A job that plumbs hidden depths

Copper ingots

By Emily Ford

Darren Morgan, a salvage expert, tells what it’s like recovering high-value cargo from sunken freighters Celia was already 1,200 metres under water by the time Darren Morgan reached her.

“It took 18 months of planning and preparation,” he says. But the lengthy courtship paid dividends – the salvage generated sales worth more than £1.75 million for the company.

Celia, the codename given to this particular shipwreck, sank off northwest Spain in the 1970s.

Morgan, head of salvage at SubSea Resources, coordinated the cargo recovery operation with a small team, retrieving about 550 tonnes of copper and zinc.

“It is not treasure hunting,” he says. “These are commodity metals.”

Before separating a shipwreck from its ghostly secrets, the firm first has to find it.

Researchers identify possible freighter vessels lost at sea which must meet strict criteria.

“Wrecks must be located in international waters and war graves are strictly off limits.”

Permission must also be sought from the underwriters, who are the legal owners of the cargo. Navigators study the last sightings of the ship to pinpoint its location to within 100 nautical square miles.

“We look at where survivors were picked up... what the currents were like,” he says.

A target being considered for 2008-09 was sunk during the Second World War. “We have the log from the U-boat commander.”

Spain copper Darren Morgan Celia SubSea Resources zinc