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U.S. Firm Finds Shipwreck Thought To Hold Tons Of Silver

More than 94 years after being sunk by a torpedo, a ship carrying tens of thousands of pounds of silver has been located by a marine salvage company. Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. says it has found the SS Mantola, which came under attack by a German ship in 1917, as it sailed from London to Calcutta.

The wreck was found at a dept of around 8,000 feet, near the coast of Ireland. The ship's cargo was insured for 110,000 British pounds — a figure that has been used to deduce that the cargo contained nearly 19 tons of silver bars.

"Odyssey will retain 80 percent of the value of the silver that's recovered," the AP reports. "At current market prices, that much silver would be worth more than $19 million."

Here are some more details, from Odyssey Marine's website:

The SS Mantola was a 450-foot British-flagged steamer which set sail from London on February 4, 1917, carrying passengers and cargo - including a shipment of silver - to Calcutta, India. On February 8, 1917, she was struck by a torpedo from a German submarine.

The Mantola was under the command of ship's captain David James Chivas, whose great-uncles were the Chivas Brothers — yes, the men who brought the world Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey.

The ship was reportedly sailing in a zig-zag pattern in an attempt to elude German submarines — but that's precisely what found the Mantola. She was struck by a torpedo, and began taking on water. According to a history available at the Odyssey site,

The 165 crew members and 18 passengers abandoned the ship. All but seven crew members, who drowned when their lifeboat overturned, were rescued by the HMS Laburnum.

The Mantola is the second silver-laden wreck to be found by Odyssey Marine this year — just last month, the salvage company announced that it had located the SS Gairsoppa, which went down in 1941. Both ships were originally owned by the British Indian Steam Navigation Company.

Salvage of the cargo and other items from the Gairsoppa and Mantola is not expected to begin until the spring, when conditions in the North Atlantic will be more favorable to the expedition.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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