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A Shipwreck Filled with Treasure--Who Owns It?

A shipwreck containing 200 tons of silver has been discovered in the Atlantic ocean. It's the large haul of precious metal ever discovered at sea. The question is: Who gets to keep it? The SS Gairsoppa, a UK cargo ship sunk by a German U-boat in 1941, was found by the US exploration firm Odyssey Marine, using a small submarine to search the bottom of the sea where they suspected the ship had been sunk.

Only one person from crew of 85 survived the torpedo attack. Three crew members survived in a lifeboat that reached the Cornish coast two weeks later, but two died trying to get ashore.

Will it be "finders keepers," or will the money be returned to the UK? It turns out that the US company will keep 80% of the loot, under the terms of a contract they signed with the British.

BBC News quotes Odyssey Marine's project manager Andrew Craig as saying, "We've accomplished the first phase of this project--the location and identification of the target shipwreck. Now we're hard at work planning for the recovery phase. Given the orientation and condition of the shipwreck, we are extremely confident that our planned salvage operation will be well suited for the recovery of this silver cargo."

One thing that will help is that the Gairsoppa landed upright on the seabed with its cargo holds open, meaning that remote-controlled robotic submarines should be able to retrieve the treasure.

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