The Sea Hunt Case
Sea Hunt v. Unidentified, Shipwrecked Vessel, 47 F. Supp. 2d 678 (E.D. Va. 1999)
Some material facts presented in the Sea Hunt litigation by Sea Hunt and the Kingdom of Spain were jurisdictional in nature. These facts are contradicted by the historical record.
Part 1 of the Opinion documents the evidence and arguments that lead up to that decision.
P. 680 “The following facts detailing the history of JUNO and LA GALGA are drawn primarily from the affidavit of David Beltran Catala, Counsel for Juridical Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C., and are not in dispute.”1
So it begins
On March 11, 1998, my old friend Peter Hess, along with his client, Ben Benson President of Sea Hunt, Inc., appeared before the Clerk of the District Court for the Eastern Division in Norfolk, Virginia. They filed a Verified Complaint in Admiralty in rem to two unidentified shipwrecks. Their two salvage areas were approximately six square miles each in size. They claimed to have found planking and coins. These items constituted constructive possession in rem of two unidentified vessels by the plaintiff in the eyes of the Court.2
For La Galga, Sea Hunt was claiming the same area SEA, Ltd. had surveyed in 1980-81 and myself in 1982. For the Juno, Sea Hunt incorporated the same area where an anchor had been found in 1989. Sea Hunt was asking to be rightful salvor under the Law of Finds; for a Salvage Award because of the “successful services” of Sea Hunt, Inc.; exclusive dominion over the unidentified shipwrecks because of the rights and efforts of the Plaintiff; and Declaratory Judgements establishing Spain’s abandonment of La Galga and the Juno giving title to the Commonwealth of Virginia pursuant to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. Sea Hunt’s salvage permits with Virginia would remain in force regardless of any anticipated claim made by Spain. Sea Hunt would retain 75% of the finds.3
Ben Benson swore that his Verified complaint was “true and accurate” to the best of his “knowledge and belief.” His knowledge on La Galga traced back to the conman who led SEA, Ltd. to the site in 1980.4 As for giving locational information in the Complaint for La Galga, Sea Hunt declared that she wrecked “in the vicinity of the salvage sites in 1750.”5 This area covered six miles of shoreline.
Peter Hess and Ben Benson appeared before Judge J. Calvitt Clarke, Jr., a veteran of the Titanic, and Central America cases. Peter Hess, made it clear that the vessels may or may not be La Galga and the Juno. The question put before the court was whether the shipwrecks were abandoned or not. If they were, then they belonged to the Commonwealth of Virginia pursuant to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987. If they were not abandoned then the court would have jurisdiction to determine ownership. Sea Hunt stated “there is a chance the Spanish crown could enter appearance and lay claim to these shipwrecks.” The shipwrecks at this point remained unidentified.
Ben Benson, President of Sea Hunt, Inc., was asked to take the stand and was asked a number of routine questions.
THE COURT: And how long ago was it that you discovered the two wrecks which are the subject of this matter?
BENSON: Two years.
He explained that one wreck is La Galga which is in many pieces, and it’s the biggest pieces were two hundred feet offshore and in eight feet of water.
THE COURT: What about the other one?
BENSON: The other wreck is 1,500 feet offshore in 20 feet of water.
THE COURT: “Has anyone else that you know of been diving on either of them.”
THE COURT: “As far as you know you are the sole locator of them?”
BENSON: “Yes, sir.”6
THE COURT: “Have you brought up anything except for the three artifacts you brought to me here today”
Hess described them as a couple of coins and some gun flints.
BENSON: “No, sir”
These three artifacts established in rem jurisdiction over as yet two unidentified shipwrecks that Sea Hunt hoped were Spanish.
Benson testified further that he had spent about a million dollars so far in research and ocean surveys.
Later that day, Benson stated “Sea Hunt’s concern is that we believe that there is a scheme planned that’s put together by various individuals to get Spain to claim sovereign possession of these ‘vehicles’ and then immediately assign them to the United States and to do this as a way to get ownership away from the State of Virginia.”
On May 18, after being notified by the National Park Service, Spain filed a Diplomatic note invoking Article X in the 1902 Treaty of Friendship and General Relations between Spain and the United States. By doing so, Spain argued that the United States was obligated to protect their sunken warships in located in U.S. waters. The Treaty was quite general in its expectations:
A major issue to decide was that if the shipwrecks were not Spanish they would belong to the Commonwealth of Virginia pursuant to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. If they were not abandoned and proved to be Spanish then they would belong to Spain. And if they were Spanish, who was going to protect them?
Then there were questions about Sea Hunt’s success in finding La Galga and the Juno.
The COURT to the United States:
“Sea Hunt has never guaranteed that these sre the two ships. You are in effect, trying to guarantee that they are the two ships, and I’m not satrisfied that the court is going to give Spain the yea or nay on salvaging these vessels when we don’t really know what they are… You’ve got to establish first that these are two Spanish warships before you protect them.”
MS. Barbara O’Malley for the United States: But I respectfully disagree. We are in the identification phase as it’s explained to me. And Sea Hunt is complaining that it’s being stopped from using its operation to determine whether these are, in fact, JUNO and LA GALGA… The position is at this time without these safeguards the salvaging should not go forward, because to do so would be destructive of the cultural legacy of Spain, assuming they own the vessels.”
The United States was assumming that these are Spanish shipwrecks without any archaeological proof.
The COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA: The claim for Spain is premature because they have not identified what vessels are there.The permits are not limited to Spanish vessels. But that cover that particular area. We are concerned.
There was a great deal of argument made about damaging artifacts while excavating before the Court even knew if the defendant vessels were Spanish. Spain even expressed a desire that no more work should be done because these were military grave sites. No one died aboard La Galga and the Juno’s victims went down at least 280 miles from Assateague.
Benson takes the stand.
HESS: When did you locate these shipwrecked vessels that have been tentatively identified as the JUNO and LA GALGA?
This was under the exploration permit from Virginia.
Benson admitted to meeting with Richard Cook, President of Alpha Quest.
Peter Hess asked hum to summarize for the court his dealings with Cook. You will recall that Alpha Quest testified it its own claim to La Galga to Benson had borrowed his research and alleged fraud on the part of Benson.
BENSON: I spoke with a number of other people, who had either worked looking for La Galga or had written about La Galga. There is quite a number of books published by people claiming to have found it as early as the ’70s. Somebody claimed to have found it in North Carolina. Mr. Cook, in a book that he published in a library, claimed to have found it in the ’80s. Another guy named John Armahein (sic, that’s me!) claimed to have found it also in the ’80s in a different location. S0 I tried to contact each one of those people and try tp talk with them and see what kind of data they had.”
This was not true as I never heard from him, and his attorney, Peter Hess was a friend of mine and he knew where I lived. But he did not need to get in touch with me because there is evidence he had seen my 1983 report which documented thee original colonial bounfary between Maryland and Virginia which he needed to prove his discovery claim of discovery of La Galga. In 1997, hee wrote his own report
The United States has no real interest in the shipwrecks at issue in this case. If this Court finds that they are abandoned, then they belong to the Commonwealth of Virginia under the Abandoned *526 Shipwreck Act. See 43 U.S.C. § 2105. If this Court finds that the ships have not been abandoned, then they belong to the Kingdom of Spain. In either instance, the United States’ interests are not at stake.
In 2000, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded to Spain a Spanish warship called La Galga which had run ashore on Assateague in 1750. The shipwreck awarded to Spain was not La Galga. La Galga is, however, the legendary galleon attributed to the horses. Part of the fraud uncovered within SEA, Ltd. would find itself fifteen years later in the Sea Hunt case. A chain of misinformation that started with a fraud in 1980 about the location of La Galga would mislead Sea Hunt, the Kingdom of Spain, the federal government, and the Commonwealth of Virginia in their arguments in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia over this truly historic shipwreck. This would be the first time an admiralty court awarded a shipwreck to Spain. The Hidden Galleon takes you inside the Sea Hunt case and gives a view that published legal opinions fail to reveal. It also documents that the real shipwreck lies buried beneath the sands of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, outside the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal court.
“In case of shipwreck, damages at sea, or forced putting in, each party shall afford to the vessels of the other, whether belonging to the State or to individuals, the same assistance and protection and the same immunities which would have been granted to its own vessels in similar cases.”
The Treaty would not involve unidentified shipwrecks in Virginia waters. Spain offered no evidence as to why the unidentified shipwrecks claimed by Sea Hunt had to be Spanish and neither did Sea Hunt or Virginia. The court relied on Benson’s “information and belief.” Nonetheless, the court had in rem jurisdiction over an unidentified res.
On May 11, 1998, Alpha Quest, Inc. attempted to intervene in Sea Hunt’s claim for La Galga. Their pleading was deficient and wasn’t cleared up until July 24. But, the appearance of Alpha Quest bolstered Sea Hunt’s claim that Sea Hunt had in fact found La Galga.
On May 13, 1998, the Commonwealth of Virginia filed its claim to the wrecks pursuant to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987, 43 U.S.C. §2101 et seq. which gave all abandoned shipwrecks to the State within three miles of the coast. The unidentified Sea Hunt shipwrecks were embedded in Virginia’s submerged lands. Virginia did not concede that Sea Hunt had found La Galga and the Juno.7
On May18, 1998, the Kingdom of Spain filed its claim to the shipwrecks. The claim was procedurally flawed and would not be cleared up until December 23, 1998. The claim offered no evidence as to why the wreck found by Sea Hunt had to be La Galga. The U.S. Department of Justice was representing Spain free of charge. It seems that Spain’s claims are based on Sea Hunt’s “information and belief.”
On this same day, the United States filed a Motion to Intervene by the Department of Justice.
On July 24, 1998, Alpha Quest perfected its verified claim Docket #38-39
IN COURT SEPTEMBER 15, 1998.
Some highpoints of the day.
In inordinate amount of time was allowed for arguments by the federal government that they had a right to regulate boating activities within a half mile of the beach as this area was under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. It seemed that the NPS wanted to prevent any further wreck verification activities by Sea Hunt. They had already halted Sea Hunt’s activities from May 15 to September 15 as a condition for their permit from Virginia.
A major issue to decide was that if the shipwrecks were not Spanish naval vessels, they would belong to the Commonwealth of Virginia pursuant to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act and Sea Hunt could proceed unmolested by virtue of their permits. If they were not abandoned and proved to be Spanish naval vessels, then they would belong to Spain. And if they were Spanish, Sea Hunt would be shut down.
Then there were questions about Sea Hunt’s success in finding La Galga and the Juno. At this point, the Court and the parties had to take Ben Benson’s word for it.
The COURT then addressed the UNITED STATES:
The COURT: “Sea Hunt has never guaranteed that these are the two ships. You are in effect, trying to guarantee that they are the two ships, and I’m not satisfied that the court is going to give Spain the yea or nay on salvaging these vessels when we don’t really know what they are… You’ve got to establish first that these are two Spanish warships before you [try to] protect them.”8
- BARBARA O’MALLEY FOR THE UNITED STATES: But I respectfully disagree. We are in the identification phase as it’s explained to me. And Sea Hunt is complaining that it’s being stopped from using its operation to determine whether these are, in fact, JUNO and LA GALGA… The position is at this time without these safeguards the salvaging should not go forward, because to do so would be destructive of the cultural legacy of Spain, assuming they own the vessels.”9
COMMENT: The U.S. Department of Justice was blatantly trying to halt verification activities before these shipwrecks were proven to be non-Spanish and subject to the Abandoned Shipwreck Act. At this point, the United States was assuming that these are Spanish shipwrecks without any archaeological or historical proof.
The DOJ brought in an archaeologist to criticize Sea Hunt’s methods. They should have brought in an historian to critique the unsupportable position taken by Sea Hunt and Spain that the Juno was wrecked close to Assateague. The DOJ never mentioned that NOAA’s records placed La Galga in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service remained silent about records in their possession that documented that La Galga was buried within the Refuge. Included in these records was the communication from John Broadwater, Virginia’s Underwater Archaeologist, in 1984, that my findings were credible.
The COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA: The claim for Spain is premature because they have not identified what vessels are there. The permits are not limited to Spanish vessels. But that cover that particular area. We are concerned.10
COMMENT: There was a great deal of argument made about damaging artifacts while excavating before the Court even knew if the defendant vessels were Spanish. Spain even expressed a desire that no more work should be done because these were military grave sites. No one died aboard La Galga and the Juno’s victims went down at least 280 miles from Assateague Island not 1500 feet from shore as alleged by Sea Hunt. The goal was to shut Sea Hunt down.
Ben Benson, President of Sea Hunt, Inc. takes the stand.
PETER HESS FOR SEA HUNT: When did you locate these shipwrecked vessels that have been tentatively identified as the JUNO and LA GALGA?11
BENSON: 1996. This was under the exploration permit from Virginia.
COMMENT: Benson admitted to meeting with Richard Cook, President of Alpha Quest. Peter Hess asked him to summarize for the court his dealings with Cook. Alpha Quest testified in its own claim to La Galga that Benson had borrowed his research and alleged fraud on the part of Benson.
BENSON: I spoke with a number of other people, who had either worked looking for La Galga or had written about La Galga. There is quite a number of books published by people claiming to have found it as early as the ’70s. Somebody claimed to have found it in North Carolina [David Horner: The Treasure Galleons]. Mr. Cook, in a book that he published in a library, claimed to have found it in the ’80s. [This is the same site as SEA, Ltd. and later, Sea Hunt] Another guy named John Armahein (sic, that’s me!) claimed to have found it also in the ’80s in a different location. So, I tried to contact each one of those people and try to talk with them and see what kind of data they had.”12
COMMENT: This was not true as I never heard from him, and his attorney, Peter Hess was a friend of mine and he knew where I lived. But he did not need to get in touch with me because he was in possession of my 1983 report which documented the original colonial boundary between Maryland and Virginia which contradicted Benson’s claim of discovery of La Galga. Whatever due diligence carried out by the DOJ did not include interviewing me. Had they already seen the AWOIS database? If they had, would they want to alert the court that their own survey of the earliest boundary lines would defeat Sea Hunt’s claim? It would also defeat Spain’s. The DOJ would be forced to cease advocating for Spain. Such a revelation might place Spain and the U.S. at odds. See below. Same question and same observation.
In 1997, Benson wrote his own report where he acknowledged me again. “Amerhein (sic) did extensive magnetometer work in 1982 along the shore and found nothing of import. Then he decided to check out a theory that the beach had since built out over the wreck and now may actually lie on the landward side of the beach in the marsh. In 1983, on the landward side, using a magnetometer “Amerhein” located a spot he believed the remains of La Galga lay. “Amerhein” reported his findings to various museums and the federal government to interest someone in excavating his find but found no interest among these groups.” Benson told the newspapers in 1997 that since La Galga had soldiers on board there were probably horses on board. This was borrowed from my 1983 report as well.is 1997 report was submitted to the court and was available to all parties. No one tried to get in touch with me about this contradicting evidence.13
Benson then states: “The main unanswered question was where was the Virginia-Maryland line in 1750?” His answer to that question was “It could have been anywhere over a three mile area.”14 (REMINDER: He had the 1943 survey that irrefutably pinpointed the boundary line.) Sea Hunt’s complaint was even more vague: La Galga “wrecked in the vicinity of the salvage sites in 1750.” That was six square miles.
COMMENT: Benson could not reference my 1983 report that he possessed because it would contradict his location for La Galga. He could not use Alpha Quest’s research which had a boundary line that, if correct, would appear to substantiate his claim but then that would be an admission that he had borrowed Rick Cook’s research. Cook was alleging fraud and copyright infringement against Sea Hunt.
HESS: How did you find what you believe is the wreck site of La Galga?15
BENSON: Through about a 400-hour magnetometer survey that took three months to complete.
He then explained his permit process which resulted in a recovery permit.
COURT: How much have you invested in it?
BENSON: Thus far we have invested over a million dollars.
September 24, 1998, The Court granted Sea Hunt’s motion to dismiss the United States and denied the Motion to Intervene by the U.S. Spain was given 90 days to obtain counsel.
On December 15, 1998, Sea Hunt’s archaeologist, James Reedy, published his Annual Report on Target Verification Activities within Virginia Marine Resource Commission Permit Areas #97-00163 and #97-0498.16
PAGE 3 of this report lists the targets investigated by Sea Hunt but “cannot be considered to be shipwrecks, or even specific shipwreck sites. There is virtually no site integrity apparent in the few targets SHI was able to examine. Instead the study areas appear to contain numbers of widely scattered bits of high density material, primarily iron, from what may be many different sources. Identifiable items ranged in age from approximately mid-18th to the late 20th century.”
December 23, 1998, Spain filed another motion to intervene, a claim to Juno and La Galga, a motion for summary Judgement and supporting Memorandum, memorandum in opposition to Sea Hunt’s motion for partial Judgement on the Pleadings and an affidavit of David Beltran Catala, Counsel for Juridical Affairs at the Spanish Embassy in Washington, DC.
The United States also filed on this same day, a motion and brief to appear as amicus curiae.
Mr. Catala presented an “Unofficial Translation” of correspondence from His Excellency, Juan de Araoz, the Commissary General of Maritime Affairs at Havana, Cuba. He was informing the authorities in Spain about the news he had received from Charleston, South Carolina, about the loss of the Juno. That news had come from Boston by way of a newspaper article from there dated November 2, 1802. The article sent to Aroaz in Havana came from the Charlestown City Gazette of November 13, 1802. The article described the travels of the Juno under Captain Juan Ignatio Bustillo from Tenerife to Boston. On October 24, 1802, the schooner Favorite, Captain Pourland, fell in with the Juno in much distress. Seven Spaniards were transferred from the Juno to assist in communications and hopefully the rescue of the 413 remaining passengers and crew.
Aroaz relied in the City Gazette for the details of Juno’s loss. When he wrote his translation for the authorities in Spain, he did not know that the Charlestown City Gazette had made a material typesetting error so significant that, if known, Spain’s claim for title to Juno would have resulted in a dismissal. The typesetter, or compositor, who laid out the type was attempting to follow the news he received from the Boston Mercury and New England Palladium of November 2, 1802. The Boston paper had reported the position of latitude 36 degrees 44 minutes and longitude 67 degrees 16 minutes as the location where the Favorite encountered the Juno on October 24. This location was nearly 500 miles east of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia.17
Also included in Catala’s affidavit is another translation that would have cleared up the speculation on the Juno’s last known location. His affidavit of December 23, 1998, included the report from Lt. Francisco Clemente. Clemente gave a description of what happened from October 24th to October 28th when the Juno sank. The position taken on the 27th was latitude 38 degrees longitude 69 degrees 56’ west. But this location was not included in in the provided translation of Catala. Instead there is this disappointing notation “[One page seems to be missing].” However, the missing information is easily located on page 173 of Francisco Duro’s Naufragios de Armada Espanol published in Madrid in 1867. Duro did not encounter any missing pages in 1867. Duro’s account was translated and published in English in Dave Horners’s Treasure Galleons published in 1971. He translated Duro for his chapter on the Juno. No pages were missing in 1971.
IN COURT April 1, 1999. Present were the United States, Sea Hunt, the Commonwealth of Virginia, Alpha Quest and Quicksilver International.
Quicksilver International filed claim to what they believed was the Juno in 1988. Their claim was also based on information and belief that the Juno was forty miles offshore of Assateague, not over two hundred miles out. Quicksilver was 99% sure they had the Juno. Because of the conflicting locations between Quicksilver and Sea Hunt, the court invited Quicksilver to appear on April 1.
At the beginning, Quicksilver and Sea Hunt informed the court that Quicksilver and Sea Hunt are working two separate wreck sites at least 25 miles apart. Either one may be the Juno but neither one either. 18
ANTHONY TROY FOR SEA HUNT: We do not at this time have sufficient evidence to declare that we have found the Juno. What artifacts we have found are not inconsistent with the Juno, but we have nothing that suggests that we can claim the Juno.19
JAMES GOOLD FOR SPAIN: And based on the evidence we have seen, we do not believe their [Quicksilver] is the Juno. It has an anchor chain that did not exist until after the Juno was lost.20
ALPHA QUEST rose to tell the court that they all were in court because of the successful efforts of Richard Cook in finding La Galga located “perhaps 300 yards south of the Maryland-Virginia boundary and about 70 yards from the beach. Alpha Quest stated that Cook had taken Ben Benson to the wreck site. The court questioned if Alpha Quest was asking for salvage rights:
GEORGE LEACH FOR ALPHA QUEST: No, Sir. We would just like a share on the finds.21
THE COURT: You just want to do what?
LEACH: We would just like to be allowed to have our day in court and present our evidence, and hopefully at the end of the day to be awarded some share of the finds.
The court refused to entertain that idea.
Then there was discussion about Spain’s difficulty in providing a sworn verification of their counterclaim. Goold got defensive. “But the purpose of the verification requirement is to prevent false and fraudulent claims. You have not heard one suggestion of any such thing as to Spain’s claim.”22
DAVID SUTELAN FOR SEA HUNT: p. 32 “It was Spain’s inept selection of the United States government to represent it in the first instance where the government had no authority to do so…”
The court allowed Spain to amend its verification.
GOOLD: Our position, of course, is that these ships have not been abandoned, and it also appears to be case that nobody knows where the Juno is and whether it is embedded or not, Your Honor.23
The COURT: All right. Well, how about the La Galga?
GOOLD: We believe that everything suggests it is embedded at least some of the time, depending on the state of the storms that come and go in this area, as the court is, of course, more aware than I.
DAVID BEDERMAN FOR SEA HUNT: Argued the Treaty of 1763 gave La Galga to Great Britain saying that “on the continent” would include the waters adjoining Assateague.24
BEDERMAN: “All parties agree that the Juno and La Galga are located within three miles of shore of the Commonwealth of Virginia in very shallow water.”25
COMMENT: This stipulation was intended to be a substitute res since there was no evidence of Spanish ships being discovered. However, the Court did retain admiralty jurisdiction over two or more unidentified shipwrecks.
BEDERMAN: “But I think more importantly the real question is, is the 1902 treaty to apply retroactively to vessels sunk in 1750 and to 1802. The rule of non-retroactivity as an established standard of construction of treaties is well established in the United States… I think it is doubtful whether the 1902 treaty should be held to apply to wrecks sunk before that time. Section 322 Restatement Third Foreign Relations Law.”26
BEDERMAN: p. 92 “La Galga was sunk in 1750. Its stranded hard up against the shore of Assateague Island just shy of the Maryland border. The Spanish captain and subsequent Spanish authorities salvaged the wreck and then left it. I cannot think of better evidence of an abandonment in these circumstances.”27
BEDERMAN: “As for the Juno which sank on October 27th 1802, we believe that Spain’s own documentary evidence indicates that they were on notice of the location of the wreck.” Reminder: The notice they received was at least 280 miles in error. This would have been based on Governor Aroaz’s misunderstanding of the Juno’s last recorded location.28
BEDERMAN “And I’m quoting now from a report of the commissary general of the Spanish crown in reference to this incident, that the Juno sank in a location very close to dry land. As may be deduced from the above mentioned latitude and longitude, the frigate might have reached the port of Chesapeake, escaping her total disgrace. This was annexed to the Catala affidavit.”29
…If the Juno is located where Sea Hunt believes it is, it is located very close to shore. There is the evidence of James Alone, p. 93-94, which counsel for Spain and the United States have dismissed as nothing more than a fairy tale.30
FREDERICK FISHER FOR VIRGINIA: “Spain did abandon these vessels through its inactions and, more importantly, its inactions over 150 years.”31
“If these wrecks are ever discovered, they will be properly handled.”
GOOLD: “Your Honor, this is a case of national and international significance.”32
THE COURT: “Can I assume from both parties here to this case that you are all satisfied that I should rule upon this matter on the agreement of counsel that the vessel is the Juno?”
GOOLD: “Yes. We believe that the court can rule, affirm Spain’s ownership regardless of which place it happens to be. The legal principles that establish Spain’s ownership do not depend where it came to rest.”33
GOOLD: p. 100 Well, I’m here because Sea Hunt claimed they found what they believe to be the Juno and claimed that there was an ample record for the Court to decided ownership of the Juno. And that’s the question they presented to the court in their motion and which I am responding to with my motion.
GOOLD rambled on about military gravesites. P. 101 “On the Juno, we have 400 plus Spanish soldiers, sailors, and military dependents who died. We believe their remains should be respected.”
Spain offered no historical or archaeological proof that the unidentified shipwreck was the Juno. They also argued that the Juno had not been found,
COMMENT: Spain never offered any proof that military gravesites were involved at Sea Hunt’s locations. No one died aboard La Galga in spite of what Mr. Goold stated on p. 102 that five died. These five died while swimming ashore. At least one of these was an Englishman.
GOOLD: p. 107“And at the time Sea Hunt, with all of the modern technology that’s available, comes before the court and tells you they don’t know if they’ve found it or not either.”
NOTE: Spain provided exhaustive evidence on Spain’s ownership but no evidence on the identity of the as yet unidentified shipwrecks.
GOOLD: p. 116 “So, when Sea Hunt represented to the court that no further factual development was necessary for the court to decide ownership questions, we agreed.”
GOOLD: p. 120 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
BARBARA O’MALLEY FOR THE UNITED STATES: p. 121 The rights of Spain should be determined by the 1902 Treaty of Friendship and General Relations.
BEDERMAN: p.158 “You previously asked what Sea Hunt’s position is regarding how we conclusively identified the Juno and La Galga. In our verified complaint we express a high level of confidence that we have found sites that are consistent with the Juno and La Galga…we have not found anything inconsistent with this process.”
On April 27, 1999, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division issued its Opinion and Order. The Court declared that “The plaintiff Sea Hunt has located the shipwrecked vessels near the coast of Assateague Island.” And specifically, “La Galga then lay undisturbed for almost 250 years, until the current salvage attempts by Sea Hunt” and was property of the Commonwealth of Virginia. For the Juno: “Spanish authorities ordered an investigation into the loss of Juno, the location of the wreck was not discovered until the recent efforts by Sea Hunt.” Spain was awarded the Juno. “The facts detailing the history of JUNO and LA GALGA are drawn primarily from the affidavit of David Beltran Catala, Counsel for Judicial Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in Washington, D.C., and are not in dispute.28
COMMENT: An evidentiary hearing would have cleared everything up and would have resulted in a dismissal. Some material facts presented in the Sea Hunt litigation by Sea Hunt and the Kingdom of Spain were jurisdictional in nature. These facts are contradicted by the historical record. The Court also stated: “The question remains as to whether Sea Hunt is entitled to a salvage award for JUNO under traditional salvage law. Spain has specifically indicated that it wishes to treat JUNO as a maritime grave and does not want the wreck to be salvaged.”
THE OPINION p. 692: the Court said: “As this issue has not been fully argued by the parties, the question of whether Sea Hunt is entitled to an award under salvage law for salvage work performed on JUNO is expressly RESERVED, pending supplemental briefing by the parties. Each party to the case is ORDERED to submit a supplemental brief on the issue of whether Sea Hunt is entitled to a salvage award for JUNO within 30 days of the entry of this Order. The Court may require further evidence concerning the extent of the salvage conducted on JUNO. Amicus United States is also granted leave to submit a brief on this issue if it so chooses.”
Spain offered no proof that the site they had won was the Juno or there were military gravesites involved. The court accepted the unsupportable request of Spain to halt salvage. The Department of Justice did not suggest that basic archaeological principles promulgated by the Secretary of the Department of Interior be followed. Standard I says that identification activities of historic properties should be undertaken to the degree required to make decisions. A level of detail is necessary so that the gathered information will provide a sound basis for making decisions. And the primary decision is to establish if the property is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The permits Sea Hunt had been granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia state :”The level and extent of such investigations shall be limited to the minimum needed to document a recommendation of the wreck’s eligibility for listing on the National Register.” Had the Juno or La Galga been found they would have been nominated to the National Register. Had the Secretary’s Standards been followed, Spain would have been dismissed from the case.
In case you missed it…
Amrhein, John L., Jr.,The Hidden Galleon: The True Story of a Lost Spanish Ship and the Wild Horses of Assateague Island, New Maritima Press, Kitty Hawk, NC 2007.
Horner, David, The Treasure Galleons, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, NY, 1971
Owen, David R., “Some Legal Troubles with Treasure: Jurisdiction and Salvage, Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce, vol. 16, No. 2, April, 1985
Affidavits of David Beltran Catala, Counselor for Juridical Affairs, Spanish Embassy
Catala #1 December 22, 1998. Statement of Undisputed Facts Docket #83
Catala #2 May 27, 1999 Docket #130
- Affidavits of Davaid Beltran Catala supra. Some exceptions are taken to Catala’s Statement of Undisputed Facts. (1) Five crew members did not perish in La Galga’s “sinking” as she did not sink. Five did drown trying to swim ashore, some with money bags tied to themselves. One of the five was an English prisoner from Pennsylvania. (4) Captain Huony made no salvage attempt and left the shipwreck after the third day. Catala alleges salvage was conducted for about six weeks. Spain did not have access to all relevant documents from the Spanish archives. My researcher did not locate them until 2002. Amrhein, p. 271.
- No proof that these items came from La Galga or the
- Contract between Sea Hunt and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- See Subaqueous.
- Sea Hunt complaint, p. 8.
- This is not true as Alpha Quest lead him to the wreck. Amrhein p. 262. Claim of Alpha Quest. Transcript p. 9.
- Virginia was provided with my report of 1983 that placed La Galga beneath Assateague within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The report was also shared with John Broadwater, Senior Underwater Archaeologist with Virginia. After reading the report he concluded in his letter to me on February 8, 1984: “I enjoyed talking with you at the Conference on Underwater Archaeology in Williamsburg earlier this month and I enjoyed even more reading your excellent report on the Galga. It is very apparent that you’ve spent a great deal of time on your research and the location you have predicted sounds very plausible. I think you are to be commended for devoting so much energy to the research and for sharing that research with others. The discovery and identification of La Galga would be a very significant achievement and would solve a mystery that has interested a great many people. I’m not sure what actions you have taken toward pursuing your investigations, but if I can be of any help, please let me know. I would like to keep in touch with you and Al Alberi on this matter and would be happy to meet with you to discuss your plans and to assist you if possible.” See also, Amrhein, pp. In my visit to the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond I found that the report had not been retained.
- Transcript p.
- Transcript p. 66. Ms. O’Malley said that verification of the artifacts should not take place even though the case was in the “identification phase.” This same situation occurred in Subaqueous. There was nothing discovered in that case.
- Transcript p. 77.
- Transcript p. 158.
- John Amrhein personally gave the 1983 report to Peter Hess in the summer of 1985.
- Transcript pp 159-60. Benson did not try and get in touch with me. Benson on horses, Virginian-Pilot, March 26, 1997, Go-Ahead Given To Hunt For Booty From Two Spanish Galleons.
- Benson’s report can be found at the Eastern Shore Public Library, The King’s Frigate “La Galga” and the 1750 Treasure Fleet, Box 13 #4.
- Transcript p. 160.
- Filed by Spain December 22, 1998
- The above mention newspapers can be found at Geneaology.com
- Transcript April 1, 1999, p. 7.
- Transcript, p. 8.
- Transcript, p. 9.
- Transcript, p. 15
- Transcript, p. 29.
- Transcript, p. 67.
- Transcript, p. 71, et seq.
- Transcript, p. 83
- Transcript p. 91.
- Transcript, p. 91
- See Note #1 supra.
- Transcript, p. 93.
- The James Alone story was recounted in the The Washington Times, August 31, 2000. The 1850 census for Accomack, County lists a James Lunn, 40 years old, head of household and a sailor. His birth was approximately 1810. This may be the great-grandfather of James T. Lunn who drowned in 1913. If so, he was born well after 1802 the year the Juno was lost.
- Transcript, p. 96.
- Transcript, p. 98
- Transcript, p. 99. This is where the court went wrong. In rem jurisdiction was established by agreement of counsel over Spanish shipwrecks when it did not appear affirmatively in the record. There was no service rendered nor any success achieved by Sea Hunt. in salvaging these wrecks. No Spanish shipwrecks were arrested in rem.
John Amrhein, Jr. pro se