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Copyright © 1987 Globe Newspaper Company

The Boston Globe

June 25, 1987, Thursday

SECTION: Metro, Page 74

LENGTH: 412 words


BYLINE: by Teresa M. Hanafin, Globe Staff


HYANNIS -- Salvagers hoping to find up to $1.6 billion worth of gold coins on board a sunken luxury liner off Nantucket will be diving to the ship sometime in the next two days.

The salvage ship, Inspector, is anchored 55 miles southeast of the island and divers have been lowered to the wreck of the R.M.S. Republic in a submersible bubble that will act as their base during trips to the ship. The 585-foot liner sank to its ocean grave Jan. 23, 1909, after colliding with the S.S. Florida, filled with Italian immigrants. The Republic was believed to be carrying 5 tons of gold coins and headed for Czarist Russia.

The coins, believed to be American gold eagles, could have a numismatic value of $400 million to $1.6 billion, depending on their denomination.

The salvage attempt is being carried out by Sub-Ocean Salvors International of Tampa, Fla., a group of 80 limited partners who have invested $2 million in the effort. Martin Bayerle, 35, of Martha's Vineyard, a vice president of the company, located the wreck in 1981 and secured salvage rights in 1983 after the ship's identity was confirmed. He will be one of those diving to the wreck from the Inspector.

Robert L. Stevens, president of Sub-Ocean Salvors and the naval architect who reconstructed blueprints of the Republic, said in a statement issued through the company's New York public relations firm yesterday that he was "extremely impressed with the condition and the shape of the vessel and I anticipate a very successful expedition will take place."

Company spokeswoman Deborah Klein said Stevens is on board the Inspector to supervise the diving operation and make suggestions to the divers as to where to look for the gold, based on his blueprints.

The 40-member team of 20 divers and 20 crewmembers arrived at the site late Saturday to begin round-the-clock salvage efforts. The 12-foot submersible vehicle, the Duplus, began mapping the ocean floor and determining the angle of the ship on Monday. Divers tethered to the submersible will roam the Republic while linked by radio and hand-held video cameras to the Inspector.

Plans to the Republic vanished from the Library of Congress after the wreck, and Stevens spent three years reconstructing them from sister ship blueprints, photos and floor plans given passengers.

The ship belonged to American industrial tycoon J.P. Morgan's ill-fated White Star Line -- the same firm whose Titanic sank three years later during its maiden North Atlantic voyage from England.

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