Deep-sea exploration and salvage experts Odyssey Marine Exploration has set a new world record after recovering silver bullion worth up to €26 million from the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled British cargo ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War II and sunk off the Galway coast in February 1941.
Odyssey Marine Exploration has recovered more than 61 tons of silver bullion this month from a depth of nearly three miles at a location which is around 300 miles south-west of Galway. This latest recovery consists of 1,574 silver ingots or bars weighing about 1,100 ounces each or almost 1.8 million troy ounces in total, setting a new world record for the deepest and largest precious metal recovery from a shipwreck. Including the silver recovered in 2012, Odyssey has now retrieved 2,792 silver ingots from SS Gairsoppa or more than 99 per cent of the insured silver reported to be abroad when the ship sank.
The silver has been transported to a secure facility in the United Kingdom. Under the terms of a contract with the UK Department for Transport, Odyssey will retain 80 per cent of the net salved value of the cargo.
It is was in September 2011 that Odyssey announced the discovery of about 200 tonnes of silver. It is understood that during the war, the UK Government insured privately owned cargo under their War Risk Insurance programme. After making an insurance payment of approximately £325,000 (1941 value ) to the owners of the silver cargo lost aboard the Gairsoppa, the UK Government became the owners of the insured cargo. As some sources, including Lloyd’s War Losses, indicate a total silver cargo worth £600,000 (1941 value ) lost aboard the Gairsoppa, there may have been additional government-owned silver cargo aboard that would have been self-insured.
The SS Gairsoppa was a British cargo steamer enlisted in the service of the UK for the ministry of war transport during World War II. In February 1941, the steamer had been on its way from India to Britain with a cargo of silver ingots, pig iron, and tea when it began to run out of fuel off the coast of neutral Ireland. As the steamer headed away from the convoy to the safety of Galway harbour where it was to refuel, it was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine U101 on February 17 and sank within 20 minutes. A total of 32 crew members managed to get into lifeboats, however, they all perished except for one survivor, who reached the UK 13 days later.