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Treasure hunters eye huge silver haul from WWII ship

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MIAMI — When the SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed by a German U-boat, it took its huge silver cargo to a watery grave. Seventy years later, US divers said they are working to recover what may well be the biggest shipwreck haul ever.

Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration on Monday confirmed the identity and location of the Gairsoppa and cited official documents indicating the ship was carrying some 219 tons of silver coins and bullion when it sank in 1941 in the North Atlantic some 300 miles (490 kilometers) off the Irish coast.

That’s worth about $200 million today, which would make it history’s largest recovery of precious metals lost at sea, Odyssey said.

“We’ve accomplished the first phase of this project — the location and identification of the target shipwreck — and now we’re hard at work planning for the recovery phase,” Odyssey senior project manager Andrew Craig said in a statement.

“Given the orientation and condition of the shipwreck, we are extremely confident that our planned salvage operation will be well suited for the recovery of this silver cargo.”

Recovery is expected to begin next spring.

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After a tender process the British government awarded Odyssey an exclusive salvage contract for the cargo, and under the agreement Odyssey will retain 80 percent of the silver bullion salvaged from the wreck.

The 412-foot (125-meter) Gairsoppa had been sailing from India back to Britain in February 1941, and was in a convoy of ships when a storm hit. Running low on fuel, the Gairsoppa broke off from the convoy and set a course for Galway, Ireland.

It never made it, succumbing to a U-boat’s torpedo in the contested waters of the North Atlantic. Of the 85 people on board, only one survived.

The Gairsoppa came to rest nearly 15,400 feet (4,700 meters) below the surface, but Odyssey is insisting that won’t prevent a full cargo recovery.

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“We were fortunate to find the shipwreck sitting upright, with the holds open and easily accessible,” Odyssey chief executive Greg Stemm said.

“This should enable us to unload cargo through the hatches as would happen with a floating ship alongside a cargo terminal.”

Odyssey, a world leader in deep-ocean exploration, recently conducted remotely operated vehicles from its main ship, the Odyssey Explorer, to inspect the shipwreck. It said it acquired still and video imagery from the site which were used to confirm the identify and evaluate the condition of the Gairsoppa.

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Small donors are rebuilding Notre-Dame as French billionaires delay

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As Notre-Dame holds its first mass Saturday since a devastating fire two months ago, billionaire French donors who pledged hundreds of millions for rebuilding have "yet to pay a penny", a spokesman for the cathedral said.

Instead, the funds paying for clean-up and reconstruction are coming mainly from French and American citizens who donated to church charities like the Friends of Notre-Dame de Paris. Those charities are helping pay the bills and the salaries ofup to 150 workers employed by the cathedral since the April 15 fire destroyed its roof and caused its iconic spire to collapse.

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Suspects in David Ortiz shooting to be held for up to a year during probe

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Nine suspects in the shooting of American baseball star David Ortiz will remain in custody for up to a year while the investigation proceeds, a judge in the Dominican Republic has ordered.

The attorney general's office made the announcement late Friday and also said the probe was at an advanced stage.

The motive is not known for the June 9 shooting of Ortiz, a long-time Boston Red Sox great who is from the Dominican Republic and is now retired from the sport.

Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back while he was at a nightclub with friends.

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Hong Kong braces for huge rally after leader climbdown

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Hong Kong is bracing for another mass rally Sunday as public anger seethes following unprecedented clashes between protesters and police over a controversial extradition law, despite a climbdown by the city's embattled leader.

Organisers are hoping for another mammoth turnout as they vowed to keep pressure on chief executive Carrie Lam, who suspended work on the hugely divisive bill Saturday after days of mounting pressure, saying she had misjudged the public mood.

Critics fear the Beijing-backed law will tangle people up in China's notoriously opaque and politicised courts as well as hammer the city's reputation as a safe business hub.

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