Monday, October 10, 2011

New Atlantic silver treasure worth some $19 million


A British ship sunk in World War I with some 200,000 ounces of silver, worth $19 million at today's prices, has been located in the North Atlantic, a treasure-hunting firm said Monday.

Odyssey Marine Exploration said it found the wreckage of the SS Mantola, which sank on February 9, 1917, after being torpedoed by a German submarine, and would begin recovery operations next year.

The Florida company said it discovered the shipwreck approximately 2,500 meters (8,200 feet or 1.55 miles) beneath the surface and just 100 miles from the SS Gairsoppa, believed to be the most valuable shipwreck ever, with some $210 million in silver.

The firm said it has an agreement with the British government allowing it to keep 80 percent of the value of anything recovered from the wrecks. It said the British Ministry of War Transport paid an insurance claim in 1917 of £110,000 for silver that was on board the Mantola when it sank.

"This sum would equate to more than 600,000 ounces of silver based on silver prices in 1917," the company said.

"The incremental costs to search for the Mantola were low, as this was a contingency project in the event that our team successfully completed the Gairsoppa search early," said Mark Gordon, Odyssey's president and chief operating officer.

"We are planning to conduct the recovery expedition in conjunction with the Gairsoppa recovery, which will also make the operation very cost efficient."

Odyssey said last month it had located the SS Gairsoppa, torpedoed by a German U-boat in World War II.

The Gairsoppa was carrying some 219 tons of silver when it sank in 1941 in the North Atlantic some 300 miles (490 kilometers) off the Irish coast.

Valued then at 600,000 pounds, the silver today is worth about $210 million, which would make it history's largest recovery of precious metals lost at sea, Odyssey said.

In May 2007, it announced it had found half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects from a ship they code-named the "Black Swan," which went down in 1804 in the Atlantic off the Strait of Gibraltar. The find is being contested by Spain, which claims the trove.

UNESCO estimates there are some three million shipwrecks worldwide, with billions of dollars in sunken treasures and priceless knowledge that can be recovered from the depths of the ocean, including vast amounts of naturally occurring copper, silver, gold and zinc deposits waiting to be discovered.

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