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Shipwreck hunter says province killed salvage industry, heritage research

Created on Friday, 06 November 2015 08:17
Last Updated on Friday, 06 November 2015 13:39

Terry Dwyer, a heavy equipment salesman and part-time diver who lives in the Eastern Shore community of Spanish Ship Bay, says in a new book that the province made a ‘colossal mistake’ five years ago when it repealed the Treasure Trove Act. (Contributed)


NOVA SCOTIA: Heavy equipment salesman and part-time diver Terry Dwyer says in a new book the province made a “colossal mistake” when it repealed the Treasure Trove Act five years ago, effectively killing the shipwreck salvage industry and cutting off any new research into Nova Scotia’s undersea heritage.

Dwyer’s book — called Wreck Hunter 2: The Adventure Continues — comes out Saturday and is part adventure tale, part technical manual and part political polemic on the government’s decision.

“The political part is a necessary evil, because there’s so much misinformation out there, and it’s a question that there’s no short answer for,” he said Thursday in an interview from his home in Spanish Ship Bay on the Eastern Shore.

“I get asked about it a lot every time there’s a shipwreck found, but you can’t just answer it in a sentence. That’s why I put that chapter in.”

Until 2010, divers were able to apply for a treasure trove licence from the province, which would allow them to salvage artifacts and other items from shipwrecks, Dwyer explains in the book.

While divers were allowed to keep 90 per cent of the treasure they found, they had to hand over all artifacts to the province first, leaving mostly coins that could be kept, making the adventure less lucrative than many people believe, he wrote.

 At the same time, the government gained valuable information and research on the maritime history of the region.

Since the law was repealed, no one is doing any salvage or research, Dwyer told The Chronicle Herald, because there’s no financial incentive.

“Nova Scotia benefited immensely from the Treasure Trove Act, in terms of artifacts for collections, in terms of archeological reports that were submitted by the private-sector companies using marine archeologists conducting scientific operations, conserving artifacts and turning them in to the museum,” he said.

“All that is now gone.”

Dwyer grew up in New Waterford and was inspired to become a diver after watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau on television.

In high school, he wrote a research paper on treasure hunting based on an interview he did with Alex Storm of Louisbourg, who famously discovered several shipwrecks and found treasure off Cape Breton.

In Dwyer’s new book, the first chapter tells of the author’s search for treasure from the French merchant vessel L’Auguste de Bordeaux, which went down in a 1761 storm in Aspy Bay, reportedly carrying silver and gold coins, jewelry and other riches.

Despite several difficulties that included death threats from other salvagers, Dwyer was unable to locate anything substantial from the L’Auguste over two dive seasons, although he found plenty of clues.

“To date, no one has located the actual stern section of the L’Auguste, which is believed to have contained the majority of the valuables on board,” he says in the book. “Somewhere resting on the seabed off the coast of Dingwall in Aspy Bay, a lost fortune is still waiting to be discovered.”

Other chapters include various dives around Nova Scotia, a discussion on shipwreck research, diving techniques and the tools needed to hunt for shipwrecks and treasure, as well as an overview of the act controversy.

“It’s an adventure book and a kind of a how-to book,” Dwyer said. “It was written for people that don’t dive, as well as people that do dive.”

The new book is a sequel to Wreck Hunter, which Dwyer published in 2004, and is being launched in Sydney with a signing at the Coles bookstore in Mayflower Mall on Saturday at 2:30 p.m., followed by an event at Indigospirit in Sunnyside Mall, Bedford, on Sunday at noon.

Dwyer will then tour the province with other signings, ending Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. with a one-hour multimedia presentation, called Shipwrecks and Sunken Treasure, at Halifax Central Library.


Courtesy: Herald News

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