Finding sunken treasure is a common fantasy among divers and would-be adventurers. It’s an exciting image: hauling up a chest from the depths bursting with pirates’ gold. However, a recent record breaking find isn’t related to pirates or made of gold. It’s a British shipwreck containing an estimated 219 tons of silver.
The ship in question is the SS Gairsoppa which sank from conflict during World War II in 1941. The Gairsoppa was not a warship or a part of any military exercise. It was just a simple cargo ship carrying a load of tea, pig iron, and silver from India to Britain. It was even sailing with a convoy of ships for safety. However, disaster struck on the high seas. A big storm hit, and the Gairsoppa was low on fuel. Desperate, it broke away from the convoy and headed to Galway, Ireland to make port. However, when it crossed into the contested north Atlantic waters, it was shown no mercy and torpedoed by a German U-boat almost immediately.
With that, the Gairsoppa’s vast haul of silver sank more than 15,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. Now that it’s been found, recovery operations for the silver are expected to begin in the spring of 2012. Because of the good condition of the wreck, scientists are confident that the depths will not hinder recovery of the entire load of silver. At modern silver prices, the sunken treasure is worth about $210 million. At that price, it should be history’s largest recovery of precious metals lost at sea.