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Odyssey Confirms Discovery Of WWII-era SS Gairsoppa Shipwreck; 7 Million Ounces Of Silver At 4,700 Meters

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TAMPA, Florida -- Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. announced today that it has confirmed the identity and location of the shipwreck site of the SS Gairsoppa nearly 4,700 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic, approximately 300 miles off the coast of Ireland in international waters. The SS Gairsoppa was a 412-foot steel-hulled British cargo ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in February 1941 while enlisted in the service of the United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of War Transport. Contemporary research and official documents indicate that the ship was carrying £600,000 (1941 value) or 7 Million total ounces of silver, including over 3 Million ounces of private silver bullion insured by the UK government which would make it the largest known precious metal cargo ever recovered from the sea. In 2010, the UK Government Department for Transport awarded Odyssey, through a competitive tender process, the exclusive salvage contract for the cargo of the SS Gairsoppa. Under the salvage agreement Odyssey will retain 80% of the net salved value of the silver bullion recovered under the contract.

The Odyssey team recently conducted ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) operations from the RV Odyssey Explorer to inspect the site. The video and photographs acquired during the exploration of the shipwreck were reviewed and analyzed at length to confirm the identity of the shipwreck as that of the SS Gairsoppa. The expedition and resulting data was also used to evaluate the condition of the shipwreck and to begin planning for recovery operations.

"Once again, our stellar marine operations team has delivered outstanding results. Under the direction of Senior Project Manager Andrew Craig, the target was located with side-scan sonar and then visually inspected in less than two months from the start of the operation," stated Mark Gordon, Odyssey President and COO.

"We've accomplished the first phase of this project - the location and identification of the target shipwreck - and now we're hard at work planning for the recovery phase," said Andrew Craig, Odyssey Senior Project Manager. "Given the orientation and condition of the shipwreck, we are extremely confident that our planned salvage operation will be well suited for the recovery of this silver cargo."

"Being the son of a merchant mariner who worked for the same shipping line as the Gairsoppa's and as a former merchant mariner myself, the visit to the site via ROV was particularly personal," stated Neil Cunningham Dobson, Odyssey's Principal Marine Archaeologist. "By analyzing the known configuration and research about the Gairsoppa and her final voyage and painstakingly exploring the shipwreck site to record each element and item, our team of experts was able to positively identify the site as the Gairsoppa. Even though records indicate that the lifeboats were launched before the ship sank, sadly most of her crew did not survive the long journey to shore. By finding this shipwreck, and telling the story of its loss, we pay tribute to the brave merchant sailors who lost their lives"

A number of consultants, who have combined experience salvaging scores of modern steel-hulled shipwrecks, are advising Odyssey on the project. Among other ground-breaking projects, one of the companies has successfully penetrated four decks of a large steel-hulled shipwreck at a depth of nearly 3,000 meters in order to completely empty the mail room. In addition, several Odyssey team members have experience with modern salvage to depths of nearly 6,000 meters on military and government missions.

"While some people might wonder about the potential complexity of salvage at this depth, we have already conducted a thorough analysis of the best tools and techniques to conduct this operation and are confident that the salvage will be conducted efficiently and on a timely basis," commented Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO. "Hundreds of modern cargo ships like this have been salvaged since the mid-20th century, some at depths of thousands of meters. We were fortunate to find the shipwreck sitting upright, with the holds open and easily accessible. This should enable us to unload cargo through the hatches as would happen with a floating ship alongside a cargo terminal."

Odyssey has begun the process of specifying and assembling the tools and equipment for the salvage, and anticipates that operations will begin in the spring as soon as the weather window begins to open up in the North Atlantic. The system being mobilized for modern salvage recovery can also be used on other projects, several of which are in various stages of exploration or confirmation at this time.

The company also has several other projects and contracts that will potentially begin during the balance of this working season and may be conducted through the winter months. Some of these projects are also in partnership with governments and will feature pre-negotiated salvage awards.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

6 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

These guys are the best treasure hunters in the world. I hope they make another season of Treasure Quest.
   comment# 1   - Chris C. · Carmel, IN · Sep 26, 2011 @ 6:04pm

If I may correct you, UT, The SS Gairsoppa IS, not WAS, a 412-foot steel-hulled British cargo ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in February 1941 while enlisted in the service of the United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of War Transport. As we who have served in submarines refer to lost crewmates and boats as being on eternal patrol...and so should it be with sunken ships.
   comment# 2   - Don James · Rutledge · Sep 27, 2011 @ 1:31pm

This is an amazing find. How many more sites are yet to be discovered? What will all of that silver do to the price of silver? Of course if this even goes to auction?
   comment# 3   - Barry · Phoenix, Arizona · Sep 27, 2011 @ 3:13pm

Three cheers to all involved in the recovery. I believe any endeavor ambitiously pursued deserves it's just reward.
   comment# 4   - flyman8 · bakersfield,ca., USA · Sep 27, 2011 @ 4:26pm

Wow! This makes for an exceptional story. If I were younger I would love to be a part of the salvage team. Very exciting, a good read. Congratulations to the Odyssey Co.!!!
   comment# 5   - Duncan Macmillan · Houston, Texas USA · Sep 27, 2011 @ 5:29pm

Greg Stemm, the co-founder and current CEO of Odyssey Marine Exploration, and John C. Morris, the co-founder of Odyssey Marine Exploration, were both sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It appears that Neptune Minerals is insolvent. Oceanica is extremely unlikely to get an environmental permit. Oceanica’s cofounding shareholder, DNA Ltd, Inc, is tied to a Panamanian entity whose principal members are connected to a number of alleged financial crimes – why did Odyssey Marine Exploration structure it this way? Isn’t it weird that Odyssey Marine Exploration has been unable to address any of the serious questions posed by concerned shareholders? It’s concerning that John Morris, the founder of Odyssey Marine, is currently being sued by members of Seagrass Recovery. Odyssey Marine Exploration and Neptune Minerals have been tied to brokerage firms with many FINRA sanctions, this is very alarming – would you invest in this company? Buyer beware. Odyssey Marine Exploration has disappointed 100% of the time on its estimated project recoveries, can you trust anything they say? Why does Odyssey Marine Exploration have opaque and unexplained offshore subsidiaries in the Bahamas and Panama? These are completely unnecessary for Odyssey’s operations. Based on its current cash reserves and negative cash flow Odyssey Marine Exploration could very well go bankrupt in 2014. http://www.omextruth.com
   comment# 6   - Treasure Hunter 81 · San Francisco · Apr 7, 2014 @ 9:04am
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