Wreck bearing silver found off coast


THE US marine exploration company which recently located a British wartime shipwreck with £150 million (€172 million) worth of silver in the Atlantic has located a second wreck with silver within the 200-mile Irish limit.

Odyssey Marine Exploration confirmed last night it had located the SS Mantola, a British ship which sank on February 9th, 1917, after it was torpedoed by a German submarine. The company did not give the position of the wreck, but it is known to have sunk 143 miles west-southwest of the Fastnet Rock within the 200-mile Irish exclusive economic zone.

Odyssey said the SS Mantola was lying in 2,500m of water “approximately 100 miles” from the SS Gairsoppa. The SS Gairsoppa, to which Odyssey has also secured salvage rights, was a British-registered cargo steamer enlisted by the British ministry of war transport during the second World War. It was torpedoed by a German U-boat in February 1941.

The marine exploration company intends to undertake salvages of both cargoes of silver next year. Seven Indian crewmen from the SS Mantola died, but most of the crew survived and were brought to Bantry, Co Cork.

The company says the salvage contracts were awarded to it by the British department of transport. It will keep 80 per cent of the silver recovered – with Britain getting the remaining 20 per cent.

It points out that the British ministry of war transport paid a war risk insurance claim for £110,000 for silver on the Mantola when it sank. “This sum would equate to more than 600,000 ounces of silver based on silver prices in 1917,” it said.

The company said it “also has several other projects and contracts that . . . may be conducted through the winter months”. The company has been surveying southwest Irish waters where there are “commodity” wrecks.

The Naval Service said it notified the company’s research ship Odyssey Explorer that it should inform the Irish authorities when it came across the vessel surveying some 25 miles west of the Blasket Islands, Co Kerry, on August 2nd.

Under international law, a ship undertaking scientific research should inform the relevant state. However, Odyssey has said that searching for wrecks is exempt from this. Wrecks of less than 100 years old are not protected by Ireland’s National Monuments Act.