Row after row of silver bricks lie stacked aboard the sunken S.S. Gairsoppa, torpedoed in the North Atlantic by a Nazi U-boat in 1941. The Odyssey Marine Exploration salvage company this month announced it had retrieved 48 of the 240 tons of silver in the British merchant steamship’s hull.
The 412-foot (126-meter) Gairsoppa currently resides nearly 3 miles (4.7 kilometers) underwater—deeper than the Titanic. The World War II-era vessel’s silver is the heaviest and deepest precious-metal cargo ever retrieved from a shipwreck, according to Odyssey, which plans to return to the site to continue the salvage operation.
A ladder connects the cargo hold to the Gairsoppa’s deck. The ship’s holds are open, and its belly is splintered by the torpedo that sank it, but the Gairsoppa nevertheless sits upright on the seabed, largely intact, its paint still faintly visible.
A remotely controlled robotic arm lifts silver bullion from the Gairsoppa’s hold. Recovery of the bricks began in May 2012.
Crowned with anemones, the Gairsoppa’s brass stern compass retains its shine after 71 years.
In addition to the silver cargo, more than 1,700 tons of tea were listed in the ship’s manifest. Tea chests in the wreck are among the clues that helped Odyssey identify the wreck as the Gairsoppa. More.