Odyssey Marine Exploration (NASDAQ CM:OMEX) announced on Tuesday that it had successfully retrieved 1,574 silver ingots weighing 80 pounds each for a total of almost 1.8 million troy ounces in total in July.
The recoveries were made from a depth of 4.7 kilometres or some 3 miles below the ocean's surface, setting the record for the deepest and largest precious metals recovery from a shipwreck in history.
The 412-foot steel-hulled British merchant steam ship is situated a full kilometer deeper than the Titanic shipwreck.
Odyssey's latest dive brings the Florida-based company's total haul to 2,792 silver ingots weighing 110 US tons (99.8 metric tonnes) or nearly 3.2 million troy ounces found aboard the SS Gairsoppa which was torpedoed approximately 300 miles southwest of Ireland by a German U-boat in February 1941.
The Gairsoppa was traveling from Calcutta in India (the bars were minted in what is now called Mumbai) to Liverpool, England.
According to the manifest, three lots of the insured cargo contained .917 fine silver ingots, and all of the silver recovered in 2012 was from these three lots.
The silver bars thus far recovered now comprise some 99% of the insured silver bars, although sources, including Lloyd’s Record of War Losses, indicate more uninsured government-owned silver may have been aboard the Gairsoppa when she sank.
None of the uninsured cargo has been located, according to an Odyssey press statement.
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.
Recovery is conducted aboard the Seabed Worker, which is equipped with specialized tools capable of surgically cutting through steel decks and which have the flexibility to remove cargo from tight spaces.
Odyssey is retrieving bullion from the shipwreck 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.
The contract to locate the ship and recover the silver was awarded following a competitive bid process in 2011.