Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., a pioneer in the field of deep-ocean shipwreck exploration, announced today that it has discovered a shipwreck that was torpedoed during the World War I while carrying a shipment of silver. The SS Mantola sank on February 9, 1917, after being torpedoed by German submarine U-81. Odyssey discovered the shipwreck approximately 2,500 meters beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 100 miles from the SS Gairsoppa shipwreck.
In 1917, the British Ministry of War Transport paid a War Risk Insurance Claim for £110,000 (in 1917 value) for silver that was on board the Mantola when she sank. This sum would equate to more than 600,000 ounces of silver based on silver prices in 1917. In September 2011, the UK Government Department for Transport awarded Odyssey a salvage contract for the cargo of the SS Mantola. Under the agreement, Odyssey will retain 80% of the net salved silver value recovered.
"The incremental costs to search for the Mantola were low, as this was a contingency project in the event that our team successfully completed the Gairsoppa search early," said Mark Gordon Odyssey President and COO. "We are planning to conduct the recovery expedition in conjunction with the Gairsoppa recovery, which will also make the operation very cost efficient. Securing our ownership rights prior to recovery and funding our business from cash-flow produced from operations has been a key focus for us. Our share of this successful recovery in 2012 will contribute significantly to our operational funding."
The Odyssey team recently conducted ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) operations from the RV Odyssey Explorer to inspect the site.
"The Mantola project is located at a depth range that we have a lot of experience in. We have information on the location of the cargo that should make this a great target for testing some new technology that will be useful for a number of new deep-ocean projects we have planned. As we push deeper and deeper, a lot of new and interesting opportunities are presenting themselves." said Greg Stemm, Odyssey's CEO. "This find shows the value of our research team and our extensive database of shipwrecks, which allow us to build backup projects that can be added to our surveys in the event of a quick find. The discovery and verification of the Mantola marks the second verification of a valuable deep-ocean site and contract with the UK this year."
A number of consultants, who have combined experience salvaging scores of modern steel-hulled shipwrecks, are advising Odyssey on the project. Among other ground-breaking projects, one of the companies has successfully penetrated four decks of a large steel-hulled shipwreck at a depth of nearly 3,000 meters in order to completely empty the mail room. In addition, several Odyssey team members have experience with modern salvage to depths of nearly 6,000 meters on military and government missions.
Odyssey discovered, through ROV visual inspections conducted at a depth of approximately 2,500 meters, a collection of barrels in Cargo Hold No3. The contents of the barrels remain a mystery pending further investigation expected to begin in spring 2012. Copyright Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc.
A forward view of the port side at the steel skylight over the engine room situated on the Mantola's boat deck, captured by Odyssey's ROV during visual inspections.
Copyright Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc.
Odyssey has begun the process of assembling the tools and equipment for the salvage expedition for the Gairsoppa and Mantola, and anticipates that operations will begin in spring 2012 as soon as the weather window begins to open up in the North Atlantic. The system being mobilized for modern salvage recovery can also be used on other projects, several of which are in various stages of search or confirmation at this time.
The company also has several other projects and contracts that will potentially begin during the balance of this working season and may be conducted through the winter months. Some of these projects are also in partnership with governments and are anticipated to feature pre-negotiated salvage awards.