All archaeology, conservation, curation and documentation work is done for the knowledge gained. IMDI works hard to uphold the highest standards in modern science, archaeology and data recording.
To rescue precious historical artifacts from the harsh conditions of life on the ocean floor. With these items we can then educate and enlighten Panamanians, as well as all curious people of the world of a countries culture, a peoples history, and a nations heritage. We want to share with an entire nation the treasure trove of knowledge uncovering an ancient shipwreck like the San Jose can yield.
Artifact in Situ.
Pre-Conservation Photo Bronze Frying Pan.
A Bronze Frying Pan rescued from the San Jose Shipwreck.
Photos to left show the condition of the artifact before rescue and then prior to conservation.
Upper right: Manuel Almeida Estevez, MSc, Professor and Conservator of Underwater Archeological Materials at the University of the Arts (ISA) in Havana, Cuba, performs restoration in our laboratory in Panama.
Lower right shows the bronze pan after restoration.
Manuel Almeida Estevez performing conservation procedures.
Post Conservation Photo Bronze Frying Pan.
Company Timeline: From the Start of IMDI and the San Jose Project
1. The Conception of IMDI
Investigaciones Marinas del Istmo SA (IMDI) was founded in 2000 by Cap. Ernesto Cordovez, Santiago Eduardo De La Guardia and the Attorney Saturio Segarra Esquivel. The primary objective seek by IMDI’s funders was to create a company that will conduct all marine archeology projects under government supervision to stop the looting of marine archeological sites performed by foreigners, typically divers from the United States armed forces stationed in Panama during the existence of the Panama Canal Zone, some of which retired in Panama and took advantage of their knowledge or techniques unknown to Panamanians.
Resolution No. 6 of April 9, 1997, which regulates the underwater archaeological work throughout the national territory, clearly states that in the seas, rivers, lakes and lagoons of the country, there can be found objects and property which are part of the historical and artistic heritage, it also points out that there is documentary evidence that many vessels sunk in our coasts during the colonial period containing valuable objects and valuables of commercial and artistic and cultural value, which currently lie at the bottom of the sea.
Article 31 clearly sets forth the following
"The Directorate General of INAC, will only execute AGREEMENTS for conducting underwater archeology work with natural or corporate persons to whom the Ministry of Finance and Treasury has previously granted the concession agreement for the salvage of the goods covered by this regulation."
Based on the aforementioned herein, the company INVESTIGACIONES MARINAS DEL ISTMO, S.A. executed a CULTURAL AGREEMENT identified with the No. 043-2000, dated May 11, 2000, where its purpose was to conduct a research study, exploration and recovery of scientific and historical objects located in offshore waters.
INAC has committed to participate directly in the implementation of this agreement and agreed to implement Cabinet Decree No. 397 of December 17, 1970, which amends Articles 4, 9 and 10 of Cabinet Decree No. 364 of November 26, 1960, which establishes the steps to follow once underwater objects been managed to be salvaged.
This agreement was signed in compliance with the provisions of Law No. 14 of May 5, 1982, in its Articles 8, 9, and 12 and Resolution No. 6 of April 9, 1997, which are regulated by the archaeological underwater work throughout the domestic territory.
Subsequently, an EXPLORATION CONCESSION AGREEMENT No. 231, dated June 26, 2003, entered into between the investigative company and Directorate General of Property and Surveys, in which the contractor is awarded exploration rights and recognition permits in territorial waters of the Republic of Panama, on both coasts and in inland waters including rivers and lakes, once it was established the location of the goods will report to the NATIONAL DIRECTORATE OF HISTORICAL HERITAGE OF INAC (DNPH), and the State will grant the salvage agreement in accordance to what is set forth in the aforementioned Executive Decrees.
On July 25, 2003, in view of the sites and coordinates indicated by the contractors was executed a SALVAGE CONCESSION AGREEMENT identified as No. 231 (published in the official gazette No. 24,958), which granted exclusive rights to the contractor to perform all kinds of studies and perform rescue or salvage of assets located in territorial waters of the Republic of Panama.
2. SUPREME COURT DECISION DETAILS AND DATE
It is then, after obtaining all the permissions required, that the company INVESTIGACIONES MARINAS DEL ISTMO, S.A., initiates operations; nonetheless, after which several lawsuits were filed against the company, leading Supreme Court of Justice to impose an injunction which temporarily suspended the project until the matter of the disputes was resolved: in this regards, it is until the end of 2008 in which IMDI was allowed to restart activities within the original project objective ratified by the Addenda ONE to the Salvage Concession Agreement No. 231 ratified by the General Comptroller of the Republic of Panama on March 19, 2010 and published in the official gazette on April 21, 2010.
The contract contained in the MINISTRY OF ECONOMY AND FINANCE was valid until 30 December 2013, but the agreement executed with INAC expired as a result of the suspension of the Supreme Court of Justice. It was until July 16, 2013 when the DNPH issued resolution #136-13 which finally recognized the legal right of IMDI, just as the MINISTRY OF ECONOMY AND FINANCE did, having IMDI complied with all the requirements established by law to continue with the recovery of the San Jose.
Therefore based on the aforementioned the operations of company INVESTIGACIONES MARINAS DEL ISTMO, S.A. were conducted in an effective window of time spanning for only nine effective months after the company patiently waiting to be fully legal and compliant with all institutional requirements of IMID’s main partner: the Government of the Republic of Panama.
3. REQUEST FOR RECOVERY ON SAN JOSE DATES
Initial request for DNPH to issue a resolution was made on August 2012 with Jim Sinclair as Director of project, this and other items were challenged by DNPH in a face-to-face meeting.
A second request was submitted in April 2013 with Jose Gustavo Leal Cuervo as the Director of the project addressing all other issues raised by DNPH. A second face-to-face meeting raised new issues from DNPH that IMDI needed to comply with.
The third an final request was issued in May 2013 addressing all issues previously raised and finally getting the approval of all DNPH functionaries that led to resolution #136-13 of July 16, 2013 which gave full permission to recover and conserve artifacts to IMDI under the government supervision until August 28, 2015.
After aligning all resources food and agendas with key DNPH functionaries, IMDI started full recovery operations in September 2013 .
4. DATE OF FIRST DIVISION WITH THE GOVERNMENT
DNPH issued Resolution 124-14 on May 14, 2014 authorizing the first division of artifacts recovered from September 2013 until December 2013.
5. DATE OF THE SECOND DIVISION WITH THE GOVERNMENT
DNPH issued Resolution 157-14 on June 27, 2014 authorizing the second division of artifacts recovered from January 2013 until June 2013.
6. DATE RESOLUTIONS WERE SIGNED
Resolution 068-14 DNPH of March 17, 2014 allows IMDI to explore, excavate and salvage objects in all territorial waters of Panama until December 2018 as long as it presents a project for each target area.
Resolution 124-14 DNPH was sealed and signed at 3 PM on May 28, 2014 for IMDI’s notification
Resolution 157-14 DNPH was sealed and signed at 2 PM on June 30, 2014 for IMDI’s notification
7. DATE RESOLUTIONS WERE SIGNED
Addenda TWO to the Salvage Concession Agreement No. 231 was signed in May 2014 by the Vice Ministry of Finance and it is awaiting the Comptroller’s ratification.
IMDI Conducts Day to Day work with Government Supervision and Involvement Including MEF and INAC:
An INAC inspector is present for all artifact recovery each day onsite the inspector is present on the boat as well as in the laboratory with our team.
Each day a boat log is filled out, reviewed, and stamped with approval from our INAC representative.
Inspectors become very knowledgeable into the history of the San Jose and some choose to become more involved in the research, identification of specific coin attributes, and overall process flow.
Michelle Kane, our laboratory specialist, works each day with INAC inspectors counting artifacts, documenting locations of finds, keeping detailed paper trails of ever single item touched.
When it comes time for disposition INAC is there to package and safely move artifacts.
For IMDI it is safe to say that our government inspectors have become great assets to our project here in Panama without our teamwork this project would not be where it is today.