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In the News

Sunken galleon yields a $1 million haul

A marine archaeological team associated with the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society says it has found the wreck of the 17th century Spanish galleon Santa Margarita in 18 feet of water around 40 miles west of Key West. The ship went down in a hurricane in 1622.

Divers from Blue Water Ventures of Key West ( have hauled hundreds of artifacts from the site, including gold chains and jewelry, gold bars, several thousand pearls (the largest measuring more than 3/4 inch), swords, pottery and woodworking tools. “From a historical standpoint, it’s very exhilarating,” says Blue Water Ventures owner W. Keith Webb.

The bounty should top $1 million, according to a marine archaeologist working with the group.

In other news, a treasure-hunting promotion tied to the film “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” had to be improvised. Volvo Car Corp. hired Florida-based treasure hunter Odyssey Marine Exploration to sink a chest filled with $50,000 in gold and a key to a new Volvo, and challenged contestants to find it by solving a series of online puzzles.

At the time of the promotion, however, the Odyssey team had found real treasure, an estimated $500 million in coins from a wreck code named “Black Swan” (see the August issue of Soundings). Rights to the treasure were challenged by the Spanish government, and the company was in the midst of legal wrangling over the booty.

More than 32,000 contestants had to solve the online puzzles, which led to a semifinal puzzle posted May 31. The winner, Alena Zvereva, a 23-year-old from Russia, was to be taken by Odyssey to retrieve her prize from the depths but the legal dispute forced Volvo and Odyssey to change plans. Volvo says Zvereva will get a replacement prize — $50,000 and an XC70 — and the chest that was sank will be recovered after Odyssey’s dispute is settled.

Digital selective calling: do you know enough?

By broadcasting a distress call and exact location with the simple push of a button, VHF radios with digital selective calling give the Coast Guard enhanced search-and-rescue capabilities. But do skippers know enough about the technology to help save a life?

To help boaters better understand the latest advances in marine radio communications, the BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has launched a free 35-minute online DSC VHF radio tutorial. Funded by a grant from the Coast Guard, “Can You Hear Me?” is designed to educate boaters on the basics of DSC VHF radios and help them take advantage of the latest innovations in search-and-rescue technology. The narrated tutorial also allows viewers to try various radio buttons and sounds on their computers to simulate how a DSC VHF radio operates. The tutorial is located at .

Sea Tow favors mandatory education

Sea Tow International invited marine industry representatives to a mid-July executive roundtable at its Southold, N.Y., headquarters to discuss the hot-button topic of mandatory boater education.

Sea Tow, which has been serving the recreational boating community for 24 years, believes all boaters should know and practice basic safety and Rules of the Road, according to information in a statement. The way to accomplish this is through universal education.

“As marine assistance professionals, we’ve responded to hundreds of thousands of cases over the years, ranging from simple breakdowns to catastrophic incidents,” Capt. Joe Frohnhoefer, Sea Tow chairman and CEO, says in the statement. “Our highly experienced captains know firsthand that there’s a vital need for boater education.”

Sea Tow president Capt. Keith Cummings, in the statement, says the company believes requiring boater education will significantly decrease accident and mortality rates and also encourage new entrants to boating. More than 30 states have some form of educational requirement, but only a handful of those states have boater education requirements that apply to every boater in the state, regardless of age, according to the company.

Changing of the guard at HurricaneCenter

Max Mayfield served as director of the NationalHurricaneCenter through seven hurricane seasons. His replacement didn’t make it through one.

“Bill Proenza is on leave but is still a NOAA employee,” says Anson Franklin, director of NOAA’s Office of Communications, in an e-mail to Soundings. “Edward Rappaport is acting director of the NationalHurricaneCenter until further notice.” In the days after the change, NOAA officials were hesitant to discuss the issue, which was widely reported by news organizations.

Proenza was named director in January. He came to the top post with a reputation for being outspoken, according to a New York Times report. He quickly lived up to that reputation by criticizing NOAA over the lack of money spent on an aging satellite used in forecasting hurricane paths.

A letter signed by 23 HurricaneCenter staffers stating that Proenza’s actions were threatening the “effective functioning” of the center was released to the press July 5, according to The New York Times.