Dr. Saul’s Deep-Sea Treasure Odyssey

October 12, 2011

Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, co-founded by former Bermuda Premier Dr. David Saul, has located two shipwrecks carrying millions of dollars worth of silver.

One vessel was sunk off Ireland in 1917, when a German torpedo crippled the British steamer “Mantola” — sending the ship and its cargo of an estimated 20 tons of silver underwater where it remained for almost 100 years. At today’s prices, the metal would be worth about $18 million.

And last month, Odyssey announced its discovery of the British merchant ship “Gairsoppa”, also torpedoed off Ireland. The vessel was carrying a 240 ton cargo of silver when it went down in 1941 — a treasure trove worth more than $200 million.

Dr. Saul has served as a member of Odyssey’s board of directors since October, 2001. He was Bermuda’s Minister of Finance from 1989 to 1995, and Premier of Bermuda from 1995 to 1997. In addition to his political background, Dr. Saul held two senior posts with Fidelity Investments, from 1984 through 1995, as the president of Fidelity Bermuda and executive vice president of Fidelity International. He retired from the firm in 1999 but remains a director of Fidelity’s main international board.

A keen oceanographer with a lifelong passion for shipwrecks and the sea, Devonshire resident Dr. Saul is a founding trustee of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, a founding director of the Professional Shipwreck Explorers Association, and a Fellow of The Explorers Club.

Ladder leading to the forecastle deck of the SS Gairsoppa:

TUR-11-ROV-S-00024a

In 1917, the British Ministry of War Transport paid a War Risk Insurance Claim for £110,000 [in 1917 value] for silver that was on board the “Mantola” when she sank.

This sum would equate to more than 600,000 ounces of silver based on silver prices in 1917. In September 2011, the UK Government Department for Transport awarded Odyssey a salvage contract for the cargo of the SS “Mantola”. Under the agreement, Odyssey will retain 80% of the net salved silver value recovered.

The emergency stern settering pedestal of the SS Gairsoppa:

gairsoppacompass1

“The incremental costs to search for the ‘Mantola’ were low, as this was a contingency project in the event that our team successfully completed the ‘Gairsoppa’ search early,” said Mark Gordon, Odyssey president and COO.

“We are planning to conduct the recovery expedition in conjunction with the ‘Gairsoppa’ recovery, which will also make the operation very cost efficient. Securing our ownership rights prior to recovery and funding our business from cash-flow produced from operations has been a key focus for us. Our share of this successful recovery in 2012 will contribute significantly to our operational funding.”

An intact toilet sits on the bridge deck of the SS Gairsoppa:

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The Odyssey team recently conducted ROV [Remotely Operated Vehicle] operations from the RV Odyssey Explorer to inspect the site.

“The ‘Mantola’ project is located at a depth range that we have a lot of experience in. We have information on the location of the cargo that should make this a great target for testing some new technology that will be useful for a number of new deep-ocean projects we have planned. As we push deeper and deeper, a lot of new and interesting opportunities are presenting themselves.” said Greg Stemm, Odyssey’s CEO.

The torpedo hole in the hull of the SS Gairsoppa:

gairsoppatorpedo

“This find shows the value of our research team and our extensive database of shipwrecks, which allow us to build backup projects that can be added to our surveys in the event of a quick find. The discovery and verification of the ‘Mantola’ marks the second verification of a valuable deep-ocean site and contract with the UK this year.”

A number of consultants, who have combined experience salvaging scores of modern steel-hulled shipwrecks, are advising Odyssey on the project.

Among other ground-breaking projects, one of the companies has successfully penetrated four decks of a large steel-hulled shipwreck at a depth of nearly 3,000 meters in order to completely empty the mail room. In addition, several Odyssey team members have experience with modern salvage to depths of nearly 6,000 meters on military and government missions.

Video report on the SS “Gairsoppa”:

Odyssey has begun the process of assembling the tools and equipment for the salvage expedition for the ‘Gairsoppa’ and ‘Mantola’, and anticipates that operations will begin in spring 2012 as soon as the weather window begins to open up in the North Atlantic. The system being mobilized for modern salvage recovery can also be used on other projects, several of which are in various stages of search or confirmation at this time.

In this case, Odyssey is to get 80 percent of the silver’s value and the British government 20 percent. It plans to attempt the recovery in the spring, along with that of its previous find.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. has been engaged in deep-ocean exploration for a decade and is the world leader in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration. The company is publicly traded on the NASDAQ Capital Market under the symbol OMEX.

Odyssey has a minority ownership stake in Neptune Minerals, a company focused on discovering and commercializing high-value mineral deposits from the ocean floor and provides proprietary deep-ocean expertise and equipment to Neptune under contract. Odyssey also provides deep-ocean contracting services to governments and companies around the world.

Odyssey uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive search and archaeological recovery operations around the world. Odyssey discovered the Civil War-era shipwreck of the SS “Republic” in 2003 and recovered over 50,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts from the site nearly 1,700 feet deep.

In May 2007, the company announced the historic deep-ocean treasure recovery of over 500,000 silver and gold coins, weighing 17 tons, from a Colonial era site code-named “Black Swan.”

- Photos courtesy of Odyssey Marine Exploration

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Comments (10)

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  1. And... says:

    And the rich get richer…

    • SM says:

      Grow up….

    • Buy in says:

      Figured someone would end up implying this .. Do I get jealous of you if you win on the crown and anchor table and I choose not to play ? No !

      Nothing’s stopping anyone from investing in this venture if they want to .

    • Bryan says:

      Yep the rich get Richer!

  2. Terry says:

    Good point’and’..

    How many jobs has he created in Bermuda in the past year.

  3. Mbaya Avunaye says:

    And apart from shooting the breeze. What has Terry done towards contributing to a better Bermuda?

  4. Terry says:

    Not a damn thing.