Topic: Lighthouses & Shipwrecks
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Mystery of sunken gold cargo in South Atlantic remains locked.
Another mysterious chapter for the sunken trawler “Polar Mist” and its cargo of 9.5 tons of gold, which was to be rescued this week from the South Atlantic sea shelf but had to be cancelled following seamen’ s union demands for a participation in the recovery.
An Argentine federal court in Rio Gallegos has opened a criminal investigation into the alleged “boycott” which frustrated the rescue operation and involved the crew of the Skandi Patagonia, a special multi-functional vessel for oil rigs support which had been contracted by Lloyd’s insurers.
The first reaction of the federal court was to retain the crew and captain of the Skandi Patagonia but they were later released and are back on logistic duties with French Total oil rigs close to the Magellan Strait. However the crew has been summoned to return for questioning.
“The federal court opened a criminal probe regarding the causes which impeded the Skandi Patagonia from sailing for the rescue operation, and crew and vessel were ordered to remain to establish responsibilities”, said Lloyd’s solicitor in Argentina Gustavo Giugale. However later they were released.
The rescue operation involved Mammoet Salvage, London Offshore Consultants and Raul Negro & Co.
The main rescue operation was to be by expert divers which had specific instructions and a questionnaire which would supply data on the sinking of the Polar Mist and its valuable cargo. They were to be supported by the crew of the Skandi Patagonia.
There are growing suspicions that the 16.5 million US dollars cargo might no be at the sea bottom.
Meantime the owners of the cargo, Cerro Vanguardia and Triton (mining companies extracting gold and silver in Santa Cruz Province) are demanding payment for the insured lost cargo.
“As far as we are concerned for us it’s the same whether the cargo exists or not; if not we are certain to collect the insurance and a prudential time has elapsed since January. As to the rest they can do whatever they wish”, said Jorge Palmés from Cerro Vanguardia.
However Lloyd’s insists: “we are going ahead with the rescue operation whatever happens and we have not received any communiqué from the mining companies”, said a source from the insurance corporation.
The precious metal left from Punta Quilla, Santa Cruz for Punta Arenas, Chile, aboard the Polar Mist, as happened regularly several times a month and had been going on for years. From Punta Arenas the metal was flown to Santiago and on to Switzerland.
However last January, 24 hours after leaving port and close to the east entrance of the Magellan Strait the Polar Mist, in the middle of a terrible storm, called for emergency rescue. The crew was rescued and Polar Mist was left to drift and supposedly to sink. However a few hours later the Argentine Coast Guard spots the Chilean vessel Beagle pulling the Polar Mist towards Chile.
They were ordered to return to Rio Gallegos but sometime during the night, Beagle alleging Polar Mist was sinking, cut loose from the former trawler which went down in 70/80 metres deep water, with its precious cargo.
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|Mystery "mist" shrouds Patagonia sinking of gold laden ship|
This story is still unfolding,....."It's a story of a ship that vanished off the coast of Patagonia with a cargo of gold and silver, but its ending remains shrouded in mystery.The Polar Mist was abandoned by its crew in a storm and sank earlier this year, but did the nine tons of gold and silver aboard worth more than 16 million dollars go down with it?'Nobody knows anything. There is something strange here, but nobody knows what. I've made inquiries everywhere: nobody knows,' said John Wilson, the Argentine representative of the British insurance company Lloyd's.The mining group Cerro Vanguardia, which owns nearly all the gold and silver aboard the Polar Mist, has said the cargo was insured by Lloyd's.'The insurance company has confirmed to us they have every intention of recovering it. They will return the cargo and we will resume the shipment that was interrupted,' said Jorge Palmes, president of Cerro Vanguardia.The cost of recovering the cargo, which went down in waters 75 meters (225 feet) deep, is estimated at three million dollars. It has to be done by the start of autumn in the southern hemisphere, March 21, for it to have a chance of succeeding.'We are not worried. If the insurance company recovers the cargo, we will recover the gold. Otherwise, we are insured,' Miguel Angel Ferro, the president of Fomicruz, a Chilean company that belongs to Cerro Vanguardia.Despite those assurances, each day that passes brings a raft of new questions.Why was the sinking not disclosed until a month after it happened, following an investigation led by a federal judge in Santa Cruz, Gerardo Camano? The judge declined to comment on the case.The gold shipment's route also seems curious. Departing January 14 from Punta Quilla, Argentina, the Polar Mist was supposed to make a stop in Punta Arenas, a port in the southern end of Chile.From there it was to head north to Santiago, where the shipment was to be transferred by air to Switzerland.But a day's sail out of Puerto Quilla, the Polar Mist was overtaken by a powerful storm.Its seven member crew and one passenger asked the Argentine navy to rescue them. But the ship was left adrift for 24 hours until a Chilean tugboat, the Beagle, arrived on the scene.It tried to save the vessel, but failed. The Polar Mist sank 40 kilometers (24 miles) off the coast of Argentina. Was the cargo still on board? Only a salvage operation will tell.Meanwhile, there are a tangle of insurance companies involved.Cerro Vanguardia owns seven tons of the shipment, while the Triton mining company owns the remaining 2.48 tons, according to the Argentine customs.The Argentine company Secure Logistics contracted to transport Cerro Vanguardia's cargo insured it with an Argentine company for 16 million dollars. The Argentine company then re-insured it with Lloyd's.For its part, Triton insured its cargo with insurer Marsh for 1.6 million dollars.Argentina is the 15th largest producer of gold in the world and is on track to be among the top 10 by 2001, according to the ministry of mines, which says gold production is grew 6,000 percent between 2003 and 2008."
Book on Shipwrecks down South Atlantic,Argentina. Comes in Spanish or in English, title,Naufragios en el cabo de hornos, isla de los Estados, Magallanes, Peninsula Mitre, Malvinas y Georgias del Sud by Lic. Carlos Pedro Vairo.
Shipwrecks a the Cape Horn, Estate island, Magellan, Mitre Peninsula, Falkland islands and southern Georgias by Lic. Varlos Pedro Vairo.
Shipwrecks and Lighthoiuses down in South America, a trip to remember .....
Carlos Pedro Vairo is the author to one one of the most interesting and rich in information books on shipwrecks written in Argentina about Argentina and it's history with the sea.
Shipwrecks in Cape Horn, States Island, Magellan straight, Mitre Peninsula, Falkland and southern Georgias islands is the title to this wonderful book. It has been sort of a Bible/Encyclopedia for all of us interested in the history of that southernmost area in the world, the folk behind the facts, the location to several mysteries and fantastic stories on wrecks, crashes, sunk ships.
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