Before beginning the offshore search operations for Gairsoppa, extensive research was conducted using multiple sources to determine the highest probability area to search. Data from a previous search for the shipwreck was acquired, but 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 now retired 76-meter 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 4,700 meters below the surface of the North Atlantic, in international waters approximately 300 miles off the coast of Ireland.
Additional reconnaissance dives were conducted in March and April 2012. Recovery operations commenced May 31, 2012, aboard the chartered Seabed Worker, 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, 1,218 silver bars (approximately 48 tons) were recovered. In May of 2013, the crew returned to the Gairsoppa site to continue recovery operations. On July 22, 2013, the recovery of an additional 1,574 silver bars (more than 61 tons) was announced as the deepest and heaviest recovery of precious metal from a shipwreck site at the time. Between the two operations, approximately 110 tons of silver (nearly 3.2 million troy ounces or 2,792 ingots) was recovered, representing more than 99% of the insured silver documented to be on board.