Odyssey Marine Exploration’s recovery of cargo from the SS Gairsoppa continued this month with 61 tons of silver bullion retrieved from three miles below the surface of the ocean.
In doing so, Odyssey set the world record for the deepest, largest precious metal recovery in history. This latest operation adds to the 48 tons of silver recovered last summer from the same shipwreck.
"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 three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic," commented Greg Stemm, Odyssey’s chief executive officer. "To add to the complications, the remaining insured silver was stored in a small compartment that was very difficult to access.
Odyssey began actively searching for the SS Gairsoppa in 2011 following a competitive bid process with the government of the United Kingdom and several years of extensive research. In just twenty-four days of scouring the ocean floor in the anticipated area of the shipwreck, the Gairsoppa was located.
The SS Gairsoppa was a 412-foot steel-hulled merchant ship owned by the British India Steam Navigation Company. It was on its way back to England from Calcutta, India when torpedoes from a German U-Boat sunk the vessel. Commercial cargo losses on the ship were insured by the UK Government under the War Risk Insurance program which paid approximately £325,000 (1941 value) to cover the losses.
After payment, the UK government became owners of the sunken cargo which, in turn, allowed them to award contract for recovery. Under the terms of the contract, Odyssey is entitled to retain 80% of the net salved value of the cargo.
Adding last year’s haul with the one from this month totals approximately 109 tons of silver bullion in 2,792 silver ingots, equating to more than 99% of the insured silver bullion cargo registered for the ship. Each ingot is approximately 1,100 ounces.
An Odyssey video of the SS Gairsoppa Shipwreck site is embedded below.
The massive recovery is more impressive when the complexity of the operation is considered. Never before has this much precious metal been salvaged from such a depth.
"The recovery of more than 99% of the insured silver cargo under these adverse conditions is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of the offshore team led by Senior Project Managers, Andrew Craig and Ernie Tapanes," added Greg Stemm. "The expertise demonstrated in implementing this challenging project continues to be applied as we undertake other modern shipwreck projects, deep-ocean mineral exploration and our best-in-class deep-ocean archaeological work on historic shipwrecks."
The 291-foot Seabed Worker served as recovery operations base for the salvage. It utilized remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) capable of going to depths of 5,000 meters. The Seabed Worker is continuing on to other projects in Odyssey’s 2013 North Atlantic Expedition, including the SS Mantola that is believed to have carried 600,000 troy ounces of silver.