Silver worth $37 mn recovered from WWII shipwreck

Last Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 19:19

London: Nearly 44 tonnes of silver, worth a whopping USD 37 million, has been recovered from a British cargo ship that was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat during World War II while returning from India.

The haul comes from the SS Gairsoppa, which was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat about 300 miles off Ireland`s coast in 1941 when it was steaming home from Calcutta while in the service of the Ministry of War Transport.

It now sits 15,420 feet deep.

Salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc, a US deep-sea exploration company, said it`s the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck ever made, the Daily Mail reported.

So far, workers have brought up more than 1,200 silver bars, or about 1.4 million troy ounces. As of mid-day Wednesday, it was worth about 23.7 million pounds (about USD 37 million).

The company is under contract by the British government and will get to keep 80 per cent of the haul after expenses.

The ship sank in icy seas more than three miles deep about 300 miles south west of Ireland and only one of her 84 crew members survived.

The 412-ft steamship is sitting upright on the seabed, with its holds open.

The ship, recognisable by the red-and-black paintwork of the British-India Steam Navigation Company and the torpedo hole in its side, was sailing in a convoy from Calcutta in 1941.

Buffeted by high winds and running low on coal, the captain decided he would not make it to Liverpool and broke from the convoy to head for Galway.

A single torpedo from U-101 sank her in 20 minutes, on February 17, 1941. Three lifeboats were launched, but only Second Officer Richard Ayres made it to land, reaching the Cornish coast after 13 days.

In an earlier statement Odyssey said the UK government was `desperately looking for new sources of income` and was urging it to find more British wrecks.

It was also investigating HMS Sussex, lost off Gibraltar with 10 tonnes of gold in 1694, and HMS Victory, a precursor to Nelson`s flagship.

In 2008 a US judge ordered the firm to hand back gold and silver coins worth 300 million pounds to Spain, which said the treasure was taken from a frigate that sank in 1804.

Odyssey said the wreck`s identity was unclear and had been found in international waters.

PTI



First Published: Friday, July 20, 2012 - 19:19

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