By Wendy Williams
THE Spanish are in a race to save their treasure from modern day pirates.
Following the ongoing controversy that surrounds the raising of the Spanish galleon ‘Black Swan’ by US exploration company Odyssey in 2007, the Spanish navy wants to make sure that next time they are first on the scene.
The ship, found off the coast of Spain, is believed to be the Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes sunk by the English navy in 1804.
And who owns the rights to the valuable shipwreck and its 350 million euro booty in gold and silver coins, is still a matter for the courts.
Last year, a U.S. court ruled the loot belongs to Spain but the company has appealed and is still holding the treasure in the United States.
Now, the Spanish navy is searching for more wrecks off the coast in a bid to protect the country’s historical heritage from private salvagers.
Three Spanish navy vessels, including two minesweepers and 100 navy personnel are devoting two months to the project.
So far, they have found around 100 sites of possible shipwrecks and since the operation was launched on September 8, in the waters off Cadiz, they have investigated 15 of them.
At present their only discovery is an 18th-century anchor.
But Spain’s defence and culture minsters Carme Chacón and Ángeles González-Sinde, who went along for the ride, are keen to emphasise the serious nature of the operation.
Chacon said: “Where some see loot, we see our history. Where some look for gold, we find our heritage. Where others would seek to pillage, our calling is to conserve.”