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Copyright © 1983 The Associated Press

The Associated Press

June 28, 1983, Tuesday, AM cycle

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 447 words

HEADLINE: Sunken Luxury Liner Identified off Nantucket


Diver Martin G. Bayerle hopes to find $500 million in gold, plus rare wines and artifacts on the luxury liner S.S. Republic that sank nearly 75 years ago off Nantucket Island.

Bayerle said Monday he identified the 585-foot liner last week. It went down Jan. 24, 1909, in 235 feet of water about 50 miles south-southwest of Nantucket. It had collided in thick fog with the steamship Florida. Four of its 600 passengers perished. The vessel is in the same area where the Italian liner Andrea Doria sank in 1956.

Bayerle, 31, said jewels, personal valuables and $3 million in U.S. gold coins were known to be aboard the Republic.

Considering today's gold prices and the fact that the gold was in coin, Bayerle says that makes the treasure "worth half a billion (dollars), easy."

He plans to start recovery operations in August, and expects to recover several hundred cases of fine wine, too.

"It was a luxury liner, on a three-month cruise and only 16 hours out of New York when it went down. They didn't drink that much."

Bayerle, who owns Bayerle's Martha's Vineyard Scuba Headquarters Inc., was accompanied on his diving trip last week by a U.S. marshal to "arrest" the vessel, a preliminary step that "assures the firm's prime salvage rights and precedes the awarding of legal title." U.S. District Court Judge Walter J. Skinner has given his firm prime salvage rights, he said.

The ship was owned by the White Star Steamship Co., the same firm that owned the Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic in 1912, taking some 1,500 lives.

Bayerle said the S.S. Republic Expedition will begin in August and take three to five years, with diving operations conducted only in good weather from mid-July through August.

"It's in the shipping lane, and in a fog we could get hit just like the Republic," Bayerle said in a telephone interview Monday from Fairhaven. "Plus there are 4 to 5 knot currents there, and sharks, too."

He said divers in his crew of 60 will use diving helmets attached to hot-water heated rubber suits and be supplied with a mixture of oxygen and helium.

The operation is expected to cost between $30,000 to $50,000 a week for a total of about $2 million to $3 million. He said 12 percent of the operation has been sold out to private backers; the rest is his.

Except for taxes, which he said he hopes to "avoid, but not evade," Bayerle said neither the state nor federal government has any claim on the salvage because it is so far at sea.

In the past, he said the federal government has attempted to pass laws covering sunken ships at sea, "but they're interested mostly in historical stuff, 100 years old or more, so that lets us out."

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