Wreck hunters are in port taking a rest from searching the oceans for lost vessels that could give up their valuable cargoes of gold bullion.

The Odyssey Explorer, best known in Falmouth as the former Hull trawler Farnella, arrived on Tuesday. She used the port during the mackerel Klondyking years. Odyssey Marine Exploration, owners of the ship, are embarking on a shipwreck search programme code-named the Atlas Project. Odyssey Co-founder Greg Stemm said: "Our research indicates the shipwreck targets in our 2005 'Atlas' search programe have tremendous potential.

With our deployment of the latest search and recovery technologies, we anticipate a highly successful 2005 search programme."

The "Atlas" project is the result of an extensive target development programme conducted over the past year and consists of five target shipwrecks. The company's research indicates the ships are beyond any country's territorial waters and are not believed to be subject to sovereign immunity. Therefore, the wrecks can be archaeologically excavated immediately upon discovery.

Odyssey Explorer has been examining the deep water wreck site of what is believed to be HMS Sussex, a large, 80-gun English warship lost off Gibraltar in a severe storm in 1694. The warship, built in the reign of William and Mary, was acting as escort for a large merchant fleet into the Mediterranean when she sank in stormy weather.

HMS Sussex is believed to have been carrying tons of gold coins for payment to the Duke of Savoy to continue the war against France.

Odyssey Explorer's master, Captain Keith Herron, is no stranger to wreck hunting. He was on the ship that found HMS Hood in the Denmark Strait.

"It was a very sad and poignant moment when we found the battleship that was once the pride of the Royal Nav," he said.

Odyssey Explorer has recovered bullion from the SS Republic, a side-wheel steamer that saw service in both the Confederate and Union navies during the Civil War. The ship sank in a hurricane in 1865.

A 12-year search covering a 1,400 square mile area ended in 2003 when the Republic was discovered 1,700 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean approximately 100 miles off the Georgia coast.

The search area was determined with the help of computer models that combined information from newspapers and survivors' reports, ships' logs and other information about currents and the storm. This laid out potential locations for the ship's sinking, reflecting different combinations of surface current speed, effect of winds upon the ship's movement after the engine failed, and effects of wind and current upon the movement of the vessel's boats and raft after they cast off.

To date, Odyssey Explorer has recovered more than 50,000 gold and silver coins of the period worth millions of pounds. In addition, 14,000 artefacts were removed from the wreck site and preserved. The ship will return to the site at a later date to resume operations.

Where is she off next? Secrecy surrounds this interesting ship and her dedicated team of wreck hunters.