A record 48-ton haul of silver bullion has been recovered from a World War II shipwreck off the coast of Ireland.The treasure, worth 1.4 million troy ounces of silver, was found on the wreckage three miles beneath the Atlantic.
The operation to retrieve the 1,203 bars from the SS Gairsoppa was the heaviest and deepest underwater mission to remove precious metal from sunken vessels.
It was discovered last September and the metal was reportedly valued at around £155 million in today’s prices.
The Gairsoppa, a cargo ship, sank in February 1941, 300 miles south-west of Galway in Ireland.
It was being used by the British Government as part of its War Risk Insurance programme.
The boat carried 83 crew and two gunners but only one officer survived the evacuation to reach the shore after it was hit by a German torpedo.
The silver belongs to the UK after the Government paid £325,000 to the owners of the cargo.
It was recovered by deep ocean exploration firm Odyssey Marine Exploration.
Greg Stemm, Odyssey chief executive, said: “Our capacity to conduct precision cuts and successfully complete the surgical removal of bullion from secure areas on the ship demonstrates our capabilities to undertake complicated tasks in the very deep ocean.
“This technology will be applicable to other modern shipwreck projects currently being scheduled as well as our deep ocean mineral exploration activities.”
The haul has been moved to a secure location in the UK.
The firm will also try to rescue 600,000 ounces of insured silver believed to be on another shipwreck, the SS Mantola, 100 miles away from the Gairsoppa.
Odyssey said the recovered Gairsoppa haul was about 43 per cent of the insured silver bars, or a fifth of the total silver cargo which its research indicated may have been on board.
The deep sea operation will feature on television specials on the Discovery Channel in the US and Channel 5 in the UK.
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