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A £23m payday: U.S. company recovers 48 tons of silver

Silver ingots


By Daniel Miller - Mail Online

A US deep-sea exploration company says it has recovered about 48 tons of silver from a British cargo ship that was sunk by a torpedo during World War II.

The haul comes from the SS Gairsoppa, which was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat about 300 miles off Ireland's coast in 1941. It now sits 15,420ft deep.

Salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration said it is the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck ever made.

So far, workers have brought up more than 1,200 silver bars, or about 1.4 million troy ounces, worth about £23.7 million (about $37 million). 

The company is under contract with the British Government and will get to keep 80 per cent of the haul after expenses. The remaining 20 per cent will go to the Treasury.

SS Gairsoppa was steaming home from India in 1941 while in the service of the Ministry of War Transport when she was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat.

She sank in British waters about 300 miles off the south west coast of Ireland. Only one of her 84 crew members survived.

The 412-ft steamship has remained sitting upright on the seabed with its holds open, nearly three miles under water.

The ship, recognisable by the red-and-black paintwork of the British-India Steam Navigation Company and the torpedo hole in its side, was sailing in a convoy from Calcutta in 1941.

Buffeted by high winds and running low on coal, the captain decided he would not make it to Liverpool and broke from the convoy to head for Galway.

A single torpedo from U-101 sank her in 20 minutes, on February 17, 1941.

Three lifeboats were launched, but only Second Officer Richard Ayres made it to land, reaching the Cornish coast after 13 days.


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