October 10, 2011 / 8:01 PM / 7 years ago

U.S. firm finds 2nd silver-laden British shipwreck

* SS Mantola was torpedoed during World War One

* Found in Atlantic, 100 miles (160 km) from SS Gairsoppa

* Odyssey has deal with British government to salvage both

MIAMI, Oct 10 (Reuters) - U.S. salvage company Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc said on Monday it had found the sunken wreckage of a second British ship full of silver, this one torpedoed by a German submarine in World War One.

The Tampa, Florida, company said it had found the remains of the SS Mantola under 8,250 feet (2,500 metres) of water in the North Atlantic Ocean. It was located about 100 miles (160 km) from the site of the SS Gairsoppa shipwreck, which Odyssey discovered last month.

The Mantola sank on Feb. 9, 1917, after being torpedoed by a German submarine. It was believed to be carrying about 600,000 ounces of silver, based on a claim paid that year by the British Ministry of War Transport.

That amount would be worth more than $19 million at today’s spot market price for silver.

The British government has awarded Odyssey a salvage contract for the Mantola’s cargo, allowing Odyssey to keep 80 percent of the net salvaged silver value recovered.

The company was awarded a similar contract for the cargo of the Gairsoppa, which sank on Feb. 17, 1941, after it was hit by a torpedo from a German U-Boat during World War Two. The Gairsoppa’s cargo included about 7 million ounces of silver, which would make it the largest known cargo of precious metal ever recovered from the sea.

The deep-ocean exploration company said it expects to begin salvaging both sites in the spring of 2012, when the weather calms in the North Atlantic.

The Gairsoppa’s wreckage was found at a depth of 15,510 feet (4,700 metres), much greater than that of the Mantola.

“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,” Odyssey’s president and chief operating officer, Mark Gordon, said in a statement.

“We are planning to conduct the recovery expedition in conjunction with the Gairsoppa recovery, which will also make the operation very cost-efficient.”

The company used remotely operated vehicles to inspect the sites. It said several of its team members have experience with modern salvage to depths of nearly 19,800 feet (6,000 metres) on military and government missions.

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