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Huge Haul of Silver Salvaged from WW2 Wreck off Galway

20th July 2012
Huge Haul of Silver Salvaged from WW2 Wreck off Galway

#SHIP'S SILVER SALVAGE – A record breaking 48 tonnes of silver bullion has been recovered from S.S. Gairsoppa, a 412-ft British cargoship that was torpedoed by U-Boat in WWII and sank some 300 miles south-west of the Galway coast in 1941.

The salvage operation was carried out by Odyssey Marine Exploration, in depths of three-miles, where the hoard of 1,203 bars or approximately 1.4 million troy ounces of silver was retrieved.

According to the US based company it is the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals salvaged from a shipwreck,  which was undertaken by chartering the Seabed Worker.

The wreck of S.S. Gairsoppa lies in international waters at 4,700m and was firstly discovered using sonar by the chartered Russian research vessel RV Yuzhmorgeologiya and followed by visual inspection by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the Odyssey Explorer.

During the War, the UK Government insured privately owned cargo under their War Risk Insurance program. After making an insurance payment of approximately £325,000 (1941 value) to the owners of the silver cargo lost aboard the Gairsoppa, the UK 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.

After unloading the precious cargo from the salvage-ship, the cargo was located in a secure facility in the UK. Odyssey claim that the amount of silver bars recovered so far represents approximately 43% of the insured silver bars, or approximately 20% of the total silver cargo which research has indicated may be on board.

The salvage-ship was to take on fuel and change of personnel, where recovery operations will continue back at the wreck of S.S. Gairsoppa and are expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2012.

In addition, an estimated 600,000 oz. of insured silver is expected to be found on S.S. Mantola, another shipwreck recovery project being conducted in conjunction with the Gairsoppa project.

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% of the net salved value of the ship's silver cargo after recovering its expenses.

Published in News Update
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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