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Archaeologist Neil C. Dobson and Senior Project Manager Andrew Craig direct operations aboard the Odyssey Explorer during the Gairsoppa project
The Odyssey crew recover the ROV after inspection of the Gairsoppa site
The Odyssey crew records images of the SS Gairsoppa

SS Gairsoppa Operational Overview

In 2010, the United Kingdom (UK) Government Department for Transport awarded Odyssey, through a competitive bid, the exclusive salvage contract for the cargo of the SS Gairsoppa. Under the salvage agreement, which follows standard commercial practices, Odyssey bears the risk of search and recovery and will retain 80% of the net salved value of the Gairsoppa silver cargo after recovering expenses.

Before beginning the offshore search operations for Gairsoppa, Odyssey conducted extensive research using multiple sources to determine the highest probability area to search. Odyssey also acquired data from a previous search for the shipwreck. The Gairsoppa was located outside of the previous search area; near the location that Odyssey’s research department believed that the ship would be located.

The target shipwreck was located using the MAK-1M (deep-tow low frequency sonar system), aboard the chartered research vessel RV Yuzhmorgeologiya. Visual inspections of the site were conducted with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from the Odyssey Explorer. The video and still images acquired during the exploration of the shipwreck with the ROV were reviewed and analyzed at length to confirm the identity of the shipwreck as that of the SS Gairsoppa. The expedition and resulting data was also used to evaluate the condition of the shipwreck and to plan for recovery operations. The Gairsoppa was discovered approximately 4700 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic, in international waters approximately 300 miles off the coast of Ireland.

Additional reconnaissance dives were conducted aboard the Odyssey Explorer in March and April 2012. Recovery operations commenced May 31, 2012, aboard the chartered Seabed Worker. The Seabed Worker is equipped with advanced deep-ocean capabilities, including specialized tools capable of surgically cutting through steel decks while having the flexibility to remove cargo. The vessel is also equipped with a redundant deep ROV systems and a 100-ton active heave compensated crane.

On July 18, 2012, Odyssey announced the recovery of the first silver bars from the Gairsoppa shipwreck site. During 2012 operations, Odyssey recovered 1,218 silver bars (approximately 48 tons). In May of 2013, the Odyssey crew aboard the Seabed Worker returned to the Gairsoppa site to continue recovery operations. On July 22, 2013, Odyssey announced the recovery of an additional 1,574 silver bars (more than 61 tons) - the deepest and heaviest recovery of precious metal from a shipwreck site in history, eclipsing Odyssey's own record set in 2012. Between the two operations, in total Odyssey has recovered approximately 110 tons of silver (nearly 3.2 million troy ounces or 2,792 ingots), which represents more than 99% of the insured silver documented to be on board.

Odyssey has contracted JBR Recovery Limited, one of Europe’s leading silver recovery and precious metal recycling specialists, to support the logistics, refining and monetization of the silver cargo recovered.

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