Dr Saul’s shipwreck yields $38 million silver haul

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  • Treasure trove: The Odyssey crew inspects some of hundreds of silver bars as they are recovered from the SS Gairsoppa site and unloaded on deck of the ship, Seabed Worker.

  • Silver cargo found: A trove of silver bars discovered on the SS Gairsoppa in the Atlantic. Odyssey’s record-breaking operation has so far produced the heaviest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck.

  • Former Premier David Saul

Former Premier David Saul’s Odyssey Marine Exploration said yesterday it recovered about 48 tons of silver from a Second World War shipwreck deep in the Atlantic.

On the spot market, that amount would be worth about $38 million.

The company said in a statement it retrieved 1,203 silver bars, or about 1.4 million ounces of the metal, from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot British cargo ship that sank after being torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1941. It was found last year three miles beneath the Atlantic.

Tampa, Florida-based Odyssey, of which Dr Saul is a founder and director, said the silver is being held at a secure facility in the UK.

Odyssey said the recovered silver represents about 20 percent of the bullion that may be on board the Gairsoppa, some 300 miles off Ireland.

The operation, the largest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck, should be completed in the third quarter, Odyssey said.

“With the shipwreck lying approximately three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, this was a complex operation,” Odyssey CEO Greg Stemm said.

“Our success on the Gairsoppa marks the beginning of a new paradigm for Odyssey in which we expect modern shipwreck projects will complement our archaeological shipwreck excavations.”

The recovery began in May using a chartered 291-foot ship after a series of reconnaissance dives earlier in the year, the company said.

Odyssey has salvage contracts with the UK allowing it to retain 80 percent of the net silver value recovered. The value of the cargo is an estimated $186.4 million.

Odyssey last year announced plans to recover another 600,000 ounces of silver from another wreck, the SS Mantola, a British vessel sunk by a German submarine in 1917, which lies about 100 miles from the Gairsoppa.

“Our research department developed extensive information about the vessel’s sinking and layout of the ship, and our marine operations team was able to locate both the Gairsoppa and the Mantola shipwreck sites relatively quickly last summer,” Odyssey president and COO Mark Gordon said.

The ocean exploration company was founded by Dr Saul and two wealthy American businessmen.

Meanwhile, Odyssey’s net loss in the second quarter widened to about $15.6 million, or 21 cents a share, from $1.9 million, or 7 cents, a year earlier, the company said yesterday in a separate statement, reported by Bloomberg.

Revenue tumbled to $1.4 million from $6.7 million a year earlier as the company said it switched its focus from expedition charters to shipwreck recovery projects.

Despite the silver trove, Odyssey shares closed down 9.4 percent yesterday at $3.85.

Odyssey is battling with the Spanish over rights to the one of the richest shipwreck hauls in history — some 17 tons of silver coins found off Portugal in 2007. The coins are estimated to be worth as much as $500 million.

Dr Saul said last year Bermuda should not miss out on the opportunity of a chance deep-sea commodities could be found beneath the ocean surrounding the Island.

He said “there’s a distinct possibility that it could be the third pillar of Bermuda’s economy ... recovering oil from our deep water is not an impossibility, or to find manganese nodules or underwater phosphates.”

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Published Jul 19, 2012 at 7:48 am (Updated Jul 19, 2012 at 7:48 am)

Dr Saul’s shipwreck yields $38 million silver haul

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