SS Gairsoppa shipwreck yields 61 tons of silver

By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  July 23, 2013 at 11:49 AM
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A marine expedition recovered a record-breaking haul of silver bullion from a shipwreck three miles below the surface in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Treasure hunting firm Odyssey Marine Exploration located the sunken British cargo ship SS Gairsoppa, which sunk in 1940 carrying 7,000 tons of cargo, including 61 tons of silver valued at $210 million.

Odyssey located the ship in September 2011 on a salvage contract with the United Kingdom Department for Transport, and will get to keep 80 percent of the value under the agreement.

The 1,574 ingots recovered, added to another 1,218 ingots recovered last year, makes up 99 percent of the insured silver reported on the ship when it went down.

Both the amount of precious metal and the depth from which it was recovered are all-time records.

"This was an extremely complex recovery which was complicated by the sheer size and structure of the SS Gairsoppa as well as its depth nearly 3 miles below the surface of the North Atlantic," said Greg Stemm, Odyssey's chief executive officer, in a news release.

The 412-foot, steel-hulled cargo ship was first engaged in 1919, shipping for the British India Steam Navigation Co. of London between Australia, India, East Africa and the Far East.

It departed Calcutta, India, in December 1940, and joined a convoy in West Africa. Difficult weather separated the Gairsoppa from the convoy and it was attacked by a German U-boat, all but one of its 83-member crew killed and the ship sunk by four torpedoes fired on Feb. 17, 1941.

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