Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Hoard of silver bars recovered

A fine silver ingot recovered from the SS Gairsoppa site (Odessy Marine/PA)

Treasure hunters have salvaged another 26 million euro of silver bars from a ship sunk by the Nazis in the North Atlantic.

Odyssey Marine Exploration recovered 61 tons of bullion this month, 1,574 precious bars, from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412ft (126m) British cargo ship that went down in February 1941 about 300 miles off Ireland in international waters.

Odyssey Marine, pioneers in the field of deep water treasure hunting, exploration and salvage, have taken about 99% of the insured silver from the ship.

Greg Stemm, Odyssey's chief executive, said the recovery has been an extremely complex operation, adding: "To add to the complications, the remaining insured silver was stored in a small compartment that was very difficult to access."

In total, Odyssey has taken 2,792 silver bars from the ship, including the latest haul of ingots weighing about 1,100 ounces each or almost 1.8 million troy ounces. Last year's payload of 1,218 bars was valued at £25m as silver prices were higher then. In the latest haul, 462 bars were of very high purity silver, .999 silver, and stamped with the brand HM Mint Bombay.

The precious metal - a world record recovery because of the depth and size - was taken ashore in Bristol and sent to a secure location in the UK. It will be analysed and refined before being sold.

Odyssey was given a salvage contract by the UK Department for Transport and the company will retain 80% of the net value of the cargo. Sources, including Lloyd's record of War Losses, indicate additional uninsured government-owned silver may have been on the SS Gairsoppa when it was holed by a German U-boat on its way to Galway bay, but none has been found to date.

Mark Gordon, Odyssey's president, said: "We have accomplished a world-record recovery at a depth never achieved before. We're continuing to apply our unique expertise to pioneer deep-ocean projects that result in the discovery and recovery of lost cultural heritage, valuable cargoes and important and needed natural resources."

The recovery operations were conducted from the 291ft (89m) Seabed Worker with 5,000m (16,404ft) depth-rated remotely operated vehicles.

Odyssey will begin work on the SS Mantola, a 450 foot (137m) British-flagged steamer lost in 1917 and found in 2011, which reportedly carried about 600,000 troy ounces of silver insured under the UK War Risk insurance programme.

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