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Copyright © 1987 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.
The Toronto StarJuly 20, 1987, Monday, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A8
LENGTH: 424 words
HEADLINE: Salvagers seeking $2 billion in gold get bubbly, hosiery
DATELINE: HALIFAX, Nova Scotia
HALIFAX (CP) - A Halifax salvage team seeking $2.1 billion in gold has so far retrieved expensive French champagne and black silk stockings from a luxury ocean liner that sank off the coast of Nantucket, Mass., in 1909.
Debbie Klein, a spokesman for Sub-Ocean Salvors International Ltd., a Halifax firm that owns the salvage rights to the SS Republic, said the diving crew is just outside the first target area where the gold is believed to be.
Six divers working around the clock for almost two weeks haven't yet turned up the gold coins - now estimated to be worth up to $2.1 billion - believed to be aboard when the Republic went down.
"The divers are right outside the baggage department," Klein said in an interview. "They are being hampered a bit by an extensive amount of silt, which has been settling over the wreck for the last 78 years."
The divers have been working in the section of the ship containing first-class cabins, and have recovered crystal, crockery, a towel steamer and an extensive collection of champagne and wine, she said.
"The corks in the bottles are still dry, and (Sub-Ocean president) Bob Stevens said there are bubbles in the champagne. He said they were also finding lots of beer bottles."
The divers were surprised to find a pair of rolled up black silk stockings in one of the cabins, Klein said.
The divers are working 80 metres (270 feet) below the surface and living in a pressurized chamber.
The baggage compartment is only one of three areas targeted in the search for gold. Ninety days have been budgeted for the salvage operation, 90 kilometres (55 miles) southeast of Nantucket.
The gold is supposed to have left New York on the White Star liner, owned by shipping and banking magnate J.P. Morgan, although it was never officially registered as cargo.
The coins are believed to have been part of a fortune that Czar Nicholas II borrowed to help rebuild his shattered army after his defeat in the Russo-Japanese war.
The gold may not have been registered for security reasons or because such a loan from the Americans to Czarist Russia may have caused an international outcry.
Although records exist of the gold being disbursed by U.S. banks shortly before the Republic sailed from New York, all traces of the gold disappeared when the ship sank after colliding with the Florida, an Italian liner.
Six people died in the accident, and more than 2,000 were saved in the biggest open sea rescue operation ever completed.
GRAPHIC: CP photo Martin Bayerle holding bottle of champagne