Silver worth £24m recovered from British wreck

A staggering 48.8 tonnes of silver bullion, worth around £24m, has been recovered from a shipwreck in the deepest and largest precious metal ocean salvage operation in history.

The wreck is that of the SS Gairsoppa, a 412 foot British merchant ship that was torpedoed and sunk in 1941 by a German U-Boat, during the Second World War.  It lies more than three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles to the south west of the coast of Ireland.

1,203 bars of silver were recovered by Florida based deep-sea exploration and salvage company Odyssey Marine.  However, they believe this accounts for only 20% of the precious metal on board the vessel when it went down.  If true, this would mean the total cargo could be worth up to £121m.

Only recently Odyssey Marine was involved in a well publicised legal confrontation with the Spanish government over the salvage and rightful ownership of gold and silver coins recovered from the shipwreck of a nineteenth century Spanish galleon.  As we reported back in March, the company lost the case in the United States and was forced to hand the treasure back to Spain, at considerable cost.

With the Gairsoppa recovery operation however, Odyssey Marine signed a deal with the UK government that allows them to keep 80% of the proceeds from the haul.  Considering the cargo of silver was valued at £325,000 at the time of the sinking in 1941, the current strength in the price of silver will undoubtedly pay handsome dividends for the company.

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