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. We began by developing a research methodology with three goals. The first goal was 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. Our second objective was to identify, from this prior 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. Our third goal was to move those projects which had 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 began by evaluating historical shipwreck databases holding in excess of 125,000 entries as well as undertaking 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.
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 nation’s 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 targets 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”.
In 2011, we began purchasing key equipment for operations. Our equipment purchases have included a 100-foot survey vessel, tethered side-scan sonar units, and light work-class and inspection Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), “Shackleton 1” and “Squirt”.
We believe this survey and recovery capability combined with our proprietary research will allow us to conduct approximately two deep-water surveys per yearly weather window, should we have sufficient capital to undertake such operational surveys.