Searching for sunken 17th. Century British warship, HMS Sussex, carrying a fortune

Odyssey Marine Exploration, the US company currently extracting gold coins fron the wreck of SS Republic off the Georgia coast is also involved with the United Kingdom on the HMS Sussex project. For the first time in history, a Government has entered into a partnership agreement with a company from the private sector for the archaeological excavation of a sovereign warship.

Back in 1694, HMS Sussex, an 80 gun British warship sank in a severe storm near the Straits of Gibraltar. Research has uncovered that at this time she carried a vast sum of money, thought then to be worth a Million Pounds, it was destined to become a payment to the Duke of Savoy, then a British Ally in the war againnst France and King Louis XIV. At the time, the French were endeavouring to lure the Duke and his Army to change sides and join their banner, 6 tons of gold and 3,000,000 in money being touted as their enducement.

Illustration by Tom Freeman of HMS Sussex, foundered in 1694 close to the Straits of Gibraltar, believed to be carrying up to one Billion Dollars worth in today's values of Gold coins.

Illustration by Tom Freeman of HMS Sussex, foundered in 1694 close to the Straits of  Gibraltar,
believed to be carrying up to one Billion Dollars worth in today's values of Gold coins.

Sussex founders.
Whilst leading a British fleet, and carrying this ransom, HMS Sussex ran into a violent storm, which she fought for three days, then on the 19th. of February 1694, the ship foundered, some 500 perished leaving but two survivors. The body of her Admiral, clad in his nightshirt was washed ashore some days later. It is believed that this vessel sank in 3,000 feet of water at the western end of the Mediterranean, and close to the Straits of Gibraltar.

The Duke of Savoy takes up the French offer.
As the British funds never reached the Duke of Savoy, and a later attempt to send him money also failed, the Duke then availed himself of the French offer still on the table.

Seeking the Sussex.
This project had already seen Odyssey conduct off shore search and survey operations over the years of 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. Some 400 square miles of the sea bed at the western end of the Mediterranean had been scoured. Side scan sonar was used, and 418 targets located, the use of a remotely operated vehicle, ROV, looked at the most promising of these targets.

Several of the sites visited turned up ancient ships, including Roman and Phoenician sites over 2,000 years old. It is amazing that such wrecks may lay undisturbed for centuries, only to have their secret resting places at last discovered by means of modern under water technology. Only one discovered site revealed the presence of warship type cannons.

Very close to the position that in 1694 the Fleet Secretary had reported Sussex had sunk, warship cannons were found close to this target at 3,000 feet deep. In 2001, 10 days were spent in trying to identify this wreck, the ROV made 17 dives over a period of 75 hours, and Neil Cunningham Dobson, declared: "Study of the survey data, the historical and documentary sources, the under water investigations, the location, the size and shape of the site, and the cannon distribution and size, indicate the site is that of the Sussex."

Value of the cargo.
It is believed the cargo value in Sussex, might range from several hundred million to a billion dollars, should this prove to be fact, this wreck would be the most valuable ever found. But this valuation depends upon whether the cargo is in gold or in silver coins, then of course, the cargo must be prised from a depth of 3,000 feet. This is the deepest extensive archaeological excavation of a ship wreck ever attempted purely by means of a robotic device.

Obviously much money has already been ploughed into the Sussex Project, but the potential prize for both Odyssey and the British Government is so great that it seems to be enough to motivate them  to continue to try and recover this golden hoard from the bottom of the Mediterranean.

Modern technology and tenacity may yet force this glittering prize to be yielded from the ocean's grasp, and in 2003 the hunt has continued.

The back cover on this book about the Sussex's secret has yet to be closed.

National Geographic signs agreement.
The National Geographic has announced an agreement to produce a two hour documentary about Sussex, her crew, the excavation, and search for the cargo of gold coins. It should be fascinating viewing, and a record of history.

I acknowledge the Odyssey web site for much of the information about Sussex and her cargo.


This site was created as a resource for educational use and the promotion of historical awareness. All rights of publicity of the individuals named herein are expressly reserved, and, should be respected consistent with the reverence in which this memorial site was established.

Copyright© 1984/2014 Mackenzie J. Gregory All rights reserved