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Remembered Today:

White Star Line's SS Laurentic - Gold Bullion Ship

desert wasp

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On 29th April 2008 at 1:30pm, Mr Jim Rogers MLA - Lord Mayor of Belfast; Capt. Norman H. Jolin - Naval Adviser, Canadian Defence Liaison Staff, Canadian High Commission, London; Commodore Charles Stevenson CBE MA, Royal Navy Regional Commander together with other VIP's,

will be attending a Champagne Reception aboard HMS Caroline in Alexandra Dock, Belfast. This commemorates the 99th anniversary of SS Laurentic's maiden voyage and the launch of a dedicated website about this historic ship built by Harland & Wolff in the same yard and on the same slipway as her more famous cousin, Titanic.

These names symbolise the great era of Belfast ship building which led the world a century ago. As Belfast's remarkable renaissance gathers pace, it is fitting to see Harland & Wolff's 185 acre site regenerated into a spectacular new £1billion Waterfront Titanic Quarter Development. SS Laurentic is one of the most famous and fascinating stories after the Titanic to be associated with Harland & Wolff and is therefore very much part of the historic Titanic Trail in Belfast.

SS Laurentic was sunk by a German mine on 25th January 1917 with a huge loss of life of some 350 people and with gold bullion on board worth $3billion at today's prices. The ship had been en-route from Liverpool to Canada with the gold bullion to pay for munitions in WWI.

The Laurentic website will be launched on 29th April 2008 selling shares in the Gold Bullion Ship which still has 20 gold bars buried in its watery grave, estimated to be worth over £10 million at today's value. In addition, it will offer information on genealogy of emigrants to Canada who sailed on SS Laurentic, maritime history of the White Star Line, wreck diving opportunities and useful links.

Visit the website http://www.laurentic.com »

The Lord Mayor of Belfast together with other VIP's will be presented with the first Laurentic Ltd share certificates by Derry man Ray Cossum, his brother Eric and son Des who are all joint owners of the SS Laurentic wreck, which they bought from the Ministry of Defence in 1969.


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When the news of the tragedy reached the British Government they were in a panic. Britain could not afford the loss of £5,000,000 in gold bullion. It would have to be recovered and quickly. Munitions were urgently needed for the war effort and without them, the war could be lost.

There was only one man capable of retrieving the gold, and Commander Guybon Damant was that man. In 1906 Damant had set a world diving record of 210 feet during Naval endurance diving tests. His experiences as a salvage diver were well known to the Admiralty. Despite the danger and the fact that it was wartime, within a short period the 36-year-old Damant had gathered together a crack team of divers and crew. One of these was Augustus Dent. Damant knew Dent was a diver and had been aboard SS Laurentic when she sank. He sent for him at Whale Island, Portsmouth Harbour. Augustus recalled: “He said he wanted me to go with him because he knew I knew where the bullion room was."

This incredible feat of salvage was unequalled anywhere. Of the 3,211 ingots, Damant and his divers had recovered all but 25. Under the worst conditions possible, a White Star Liner, sunk at a depth of 40 metres, had been salvaged and not one life had been lost in the five thousand dives that had taken place. Total recoveries over the seven years were 3,186 bars of gold. Recoveries were as follows:

1917 Number of bars salved 542 - 1918 Number of bars salved 0

1919 Number of bars salved 31 - 1920 Number of bars salved 7

1921 Number of bars salved 43 - 1922 Number of bars salved 895

1923 Number of bars salved 1,255 - 1924 Number of bars salved 129

Commander Damant died at his home on the Isle of Wight in 1954.

In 1932 there was a further salvage operation mounted by the Mallet Salvage Company using first the salvage ship Estoy and then later the Attendant who despite having no compression chamber or an air-lift tube did recover five more bars of gold with only crow bars as tools. The Gold was found on the port side under 18 inches of shingle. It was outside Damant's 200 square yard working area but because it was laying under the ships plating on the sea floor they were unable to progress further and the work was abandoned as the company had run out of money.

Total Number of bars salved by Commander Guybon Damant's team 3,186

Total Number of Bars salved by Mallet Salvage Company 5

Number of bars that went down in the wreck 3,211

There remain 20 gold ingots in the wreck lying Lough Swilly in County Donegal worth an estimated £10m


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Not entirely sure how this works, re the selling of shares in something that may not even exist & the fact that if it is found the onwership of the gold might be in question. Found this on the BBC website, thought it might be of interest.......

Shipwrecks, gold bullion, and a chance of a share in buried treasure... no, it's not the Caribbean, but Lough Swilly in County Donegal.

The owners of a ship which sank in the lough in 1917 are to sell shares in the 20 gold bars which it is believed are still in the wreck.

The SS Laurentic was a passenger ship but during the First World War it was used by the British government to transport gold to pay for munitions.

The majority of the 43 tons of gold the ship was carrying when it sank have already been recovered, but the remaining bars are estimated to be worth £10m.

Ivan Irwin is a diver who has explored what remains of the SS Laurentic.

"The wreck would have been four to five stories when it was originally built, but now it's all sort of collapsed and its flat."

"It's been salvaged two or three times so it's in a fairly broken up state, but you never know, they're still there, so the chances of finding them... there's always possibilities," he said.

Historic value

From Tuesday, anyone interested in owning their own piece of buried treasure can purchase a share in the gold for only £49 - but don't start planning that early retirement just yet.

Even if the gold was recovered, said Mr Irwin, there's no guarantee of any profit.

"It's very hard to distinguish whether it would belong to the British government, to the family who owns the wreck, or to whoever found it.

"Maybe the thing to do if you did find some gold would be to sit on it for 100 years, when I think it becomes a ward of the state - maybe there's someone doing that, I don't know."

But, said Mr Irwin, owning a share of the shipwreck isn't about the financial reward.

"The shares are more a gesture, to own something of historic value that's sitting in Irish waters.

"I don't think there's actually any money in it, but we'll keep looking for the gold anyway," he said.



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