Record-breaking haul of silver bullion recovered from World War II shipwreck

Odyssey Marine Exploration (NASDAQ CM:OMEX) announced on Wednesday that it had successfully retrieved a record-breaking 48 tons of sunken silver bullion from a World War II shipwreck lying approximately three miles below the ocean's surface.

According an Odyssey press release, the 48 tons of silver are comprised of 1,203 silver bars, recovered from the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled British merchant ship which was torpedoed approximately 300 miles southwest of Ireland by a German U-boat on February 1941.

The silver bars thus far recovered comprise approximately 43% of the insured silver bars, or around 20% of the total silver cargo which researchers speculate is likely to be on board.

The New York Times quotes Odyssey chief executive Greg Stemm as saying that this is the heaviest and deepest cargo of precious metal ever recovered from a shipwreck, and demonstrates that improvements to marine technology now mean no sunken ships or cargo are irretrievable.

New technologies for the recovery of sunken ships and cargo include tethered robots, lights and claws capable of withstanding the immense pressure of ocean depths, and computers capable of remote coordination.

Odyssey is retrieving bullion from the Gairsoppa as part of an agreement with the UK's Department of Transportation, under which the company independently bears the risk of search and retrieval while retaining 80% of the net salved value of silver cargo following recovery of expenses.

Odyssey's shares have come under pressure of late following the switch from its focus on expedition charters to shipwreck recovery projects. The company tallied up a Q2 net loss of around $15.6 million, compared to $1.9 million a year earlier, and a drop in revenue to $1.4 million from $6.7 million a year previously.

On Wednesday Odyssey closed down 9.4% at $3.85 in New York, for its biggest drop since November 10 2011.