Endurance Exploration Group, LLC
The dream of salvaging gold, silver and other valuables from sunken shipwrecks has captured the imagination for thousands of years. Now, modern technology makes that possible. This era was ushered in with Robert Ballard’s 1985 visit to the sunken Titanic using military capability. Now, those resources are readily available to non-military, and have substantially advanced in the 30+ years since.
Endurance Exploration Group has harnessed that technology and applied modern management approaches including learning from the strengths and weaknesses of other salvage ventures to recover valuables from historic shipwrecks. The company has already salvaged significant vintage gold and silver coins from a 180-year old wreck site, some of those coins are today worth thousands of times face value.
Endurance Exploration Group, LLC was formed in 2009 to explore, from an operational and financial perspective, the feasibility and potential economic return of recovering historic and modern day shipwreck cargos. Based on the business started by Endurance LLC, we have developed a research methodology with three goals.
1) The first goal is to establish a comprehensive understanding of the larger economic, technological, and social trends that lead to the transport of physical wealth across oceans during different historical periods, along with creating a “High Interest” list of shipwrecks and their cargos lost across various historical periods. Conflict, accidents, and acts of nature claimed a percentage of all voyages, and many of the shipwrecked vessels are believed to have carried a valuable cargo.
2) The second objective is to identify, from this population of potential shipwreck losses, those shipwrecks that could be legally salvaged and recovered, and the cargos sold, with a positive return on the capital investment required for their location and recovery.
3) The third goal is to move those projects which have the potential to generate positive investment returns into an operational phase with a high, risk-adjusted, chance of success; and, to develop a portfolio of projects in various stages of research, search, survey, and recovery.
To that end, we have evaluated historical shipwreck databases holding in excess of 125,000 entries as well as undertaken contextual and keyword library and archival searches. It is important to note that even these massive repositories of data reflect just a small percentage of the 3,000,000+ shipwrecks the United Nations estimates lay on the ocean floor. (Source: United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.)
From these databases and other searches, we have developed an initial “High Interest” list of approximately 400 shipwrecks. Using criteria including (but not limited to) depth, potential search area, legal concerns, difficulty of excavation and potential value, we further culled the “High Interest” list to approximately two-dozen targets, the “Target List.” In order for a shipwreck to qualify for our “Target List,” and to potentially move forward as an “Operational Target” (“OT”) -one that we may consider for the search and survey operation phase- the shipwreck must possess the following criteria:
- Known Cargo of Value. Based upon the historical and archival records, an OT must contain a quantifiable cargo of value. While the historical records may not provide our researchers with an exact present day value of a potential cargo, we must be able to determine a quantifiable “range” of its estimated value based upon cargo manifests or other archival documents.
- Known Navigational Data. Our research must provide information that would allow us to establish a geographically definable search and sinking location and, subsequently, an economically feasible search area for any potential target.
- Legal Salvage and Clear Path to Title. Admiralty law, salvage law, and various sovereign nations’ laws and regulations concerning the search and salvage of historical and modern shipwrecks are complex. Prior to pursuing an OT, we must be able to establish a clear legal path to the title of any potential recovery, and search and recovery must be made in compliance with international laws and regulations or under specific country permissions.
- Potential Returns Exceed Risk-Adjusted Cost of Search and Recovery. Prior to moving a shipwreck from our Target List to an Operational Target, we evaluate a large number of factors to determine the potential search and recovery costs, and the risks associated with such search and recovery. Items considered include: a target’s location and likely depth, its location from the nearest operational port, the complexity and costs of potential search and salvage, legal issues to title, and many other factors; and, we develop an initial search plan and budget for each potential project. We recognize the high risk, yet potentially high rewards, of our business; and, we realize that we will not be successful finding or salvaging every project we undertake. Therefore, prior to moving any project onto the “Operational Target” list, we take a risk-adjusted approach to the potential returns that a project can provide; and we determine if, on a risk-adjusted basis, the potential target is economically feasible and appropriate to add to our portfolio of “Operational Targets.”
We are involved in a project located in international waters off the coast of North Carolina that has now reached operational status. In April 2017, in a joint venture called Swordfish Partners, together with Deep Blue Exploration, LLC, a Tennessee limited liability company, we conducted side-scan and other survey activities of what we believe to be the remnants of the Steamship Pulaski. In June 2017, Sailfish Partners was appointed substitute custodian of the hull fragments recovered from the wreck site, and all future artifacts recovered, subject to conservation and safekeeping arrangements deemed sufficient by the Court.
Project code-named Connaught has also reached operational status. In October 2014, we announced the discovery of the steamship Connaught, previously identified only as Project “Sailfish.” For Project Connaught, we have surveyed over 700 square miles in the Western Atlantic Ocean in search of a sunken passenger liner carrying a substantial cargo of gold coinage. In addition to this manifest cargo, we also expect to find additional valuables among the personal stores of the ship’s passengers. In July 2015, we were granted exclusive salvage rights by the U.S. Federal Courts.
In late 2017 we commenced recovery operations at the North Carolina Pulaski site, our first actual salvage. We were able to recover almost 100 vintage gold and silver coins (plus other artifacts) before winter weather forced a suspension of operations. We were again back onsite in 2018 as soon as conditions allowed. We have recovered now hundreds of additional gold and silver coins some of which, due to their dates (preceding the 1838 sinking) and condition, are worth thousands of times face value. We have engaged with curator Numismatic Guaranty Corp. to properly conserve these recoveries so that maximum value may be realized when marketed. Salvage operations at the Pulaski site continue and will for some time as they are quite rewarding.
Vintage gold coin recovered from shipwreck of SS Pulaski, sunken in 1838, coin recovered 2018 by Endurance Exploration.