1,203 bars of silver bullion weighing a total of 48 tons has been recovered from theshipwreck of the SS Gairsoppa which was sunk in February 1941 300 miles off the coast of Galway, Ireland
Florida based deep ocean exploration firm Odyssey Marine Exploration made the recovery which at 1.4 million troy is the heaviest ever recovery of precious metals. At a depth of over 3 miles this is also the deepest ever recovery.
Greg Stemm, Odyssey chief executive, said it was a complex operation in international waters.
“Our capacity to conduct precision cuts and successfully complete the surgical removal of bullion from secure areas on the ship demonstrates our capabilities to undertake complicated tasks in the very deep ocean,” he said.
“This technology will be applicable to other modern shipwreck projects currently being scheduled as well as our deep ocean mineral exploration activities.”
Apparently the precious cargo has now been transported to a secure location in the UK.
The Gairsoppa was a merchant ship torpedoed by a German U-boat during WWII while it was being used by the British government under their War Risk Insurance programme.
An insurance payout of £325,000 – the value of the bullion in 1941 – was made by the government to the owners of the cargo which allows the state to claim ownership of all goods recovered.
Some sources, including Lloyd’s War Losses, indicate a total amount of silver cargo worth £600,000 may have been lost in 1941, indicating the existence of a second load of government-owned silver.
Odyssey expects to now move their efforts in an attempt to recover a further 600,000 ounces of silver believed to be on the wreck of another ship, the SS Mantola, located 100 miles from the first wreck.
The company said the silver recovered to date from the Gairsoppa represents about 43% of the insured silver bars, or a fifth of the total silver cargo which its research indicated may have been on board.
Odyssey is conducting the project under contract with the UK Department for Transport and the rest of the search is expected to be completed in the autumn. The company will retain 80% of the net value of the cargo after recovering its expenses.