ON 25 JANUARY, 1917, HMS Laurentic struck two German mines off Lough Swilly on the coast of Ireland, and sank. Few knew what the armed merchant cruiser – an ocean liner before the war – was carrying at the time. What follows in Joseph A Williams’ Sunken Gold is a wonderful account of one of the great treasure salvages ever undertaken.
Lt-Commander Guybon Damant (later Captain) was arguably one of the leading Navy divers of his time, and had developed a great understanding of decompression illness theory.
He was summoned to Whitehall for a meeting to explore the feasibility of recovering 44 tons of gold, valued at almost £5 million (£344m today) from the wreck of the Laurentic.
The book gives a wonderful account of the challenges the divers faced – from wild seas breaking up the wreck and making recovery of the gold painfully slow, to trying to keep the salvage secret amid political unrest in Ireland.