WHITE STAR LINE TREASURE SHIPS?
The Liner's Laurentic and Republic
(Image credit: Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.)
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. Crippen, or having sent the first-ever wireless telegraph that resulted in the capture of a criminal, (see 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.
AND, MORE TREASURE?
Republic was 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 immediately.
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.
US Rescue Cutter Seneca (photo:USCG Archives)
It's been rumored that Republic was carrying 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. Another rumor regarding Republic's cargo is that she was carrying 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. As far as is known, nothing has been recovered to-date.
American Gold Eagle coins, similar to those in Republic's holds.
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