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Found: UK Shipwreck Laden With $18 Million Worth of Silver

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Odyssey sighted the Mantola while using a tethered robot in its search for another ship. (Photo: Franci Strümpfer)
Odyssey sighted the Mantola while using a tethered robot in its search for another ship. (Photo: Franci Strümpfer)

WORLD

  • US firm to get 80% of ship’s treasure trove, UK government to get 20%
  • Steamship’s cargo of 20 tons of silver laying on sea bed since 1917
  • Odyssey recently found UK ship holding $200 million worth of silver

US firm Odyssey Marine Exploration has discovered a UK shipwreck laden with 20 tons of silver worth around $18 million. A German submarine sank the steamship Mantola in the North Atlantic off the coast of Ireland in 1917.

Odyssey sighted the Mantola while using a tethered robot in its search for another ship, and is contracted by the British Department for Transport to recover the silver. Odyssey stands to gain 80% of the silver’s worth, with the remainder going to the UK government. As private companies come up with the capital to cover expensive sea exploration projects with no guarantee they will yield favorable results, it is customary practice to divvy up any eventual profits.

Less than a year after its completion, the Mantola left London for Calcutta in 1917 carrying cargo, 18 passengers, and a crew of 165, according to Odyssey. The wreck was found 8,200 feet under the water’s surface.

Deep-Sea Exploration Technology

Shipwrecks are being made accessible by technology advances in deep-sea exploration such as robots and claws used to locate and recover riches on the seabed. Though it may seem an opportune time for governments to turn to valuable cargo retrieval given the economic climate, the Department of Transport shifted focus to private companies. “The interest really lies with the commercial salvagers. It’s not an active program on our part to rebalance the economy by finding sunken silver. It’s not us thinking, ‘We’re short of a bob or two. Let’s see what we have lying on the bottom of the ocean’,” a department representative said.

Odyssey will carry out its retrieval effort regarding the Mantola and another vessel in the Spring of 2012. In September, the company declared it had found UK steamship Gairsoppa, sunk by a torpedo in 1941. The find was also off Ireland and the vessel held 240 tons of silver, representing a worth of over $200 million. The Mantola and the Gairsoppa belonged to the British Indian Steam Navigation Co. The Department for Transport had contracted Odyssey to locate the Gairsoppa.

Gold and silver prices are both rising, forecast to enjoy an upward trend in October. The longer the markets are considered unstable, the longer gold and silver prices will remain elevated. So far in October, gold prices have gained almost 2% and silver prices are up close to 6.5%. The sharper increase in silver prices brought the ratio down by more than 4%. Gold to silver prices have a ratio of 52.13 at present.

Sunken Treasure May Help Keep Odyssey Afloat

The recent find spells hope for Odyssey as the company has traded between $1.68 and $4.43 in 2011. The company is currently trading at $2.39, as its 200-day moving average rose 0.3% over the past week, with its 50-day moving average falling more than 1.5%.

Key Statistics – Global Silver Market (source: The Silver Institute’s World Silver Survey 2011 by consultancy GFMS)

  • Mine production for silver rose 2.5% in 2010.
  • Silver prices saw a near 80% gain in 2010.
  • Overall fabrication of silver jumped 13% in 2010, the highest in ten years, driven by demand.
  • Silver supply jumped 15% in 2010.

By Ellsy O'Neill for
Ellsy O'Neill is a Paris-based writer, proofreader and translator. She covers industry, culture and current affairs.

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