U.K: lucrative salvage as 48 tons of silver recovered from British wartime shipwreck
Posted date: July 20, 2012 In: Europe
The haul comes from the SS Gairsoppa, which was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat about 300 miles off Ireland’s coast in 1941. It now sits 15,420 feet deep.
Salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc said it’s the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck ever made.
So far, workers have brought up more than 1,200 silver bars, or about 1.4 million troy ounces. As of mid-day Wednesday, it was worth about £23.7 million (about $37 million).
The company is under contract by the British government and will get to keep 80 per cent of the haul after expenses.
SS Gairsoppa was steaming home from India in 1941 while in the service of the Ministry of War Transport when she was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat.
She sank in icy seas more than three miles deep about 300 miles south west of Ireland. Only one of her 84 crew survived.
The 412-ft steamship is sitting upright on the seabed, with its holds open.
The ship, recognisable by the red-and-black paintwork of the British-India Steam Navigation Company and the torpedo hole in its side, was sailing in a convoy from Calcutta in 1941.
Buffeted by high winds and running low on coal, the captain decided he would not make it to Liverpool and broke from the convoy to head for Galway.
A single torpedo from U-101 sank her in 20 minutes, on February 17, 1941. Three lifeboats were launched, but only Second Officer Richard Ayres made it to land, reaching the Cornish coast after 13 days.
In an earlier statement Odyssey said the UK government was ‘desperately looking for new sources of income’ and was urging it to find more British wrecks.
It was also investigating HMS Sussex, lost off Gibraltar with 10 tons of gold in 1694, and HMS Victory, a precursor to Nelson’s flagship.
In 2008 a U.S. judge ordered the firm to hand back gold and silver coins worth £300million to Spain, which said the treasure was taken from a frigate that sank in 1804.
Odyssey said the wreck’s identity was unclear and had been found in international waters.