This week it was reported that a quantity of silver bullion was recovered off the Irish coast south west of Galway. When I first saw this story I presumed it was a small quantity that had been discovered by accident but it turns out the find consisted of 1.4 million troy ounces of silver!! Making it the heaviest and deepest ever recovery of precious metals from a shipwreck.
I did a few calculations to give you a sense of how much silver that is. 1 troy ounce is equivalent to 31.1 grams, which puts the total weight of silver found at 43,540 kgs, that’s about the weight of ten elephants!
The silver has remained off the Irish coast since 1941 when the merchant ship on which it was being transported sank. The SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed by a German U-boat during the Second World War while it was being used by the British government under their War Risk Insurance programme. An insurance payment of £325,000 (it’s value in 1941) was paid out to the owners of the bullion by the government, therefore allowing the state to claim ownership. With silver prices at their highest this was a great time to cash in on their investment! It is thought that this find only represents half of the silver and there is another ship 100 miles from the SS Gairsoppa wreck which contains another sizable quantity of silver.
Now like me you might ask how did that much silver lay on the sea bed for 70 odd years without someone going to the effort of recovering it? It turns out retrieving large amounts of silver from a buried ship wreck isn’t the easiest of tasks! The deep ocean explorations company Odyssey Marine Explorations based in Florida who carried out the work need special equipment to cut into the wreck and retrieve the silver. Even if I can’t get my hands on some that forgotten silver it’s nice to know it’s hidden off our coast just waiting to be found.