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In pictures: Mixing business with treasure

Olympic Challenger, the vessel fitted out by Britannia’s Gold for their salvage voyage. Photo: Britannia’s Gold

In DG #29 we snatched a glimpse into the world of high-stakes salvage operations, meeting deep-sea adventurers who seek their fortunes at the bottom of the oceans. How easy is it to strike it rich on the hunt for sunken treasure? It’s a race to the bottom…

There are three-and-a-half million shipwrecks mouldering on the ocean floor, as Will Carrier of the deep-water prospecting company Britannia’s Gold explained to us, and “the majority of the world’s gold reserves lie within a small portion of them”.


Will Carrier, operational director of Britannia’s Gold. Photo: Britannia’s Gold


Carrier and his colleagues are currently targeting a number of ships lost during World War II that were known to be transporting gold bullion when they were sunk. As these images of a Britannia’s Gold recovery operation show, 21st-century salvage is a high-tech, industrial-scale undertaking requiring huge upfront investment.


Photo: Britannia’s Gold


It’s a risky business – but with the recovery conducted using remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs), the peril is largely financial.


Photo: Britannia’s Gold


Searching vessels that are hundreds of metres long and made up of a warren of compartments and bulkheads, it is essential for the salvage crew to be armed with as much reliable information as possible. Here, they are using original shipbuilder’s plans as a reference to navigating their way around the wreck.


Photo: Britannia’s Gold


According to Britannia’s Gold chairman Philip Reid, his firm has located approximately £125 billion in sunken bullion in total, while an average cargo recovered from a shipwreck on their hit list should yield £100 million in gold.


Photo: Britannia’s Gold


No gold as yet, but they have found some slow journalism from the 1940s. Now that’s real treasure…


Photo: Britannia’s Gold

For the full, fascinating story of the salvage crews trawling the world’s seabeds for gold, see ‘Mixing business with treasure’ in DG #29.


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