World War II ‘Treasure’ Recovered at Record Depth

By May 4, 2015 Article No Comments

One of the most valuable treasure recoveries of all time was recently salvaged from the wreck of SS City of Cairo, sunken years ago by a German submarine during World War II. Kemplon Engineering takes a closer look at the breathtaking $50-million find.

The SS City of Cairo
British steamship SS City of Cairo, a cargo and passenger ship, was carrying 100 tonnes of Treasury-owned silver coins and 311 passengers on its way from Bombay to England in 1942, when it was sunk by a German submarine. The vessel was called to London with its precious cargo to help fund the war. On its ill-fated trip, the ship was attacked by the Germans with one torpedo, followed by a second strike ten minutes later. The gap between strikes allowed passengers and crew precious time to abandon ship and head to lifeboats. German U-boat captain Karl-Freidrich Merten then apologized for the sinking and gave them directions to the nearest land. Six died in the attack, and 104 of the attack survivors perished before the rest were rescued three weeks later.

The Record-Breaking Salvage
The SS City of Cairo was discovered broken in two and buried in mud and silt. A British team under contract to the government, located the wreck and recovered silver coins worth $50 million, in a complex task long believed to be near-impossible. The project brought the company Deep Ocean Search (“DOS”) down to a record depth of 17,000 feet, operating in challenging weather and water conditions, and requiring the use of sonar and robotics.

The find was actually made all the way back in September, 2013, but was only announced recently. Since the completion of the salvage, the coins have reportedly been melted down and sold, with an undisclosed division of “spoils” between the UK Treasury and the salvage company.

A plaque was left at the site of the wreck in commemoration of those who perished in the attack.

^ “$50 Million in Coins Salvaged from Wreck.” The Maritime Executive, 16 Apr 2015. Web. 24 April 2015.
^ Ratcliffe, Rebecca. “Divers recover £34m of silver coins from ship sunk by U-boat.” The Guardian, 15 Apr 2015. Web. 24 Apr 2015.
^ Tomlinson, Simon. “£34million hoard of silver coins sent to the bottom of the sea by the Nazis is discovered aboard sunken steamboat at a record depth of 17,000ft by British treasure hunters.” Mail Online, 15 Apr 2015. Web. 24 Apr 2015.