The wreck of a World War II-era British cargo ship, whose holds are believed to be filled with seven million ounces of silver, has been discovered approximately 4,700 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean. At today's value, the cargo is worth in excess of $200 million.
U.S.-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., found the shipwreck approximately 300 miles off the coast of Ireland in International waters, the company announced on Monday. They have also confirmed the identity of the ship - SS Gairsoppa, which was a 412-foot steel-hulled cargo ship, operating under the aegis of the UK Ministry of War Transport. The ship was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-Boat in February, 1941.
Launched in 1919, the SS Gairsoppa operated as a passenger vessel in the waters off the Far East, Australia, India and East Africa, until the start of WW II, when the UK Ministry of War Transport commandeered her services for the transportation of military supplies. She set sail from Kolkata, India, in 1940, on what was to be her last voyage, with a cargo of silver, pig iron and tea.
At the time of her sinking, 83 crew members and 2 gunners were aboard the ship; only one person survived, according to Lloyd's War Losses.
We've accomplished the first phase of this project - the location and identification of the target shipwreck. We're now hard at work planning for the recovery phase, said Odyssey senior project manager Andrew Craig. Recovery operations would begin in spring, he added.
Following complete recovery of the cargo of silver, the haul will be recorded as the largest-ever, successfully recovered cargo of precious metal from the sea, said the company in an press release. The company also noted that under the salvage agreement, they would retain 80 percent of the net salvaged value of the bullion recovered.
Below are some of underwater pictures of the recently discovered SS Gairsoppa: