The massive discovery comes just 70 years after the SS City of Cairo was hit some 480 miles south of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship sank in the depth of 5,150 meters.
Efforts to raise the 100 ton cache was tricky, and has now made history as the deepest salvage operation in history.
The SS City of Cairo was on its way from Bombay, India to the United Kingdom (then noted as England) when it was torpedoed and sank.
The ship was filled with silver rupees and were on its way to London to fund the war effort in 1942. On November 6th of that year, a U-boat spotted the steamship’s tall plume of smoke and fired two torpedoes into it.
Presumed lost at sea, the ship was discovered in 2011 when a team of British savage experts located an unnatural object among the ridges of canyons of the South Atlantic search area.
Under a contract from the UK government, underwater salvagers ‘Deep Ocean Search’ worked for several weeks searching a “jumbled up seafloor” as they put it.
That search zone was approximately twice the size of London, making the exact location a major accomplishment.
The search ended with the view of the ‘City of Cairo’ was discovered by the search team and with it came the reward of a $50 million dollar treasure chest.
So far, the discovery has been melted down in the United Kingdom and sold, with the undisclosed sum divided between the treasury, which technically owns the coins, and the salvagers, who take a percentage of the sale.
Due to the massive undertaking, the DOS has only now given permission by the Ministry of Transportation to announce the massive find. The salvage of the coins was completed in September of 2013.
Historically the ship sank when it was hit by the second torpedo some 73 years ago – the U-boat which fired upon ‘The City of Ciaro” approached the lifeboats and directed them to land, saying “Goodnight, sorry for sinking you.”
In all, only 311 people on board died in the sinking, but the three long weeks before anyone found the six lifeboats that has set out for land, another 104 died clinging to what little life they had.
A total of 201 survivors made it home – and even one died after they were rescued in a strange series of events – The British ‘SS Clan Alpine’ discovered 154 survivors alive on the way to St. Helena, another 47 were rescued by the ‘Bendoran’, a British merchant ship near Cape Town.
A final lifeboat was discovered 51 days after the sinking, off the coast of South America – the lifeboat only had two passengers who survived – in a strange but cruel twist of fate, one of the two men, Third Officer James Allister Whyte, died shortly after when the ship taking him home was torpedoed by a U-boat.
The British salvage crew on the final dive, left behind a plaque in honor of those who died there – the plaque read “We came here with respect.”
The salvage team leader noted “It was a special salvage – it does mean a lot….. It was a very emotive case, where over a hundred people were lost having been in open boats.”
“It meant a lot to our team to find this ship and remember it.”