1. ITV Report

48 tons of silver recovered from World War Two shipwreck

1,204 bars of silver were found on board the SS Gairsoppa. Photo: Odyssey Marine Exploration

More than a thousand bars of silver have been recovered from a shipwreck three miles beneath the Atlantic off the coast of Ireland.

The treasure is the heaviest and deepest collection of precious metals ever recovered from a ship wreck, according to Odyssey Marine Exploration, the American company responsible for the haul.

The total bounty amounted to 1,203 silver bars or approximately 1.4 million troy ounces of silver.

Tea chests held the silver Credit: Odyssey Marine Exploration

The 48 ton cargo was on board the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled British cargo ship that sank in February 1941.

The merchant ship was sailing off the coast of Galway in Ireland when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat during the Second World War. It was being used by the Government under their War Risk insurance programme.

An insurance payment of £325,000, the value in 1941, was made by the Government to the owners of the cargo. The Government gave Odyssey the contract to locate the ship several years ago and will receive 20% of the value of the haul.

The starboard side of the SS Gairsoppa bears faint traces of her painted letters. Credit: Odyssey Marine Exploration

Eighty-three crew and two gunners were aboard the ship when it was fired on. The British and Indian sailors abandoned ship as they were being fired on by the Germans, but only one person survived.

Second Officer R.H Ayres washed up near Galway bay after spending 13 days in a lifeboat.

The bow of the SS Gairsoppa with both anchors visible has been lying nearly 3 miles beneath the North Atlantic since 1941. Credit: Odyssey Marine Exploration

Odyssey Marine Exploration said the Gairsoppa haul recovered is about 43% of the insured silver bars, or a fifth of the total cargo they believe may have been on board.

The company is conducting the project under contract with the Department for Transport.

Under the agreement they keep 80% of the value of the cargo in return for conducting the complicated search and recover mission.

Special ROV pilots navigated the robotics used to recover the silver bars from the site, 4700 metres deep Credit: Odyssey Marine Exploration

The company used advanced robotics operated by teams of pilots to locate the site. The rescue has been going on for the best part of year and the silver has now been transported to a secure location within the UK.

Advanced robotics were used to pick up the silver

Odyssey chief executive praised his team for the success of the project:

With the shipwreck lying approximately three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, this was a complex operation.

Our capacity to conduct precision cuts and successfully complete the surgical removal of bullion from secure areas on the ship demonstrates our capabilities to undertake complicated tasks in the very deep ocean

This technology will be applicable to other modern shipwreck projects currently being scheduled as well as our deep ocean mineral exploration activities.

Odyssey's team worked from a 291-foot ship Credit: Odyssey Marine Exploration