I’m in the business of finding gold in companies aged machine discards. To label our business as treasure hunting romanticizes the grimy work of sending flaked paint and replacing pitted bearings.
I read a fascinating article in the September 24th New York Times about a more traditional treasure hunting expedition worthy of my hero, Indiana Jones. A team of shipwreck treasure hunters has signed a deal with the British government to extract up to 240 tons of silver from the sunken SS Gairsoppa, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat 300 miles southwest of Ireland in 1941.
The boat had left Calcutta laden with tea, iron and tons of silver in December 1940. It joined a military convoy in Sierra Leon with 83 seamen on board and two gunners headed for Liverpool. Terrible weather conditions forced the ship to separate from the convoy and head for Galway.
The U-boat commander found the floundering ship and sunk it with one torpedo in the North Atlantic. Only one man survived after spending 13 days in a lifeboat.
Today the cargo is in play because robot technology has enabled salvagers to locate the sunken ship, three miles under the surface. Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa, Florida, is confident they have found the wreck and have signed a deal with the British government to attempt to lift the silver. Under the deal Odyssey assumes all of the risk in the expedition for 80 percent of the proceeds. The British government gets 20 percent of the take.
This is going to require some pretty nimble robots, robust lights and cameras, and some husky claws to pull out the submerged cargo. Think of the water pressure three miles deep. And they still may strike out because the surveillance robots have found the tea chests but not the precious metals vault.
I love the story. Even if they don’t pull up the sunken silver it will make a great series for Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel or grist for a Steven Spielberg epic.
Silver bullion, three miles deep, the British Navy, Nazi U-boats. Add some beautiful women and George Clooney to the crew and you have the ingredients of a blockbuster. I wonder if the tea survived intact.
Question: Is Greed Good?