Divers Discover 240 Tons of Silver in Sunken WWII Ship

Posted by - Monday, September 26th, 2011

With the recent advances in ocean technology, divers made an amazing discovery 300 miles southwest of Ireland. There, a sunken ship was discovered about three miles deep – even deeper than the spot where the Titanic rests.

Much to their excitement, divers came across a trove filled with 240 tons of silver. The wreckage they discovered is scheduled to be fully recovered this coming spring…All $200 million of it…

The company credited with this shocking find is Odyssey Marine Exploration. The company has a contract with the British government.

What’s the ship’s story?

It was a British merchant ship carrying a large fortune of silver in route from India to England in 1941. It never reached its destination as a Nazi torpedo ripped a hole it the side, sending it to the bottom of the ocean to remain untouched until now.

The S.S. Gairsoppa steamship -- a vessel of the British Indian Steam Navigation Company -- was 412 feet long. It was named after a beautiful waterfall on the west coast in India. It set sail in December of 1940, to bring tea, iron, and a whole lot of silver over to England. It journeyed to the British Isles and through the North Atlantic, on an ill-fated mission…

The crew included 85 men in total. Of the bunch, there was only one survivor after the torpedo shot. The second officer survived an impressive 13 days afterwards, living on a small lifeboat.

Meanwhile, the ship and its precious cargo were all left behind.

According to Greg Stemm, chief executive of Odyssey, his workers found the shipwreck in an ideal position: upright, with open holds, and very easily accessible.  

And, there’s good news for taxpayers regarding operations like this one:

“This should enable to us to unload cargo through the hatches, as would happen with a ship alongside a cargo terminal.”

Mr. Stemm added that a growing number of seafaring nations view cargo recovery as a creative way to increase revenues. In such arrangements, private contractors put their own money at risk in costly expeditions and split any profits. Odyssey, for instance, is to get 80 percent of the silver’s value, and the British government 20 percent.

“It doesn’t cost taxpayers a dollar and accrues right to the bottom line,” Mr. Stemm said in an interview. “Governments are waking up to the potential.”

When Odyssey first set sight on the shipwreck, there was an initial four-and-a-half-hour examination that did NOT find any silver, although a few tea chests were mistaken as silver bars. And prior to further examination, there were no transportation records revealing any information regarding the valuable assets aboard the ship.

Although no one truly knows just how much silver is on the Gairsoppa, Odyssey has made a well-researched, educated guess.

Odyssey did their own historical research, confirming their belief that the ship holds 240 tons of silver; most likely coins and bars.

The price of silver (along with gold) plunged on world markets last week, to about $31 an ounce. But even that relatively low price would mean a total cargo value of nearly $240 million.

“Technology is opening up a very big door,” he said. “Think of how many ships were sunk in the First and Second World Wars. There are millions of ounces of silver — and thousands of tons of tin and copper — down there.”

Take a virtual tour of the S.S. Gairsoppa here.

*Indented excerpts from the New York Times.

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