Nearly 3000 bars of silver were believed lost in WWII after a horrific attack by the Germans brought down their transport ship, the SS Gairsoppa. The ship was already in bad shape when attacked by a Nazi submarine which took down the ship and only left a single survivor. While originally there were many more survivors, they did not make the journey to shore under conditions of sun exposure and starvation. Nearly 75 years later, the lost WWII silver has been found again and is looking at a newly minted redistribution as collectable coins.
The transport ship had a route between Great Britain and India, and at a time in the war when the United Kingdom had not yet been joined by its future Allies, the trip was bound to be treacherous. The silver was not the only supply the British needed transported in the midst of WWII, and as such as the Gairsoppa also contained mass amounts of iron. Knowing that their transport was important, and knowing that there were no Allied forces to protect them from Hitler’s submarines, the ship convoyed the most dangerous parts of the ocean.
Unfortunately, they were soon to split off from the group. WWII itself was still not the only threat lying in wait for ocean travelers, and a strong tempest caused them to use the bulk of their fuel reserves, necessitating their course rerouting toward another port. They were unable to radio for help following an attack of machine guns and a torpedo, which is what ultimately brought the ship down and sealed the silver to lie for decades amidst the middle of a shipwreck, The Telegraph reports.
The men who survived had never been stranded in such a manner before, leading them to make several wrong moves, one of the largest is generally known to most sailors—never drink seawater. Adding to their dehydration rather than assuaging it, the salt caused several of them to descend into near-madness. Most of them died over time,and all but one of the last few lost their lives to tidal waves.
The WWII silver lost in the shipwreck, found by Odyssey Marine Exploration at the behest of the government’s transport department, is worth nearly £38 million. The Treasury does not, at this point, have any particularly stated plans for the precious metal aside from what is being minted. The collectable silver coins minted in commemoration of the sunken WWII ship will be available later in April of 2014.