"There is no immediate danger," he cried, "but to be on the safe side, it is necessary for you to be transferred to the Florida. I expect you will be cool and not excited. Take your time in getting into the lifeboats. Remember! - women and children go first, then the First Cabin, and then the others. The crew will be the last to leave this vessel."
Captain Sealby's Order aboard Republic,
SOS To The Rescue, Karl Baarslag, Oxford University Press, New York, 1935, P. 24.
Did Baarslag "borrow" this from A Night to Remember? My research indicates no class distinction aboard Republic at the time of the rescue (quotes of several passengers), but that women and children were indeed transferred first.
The book won't be finished until I write the final chapter, which would include recovery of her legendary gold - or a unequivocal determination that we can otherwise account for the gold that we believe to be aboard. So, you're talking 2006 or later.
Originally, I had thought that this project would take 3-5 years, and that was back in 1978 ...
Martin, is there an expedition planned to go out to the wrecksite to check this out? If not, you might want to rethink that one. You're call of course, but I'd hate to see the work you had to have done ending up being lost or being published posthumously for want of a final chapter.
If only it could be that easy! But, of course, if it were that easy, someone else would have gotten the gold.
We are looking for about two (2) cubic yards of gold coins in the equivalent of a collapsed skyscraper - in the skyscraper's basement ... I often use the excavation of the Oklahoma Federal Office Building bombing - a ten story building collapsed to a pile of rubble. It took scores of workers, numerous cranes, bulldozers, jackhammers, trucks, 24 hour lighting, on dry land, etc. etc. - four months to excavate that site. Now, take an equivalent amount of debris, throw it under 260 FSW, put two men out a diving bell, have one 40 ton crane - and you get a feeling for the difficulties. And, unlike SS Central America and SS Republic (1865), we don't have the luxury of a predominantly wooden-ship decomposing and leaving the gold at or near the surface.
Equivalent salvages on record, the salvage of the Laurentic (1914-1919) and P & O's Egypt (the 1930s) were both multi-year salvages - and the techniques to excavate a wreck remain very much the same.
For our 1987 salvage, we were, simply, in the wrong part of this immense ship.
Since 1987? Research is always safer (and cheaper) than on-site salvage. It cost us $2.35 million in 1987 to conduct salvage, with the season limited to just July and August for that area of the North Atlantic. Our 2005 - 2007 salvage is estimated to cost approximately $12 million.
But, it's just not only the cost of salvage. We wouldn't want to place our divers' lives at risk unnecessarily (nor would we want to put at unnecessary risk our investors' capital).
Today, I have a lot more information on both the cargo's existence (the good details are not on the public sections of the website, and we're holding the real goodies close to our vest), and it's location within the vessel. So, we plan to proceed this summer with an updated site-survey (our 2003 charter was cancelled due to a near uninterrupted period of adverse weather), finish our research (we're very close to the unequivocal "proof"), acquire funding (funding costs are directly related to "risk," and risk is inversely related to quality research) and, if, indeed, the cargo is aboard, recover it. So, as I say on our website, we will either have the Republic's gold, or prove that perhaps the greatest legend in treasure lore, is false.
We believe that there are at last two valuable cargos aboard: 1. a $265,000 US Navy payroll and operational expenses destined for the Great White Battleship Fleet, then at Gibraltar; and 2. a $3 million shipment of newly minted gold eagles, destined for the Russian Baltic Fleet, then also at Gibraltar. Both, of course, are 1909 face value, when gold was priced at $20.67 per troy ounce. The value today is conservatively estimated at $400 million to $500 million, and could rise to $1.6 billion or more ($5 billion plus is not out of reach), depending on the various mint, denominations, conditions and successful marketing of the individual coins. These two cargos are in addition to a gold bar, silver ingot, and Italian earthquake relief cargos, and the personal valuables of her very wealthy passengers.
Governments are generally self-insured, and property of a sovereign remains its property (absent an affirmative declaration of abandonment), in perpetuity. The US Government, for example, has filed a claim for the loss of its gold aboard Republic within our admiralty action in the US District Court in Boston. That's the bad news.
The good news, salvors are entitled to a substantial, very liberal, salvage award and, as in the case of the SS Central America, it is not uncommon for salvors to be awarded in excess of 90% of the recovery.
As a coin collector, in is in my knowledge that each of the gold eagles minted in 1909 in MS60+ condition (newly minted, you say) would cost you anywhere from US$500 to US$7,000 now depending on denomination and demand.
My God, If this were found and raised, the prices of gold eagles will drop by a considerable amount. $3 million worth of gold eagles is A LOT.
We provide on our Links Page several links to coin pricing guides on the Net, including prices of double eagles achieved in recent auctions - as one reference for our readers to easily verify, to double-check, our claims.
We know that bankers routinely shipped gold bars in international foreign exchange transactions of the period. Gold coins were rarely shipped due to increased transaction costs in the shipment of gold coin. Gold coins had to be purchased at face value, but if they were worn or had been in-circulation, their gold content would be less. The credit abroad was always by weight, so, for an export engagement, bankers would always select newly minted coins of maximum weight. See: The 1909 Gold Market, et seq., for the particulars.
We know the $3 million shipment was composed of coins - the Assay Office had just recently exhausted its supply of bars; there were no bars to be shipped. What we don't know is the composition of the double-eagles.
I think we can safely assume that they were not all 1909 strikes - we would have 150,000 coins, and there were only 161,215 circulation strikes. They might be 1909-S, since there were 2,774,925 of those coins minted and we do have some anecdotal information to suggest a shipment from San Francisco. Most likely, there would be a mix of mint-to-near mint condition coins of whatever the New York Sub-Treasury had for the bankers in full-weight coins.
So, how the market would be effected by a recovery of $3 million has a number of variables. The recovery may, for example, increase the size of the market by stimulating interest in coin collecting. Coins from the Republic may actually increase in value over non-Republic equivalents because of the associated story. The marketing (and appropriately timed-release to the market) would be critical to revenue maximization.
These, of course, are problems that I'd like to have ....