OK — I’ve been putting off writing a post about the recent discovery of wreckage believed to be from Captain Henry Morgan’s 1671 “Lost Fleet.” What could I possibly add to the conversation? Lots of bytes have already been published–like this, that, and this other thing. You couldn’t make this stuff up: pirates (not just a plain run-of-the-mill pirate but “the” Henry Morgan), shipwrecks (not one but five) and, as the press release states, “a series of unopened cargo boxes and chests encrusted in coral” (read: “treasure”). I’m sure we’ll be hearing about this wreck for some time to come!
But the most interesting part of the “discovery of the Lost Fleet” remains the initial press release issued by Diageo, “the world’s leading premium drinks business with an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across spirits, beer and wine.” What is this global corporation’s interest in a 52×22-foot section of 340-year old wooden hull? One of Diageo’s brands happens to be Captain Morgan, which sponsored the archaeological expedition. The press release explains:
“Captain Henry Morgan was a natural-born leader with a sense of adventure and an industrious spirit that the brand embraces today,” said Tom Herbst, Brand Director, Captain Morgan USA. “When the opportunity arose for us to help make this discovery mission possible, it was a natural fit for us to get involved. The artifacts uncovered during this mission will help bring Henry Morgan and his adventures to life in a way never thought possible.”
So in both senses is this wreck Captain Morgan’s shipwreck. (I’d love to see the project T-shirt!) But all cynicism aside, public-private partnerships that fund rigorous, scientific underwater archaeology is a viable model that appears to be gaining traction (others include: Sony and NOAA–see this earlier post; and NOAA and Titanic, Inc.–see here). Here’s to any means to sustaining underwater archaeological research in a time of fiscal austerity. But as Diageo’s press release concludes: “As always, Captain Morgan reminds adult consumers that when reliving his legacy or searching for his lost bounty on the ocean floor: Raise your glass – always in moderation!”