By John Richardson
A Portland-based shipwreck hunter says he is about to recover the world's richest sunken treasure – a secret World War II cargo of platinum and diamonds that's worth $3 billion to $5 billion.
Greg Brooks and his partners have filed a claim to the wreck in U.S. District Court in Portland. He said he and a crew of eight plan to begin the salvage in a few weeks.
The ship is identified in the court filings as the Port Nicholson, a British merchant steamer that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Cod in 1942.
It was believed to be carrying automobile parts and military supplies when it sank. The only items seen or recovered so far have been some auto parts, which were presented in court to secure salvage rights.
Brooks, however, said his research team has uncovered federal documents, logbooks and witness accounts that indicate the ship was loaded with precious cargo headed for New York and other ports.
"It was a top-secret mission and they were transporting these valuable cargos during World War II," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of information that led us to say, 'Let's go get this.'"
A total of 71 tons of platinum ingots were loaded into the ship's cargo hold, Brooks says, as a payment from the Soviet Union to the United States for military supplies.