Shipwreck Yields Most Silver Ever

The 61 tons of silver salvaged from a 1941 cargo ship are worth millions.

The recovered silver was insured at $1.3 million in 1941; today it's worth about $75 million.

An oceanic exploration company has recovered 122,000 pounds of silver from a shipwreck 300 miles off the coast of Galway, Ireland—the heaviest amount of precious metal ever retrieved from a shipwreck.

In February 1941, the S.S. Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled British cargo ship with stockpiles of tea, iron, and silver, was weathering a storm when it was struck by a Nazi torpedo. The ship sank within 20 minutes; only one person survived.

At the time, the silver that ended up on the seafloor was insured at $1.3 million. Today it's worth about $75 million.

Going Deep

The silver was retrieved about two weeks ago by Odyssey Marine Exploration, which used a remotely operated vehicle to access the shipwreck. The vehicle descended about three miles and explored several rooms in the ship until it found the silver in two locations. (Related: "Deepest Shipwreck Explored Off U.S. Yields Treasures.")

Mark Gordon, president of Odyssey Marine Exploration, said the process of uncovering the silver at that depth was complex and difficult.

"It's pretty amazing to think that, first, it can even work in those depths. And then to be able to use the various saws and tools to get inside and then look around, it's just really staggering to think what our technical teams have accomplished," he said.