|Career (United Kingdom)|
|Operator:||British-India Steam Navigation Company|
|Port of registry:||Glasgow, United Kingdom|
|Ordered:||by British Shipping Controller as SS War Roebuck taken over by BISN|
|Builder:||Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow|
|Identification:||United Kingdom Official Number 141924
Code Letters GCZB (1934-41)
|Fate:||Sunk, February 16, 1941|
|Class & type:||Steam merchant ship|
|Length:||399 ft 3 in (121.69 m)|
|Beam:||52 ft 2 in (15.90 m)|
|Draught:||25 ft 8 1⁄4 in (7.830 m)|
|Depth:||28 ft 5 in (8.66 m)|
|Installed power:||517 nhp|
|Propulsion:||triple expansion engine, coal|
|Speed:||10.5 knots (19.4 km/h)|
The SS Gairsoppa was a British steam merchant ship that saw service during the Second World War. The name Gairsoppa was given in honor of the stunning waterfalls in Karnataka, India.[Note 1] She sailed with several convoys, before joining Convoy SL 64. Running low on fuel, she left the convoy and headed for Galway, Ireland, until a German U-boat torpedoed and sank her.
The wreck of the Gairspoppa was located in 2011, and it was announced that an operation to recover its cargo of silver bullion, with an estimated value of £150 million, would begin in 2012. On 18 July 2012 Odyssey Marine Exploration, of Tampa, Florida, reported that it had recovered 48 tons of silver, making this probably "the deepest, largest precious metal recovery in history".
Gairsoppa was 399 feet 3 inches (121.69 m) long, with a beam of 52 feet 2 inches (15.90 m). She had a depth of 28 feet 5 inches (8.66 m) and a draught of 25 feet 8 inches (7.830 m). She was propelled by a 517 1⁄4nhp triple expansion steam engine driving a single screw propeller. The engine was built by Palmers. It had cylinders of 27 inches (69 cm), 44 inches (110 cm) and 78 inches (200 cm) diameter by 48 inches (120 cm) stroke. It could propel the ship at 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h).
Ordered by the British Shipping Controller as SS War Roebuck from Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company of Jarrow, she was taken over during construction by the British-India Steam Navigation Company, and completed as SS Gairsoppa. Gairsoppa was completed in November 1919. Her port of registry was Glasgow. She was allocated the United Kingdom Official Number 141924. On 29 April 1930, she ran aground at Fulta Point, India. She was refloated undamaged later that day. Gairsoppa used the Code Letters GCZB from 1934.
Attached to convoy SL-64 under master Gerald Hyland, she was returning from India to Britain in 1941 with a cargo of silver ingots, pig iron and tea. She joined the 8 knot convoy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, but while in a heavy storm and running low on coal off the coast of neutral Republic of Ireland, Gairsoppa split off from the convoy and set course for Galway harbour at a reduced speed of 5 knots.
A German Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft circled her at 08:00 on 16 February, and at 22.30, U-101 under the command of Ernst Mengersen, spotted her. Torpedoed on the starboard side in No. 2 hold, she sank within 20 minutes (Note: German logbooks kept in German time state she sank at 00.08 hours on February 17, 1941). Her last reported position was Coordinates: , 300 miles (480 km) southwest of Galway Bay. The wreck lies 4,700 metres (15,400 ft) below the surface.
It was thought that three lifeboats launched, but only one in the charge of the second officer R.H. Ayres, with four Europeans and two Lascars on board, made it away; the rest of the crew was lost. By the 13th day only the second officer, the radio officer and a seaman gunner remained. Ayres and his boat reached the Cornish coast two weeks later at Caerthillian Cove in the parish of Landewednack. The boat capsized before the lifeboat could reach them and only the second officer was pulled from the sea alive. Two of the men aboard, Robert Frederick Hampshire (Radio Officer), and an un-named Indian seaman died trying to get ashore. They are buried at St. Wynwallow, Church Cove, Landewednack. Ayres was made an Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his attempts to rescue his fellow sailors; he lived until 1992.
In 1989, the British government invited tenders to salvage the cargo and received just one, from Deepwater Recovery and Exploration Ltd.
After a competitive tender, in January 2010, the government awarded a US company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, a two-year contract to find and salvage the 7,000,000 ounces of silver, which was worth £600,000 at the time of sinking, but hundreds of times that amount now.
Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration, on September 26, 2011, confirmed the identity and location of the Gairsoppa. The wreck of the ship was found on the sea floor at a depth of nearly 4,700 metres (2.9 miles) off the coast of Ireland. Footage of the Gairsoppa was provided by the Odyssey Marine Exploration company on September 26, 2011 and published at the NYTimes.com It was reported that the silver to be recovered from the ship could have a value of £150 million at 2011 prices. Odyssey Marine indicated that the operation to recover the bullion would begin in the spring of 2012. Odyssey will retain 80% of the value of any recovered cargo, with the remainder going to HM Treasury.
- These falls are also popularly known as Jogfalls.
- Record treasure hauled from shipwreck by Amanda Onion. Wed Jul 18, 2012 09:42 AM ET, Discovery News.
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- Hocking William (1996). The Lizard in Landewednack. Lizard History Society. p. 107. ISBN 0952871106.
- "Salvage". Hansard.
- The New York Times http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/09/25/science/100000001073683/the-ss-gairsoppa.html
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- "Shipwreck of SS Gairsoppa reveals £150m silver haul". BBC News Online. 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-09-26.
- Davies, Lizzy (September 26, 2011). "Atlantic wreck set to yield £150m haul". London: The Guardian. Retrieved September 27, 2011.