Largest amount of precious metal ever found at sea; British vessel SS Gairsoppa was returning fromIndia in 1941 when she was torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat
London A shipwreck holding silver worth £150million has been discovered in the Atlantic — the largest amount of precious metal ever found at sea. About 200 tons of the bullion sank off Ireland with British cargo steamer the SS Gairsoppa when it was hit by a German torpedo in 1941.
But it has now been found by US treasure hunters hired by UK Department for Transport.They will now attempt to salvage the silver and will have to hand 20% of its value to the British Treasury.
Treasure hunter: The RV Odyssey Explorer, bristling with high-tech equipment, which went looking for and found the wreck of the Gairsoppa
The US team lowered a robot 2.9 miles to the seabed and it found a gaping hole in the side of the ship where the torpedo had struck 70 years ago.
Greg Stemm, chief executive of underwater archaeology and salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration, said: “We were fortunate to find the shipwreck sitting upright, with the holds open and easily accessible. “This should enable to us to unload cargo through the hatches, as would happen with a ship alongside a cargo terminal.”
Valued then at 600,000 pounds, the silver today is worth about £150million, which would make it history's largest recovery of precious metals lost at sea, Odyssey said.
After a competitive tender process the British government awarded Odyssey an exclusive salvage contract for the cargo, and under the agreement Odyssey will retain 80 percent of the silver bullion salvaged from the wreck.
In May 2007, Odyssey announced it had found half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects from a ship they code-named the "Black Swan," which went down in 1804 off the Strait of Gibraltar. The find is being contested by Spain, which claims the trove.
Hoard: The ship, which was torpedoed after breaking away from a convoy, was carrying silver
• The 125-metre Gairsoppa had been sailing from India back to Liverpool in February 1941 bearing a cargo of silver, pig iron and tea, and was in a convoy of ships when a storm struck.
• Running low on fuel, the Gairsoppa broke off from the convoy and set a course for Galway, Ireland.
• It was hit by a German torpedo in the contested waters of the North Atlantic
• Of the 85 people on board, only one survived
• The Gairsoppa came to rest nearly 4,700 m below the surface. A previous effort to locate the shipwreck failed.
As late as the 1750s, India had an export surplus; its favourable trade balance was matched by bullion import, as the world had nothing else to offer India in return for its fine textiles. British colonialism reversed this process, first by monopolising trade and then — in the early 19th century — by demolishing Indian industry. During the period when British trade established supremacy, goods were exported by India but the bullion never reached the country. British merchants purchased goods in rupee receipts in India, and exchanged them abroad for bullion. Much before Dadabhai Naoroji and the so-called ‘modern nationalist’ school came up with a figure for India’s drain of wealth, Mughal chroniclers had put it at more than 100,000 million pound sterling per annum.
In fact, bullion owed to India helped finance England’s Industrial Revolution. Then, in order to flood Indian markets with European goods, India was de-industrialised. From being a supplier of luxury goods, it was turned into an exporter of raw material. Between 1820 and 1840, de-industrialisation closed down more than 12,000 markets, controlled and operated by peasants and small entrepreneurs in northern India
The ideological moorings of imperialism have been many. From liberal tradition of orientalism to that of not so good utilitarianism. All these affected the political as well as the economic fabric. The imperial powers started as trading organisations and later developed into full fledged political powers. This transformation was to a large extent based on the control over resources. In India's context, this had meant things like: # Use of territorial revenue by British trading company as 'investment', whereby during the eighteenth century, it would use the territorial revenue of Bengal to buy goods from Bengal and export that to Europe, and would show that this money was their 'investment' in India! #Trade imbalance that had gradually transformed India from an exporting country in goods like Cotton to that of an importing country of cotton. #Transfer of wealth in form of invisibles eg. transfer of profit, pensions, cost of maintenance of Office of Secy etc all these coming from Indian revenue.
Destruction of handicraft industries (during the later eighteenth century), when the industrial revolution had only just started~ and perhaps the societies were poised in a balanced way. This is also related to an important phenomena of "proto-industrialisation" and "deindustrialisation".
# Destruction of technological industries like shipping in the early nineteenth century. Here it is interesting to note that shipping of India was not outdone by any Western technology, but by the non-technological political policies made in Britain. Scholars like Gunder Frank also puts the western superiority in areas like shipping only by 1840s. All these meant technological impoverishment in the long run# The nature of this drain underwent a shift when the age of finance capitalism emerged. The most glaring example is that of railways. In the case, of railways the whole cost was put on India as guaranteed project. This meant that whether the project earned money or losses, it would be paid a guaranteed system by the Govt that protected the private investment. Consequently, this meant that the money for investment in projects like railways was basically extracted from India. If the investment in railways is neglected, then there was very little foreign investment during the whole period of imperialism# Moreover, all this was not just a matter of drain, but also worked to serve the imperial political interests. Railways & Telegraph was used for suppression of revolts. Railways particularly was useful both for things like troop movement as well as penetration into areas and provinces of princely rulers, who were theoretically free. (at the time of independence, there were some 562 such independent states, that became part of the successor states) It was also useful for penetration of foreign goods, particularly textile into the hinterlands and also for transfer of raw materials from hinterland to the seaports for export to Britain.# The drain also happened in terms of expenses on military. The costs of military expedition in far off lands- Middle East, Africa (like the Abyssinian & Sudan expeditons), Europe etc, which were basically British imperial wars, and had no relation to India were charged on Indian exchequer.
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