Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 11

Treasure hunters come in all sizes, but more important is their classification as treasure hunters. The bad and ugly ones tend to spoil the whole bunch of treasure hunters. The bad and ugly think riches to behold and to devil with preservation. Their passion replaces heritage with money. Bob's ultimate passion was searching for the lost Cannonsburg cannon. Nothing else mattered. He just knew in his heart he was going to be the best preservationists of an archaeological artifact. It wasn't going to be resurrected and sold to the highest bidder. Nobody was going to see the flash of cash in his eyes.

This was the immense difference between Bob Alcumbrack and treasure hunters. Any artillery ordnance found on American soil is the ultimate of treasure hunting. They are still the hottest treasure if found buried or sunken. It is rare to find real cannons, because so many of the cannons were recycled during two world wars. Most cannons replaced after the wars are reproductions that lack engravements on the piece.

Trouble is 90% of treasure hunters are hunting for the richest treasures, the mother lodes seeking fame and fortune as opposed to the other 10% who want to preserve historical artifacts for humanity. Even in the 21st century treasure hunters will kill to protect what they found while others like Somali pirates seize ships and hold shippers and cargos for ransom. Safe return is not guaranteed. Pirates today are paid huge ransom money to support terrorist activity.

Rewards of $50,000 are offered for good information that leads prospecting cannon hunters to treasured ordnances that lead to recovery. Pirate treasures from hundreds of years ago can fetch prices up to 1 billion dollars, but what they find doesn't necessarily mean they get to keep it - it still belongs to the countries that lost it who consider the find on the bottom of the sea as graveyards. Lots of haggling between finders and losers exists and it can get downright ugly and court challenges take years to settle. Usually the bad and ugly treasure hunters use their new found booty to pay off bills and reward themselves with extra profits to pay off investors who sank funds in the dreams of others. Cannons found by unscrupulous hunters are cash cows or crops often sold to the highest bidder. Bad and ugly treasure pirates become secret entities outwit the IRS. In some ways you can understand how divers feel. They found the treasure, expended money to find it, but are denied any reward for finding it. Why didn't the countries try to recover what they lost? All circle like vultures scavenging for the bulk of treasure. Not right either - everyone loses. Everyone feels ripped off!

Our group wasn't safe from other cannon hunters. Quite the contrary, we kept our silence for fear of tipping them off to clues we found. We had to deal effectively with other undisciplined and greedy treasure hunters living in our midst. Treasure and cannon hunting is an elite society of silent secrets. Most want the mother lode that puts the long green in the wallet. Treasure hunting is the sport of secrets and silence. Spill your guts to eavesdroppers and you won't find a dime. You never tell friends and you work beside trusted friends within your group. Be wary of those who profess to be working members of local treasure hunting clubs. They disguise themselves as research and recovery, but this is squat to preservationists, archaeologists, historians, scholars and unique individuals like Bob Alcumbrack.

Often research clubs lack credibility. Preservation of history isn't their niche. Artifacts are sold and never see the light of day until the buyer dies and its thrown in a landfill or sold again. Some claim that treasure hunting is an exercise hobby to find lost coins, jewelry, precious metals such as, river diamonds, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium and copper. Such great wealth litters the bottoms of the Great Lakes and the worlds oceans. Bootleg and outlaws literally tear apart shallow water wrecks to find the spoils and care little about ship architecture. Forget the underwater grids to sketch vessel disposition of wreckage or photographing all at rest on the silty bottom. Finders keepers is not possible in the Great Lakes and its not even possible on the high seas because of GPS technology and towed sonar tomagraphy.

These vessels aren't for the pleasure of finding treasure that is saleable. The bottomland ruins are graveyards. I wonder how'd they feel if someone else desecrated the graves of their loved ones to find something of wealth. No matter how long its been resting on bottom it is still a grave. Put yourself in the shoes of a surviving Titanic or Edmund Fitzgerald family member. Would you want someone disturbing your departed family members?

I posed a similar question to Bob Alcumbrack on the second day of digging. I asked him, "What gives you the right to dig up the cannon others buried out of grief for Walter Tompsett?" He answered, 'because the cannon belonged to the people of the township and not government officials.' With a little beligerent tone in his voice he quipped it wasn't a graveyard burial. The original five men buried it to dispose of it, but it was still a killer cannon. It was the spur of the moment tragedy. Tompsett died as a result of township official negligence - it was their fault because they failed to keep the first burial secret. Burying the cannon preserved it and he was going to resurrect the township namesake.

Years ago some shipwreck divers found the decaying remains of a French vessel called the "Griffin, or Griffen," but no mater its sank in northwest Lake Michigan in 1679. The finders sought exclusive salvage rights to harvest any and all found artifacts to the vessel. However, the vessels owners have staked their claim and its now tied up in litigation. Just because the divers found the wreck doesn't mean squat. Governments can bankrupt the finders keepers. Find a treasure assume the worst, because in Michigan they'll try to stop underwater excavations from happening - not finders or losers. Would you have given up trying to fight city hall, as they say, to get money out of your treasure find of a lifetime?

It's important for you to understand how treasure hunters think and what separates the good, from the bad and ugly treasure hunters. Until tomorrow - keep warm for its cold outside.

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