Friday, 8 August 2008
This photograph was taken on the stern of S.S Ranger in 1912 with Royal Navy sailors guarding £747,110 in gold and silver bullion at 1912 prices. The gold and silver was salvaged from the wreck of the P&O liner S.S Oceana which sank after a collision in the English Channel on tow to Dover. As I write gold is valued at $852.50 a troy ounce and silver is valued at £7.87 a troy ounce. Both gold and silver have fallen in value over the past few weeks, but at todays prices this haul must fetch something in the region of £75 million or more.
In 1912 the royal mint produced 30,317,921 sovereigns and 6,224,316 half sovereigns for circulation excluding those minted in the overseas mints, this was the time when all gold shipments to London from South Africa passed the Thanet coastline to be coined or traded as bullion. Historicaly gold and silver has always been shipped to London since the East India Company days. With ten East India Company wrecks off the Thanet Coastline and all the perils of war it does make me wonder how much bullion lies on the sea bed off the Thanet coastline. A fine example was during the second world war a minesweeper was shooting its gear off the wedge sands off Birchington preparing for a sweep,when the gear become fast the gear was hauled back in and was found to be entangled around a block of fused silver bullion bars that must have been stored in a chest. The closest known wreck in the area is the Hindostan a East India Company wreck that sank in January 1803. The silver was used for the war effort.