Controversy sparked by $500 million real-life treasure find adds new mystery and intrigue to final leg of Volvo's online hunt
IRVINE, Calif. (June 22, 2007) -- In a twist worthy of any great pirate story, Volvo Car Corporation today upped anchor - at least temporarily - on the last crucial leg of its global online treasure hunt: the retrieval of a prize treasure chest filled with $50,000 in gold and a key to a new Volvo from the sea floor. The retrieval of the chest will hang in the balance until controversy dies down over the discovery of real life treasure by Volvo's Hunt partner, Odyssey Marine Exploration.
Earlier this year, Volvo selected Odyssey, the world leader in deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, to sink a treasure chest with one goal: to create an authentic, exciting treasure hunt to promote Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Veiled in secrecy, Odyssey scouted locations in the Western Mediterranean, finally zeroing in on a perfect spot off the coast of Gibraltar. They had planned to take the winner of The Hunt, 23-year-old Alena Zvereva from Ekaterinburg, Russia, out to retrieve the treasure from its secret location when the operation hit an unprecedented snag: Odyssey found real treasure. And a media storm ensued.
"We thought sinking a real treasure chest, filled with $50,000 in gold doubloons and a key to a new Volvo, and creating a global treasure hunt for 22 markets was challenging," said Linda Gangeri, national advertising manager, Volvo Cars of North America. "But that was, quite literally, a drop in the ocean compared to the storm our attempted retrieval process has stirred up."
While thousands of would-be treasure hunters from around the globe battled it out to find Volvo's prize booty, Odyssey struck gold and silver of their own in the Atlantic Ocean with the discovery of an estimated $500 million in coins from a deep ocean site the company has now code-named the ‘Black Swan.'
As soon as the discovery was made public, having been spotted depositing Volvo's treasure in an entirely different area, questions started circulating as to the real provenance of the ‘Black Swan.' Was it a Spanish shipwreck? Had Odyssey been working on shipwrecks in Spanish waters? Unable to reveal the exact location of the ‘Black Swan,' in the Atlantic Ocean because of obvious security reasons, and under a non-disclosure agreement with Volvo to protect the location of its treasure chest, Odyssey found itself in the eye of a media storm that has yet to abate. Reports have been widely circulated that a court in the Spanish coastal town of La Linea has issued an order for the Spanish Guardia Civil to detain any Odyssey vessel should it leave the port of Gibraltar, putting Volvo's retrieval plans on hold.
"When we discovered the ‘Black Swan,' international interest in the find was amazing," said Greg Stemm, real-life shipwreck explorer and co-founder of Odyssey. "Even though we have been very clear that it's in the Atlantic Ocean, outside any country's territorial waters, when Spanish authorities saw that we'd been out near Gibraltar in March, some unfortunately jumped to the wrong conclusion. Until very recently, we were contractually bound not to reveal our arrangement with Volvo, so without a real explanation of why we had deep-sea exploration equipment out there, it's easy to see how imaginations could run wild."
Whatever happens, Zvereva will receive $50,000 and a new Volvo XC70. Volvo, however, is not giving up on its retrieval plans yet and is committed to exploring every avenue possible to reclaim the chest from its watery depths.
"We wanted an adventure, and we certainly got one," said Gangeri. "Real-life shipwreck exploration is uncharted waters for us, and Odyssey did warn us that you never know what will happen out on the high seas. They have been an excellent partner throughout all this, and they helped make this contest one of the most authentic, exciting promotions of the year. Now, pirate story or not, we're putting everything we have toward raising a thrilling - and happy - ending."
About the Hunt
The wildly popular Hunt, a month-long multi-media campaign developed as part of Volvo's promotion of the theatrical release of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, attracted more than 32,000 online contestants from 22 markets around the world. Participants solved a series of puzzles that led to a semi-final puzzle, Puzzle 21: World's End, posted May 31. The first contestant from each country to submit the correct answer then went on to compete in one final online puzzle to decide the winner. All participating markets were represented in the final with the exception of Italy, who didn't have a participant submit a correct semi-final answer within the time limit.
Finalists were Andreas Aigner, Austria; Konstantin Popov, Bulgaria; Erin Chock, Canada; Dennis Leifheit, Germany; Cheuk Fung Leung, Hong Kong; Andreas, Indonesia; Yukio Takai, Japan; Siew Hang Teh, Malaysia; Patricia Gabriela Medrano Picon, Mexico; Liss Johansen, Norway; Aaron Joseph N. David, Philippines; Jarosaw Nowakowski, Poland; Ciprian Constantin Grosu, Romania; Alena Zvereva, Russia; Wilson Teo, Singapore; Jungtae Ahn, South Korea; Maria Qvick Faxa, Sweden; Shih-En Chen, Taiwan; Geranun Jiraboonyanon, Thailand; Karyn Burgess, United Kingdom; and Deborah LaValley, United States.
About Volvo Cars of Canada Corp.
Volvo Cars of Canada Corp. is part of the Volvo Car Corporation of Göteborg, Sweden. The company provides marketing, sales, parts, service, technology and training support to the 44 Volvo automobile retailers across the country. The company's product range includes the elegant C70 hardtop convertible, the versatile V70 wagon, the S60 sport sedan, the compact and sporty S40 and V50, and an XC-line of vehicles that includes the rugged XC70 and the award-winning XC90 sport utility vehicle. For 2007, the company is introducing two new models: the second-generation S80 luxury flagship sedan and the stylish and sporty C30.
About Odyssey Marine Exploration and "ZEUS."
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. is engaged in the exploration of deep-water shipwrecks and uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive deep-ocean search and recovery operations around the world. The company was founded by industry pioneers John Morris and Greg Stemm. The ZEUS remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is the centerpiece of an advanced robotic archeology system. It is rated to operate at depths to 8,200 feet and is driven by eight powerful hydraulic thrusters. The system's cameras feed high-definition video signals through advanced fiberoptic telemetry to the surface.
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Video footage available at: http://www.thenewsmarket.com/volvo
Volvo treasure hunt blog: http://thehunt07.spaces.live.com/
Volvo Canada media Web site: http://www.volvocars-pr.ca/
The Hunt registration page: http://www.volvocanada.com/thehunt
Marshall Fenn Communications
Haberman & Associates