SS Mantola (1916)
|Operator:||British-India Steam Navigation Company|
|Builder:||Barclay Curle & Company, Glasgow|
|Launched:||22 March 1916|
|Fate:||Sunk on 9 February 1917|
|Class & type:||Passenger steamer|
|Length:||450 ft 4 in (137.26 m)|
|Beam:||58 ft 2 in (17.73 m)|
|Draught:||32 ft 7 in (9.93 m)|
|Propulsion:||triple expansion engine, coal|
|Speed:||14.5 knots (26.9 km/h)|
SS Mantola was a passenger steamer of the British-India Steam Navigation Company. Launched in 1916 by Barclay Curle & Company, Glasgow, she sailed for less than a year before being sunk by a German U-boat while carrying a large quantity of silver bullion.
Construction and career
Mantola was built by the Glasgow-based shipbuilders Barclay Curle & Company and launched on 22 March 1916. Entering service during the First World War, her short career was eventful. She struck a mine off Aldeburgh on 30 October 1916, while sailing from Middlesbrough and London bound for Calcutta carrying general cargo. There were no casualties and though damaged the ship survived.
After repairs the Mantola sailed again from London on 4 February 1917, bound for Calcutta. She carried 165 crew, 18 passengers, and general cargo including around 600,000 ounces of silver valued at £110,000 at 1917 prices. On 8 February 1917, while 143 miles off Fastnet, she was sighted by SM U-81, under the command of Raimund Weisbach. Weisbach torpedoed the Mantola, causing her captain, D.J. Chivas, and the crew to abandon ship. Though there were no casualties in the initial attack, a party of seven Indian seamen drowned when their lifeboat overturned. U-81 then began to shell the still floating Mantola, until being chased away by the Acacia-class sloop HMS Laburnum. Laburnum took the floating hulk under tow, but the line parted in the rough seas, and Mantola was left to sink, which she did on 9 February. Laburnum carried the survivors to shore and landed them at Bantry Bay.
The wreck of the Mantola was discovered in late 2011 by Odyssey Marine Exploration while searching for the wreck of the SS Gairsoppa, another vessel that had been sunk while carrying a cargo of silver. The Department for Transport awarded a salvage contract to the company to begin recovery of the cargo in return for Odyssey Marine retaining 80% of the value recovered, the total value of the cargo estimated to be around £12,000,000.