The White Star Liner Laurentic is almost
as well known in the treasure hunting community as is Titanic to the rest
of the world. Not only known as being the pursuit ship to catch the infamous Dr.
or having sent the first-ever wireless telegraph
that resulted in the capture of a criminal,
the Dr. Crippen Story) but as the ship that carried a cargo of gold bars
valued at $21,500,000, that never reached its destination.
Fast enough to outrun any submarine, the
Laurentic was selected in 1914 by the British Admiralty as a transport
vessel. In January 1917, she entered Lough Swilly on her way from Liverpool to
discharge four sailors who had become ill. Laurentic then continued her
passage to deliver cargo to Nova Scotia for Canadian and American governments as
payment for munitions. However, 45 minutes after leaving port she was struck by
two mines laid by the German U-boat, U-80.
354 men lost their lives as a bitter winter
storm was blowing at the time of the tragedy and many of the sailors froze to
death when they tried to reach shore. A total of 316 sailors survived the
ordeal. Laurentic's cargo contained 3,200 gold bars. Between 1917 and
1924 a number of British Navy salvage operations recovered the bodies of dead
seamen and most of the gold bars from the wreck. Royal Navy divers conducted
over 5,000 dives total. It's believed that are anywhere for 6 to 154 bars still
remaining in her holds.
preparing to retrieve gold bars from Laurentic (1918)
AND, MORE TREASURE?
(Above left) SS Republic (above
right) US Rescue Cutter Seneca (photo:USCG
originally built for IMM's Dominion Line and named Columbus. After only
two voyages she was sold to White Star and renamed Republic. On January
23, 1909 she left New York bound for Naples, Italy. While passing Nantucket in a
dense fog, she was suddenly rammed ironically by the Italian liner, Florida.
She was struck amidships on the port side and the engine room began flooding
Fitted with an early version of the 1.5 watt
Marconi wireless radio, Republic
became the first vessel in maritime history to use the new
SOS distress call. One of her White Star Line sister ship's, the Baltic,
acknowledged the call an came to assist. A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter in the
vicinity also responded. The Coast Guard crew boarded the
Republic and tried to
slow her flooding with collision mats. A daring "at sea" passenger transfer took
place and 1,600 passengers were dispersed between the cutter and the Baltic.
Only 4 lives were lost. The next morning
Republic sank becoming the largest liner to-date to
be lost at sea. The White Star Line received compensation after suing the Lloyd
Italiano Line and winning a negligence suit.
a $265,000 U.S. Navy payroll that was intended to be delivered to the U.S. Navy
Atlantic Fleet at Gibraltar. A sum that would be worth close to $6 million
today. There's a rumor that part of Republic's
cargo contained a secret (politically sensitive) shipment of
newly minted American Gold Eagle coins that could have a present value of
between $400 million and $1.6 billion depending on their present condition
state. The wreck site was initially discovered in 1981,
sitting upright approximately 50 miles south of Nantucket
Island at 40°26′0″N/ 69°46′0″
in approximately 270 feet of
water. As far as is known,
nothing has been recovered to-date.
2015 UPDATE on RMS REPUBLIC
Updated information on
Republic's rumored cargo
As mentioned, there are many
unsubstantiated rumors surrounding the exact nature of Republic's
cargo. The most well known rumor is that of her carrying $250,000
(valued at the time) in American gold coins to be used as payroll
for the US Navy's "Great White Fleet" in Gibraltar. Another theory
is that she was carrying money for relief effort to the victim's of
the 1908 earthquake that had occurred in Messina, Italy. And still
another theory, put forward by Captain Martin Bayerle, (current
salvor-in-possession of Republic's wreck site) is that she
was carrying $3,000,000 in gold coins as part of a loan to the
Imperial Russian government. Captain Bayerle wrote a book, The
Tsar's Treasure, in which he supports both the $3 million Russian
gold shipment theory, an actual $800,000 US Government in-coin
currency shipment, as well as other valuable cargo. All of these
values, of course, are in 1909 dollars when gold was $20 per ounce.
As of this writing, (Nov 2015) a 1 ounce OPM bar is valued at
$1,323. If found, this could put the recovery value in the hundreds
of millions of dollars. Some experts have
estimated that the recovery, with proper marketing of the recovered
coins, could approach the $5 billion mark or possibly more, making
the Republic salvage the largest treasure recovery of all
In 2011, Captain Bayerle's extended
his exclusive salvage rights to the wreck site through the United
States District Court, District of Massachusetts. A re-survey of the
vessel was performed in 2012 and preparations are being made for
recovery efforts during the summer months of 2015-2017. A "section
lift" of the vessel had been planned but more recent surveys
determined that the remains of the ship are much to fragile and
would more than likely break up under stress. Bayerle decide he will
excavate the sections of the ship suspected to carry cargo.
Bayerle's company, MVSHQ, Inc. retained Etoile Blanc Consulting, LLC
to manage investment and media properties related to the anticipated
RMS Republic recovery.
American Gold Eagle coins, similar to those
rumored to be in