The wreck was found intact about 300 miles southwest of Ireland, almost 3 miles deep, deeper than the resting place of the Titanic. Part of the ship’s cargo manifest is said to contain up to 240 tons of silver, worth more than $230 million. The precise details of the ship’s treasure is unclear because Britain’s wartime government did not disclose the true nature of its transportation records.
The British Department of Transport had awarded the Florida-based treasure hunters a contract to conduct the search, allowing the company to retain 80 per cent of the profits of any silver salvaged.
“We were fortunate to find the shipwreck sitting upright, with the holds open and easily accessible,” said Greg Stemm, chief executive of Odyssey, which is based in Tampa, Fla. “This should enable to us to unload cargo through the hatches, as would happen with a ship along side a cargo terminal.” The salvage company plan to recover the precious cargo in the spring of 2012.
The SS Gairsoppa was owned by the British India Steam Navigation Company. She was sailing from Calcutta, India to Liverpool, UK., loaded with nearly 7,000 tonnes of medium and high-value cargo, including pig iron, tea, and the large quantity of silver. It was forced to break away from its military convoy off the coast of Ireland as weather conditions deteriorated and it began to run out of fuel. As it tried to make the port of Galway, Ireland. Gairsoppa was spotted by the German submarine, U-101, under the command of Captain Ernst Mengersen. The U-boat launched a single torpedo which struck the Gairsoppa on its starboard side, she sank in 20 minutes.
Of the 32 crew members who boarded lifeboats after the U-Boat attack, all perished except for one survivor, Second officer Richard Ayres. His lifeboat came ashore on the coast of Cornwall, England 13 days after the Gairsoppa sank. The merchant steamship was 412 feet long, had 83 crewmen and two gunners on board.