Well, here's a strange story that drew my attention. Over the past few weeks, treasure hunters Odyssey Marine have been exploring a wreck off the Florida coast near Tampa--a wreck that Odyssey reps say may contain millions in booty. For obvious reasons, they have not disclosed the wreck's exact location. But other treasure seekers may not be Odyssey's biggest problem.
Turns out that the government of Spain is suing Odyssey, not to get their manos on the treasure, but to ensure it stays sunk. Sound strange? Well, as it turns out, there's a bizarre legal precedent that allows governments to retain ownership of sunken vessels INDEFINITELY. And this is not the first time Spain has sued over the issue. In 2000, a U.S. court ruled that the wrecks of the Juno and La Galga still belonged to Spain, although the ships had sunk nealy 200 years earlier and well outside Spanish waters. To make things stranger, in that case, the U.S. government sided with Spain against the treasure hunters. Apparently we've left a few things at the bottom of the ocean we'd rather not be found. Although it would be amusing if some treasure hunters emerged from the deep with a lost nuke or two.
One possible loophole for the Odyssey is this: the law only pertains to government (i.e., military or exploratory) ships. Any privately owned ship that wrecks is fair game for treasure hunters. So, alot will depend on the final identification of the Tampa wreck.
My advice, don't sell the metal detector yet.