Scuba diving thieves will pilfer North Carolina shipwreck say experts

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Posted by on April 19, 2005 at 20:00:47:

MOREHEAD CITY, North Carolina (18 Apr 2005) -- In the wake of recent busts of scuba divers stealing artifacts from protected historical shipwreck sites, experts have criticized North Carolina's plan to allow recreational divers to explore wreckage thought to be Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge.

It's all about boosting tourism said one critic of the program who believes the site should be fully protected while archaeologists continue to study artifacts that could provide irrefutable evidence the shipwreck is the Queen Anne's Revenge.

A North Carolina state official told CDNN a new program called 'Dive Down' will not only open the wreck site to more than 300 divers annually, but because each diver will have to pay local dive shops $500 to explore the shipwreck, more than $150,000 will be pumped into the local economy.

But Mark Daniel, who helped discover the shipwreck in 1996, and Donny Hamilton, a renowned archaeologist at Texas A&M, harshly criticized state officials for not doing enough to protect the shipwreck and for opening it to recreational scuba divers.

"I know divers who work only at night," Daniel told reporters. "There are people like that."

While Daniel and others believe the ship is vulnerable to 'finders keepers' divers who feel it's their right to take any and all artifacts from shipwrecks, North Carolina officials defended the program saying the U.S. Coast Guard is capable of protecting the site.

"Sure. That's like placing a buoy over the wreck with a big billboard that reads 'Free Artifacts'", said a veteran wreck diver who earns more than $50,000 annually selling stolen shipwreck artifacts on eBay.

"Only five hundred bucks for a guided tour of the exact location of the artifacts," he added. "Hell, I'll pay twice that and still quadruple my investment."

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