Founded by Dr. Clive Cussler, the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) is a non-profit, volunteer foundation dedicated to preserving our maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts.
When Englishman Charles Wolverstone founded Barbados in 1628, he wrote in his log that he bumped into an “out of place island.” The pear-shaped 166-square-mile island does seem misplaced compared to the graceful, curving half-moon pattern of other islands that stretch from Puerto Rico to South America. It may stand alone, but not out of sight, nor out of mind, as throngs of tourists visit this easternmost West Indies island.
Just as Wolverstone bumped into Barbados more than 300 years ago, veteran dive guide Willie Hewitt and I bumped into seven shipwrecks in three days. Yet, we hardly scratched the surface of the hundreds of ships lost off the island in centuries of seafaring mishaps. Willie loves the Stavronikita, better known as the “Stav, a 355-foot freighter whose upper decks and superstructure are easy to reach at 70 to 80 feet. Scuttled in 1978 as an artificial reef for divers and fishermen, this “dark horse” as Willie calls it, sits upright in the sand surrounded by fish and coral. more »
I had no idea I would learn so much about shipbuilding and “treasure coins” when Bob Allen and I discovered an old wooden sailing vessel sunk off Andros Island in the Bahamas. We were searching for bottles in the shallow waters of Fresh Creek Inlet, Andros Town, when we spotted a shipwreck listing slightly to its starboard side near a sandy embankment. The wreck was about 75 to 80 feet long and could have been one of the many inter-island cargo carriers that plied Bahamian waters years ago. The tall, once sturdy mainmast was broken in half, a sign that the vessel might have been caught in a storm after running aground on the shoal. more »
She sailed under five aliases, carried an illegal cargo and was wanted by the FBI. Built and christened the Midsland in Holland in 1951, she visited a host of foreign ports while changing owners frequently over 30 years. She also sailed at the Mistrial, William Express, Ana, Doric Express and, finally, the Hilma Hooker. Her last port of registry was San Andres, Columbia, South America. more »
I was elated when Rick described some of the vast collections of artifacts salvaged from the Isaac Allerton, a three-masted bark that sank during a hurricane in 1856. This wreck is special for me. I dove on it in 1987 with Ray Maloney, a local diver who had discovered it two years earlier. With no formal academic background, he studied archaeological methods and techniques in an effort to obtain an Admiralty claim on the ship from the state of Florida. When Malone’s research revealed family ties to the wreck, officials were impressed and granted him the claim and sole access to it. His great, great, great grandfather, Walter C. Maloney, was an attorney who represented the wreckers in salvaging the Isaac Allerton. more »
Tommy Thompson revolutionized treasure salvage in 1987 when he and a brilliant team of “high tech nerds” figured out how to retrieve a valuable cargo of gold resting in 8,000 feet of water. The saga of the SS Central America, a paddlewheel steamer that sank in 1857, is packed with as much intrigue as a Clive and Dirk Cussler novel. Pirates, bureaucrats, bankers and monks (yes, those from a monastery) were just the tip of the iceberg of obstacles that loomed over Thompson and his Columbus America Group (CAG).
Why would someone who legitimately discovered millions of dollars worth of treasure aboard what some call a “ship of gold” simply walk away from it? That’s what Thompson did after many years of court battles and bureaucratic entanglements. One of the most sought after “missing persons” on a priority list at the U.S. Marshall’s office, he’s nowhere to be found…along with a vast amount of missing treasure. more »