The British cargo ship SS Gairsoppa sunk by a torpedo fired from a German U-boat in 1941 has been found 300 miles off the coast of Ireland at a depth of 4,700 meters & apparently in very good condition.
The ship was reportedly carrying over 200 tonnes of silver.
The 412 foot steel-hulled Gairsoppa was part of a convoy of ships returning to England from India & she became separated from the rest of her convoy in bad weather. She was forced to detour towards Galway harbour to replenish its supply of coal. According to records kept by German U-boats, the ship was fired on four times with one torpedo hitting its mark.
More than 30 of the 85 sailors on board the SS Gairsoppa are believed to have made it onto lifeboats, but only one, Second Officer Richard Ayres made it safely home, landing in Cornwall after drifting at sea for two weeks.
Records from Lloyd’s War Losses reported the cargo included tea, pig iron, and a treasure trove of silver ingots.
“Contemporary research and official documents indicate that the ship was carrying £600,000 (1941 value) or seven million total ounces of silver, including over three million ounces of private silver bullion insured by the UK government, which would make it the largest known precious metal cargo ever recovered from the sea.” Now valued at about £150 million!
In January 2010, the United Kingdom awarded an exclusive salvage contract for the SS Gairsoppa to Odyssey Marine Exploration. Under the salvage agreement, Odyssey will retain 80% of the value of the silver bullion recovered from the shipwreck. The company is scheduled to begin the recovery phase of the salvage operation in the spring of 2012, or “as soon as the weather window opens in the North Atlantic.”