In the cold waters of the North Atlantic in February 1941, the SS Gairsoppa was hit by German torpedoes and sunk 300 miles southwest of Galway, Ireland. Only 1 of the 85 crew members on board survived the attack, but the British government never forgot where the ship went down. Decades passed with the ship’s cargo of silver tarnishing three miles deep on the ocean floor, the ship’s owners being paid 350,000 pounds (about $548,000) for their loss. The British government has recovered a record 48 tons of silver from the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa. That’s 1203 bars of silver at 1.4 million troy ounces, valued at 155 million pounds (or 242.6 million dollars)!
“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,” says Greg Stemm of Odyssey Marine Exploration, the company that recovered the silver for the UK. ”This technology will be applicable to other modern shipwreck projects currently being scheduled as well as our deep ocean mineral exploration activities.”
Odyssey Marine’s next target for the British government will be the wreck of the SS Mantola, another War Risk Insurance ship carrying 600,000 troy ounces of silver (about 20.5 tons). The Mantola came to rest about 100 miles from the Gairsoppa. The Gairsoppa recovery was about 43 percent of the expected total, so somewhere on the bottom of the sea there’s a whole lot of silver bars hanging around; just imagine the frenzy if this was gold bars!
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