is no chance to identify the owner) only to have it taken away by The Man. Nor do we want to spend decades battling for our find in court.
Much of the case involving the Juno, U.S. Courts ruled for Spain without knowing where the ship was located, though at the time the court believed its location had been discovered. The Virginia Court has egg on its face since it decided for Spain based entirely on 100% circumstantial evidence. No physical evidence was provided by Sea Hunt Inc.
Since then it has been determined that the wreck discovered in Virginia waters and identified as: (DHR ID# 44AC0402) IS NOT the Juno. Should the court ruling stand? And what if the Juno is discovered later in Delaware waters, will the court ruling made in Virginia have jurisdiction?
Today no one knows where the Juno is. In the case of the La Galga, U.S. Courts ruled that Spain had abandoned this ship as a result of a treaty they signed with the U.S. The La Galga wreck site is known but the Gov't will not allow archaeologist to map the wreck or confirm its existence because it was discovered on land, Federal land.
According to my correspondence with author John Amrhein, Jr. who wrote, The Hidden Galleon, and who claims to have found the La Galga, he wrote
"The feds are refusing to allow it because to prove the ship was not in the ocean will undermine Sea Hunt. Overturning Sea Hunt is a game changer." (The reference to "Sea Hunt" is the Virginia case that was decided in favor of Spain.)
But this is where my beef with the Gov't stems from in this specific case. I quote from "The Juno Tragedy" published by the Association of Underwater Explorers, their Website for the entire story is: http://uwex.us/juno.html.
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, AND SPANISH GOVERNMENT INVOLVEMENT
"The National Park Service (NPS), with a long track record of animosity to sport divers and salvagers, was not happy with the operations of Sea Hunt. Communications from the Assateague National Park Superintendent to VMRC sought to seek the revocation of Sea Hunt's permits to "salvage the wreck site." VMRC replied that they had not issued a salvage permit, per se, but rather an exploration permit to survey a particular area. Since the wreck of the Juno had not been positively identified as yet, the Agency could not issue a salvage permit to a specific wreck. This did not please the NPS. In an attempt to circumnavigate the issued permit, the NPS stated that while the Juno is interned in "state bottom," in order to access the site one must traverse the water column above the wreck, which they maintained was federal jurisdiction obviously a weak position. When that approach proved futile, the NPS, in conjunction with the Department of Justice (DOJ), sought to enlist the support of the Spanish government.
KEEP IN MIND, UP UNTIL THIS POINT THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT HAD NEVER PURSUED CLAIMS ON SUNKEN NAVAL VESSELS (INCLUDING THE WELL-KNOWN TREASURE SHIP ATOCHA), STATING THAT THEY HAD NEITHER THE TIME, NOR THE RESOURCES, TO ADEQUATELY WORK THE SITES.
Apparently, the Spanish Government continued to be disinterested in the Juno, as they indicated their status quo position to the DOJ and the NPS on two separate occasions. However, the Spanish Government drastically changed their position after a third request from the DOJ and NPS. There was speculation that the Spanish Government were strong-armed into submission by the two Agencies, but documentation has not been produced to date. While it is unclear what exactly transpired, the Spanish Government completely reversed their position; a Spanish Naval Attache sent a letter to the VMRC, requesting that all operations cease on the "grave site" of the Juno, stating that the remains of the vessel were the "sovereign territory" of Spain. Again, the VMRC supported the issued exploration permit. Dialogue was also established with the Governor's office, who supported the actions of the VMRC, but continued to state that the Commonwealth's course of action would be re-evaluated if, and when, the wreck of the Juno is positively identified." END.
Since when is the DOJ and NPS authorized to investigate or pursue American citizens when they are engaged in lawful conduct? Simply because the policies and ideals of these agencies is pro-protection and preservation, which excludes treasure hunters, sports divers, and salvagers DOES NOT give ANYONE with these agencies the authority to contact, inform, or act on behalf of a foreign government, the U.S. Gov't, or American citizens engaged in lawful conduct.
Everyone involved at the NPS and DOJ who was involved in these three transactions with the Spanish Gov't (if it can be proven) which were clearly intent on undermining the legal activities of one or more American citizens should be imprisoned! On the surface it appears their intent was to encourage the Virginia Court to establish legal jurisprudence in the U.S. that is favorable to their personal beliefs
Not because someone was engaged in criminal activity. This is well beyond the scope and authority of the NPS & DOJ. Its time we demand these people be treated like the criminals they are. This is a direct abuse of power and authority, and the fact that their action occurred beyond the scope of their authority makes it a private matter that these people conducted on tax payer's time and money. I say they are criminals!
At the very least while employed by the U.S. Gov't and being paid with taxpayer money no one with either agency acted in the best interest of the United States, or American commerce. Our tax money should never be used against its own citizens when they are engaged in lawful conduct. NEVER! That's what pissed me off.
One may ask
Well what harm has anyone actually done?
Here is your answer, please take note of Spain's claim. According to this UK story it is not to human remains (which no longer exist) or to an underwater cemetery
It's for TREASURE!
SPAIN CLAIMS RIGHTS TO TREASURE ON 250 WRECKS OFF US SHORES
By Isambard Wilkinson in Madrid 12:00AM GMT 22 Feb 2001
SPAIN says it has been granted rights to more than 250 shipwrecks in waters off American coasts, including treasure galleons, after a historic ruling in the US Supreme Court.
The ruling closed a three-year legal battle between Spain and the state of Virginia which, with an American salvage company, had claimed rights over two Spanish vessels, La Galga and Juno, which sank in 1750 and 1802 respectively off Virginia and Maryland.
The Supreme Court rejected appeals from the salvage company, Sea Hunt, which was issued with salvage permits for the vessels by Virginia, and upheld an earlier ruling that the wrecks belong to Spain. Future salvage claims must be approved by the Spaniards.
The Spanish ambassador in Washington, Javier Ruperez, said yesterday the ruling affected Spain's claims to more than 250 Spanish vessels sunk off the coasts of America. The Madrid government would examine each wreck "case by case".
He said: "It is an important legal victory which will have many great repercussions in assuring that sunken ships revert to belonging to Spanish heritage."
"Spanish Heritage" My Ass!
Anthony M. Belli