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Copyright © 1987 The Associated Press

The Associated Press

July 28, 1987, Tuesday, AM cycle

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 428 words

HEADLINE: Republic Salvors Retrieve Anchor, Celebrate with ''Robust'' 1898 Champagne

BYLINE: By DANA KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer


   One of the treasure hunters searching for $1.6 billion in gold on a ship that sank in 1909 headed for shore Tuesday with recovered items such as cut crystal and drinkable champagne to check their value.

Martin Bayerle, a New York diver who located the Republic in 1981 after 10 years of research, left the salvage ship Inspector with some of the objects from the wreck of the liner RMS Republic, said Deborah Klein, spokeswoman for the 46-member crew aboard the Inspector, 55 miles southeast of Nantucket Island.

Bayerle planned to meet with representatives of Christie's auction house of London to establish the potential market value of the objects, Klein said.

The Republic sank Jan. 23, 1909, 16 hours out on a two-month Mediterranean cruise with more than 400 millionaires on board, after it collided with the Italian ship Florida, carrying 850 immigrants to New York. Six people died _ two on the Republic and four on the Florida _ but more than 2,000 were saved by 83 lifeboats. The Florida did not sink.

Bayerle and Robert Stevens, a naval architect who reconstructed missing blueprints of the Republic, recently celebrated the retrieval of one of the Florida's anchors by opening an 1898 bottle of Moet Chandon champagne from the wreck.

"They couldn't resist," said Klein. "They said it was in excellent condition. The champagne had a robust, hearty taste with a pale color similar to ginger ale."

The champagne was one of an estimated 5,000 bottles aboard the ship, Klein said. Salvors do not know their worth yet but believe them to be extremely valuable, she said.

She said the two also sampled a bottle of French Rothschild wine salvaged from the ship but reported that it had "lost some of its sparkle."

The Republic's cargo is believed to have included millions of dollars in gold coins bought by the Bank of France to lend to Czar Nicholas II of Russia to finance a military buildup. The American eagles were worth $3 million then, but would be worth more than $1.6 billion today, according to some estimates.

There is no record that the gold was placed on the Republic to go to France, but Bayerle has said that in those days such shipments would often be in secret. And an examination of shipping and banking records convinced the searchers that it did go on that ship.

Divers began their search about three weeks ago of the Republic, described as "the grand hotel of the seas." It was owned by tycoon J.P. Morgan's White Star Shipping Lines, which also owned the Titanic, which sank three years later after hitting an iceberg.

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