The SS Gairsoppa wreck has yielded 61 tons of silver — a massive haul for salvage specialist company Odyssey Marine Exploration. The Gairsoppa, a merchant ship, was torpedoed during World War II.
The shipwreck is located off the coast of Ireland, where it sank after a torpedo hit by a German U-boat in February 1941. The Tampa-based salvage company announced that 1,574 silver ingots were discovered, weighing 1,100 ounces each.
Reuters reports that the haul was called “the deepest and largest precious metal recovery from a shipwreck,” by Odyssey president Mark Gordon.
The recovery effort was a high risk venture, as the 412-foot steel-hulled SS Gairsoppa lies three miles below the surface of the ocean. The company has recovered 99 percent of the insured silver that was reported to be aboard the ship went it went down.
However, they have not found any uninsured government silver, which Odyssey hoped would also be aboard. While the silver found aboard the USS Gairsoppa was worth about $630,000 when it sank, it is now worth an estimated $36 million.
Along with silver ingots, the USS Gairsoppa left Kolkotta in December 1940 carrying a load of pig iron, tea, and other cargo, reports Bloomberg. Its destination was Liverpool, England. However, the vessel was torpedoed southwest of Galway, Ireland. Only one member of the ship’s 85-person crew survived.
Odyssey Marine Exploration discovered the remains of the SS Gairsoppa in 2011. Recovery efforts began the next year, and the company will retain 80 percent of the profits, per its contracts with the United Kingdom.
But the company wasn’t so fortunate in 2007 when it discovered the Black Swan, a wreck off the coast of Portugal. The company reportedly discovered $500 million in gold and silver. However, the Spanish government claimed ownership of the ship. The dispute ended in 2012 when a US court ruled in favor of the Spanish government, forcing the company to turn over the treasure.
But Odyssey’s contracts with the UK have changed that. Along with the USS Gairsoppa, the company announced two years ago that it will also salvage cargo from the SS Mantola, located about 100 miles away from Gairsoppa. It was sunk by a German submarine in 1917 while carrying a reported 600,000 ounces of silver on board.
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