By Chris Noyce
The recovery of a Chilean fishing boat that sank in the Straits of Magellan in January with an alleged cargo of US$22 million (9.5 tons) in gold and silver begins this month following accusations that the boat’s demise may be part of a fraudulent insurance claim.
The rescue will be carried out by four rescue teams from Dutch heavy lifting and transport experts Mammoet, the same company that rescued the remains of the Russian nuclear submarine “Kursk” from the bottom of frozen Barents Sea in 2001. The rescue teams will dive 75 meters under the sea to examine the boat and verify its contents. The operation will most likely be taken next week.
On Jan. 16 the Polar Mist, a Chilean fishing boat, sunk while traversing the Straits of Magellan, a sea route located south of mainland Chile and just north of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina and Chile. The Straits are renowned for their inhospitable climate and tricky navigability.
The eight-member crew radioed for help before putting on life jackets and jumping into the icy water, abandoning the still floating boat. In a risky operation, an Argentine rescue helicopter brought the crew to safety. Two days later a Chilean tugboat tried to bring the abandoned boat to dry land, but the Polar Mist unexpectedly sank some 40 kilometers from the Argentine coast.
The Polar Mist’s destination was Punta Arenas (Region XII), from which the cargo, some 8,370 kilos of unrefined gold and 930 kilos of silver, would be transported by plane to Switzerland for refining.
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