Posts Tagged ‘bullion’

On the hunt for the Nazi gold train: Inside the Polish tunnels hiding the bullion

August 23rd, 2015

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

This is a measure nobody before has taken, and has fuelled speculation that this time somebody may have actually found something.

But just where the train might have been found remains unknown. The two who have claimed to have found it have kept the location under wraps, saying, through their lawyer, that they may reveal their secret to the president of Walbrzych next week. But until then the location stays secret.

The local press have claimed one place the train could lie is the village of Walim. Stretched along a valley some 12 miles west of Walbrzych and overlooked by the forested Owl Mountains, Walim has emerged as a contender for the location because its hills are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels.

One of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich, Project Riese involved digging miles of tunnels in a series of complexes across the Walbrzych region, which was until 1945 part of Germany. Thousands of slave labourers died hewing the rock for reasons that still remain unclear. Some say the tunnels were for a secret command centre, others claim they were for underground factories for Hitler’s secret weapons, or even hid research on an atomic bomb.

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

To this day not all the tunnels have been explored so believers in the gold train legend say the locomotive and its cargo may still lie hidden in a secret siding.

On his office computer Pawel Brzozowski, Walim’s director of culture and tourism, pulled up an old German map of the village. It showed a now non-existent railway line running into Walim. He explained the theory was that there may have been a special track laid that led into a Reise tunnel.

“In May we found that somebody had carried out illegal digging on one of the hills near the cemetery not far from the track may have been, and this indicates that somebody has been searching,” he said.

Some of the tunnels and caverns in Walim’s hills are large, big enough, perhaps, to house a train. Mr Brzozowski said he hopes the legend and its gold lies buried somewhere in the hills but maintains a dose of scepticism.

“It would be important for us, if it was found,” he explained. “It could bring people here, and already people are asking about it. We are just waiting to see what happens. But some people laugh about it because there have always been stories about the train.”

Further up the valley at the entrance to Walim’s Reise tunnels, now a tourist attraction, Marcin Pasek, shakes his head at talk of finding the gold train. A tunnel guide for five years he has heard the legend many times and it still fails to ring true for him.

“I have my reservations about this,” he said with a slight laugh. “There has been talk but no evidence. Maybe there was some treasure but why leave it on a train? In the past Nazi loot has always been found in boxes: never on a train. Or maybe somebody has found a train, but perhaps it’s just an old abandoned train with no treasure.”

While his scepticism about the discovery claims appears to strike a chord with many people in the Walbrzych region there is also abundant hope the train and its precious cargo will soon be uncovered. That would bring a surge of publicity to a region unknown to many in Europe, and provide a an economic boost to town to a that has suffered of late.

Mines around Walbrzych have closed, jobs lost and the population has dropped 170,000 to 110,000 in just 25 years.

“We hope it’s true. For this region it would be good news,” said Mr Marciniak, the cafe owner. “But even it isn’t, the legend will live on,” he added with a smile. “Nobody ever sees the Loch Ness monster but people still go to Loch Ness.”


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On the hunt for the Nazi gold train: Inside the Polish tunnels that may hold the bullion

August 22nd, 2015

Mr Marciniak, like many others, is quick to stress everybody has heard stories about the train and its gold before, and how people have tried and failed in the past to gain their fame and fortune by finding it. What sets this time apart from the others, he pointed out, is that the two claimants have taken a legal step by filing a claim with the local authorities in Walbrzych in the hope of attaining a finder’s fee of 10 per-cent of the value of the find.

Ksiaz Castle in Walbrzych, Poland

This is a measure nobody before has taken, and has fuelled speculation that this time somebody may have actually found something.

But just where the train might have been found remains unknown. The two who have claimed to have found it have kept the location under wraps, saying, through their lawyer, that they may reveal their secret to the president of Walbrzych next week. But until then the location stays secret.

The local press have claimed one place the train could lie is the village of Walim. Stretched along a valley some 12 miles west of Walbrzych and overlooked by the forested Owl Mountains, Walim has emerged as a contender for the location because its hills are home to some of the Project Riese tunnels.

One of the biggest construction projects in the history of the Third Reich, Project Riese involved digging miles of tunnels in a series of complexes across the Walbrzych region, which was until 1945 part of Germany. Thousands of slave labourers died hewing the rock for reasons that still remain unclear. Some say the tunnels were for a secret command centre, others claim they were for underground factories for Hitler’s secret weapons, or even hid research on an atomic bomb.

An old miner shaft at the Old Mine Science and Art Centre in Walbrzych, Poland

To this day not all the tunnels have been explored so believers in the gold train legend say the locomotive and its cargo may still lie hidden in a secret siding.

On his office computer Pawel Brzozowski, Walim’s director of culture and tourism, pulled up an old German map of the village. It showed a now non-existent railway line running into Walim. He explained the theory was that there may have been a special track laid that led into a Reise tunnel.

“In May we found that somebody had carried out illegal digging on one of the hills near the cemetery not far from the track may have been, and this indicates that somebody has been searching,” he said.

Some of the tunnels and caverns in Walim’s hills are large, big enough, perhaps, to house a train. Mr Brzozowski said he hopes the legend and its gold lies buried somewhere in the hills but maintains a dose of scepticism.

“It would be important for us, if it was found,” he explained. “It could bring people here, and already people are asking about it. We are just waiting to see what happens. But some people laugh about it because there have always been stories about the train.”

Further up the valley at the entrance to Walim’s Reise tunnels, now a tourist attraction, Marcin Pasek, shakes his head at talk of finding the gold train. A tunnel guide for five years he has heard the legend many times and it still fails to ring true for him.

“I have my reservations about this,” he said with a slight laugh. “There has been talk but no evidence. Maybe there was some treasure but why leave it on a train? In the past Nazi loot has always been found in boxes: never on a train. Or maybe somebody has found a train, but perhaps it’s just an old abandoned train with no treasure.”

While his scepticism about the discovery claims appears to strike a chord with many people in the Walbrzych region there is also abundant hope the train and its precious cargo will soon be uncovered. That would bring a surge of publicity to a region unknown to many in Europe, and provide a an economic boost to town to a that has suffered of late.

Mines around Walbrzych have closed, jobs lost and the population has dropped 170,000 to 110,000 in just 25 years.

“We hope it’s true. For this region it would be good news,” said Mr Marciniak, the cafe owner. “But even it isn’t, the legend will live on,” he added with a smile. “Nobody ever sees the Loch Ness monster but people still go to Loch Ness.”


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Royal Mint to cast coins from bullion recovered after 70 years on ocean floor

April 5th, 2014

The ship spent 70 years lost beneath the waves before being found in 2011, 300 miles off the Irish coast, at a depth of three miles, half a mile deeper than the Titanic.

The deepest rescue operation in maritime history was carried out by a US company and the silver bullion was recovered from the seabed.

A portion of it was passed to the Royal Mint which began striking the coins on Friday, edged with the name SS Gairsoppa.

Shane Bissett, the Royal Mint’s director of bullion and commemorative coin, said: “This incredible story marks yet another exciting moment in the Royal Mint’s fascinating 1,000-year history.

“The traditional Britannia coin design, Philip Nathan’s elegant portrayal of a windswept Britannia looking out to sea, is the perfect image for the coins struck from SS Gairsoppa’s long-lost cargo.

“We are so pleased to be able to bring these coins to the market at long last, albeit more than 70 years later than expected.”

In December 1940 the Royal Mint was running dangerously low in stocks of silver due to the onset of war and called in emergency supplies from India.

The SS Gairsoppa sailed from Calcutta carrying the silver under the protection of a naval convoy.

But after battling a heavy storm it began running short of coal off the coast of Southern Ireland and was forced to break free and head for the safety of Galway Harbour.

The slow merchant ship was spotted by a German U-boat patrolling the British waters and was torpedoed at 12.08am on 17 February 1941.

It sank within 20 minutes.

Three lifeboats were launched but only Second Officer Richard Ayres made it to land and survived to tell the tale.

His lifeboat started with 31 men but after spending 13 deadly days he was the only sailor to make it to dry land alive.

He was awarded an MBE in recognition of his heroic efforts to keep fellow survivors alive, as well as a War Medal for bravery at sea, and amazingly returned to sea nine months later.

The 412ft ship was eventually found sitting on the seabed 300 miles off the Irish coast in September 2011 by US marine exploration company Odyssey.

And after a five-year rescue operation on behalf of the Treasury they recovered the silver bullion from SS Gairsoppa at an astonishing depth of three miles.

Odyssey’s senior project manager Andrew Craig holds a Gairsoppa Coin (Wales News)

Andrew Craig, who project managed the five-year rescue operation, said: “Nobody has ever done anything like this before at this depth.

“There were so many unknowns and when you took a step back it looked incredibly daunting – but we just took each challenge as it came.

“Finally bringing the silver bullion back to the Royal Mint, 72 years after it should have arrived, will bring the incredible story of the ship and its crew to light.

“Not many people have heard about the SS Gairsoppa since it sank but now it will be one of the most famous wrecks to be worked on and those sailors will never be forgotten.”

The rescue operation recovered 2,792 silver bars totalling approximately 3.2 million troy ounces of silver – worth around £38,272,000 at current prices.

Mr Craig said the record-breaking depth of the salvage operation left them with unique challenges to overcome and some eye-watering operational costs.

He said: “For the final stage of the project to retrieve the silver bullion we chartered a boat at a cost of £100,000-a-day – and were there for two seasons for around 180 days.

“It took three and a half hours to send out remotely operated submersible down to the sea bed and then we had to work our way through the boat to find where the silver was stored.

“Up until the last 10 years the technology hasn’t been there to do anything like this.

“But after silver prices rocketed it became financially worhtwhile to give it a go and we believed we had the technology and skill to do it.

“This has been a great challenge for us but now we know we can work any depth of water.

“Coming to The Royal Mint and seeing the silver bullion coins struck was quite emotional – now after 72 years we have seen the story come full circle.”

Odyssey kept 80 per cent of the silver bullion they recovered and the Treasury were given 20 per cent.

Some of this is being used for the striking of the 99.9 pure quarter ounce silver Britannia bullion coins.

Royal Mint historian Dr Kevin Clancy added: “This shipment of silver bullion should have got here 72 years ago and now it has finally come home.

“I don’t think anything like this has happened before – bullion destined for us which didn’t make now finding it’s way here.”

“It’s a very romantic and evocative story.”


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