Sunken Treasure as NFTs – Where Did It All Go Wrong?
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- In 2017, P08 planned to turn sunken treasure into NFTs
- The project has been abandoned after taking $1 million in investment in 2019
- P08 seems to have been in deep waters from the very start
In 2017, an ambitious effort to put treasure from sunken ships around The Bahamas onto the blockchain was launched by P08. The project, which featured the then-unheard of technology of NFTs, ran aground in late 2021, after taking $1 million in investment, but not having the requisite licence to carry out the work. Was treasure on the blockchain actually a genuine proposition or an outlandish scam?
P08 launched with a splash in 2017, with the founder Matthew Arnett calling it “a blockchain ecosystem that democratises the billion-dollar treasure hunting business.” The idea was fairly simple – to locate, recover, and restore precious metals, jewels, and other artefacts from shipwrecks around The Bahamas, turning them into NFTs and allowing token holders to own a share of the treasure.
The project hoped to hold its ICO over three months in 2019, but it seems that this never went ahead. What we do know is that the company secured $1 million in investment to expand into Africa right before the ICO, but it seems that things began to go sour after that – or perhaps even a year earlier.
Project Had Been “Grounded” Since 2018
In September last year, following over two years of public silence on the project, Arnett told local newspaper The Tribune that the project had been in stasis since mid-2018:
Matthew Arnett, P08’s chief executive and co-founder, told Tribune Business its bid to “monetise” up to $100bn in gold, precious metals and other artefacts scattered among multiple shipwrecks in Bahamian waters has been grounded by the Minnis administration since mid-2018 despite assurances it would receive all approvals necessary to proceed.
Arnett told The Tribune that he is in possession of a letter showing P08’s project was approved by the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation, and was told that P08 would have the requisite licences in place by July 2018. However, these were not forthcoming, and the government dragged its heels over awarding P08 these licences while allowing foreign companies the same licences.
Fortunately for him, Arnett didn’t go ahead with the ICO in 2019, although the fact that Arnett knew that the project was in trouble a year before he accepted $1 million from African firm Cryptovecs shows a certain amount of duplicity.
Truth Remains Buried
All in all, it seems that P08 was a genuine attempt to tokenize sunken treasure, if we are to believe Arnett, that would have been one of the earliest uses of NFTs in this manner.
However, we will never know if the ambitious plan was ever going to make it to fruition, and the fact that Arnett took $1 million for African expansion of the archeology aspect of the business while knowing full well that government licences were probably not coming suggests that, in fact, the treasure was destined to stay at the bottom of the ocean all along.