Treasure Hunters Divers rescue N9.9 billion wartime silver from ocean floor

The trove had lain on the seabed since the steamship carrying them, SS City of Cairo, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1942.

  • Published:
play The recovered treasure (BBC)
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A British-led team has recovered a $50m (about N9.9 billion) trove of coins from the bottom of the ocean floor.

The trove had lain on the seabed since the steamship carrying them, SS City of Cairo, was torpedoed south of St Helena by a German U-boat in 1942.

The vessel was travelling from Bombay to England.

Its precious cargo, 100 tonnes of silver coins, belonged to HM Treasury which had been called in by London to help fund the war effort. It never made it however as the steamship was spotted by a U-boat on 6th November 1942 and it was torpedoed.

According to BBC, the ship and its cargo was presumed lost until 2011, when a team led by British salvage expert John Kingsford located an unnatural object among the ridges and canyons of their South Atlantic search area.

Speaking with BBC, Kingsford said that under a contract with the UK government, underwater salvagers Deep Ocean Search (DOS) worked for several weeks searching a "jumbled up sea floor" twice the size of London.

Admitting that the team wasn't sure at first of what they spotted, they however went ahead and it turned out to be the vessel, recovering a "large percentage" of its £34 million treasure chest.

play (BBC)


The coins have now been melted down in the UK and sold, with the undisclosed sum divided between the treasury,which technically owns the coins, and the salvagers, who take a percentage of the sale.

Although the  salvage was completed in September 2013, the DOS has only now been given permission by the Ministry of Transport to announce it.

Only 6 of 311 people aboard died in the sinking, but it would be three weeks before anyone found any of the six lifeboats that had set out for land. In that time, 104 of the 305 survivors died.

The British SS Clan Alpine picked up 154 survivors alive on the way to St Helena and a further 47 were rescued by a British merchant ship  and taken to Cape Town.

A final lifeboat was discovered 51 days after the sinking, off the coast of South America, with only two of its many passengers alive

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