Odyssey haul up silver bullion from the depths
9:49am Friday 3rd August 2012 in In Port
Odyssey Marine Exploration, pioneers in the field of deep-ocean exploration, announced they have successfully recovered some 48 tons of silver bullion from a depth of approximately three miles.
This initial recovery of bullion from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot, steel-hulled British cargo ship that sank in February 1941, totals 1,203 silver bars or approximately 1.4 million troy ounces of silver. It has been transported to a secure facility in the United Kingdom.
After unloading the cargo, taking on fuel and changing personnel, recovery operations will continue and are expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2012. This record-breaking operation has so far produced the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck. Gairsoppa sank 300 miles south west of Ireland. In a tranquil corner of St Wynwallow churchyard, near Church Cove, on the Lizard , are two ordinary sandstone headstones with Merchant Navy insignias. The graves are of two crew members from the ship who were drowned when a lifeboat from the ship washed ashore after a 15-day ordeal at sea.
Odyssey is conducting the Gairsoppa project under contract with the UK Department for Transport. Under the terms of the agreement, which follows standard commercial practices, Odyssey bears the risk of search and recovery and retains 80 per cent of the net salved value of the Gairsoppa silver cargo after recovering its expenses. The contract was awarded to Odyssey following a competitive tender process.
The amount of silver bars recovered so far represents approximately 43 per cent of the insured silver bars, or approximately 20 per cent of the total silver cargo which research has indicated may be on board.
In addition, an estimated 600,000oz of insured silver is expected to be found on the SS Mantola, a second modern shipwreck recovery project being conducted in conjunction with the Gairsoppa project.
Upcoming operational plans include continued recovery of silver on the Gairsoppa from the cargo area that is in the process of being cleared and then the inspection of other cargo holds if the current area does not hold the rest of the expected bullion.
Serial numbers and other markings from the silver bars recovered to date all match the contemporary insured silver cargo documentation and it is anticipated that the entire insured amount is aboard. However, it is unknown whether there is additional uninsured silver on the site.
The Gairsoppa was a merchant ship torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War II. During the war, the UK government insured privately owned cargo under their War Risk Insurance. After making an insurance payment of approximately £325,000 (1941 value) to the owners of the silver cargo lost aboard the Gairsoppa, the government became the owners of the insured cargo.
As some sources, including Lloyd’s War Losses, indicate a total silver cargo worth £600,000 (1941 value) lost aboard the Gairsoppa, there may have been additional government-owned silver cargo aboard that would have been self-insured.