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Silver Millions, Piracy Hostage Couple & World Cup Sailing Students

14th September 2012
Silver Millions, Piracy Hostage Couple & World Cup Sailing Students

In this week's This Island Nation Column, millions in silver to be recovered off Cork, a piracy hostage couple sailing again, five million dollars to recover a schooner and reports about world cup students and an offer to survey whales.


A ship engaged in wreck recovery worth millions of pounds sterling docked in Cork Harbour in the past week to change crew, take on fuel and supplies, then sailed again for a location 300 miles off the Irish coast. Odyssey Marine Exploration has so far recovered 48 tonnes of silver, believed to be worth about stg£24 million from the site to where the vessel, the Seabed Worker returned. Lying on the seabed there is the British India Steam Navigation Company's 412-foot steel-hulled cargo ship Gairsoppa which was part of a convoy during World War Two, returning from India to Britain with a cargo of silver ingots and pig iron. In a heavy storm on February 16, 1941 and running low on coal off the coast of Ireland she had to leave the convoy in an attempt to reach Galway for safety. But a German Air Force plane spotted her and directed a U-Boat to attack. The submarine sank her and killed all of the crew except six who got away in a lifeboat and eventually reached Cornwall, but two of those died trying to get ashore.


The wreck of the Gairsoppa

Odyssey is recovering the silver under contract with the UK Department for Transport. The total value is unclear but some estimates put it around stg£120 million, though there is not confirmation of this figure. Odyssey, a USA company, bears the risk of search and recovery and can retain 80% of the net value of what is recovered after expenses. The shipwreck is three miles below the surface and the company has said that the recovery operation is one of the deepest and heaviest attempted. No materials recovered from the shipwreck site were landed during the port call to Cork.

"Making crew change in Ireland instead of the UK allows us to spend additional working days on the site. As the weather conditions tend to become less friendly in the North Atlantic as we get closer to October, every additional day of operations is important," said Mark Gordon, Odyssey President. "The processing of the silver so far delivered remains on schedule with the first portion available for sale this month If silver prices continue to increase, it will significantly boost the value of this project."


The English coupled held hostage for more than a year by Somali pirates have set sail on the same yacht again – intending to finish the round-the-world trip from which they were captured off the Seychelles in 2009. The release of Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, was arranged in November 2010.after 13 months in captivity. They have restored their 38-foot yacht, Lynn Rival, which was found drifting in the Indian Ocean after their capture. They said their ordeal had not put them off sailing.


The number of pirate attacks on shipping off Somalia has fallen sharply in the first half of this year according to the International Maritime Bureau. 177 incidents were reported to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre in the first six months of this year, compared to 266 in 2011. But IMB Director Captain Pottengal Mukundan said that there was a worrying increase in attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea.


Photo from the EU Naval Force Somalia shows the capture of a suspected pirate boat off Somalia

Six Somalian pirates have been found guilty of hijacking the French vessel Le Ponant in 2008 and sentenced to a total of 24 years in prison by a court in Paris.


There is a Dublin-Cork axis to Ireland's attempt to win the Student World Sailing Cup in La Rochelle, France, from October 27 to November 3. University College Dublin's sailing team will represent Ireland but the ten-strong team includes three Cork sailors and will be coached by another Cork sailor. The UCD students won the right to represent Ireland at the Student National Championships in Dun Laoghaire in March. The Cork trio continue Southern sailing involvement in the world cup for several years past but the team is composed also of sailors from all over the country including Antrim, Down, Mayo, Sligo, Wexford and Waterford. Team Captain is Cathal Leigh Doyle; Aidan McLavery from Belgooly is Skipper; Isabella Morehead from Rochestown and Ben Fusco from Kinsale are the other two Cork sailors on the team which includes Barry McCartin, David Fitzgerald, Simon Doran, Theo Murphy, Alyson Rumball and Ellen Cahill.

Reigning student world champions are Euromed Arthur Loyd of France. The UCD team will be trained by Cork sailor Nicholas O'Leary, brother of Olympian Peter O'Leary and past Student Yachting World Cup competitors John Downey and Marty O'Leary. Ireland last won the Cup in 2008, another Cork triumph.


The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group is looking for volunteers for surveying aboard their Celtic Mist "who have cetacean survey experience (land or sea based) and who have or are prepared to obtain an ENG11 Marine Medical certificate and an STCW95 Sea Survival Certificate," the Group says. Volunteers will have to pay their own expenses to join the vessel and obtain the certificates. Accommodation and meals will be provided free-of-charge on board. Surveys will typically last for 2-3 weeks.

"While we appreciate that participation will involve a cost to volunteers, it will also provide an excellent opportunity for budding cetacean biologists and more seasoned surveyors to gain experience in offshore cetacean surveys," the IWDG says. The Group will provide information and guidance on survey techniques and equipment for data collection.

• If you are interested email [email protected]



A Norwegian group is hoping to raise over five million dollars to raise the 200-tonne schooner sailed by legendary Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and return it to Norway. The Maud has lain partially submerged in Cambridge Bay in Canada since sinking in 1930.


The first Maritime Heritage Weekend in Dingle, Co.Kerry, will be held during the October Bank Holiday Weekend October 27-29. It will commemorate Michael Long and his contribution to marine biology. Born in 1889, he died in 1980 and was a publican in Dingle (John Benny's Pub) who took a great interest in the flora and fauna of the area and all things related to the marine. "He catalogued many specimens brought to his premises and encouraged many others to take an interest in their surroundings on land and at sea and we are delighted to honour him at this event," say the organisers.

Published in Island Nation Team

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