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WWII Shipwreck Yields $38 Million of Silver From Atlantic

Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. retrieved 1,203 silver bars from the SS Gairsoppa, a British cargo ship that sank after being torpedoed by German U-boat in February 1941. Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., www.shipwreck.net via Bloomberg
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. retrieved 1,203 silver bars from the SS Gairsoppa, a British cargo ship that sank after being torpedoed by German U-boat in February 1941. Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., www.shipwreck.net via Bloomberg

July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., a deep-ocean exploration company, said it recovered about 48 tons of silver from a World War II shipwreck three miles (4.8 kilometers) beneath the Atlantic Ocean.

The company retrieved 1,203 silver bars, or about 1.4 million ounces of the metal, from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot (126-meter) British cargo ship that sank after being torpedoed by German U-boat in February 1941, Tampa, Florida-based Odyssey said today in a statement. The metal, worth $38 million at today’s prices, is being held at a secure facility in the U.K.

Odyssey said the recovered silver represents about 20 percent of the bullion that may be on board the Gairsoppa, which lies about 300 miles off the coast of Ireland. The operation, the largest and deepest recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck, should be completed in the third quarter.

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

Silver Recovery

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

Odyssey has salvage contracts with the U.K. allowing it to retain 80 percent of the net silver value recovered.

The 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 today in a separate statement. 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.

Odyssey fell 9.4 percent to $3.85 at the close in New York, the most since Nov. 10.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jack Kaskey in Houston at jkaskey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Casey at scasey4@bloomberg.net

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