Sunken ship yields silver booty, but should we let sleeping wrecks lie?

The SS Gairsoppa wreck is believed to hold $200 million worth of silver ingots. AAP

BBC News has revealed that a shipwreck containing 200 tonnes of silver has been found in the Atlantic Ocean, 500 kilometres off the west coast of Ireland.

It’s the largest haul of precious metal ever discovered at sea and is believed to be worth approximately $200 million.

The wreck is of the SS Gairsoppa, a UK cargo ship sunk by a German U-boat in 1941, and was found by US “marine archaeology” and exploration company Odyssey Marine Exploration.

But is this really a case of “marine” or “maritime archaeology”? Or is it just treasure hunting?

The 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage came into force in January 2009 having been ratified by the required 20 countries. As of September 2011, 40 nations have ratified the Convention.

The ninth century Belitung wreck yielded many important artefacts. Jacklee