The world’s largest ever haul of shipwrecked silver has been located off Ireland. The silver on board the SS Gairsoppa is thought to be worth around £155 million today. The recovery is expected to be the largest known silver shipwreck cargo salvage in history.
The British cargo steamship, enlisted in the service of the United Kingdom Ministry of War Transport, was sunk by a German U-boat on February 17, 1941, approximately 300 miles southwest of Galway. En route from India to Liverpool it was forced to break away from its military escort as weather conditions deteriorated and fuel began to run out. The sole survivor from a crew of 85 made it to the Cornish coast after 13 days.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida based underwater archaeology and salvage firm, announced today that it has confirmed the identity and location of the shipwreck site nearly 4,700 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic in international waters. In 2010, the United Kingdom Department for Transport awarded Odyssey, through a competitive bid, the exclusive salvage contract for the SS Gairsoppa. Odyssey will retain 80% of the net salved value of silver bullion recovered under the contract. Additional, uninsured silver may be aboard as well. Sources, including Lloyd’s Record of War Losses indicate a cargo of silver worth £600,000 at the time, which would equate to approximately 7 million total ounces of silver.
UPDATE: In July 2013 Odyssey recovered 61 tons of bullion, 1,574 precious bars. To date they have taken 2,792 silver bars, about 99 per cent of the insured cargo on the ship. It was taken ashore at Bristol.