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Treasure trove to remain at bottom of sea

Local Source:
Treasure trove to remain at bottom of sea

A treasure trove of gold coins, guns, fine china plates, silver cutlery and jewelry from more than 3,000 shipwrecks sits at the bottom of the ocean along the South African coast.

As the South African National Heritage Act of 1999 prohibits people from diving into wrecks that occurred more than 60 years ago, the sunken treasures may be there to stay.

“Only 3 percent of these wrecks have been explored, and there are so many secrets yet to be discovered,” says Gavin Clackworthy, amateur marine archaeologist and diver from the South African Historical Wreck Society.

“But our hands have been tied for 15 years now. This is a tragedy. Our heritage is falling apart. These wrecks should be preserved in a museum,” he adds.

The police do not guard the areas and rogue divers strip the wrecks to sell the treasures, according to Clackworthy. He believes that the South African government should abolish the law preventing people from diving into the shipwrecks.

Marius Slammat, a researcher at the Bredasdorp Museum, does not agree, saying, “The law is there for a reason. The treasures have been in the salt water for more than 100 years. They will be damaged if removed from the sea.”

“Divers who dive for treasures should be locked up,” says Jaco Boshoff, curator and marine archaeologist of Iziko Museums.

“They are criminals who do not care for heritage conservation. They want to make big money. Yes, the sea has many secrets yet to be resolved and researched, but it is not necessary to rob the wrecks,” he adds.

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