Sub Sea Research LLC (SSR)/Sea Hunter's LP, Portland, Maine and Boston Massachusetts, in 2008 discovered a $3 Billion WWII British merchant ship wreck within 50 miles of Cape Cod outside Massachusetts territorial waters.
Until recently, platinum's price was historically higher than gold.
At current prices, this cargo of platinum may be worth $2.5 - $3 Billion dollars.
A treasure hunter said Wednesday he has located the wreck of a British merchant ship that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Cape Cod during World War II while carrying what he claims was a load of platinum bars now worth more than $3 billion.
Greg Brooks, co-manager of Sub Sea Research, is seen aboard the salvage ship Sea Hunter in Boston Harbor Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 holding a picture of the British merchant ship Port Nicholson which was sunk by a German U-boat in 1942 with a cargo of 71 tons of platinum now worth about $3 billion. Brooks will use the Sea Hunter to recover the cargo of the Port Nicholson.
A port hole of the Port Nicholson can be seen on the screen behind Brooks.
(AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
If the claim proves true, it could be one of the richest sunken treasures ever discovered.
But an attorney for the British government expressed doubt the vessel was carrying platinum. And if it was, in fact, laden with precious metals, who owns the hoard could become a matter of international dispute.
Treasure hunter Greg Brooks of Sub Sea Research in Gorham, Maine, announced that a wreck found sitting in 700 feet of water 50 miles offshore is that of the S.S. Port Nicholson, sunk in 1942.The SS Port Nicholson was sunk off the coast of Cape Cod by a German U-boat in June 1942.
He said he and his crew identified it via the hull number using an underwater camera, and he hopes to begin raising the treasure later this month or in early March with the help of a remotely operated underwater vessel."I'm going to get it, one way or another, even if I have to lift the ship out of the water," Brooks said.
The claim should be viewed with skepticism, said Robert F. Marx, an underwater archaeologist, maritime historian and owner of Seven Seas Search and Salvage LLC in Florida.
Both an American company and an English company previously went after the contents of the ship years ago and surely retrieved at least a portion, Marx said.
The question is how much, if any, platinum is left, he said.
"Every wreck that is lost is the richest wreck lost. Every wreck ever found is the biggest ever found. Every recovery is the biggest ever recovery," Marx said.
Brooks said the Port Nicholson was headed for New York with 71 tons of platinum valued at the time at about $53 million when it was sunk in an attack that left six people dead.
The platinum was a payment from the Soviet Union to the U.S. for war supplies, Brooks said.
The vessel was also carrying gold bullion and diamonds, he said.
Brooks said he located the wreck in 2008 using shipboard sonar but held off announcing the find while he and his business partners obtained salvage rights from a federal judge.
Salvage rights are not the same as ownership rights, which are still unsettled.
Britain will wait until salvage operations begin before deciding whether to file a claim on the cargo, said Anthony Shusta, an attorney in Tampa, Fla., who represents the British government.
He said it is unclear if the ship was even carrying any platinum.
"We're still researching what was on the vessel," he said.
"Our initial research indicated it was mostly machinery and military stores."
The U.S. government has not weighed in on the court case yet, and Brooks said he doubts that will happen, since the Soviets eventually reimbursed Washington for the lost payment.
A U.S. Treasury Department ledger shows that the platinum bars were on board, Brooks said, and his underwater video footage shows a platinum bar surrounded by 30 boxes that he believes hold four to five platinum ingots each.
But he has yet to bring up any platinum, saying his underwater vessel needs to retrofitted to attach lines to the boxes, which would then be hoisted to the surface by winch.
"Of course there are skeptics," he said. "There's skeptics on everything you do."
Maritime law is complicated, and there could be multiple claims on the ship's contents.
After the sinking of the HMS Edinburgh, an English warship carrying Soviet gold bullion as a payment to the allies during World War II, England, the U.S. and the Soviet Union had claims on the sunken treasure, Marx said.
A consortium that owned the salvage vessel was given 10 percent of the prize, while the rest was shared by the other parties, he said.
In other big finds, treasure hunter Mel Fisher made international headlines in 1985 when he discovered a $450 million mother lode of precious metals and gemstones from a Spanish galleon that went down off Florida in 1622.
In another case, a Tampa exploration company has been ordered by the courts to return $500 million worth of treasure from a Spanish warship to Spain.
The ship was sunk by the British navy during a battle off Portugal in 1804.
- Wikipedia : Blue Baron (shipwreck)
- Andrew Etherington : date 16 June 1942 : at 0417 U-87 fired one torpedo at the leading ship of Convoy XB-25 northeast of Cape Cod during a gale and fired at 0418 a second torpedo at another ship. British freighter SS Port Nicholson torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat U-87 KptLt. Joachim Berger CO, in the Atlantic NE of Cape Cod, in position 42.11N 69.25W while on a voyage from Avonmouth, Barry and New York to Wellington via Halifax and Panama, with a cargo of 1600 tons of automobile parts and 4000 tons of military stores, part of convoy XB.25 comprising 5 ships. 79 crew and 4 gunners were rescued by HMCS Nanaimo (K101) Lt Thomas James Bellas RCN, CO. Master and three crew with 6 men from Nanaimo reboarded vessel to attempt salvage. Berger observed how the first hit and thought that the second missed, but apparently both hit Port Nicholson. At 0421, a spread of two torpedoes was fired which both hit Cherokee. The Cherokee was struck by one torpedo on the port side under the bridge. The explosion lifted the vessel out of the water, destroyed the chart house and incoming water gave the ship a sharp list to port. The speed was increased and the rudder was turned hard right, but a second torpedo struck the port bow 90 seconds later, causing the ship to sink by the bow with a 60 degrees list to port within six minutes. The rough seas and the extreme list prevented the launching of lifeboats and only seven rafts were cut loose. The ship carried nine officers, 103 crewmen, 11 armed guards (the ship was armed with one 4in, two .50cal and two .30cal guns) and 46 US Army passengers. Three officers, 62 crewmen, one armed guard and 20 passengers died. 44 survivors were picked up by the steam merchant Norlago and landed them at Provincetown, Massachusetts the same day. 39 others were picked up by USCGC Escanaba, which took them to Boston, Massachusetts. All but 4 from corvette were lost when vessel sank later, the Master Harold Charles Jeffrey and three crew of Port Nicholson as well as AB Leslie Horne V-9632, of Winnipeg, Manitoba; Lt John Molson Walkley of Montreal, Province of Quebec; both RCNVR of Nanaimo. (Dave Shirlaw)