Tuesday, September 27, 2011

£155m treasure trove discovered on shipwreck

£155m treasure trove discovered on shipwreck

£155m treasure trove discovered on shipwreck. Found, 1941 treasure ship sunk by U-boat ...with its £155m of silver three miles below the waves

The wreckage of a British cargo ship believed to be carrying up to 240 tons of silver has been discovered in the North Atlantic – 70 years after it was sunk during the Second World War.
SS Gairsoppa was steaming home from India in 1941 while in the service of the Ministry of War Transport when she was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat.

She sank in icy seas more than three miles deep about 300 miles south west of Ireland. Only one of her 84 crew survived.

U.S. salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration announced the find, about 4,700 metres, or three miles, below the sea, yesterday.

In what is believed to be the deepest and largest ever retrieval of a precious cargo, the firm will next spring dive to recover a haul estimated to be worth £155million.

Under its contract with the Department for Transport, Odyssey will keep 80 per cent of the value of the silver. The 412-ft steamship is sitting upright on the seabed, with its holds open.

Odyssey said a robot submersible captured video footage showing tea chests, a sign that the heavier consignment of silver was underneath.

‘This should enable us to unload the cargo through the hatches,’ chief executive Greg Stemm added. The Gairsoppa is so deep the usual steel cable used in the grab mechanisms will have to be replaced by synthetic fibres.

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.

Odyssey said yesterday the UK government was ‘desperately looking for new sources of income’ and was urging it to find more British wrecks. It is also investigating HMS Sussex, lost off Gibraltar with 10 tons of gold in 1694, and HMS Victory, a precursor to Nelson’s flagship.

In 2008 a U.S. judge ordered the firm to hand back gold and silver coins worth £300million 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.