SS Gairsoppa: Shipwreck Gives Up Its Treasure
In December 1940, the SS Gairsoppa raised anchor in India and left, fully-loaded with 240 tons of tea, silver, and iron for Liverpool, England. After breaking away from its convoy due to bad weather off the Irish coast, a German U-Boat sank the Gairsoppa with one torpedo on February 17, 1941. The Telegraph reported that one survivor made it out.
The Gairsoppa rested 2.9 miles below the surface for over 70 years when, in 2011, the Odyssey Marine Exploration company discovered the wreck while searching on a contract that nets them a sweet 80% of the discovered treasure (the remaining 20% will go to the British government).
Since then, Odyssey has been diligently working to extract the archaeological find from the Atlantic seabed, in spite of problems relating to the structure and size of the ship. On Monday, the company reported they had successfully recovered $35 million in silver when they pulled 61 tons of bullion out of the wreck.
Mark Gordon, Odyssey’s president and chief operating officer said of his people, “The ability of our team to deliver on our planned objectives underscores our experience and the tremendous determination of our team. We have accomplished a world-record recovery at a depth never achieved before. We’re continuing to apply our unique expertise to pioneer deep-ocean projects that result in the discovery and recovery of lost cultural heritage, valuable cargoes and important and needed natural resources.”
If, like me, you wonder just exactly what 61 tons of silver looks like, it looks like one of these:
… multiplied by 1574. Odyssey reports that their find weighs in at 1.8 million ounces. Combined with previous efforts to retrieve the find from the ship, 2792 silver ingots have been retrieved from the ship using remote vehicles, which Odyssey reports comprised more than 99% of the insured silver that the Gairsoppa was hauling.
Unfortunately for Odyssey, Reuters reports that they actually lost money due to fluctuating market prices. The going price for silver bullion when they recovered 48 tons last year earned them $38 million, so their larger haul will unfortunately fetch a smaller sum due to falling silver prices.