American treasure hunters announced Monday that they have located a World War II-era shipwreck believed to contain 200 metric tons of silver bullion – a total that would make it the largest haul of precious metal ever discovered at sea.
The treasure is thought to be worth more than $200 million. Under its contract with the British government, the American firm that found it, Odyssey Marine Exploration, will get to keep 80 percent of the find if it is able to bring the valuable cargo to the surface from its current resting place nearly three miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, the BBC reports.
The wreckage of the SS Gairsoppa, a British steamship sunk by a German U-boat in 1941, was found some 300 miles off the coast of Ireland last week by the U.S. underwater salvage firm, CNN reports. To date, the recovery team has explored the site only with the use of remote-controlled submarines. It now will begin planning the arduous task of bringing the valuable cargo to the surface.
The good news for the treasure-hunting team is that the 412-foot ship settled upright on the seabed with its cargo holds open, which means they should be able to use remote-controlled robots to retrieve the bullion. The firm plans to begin the retrieval in the second half of 2012, the BBC reports.