Britannia’s Gold returns today from a very productive survey programme in the North Atlantic.

For this exercise, BGL chartered the Norwegian state of the art survey vessel ‘EDDA FONN’.

The objective of the programme was to locate, identify and survey five new target shipwrecks of high value interest to BGL. The target positions for three of the wrecks were known through GPS which makes it a relatively easy exercise to find them. The two Position Approximate (PA) targets required a side scan sonar location survey to locate them; we were successful in locating one of the targets quickly and with time available in the charter period, we undertook to search a grid of some 90 km² in an attempt to locate the second. Sadly, we were unsuccessful, but having now covered over 50% of the search grid, we fully expect to locate and positively identify this very lucrative target during our next survey phase.
BGL first looked at two targets within a mile of each other off the south coast of the Republic of Ireland. Both were sunk in the World War 1 era, the first a passenger liner and the second, a cargo vessel. In 500 meters of water and we were able to obtain excellent visuals and first class multibeam results. The cargoes of high value interest are always going to be buried deep within the cargo hold of these vessels but it was encouraging to see one of these southern targets was carrying a large volume of tin (Sn) which was easily identifiable as can be seen in the images below.

Cases of tin (left) & Tin broken out of case (right)

Further cargo easily identified on the same vessel was that of zinc (Zn) ingots, complete with the manufacturers stamp still visible as see below.

Piles of zinc ingots from the ‘New Jersey Zinc Co’

These commodity metals are in high demand on the metals markets and given the cargo volume of each wreck is considerable, BGL will return and recover these metals when we salvage the precious metal cargoes.

The next wreck target NA/C0-A lay some way north and took no time to locate with the side scan system; unfortunately, despite its identity being confirmed, the wreck was terribly broken, appearing almost flattened. Despite the wreck’s condition, BGL conducted a full survey but concluded salvage would be difficult and consequently we will delay an attempt on her.
Heading in a little closer to land, BGL arrived at its next target NA/C1-D which was sunk following heavy attack during early World War 2. This ocean liner was considered very grand and luxurious in her day but despite the evidence of attack and impact damage, we found the ‘area of interest’ to be completely intact and without any visual signs of previous salvage. Having originally thought this a difficult target to salvage, the survey revealed that a simple ‘surgical extraction’ would be both straightforward and effective.


Intact bow section on target NA/C1-D

Our next target NA/C1-J was interesting given it was built in the 1890’s and, unlike our other wrecks; was a sailing vessel. Known as a ‘Barque’, this 3 masted vessel was very large and needed to be, running regular passages between the UK and South America with all the Atlantic could throw at her. Our research suggested this ship had not been torpedoed but was sunk by smaller calibre gun fire; this became evident when we found her sitting perfectly upright on the seabed without any sign of the usual damage caused by torpedo impacts. This was an easy and rewarding survey as we could see the vessels main cargoes resting in place as if they were only loaded onboard yesterday. The targeted cargo will be out of sight and way below decks, however our survey identified the requirements for a successful recovery from this wreck.

3 mast barque similar to our target (exact target images not supplied for security)

Wanting to return to port with 5 complete surveys as intended, the BGL researchers provided an alternative target which had GPS coordinates to replace the unfound and unworkable wreck; this turned out to be a highly interesting prospect indeed! The Target NA/C1-H was located efficiently using side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounding technology, however, we could not be certain we were on the correct wreck without finding something that tied all the evidence together. Thankfully, BGL’s very experienced Marine Archaeologist noticed what appeared to be tin trays in amongst the sediment which warranted closer inspection.

First thought to be old tin trays on target NA/C1-H

The tin trays turned out to be silver service items bearing the makers hallmark and shipping company’s logo which confirmed we were in the correct location.

A sample silver plate recovered from the wreck. Note the protective paper still in place within the plate. This was used when packed as brand new which suggest these items have never been used before.


Stamps showing manufacturers hallmark & shipping company name

It was difficult to accurately quantify the size of this silver service collection, however, from what can be identified it appears to be quite large and will probably have all other accompanying silver service items in the close vicinity. In addition, carrying such unique individual markings is expected to add to the value. The BGL archaeologists are currently working on the history of the collection and will advise in due course.

As BGL did not want to go through the lengthy process of declaring such items to the UK Receiver of Wreck, we decided on this occasion to place the items back where we found them (which is probably the safest place for them right now). We will return to collect them in the near future.

ACTION NOW

Once ashore, the BGL survey team will process more of the collected data, all of which they expect to have ready for presentation to the Board of Directors in the next 2 weeks. The BGL board will then decide on the optimum salvage programme which is set to commence in early summer.

Exciting times ahead!

Will Carrier
Operational Director
Britannia’s Gold ltd