Author(s):    Ralph Ranalli Globe Staff Date: July 9, 2005 Page: B5 Section: Metro/Region
For decades, irrepressible treasure-diver Martin Bayerle has insisted that there are hundreds of millions billions, perhaps of dollars in gold 270 feet below the cold waters off Nantucket, where the luxury liner RMS Republic sank 96 years ago.

In repeated salvage operations since he discovered the wreck's location in 1981, he has brought up thousands of wine bottles, anchors, china plates, silverware, and even a toilet. But no gold. That didn't stop him from successfully bolstering his legal claim to the vessel in US District Court yesterday, however, in advance of what he calls another "major" salvage try next year. US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner declared him the "rightful salvor in possession" of the wreck of the Republic, and, in an unusual move, she also issued a preliminary injunction barring anyone from trying to interfere with his salvage efforts.

At a hearing yesterday, Bayerle's lawyer, Timothy Barrow, told Gertner that Bayerle needs the undisputed legal imprimatur of the courts to assure that investors will risk millions of dollars to back his latest attempt.

"If there is gold or even rumored gold involved, there is always the threat that a major corporation, another salvor, or a government could come in and try to assert rights" to salvage the vessel, Barrow said.

At the hearing, Gertner said she was leaning toward granting Bayerle exclusive salvage rights over the objections of the US Department of Justice. Department lawyers have used Bayerle's own research to argue that the US government has a claim to any portion of the supposed treasure connected to a US Navy payroll shipment on board.

Gertner said she was uncertain about granting the injunction, however, since Bayerle couldn't point to anyone else who was actively trying to salvage the wreck. But in a three-page ruling released on the court's website last night, Gertner granted Bayerle both salvage rights and the injunction, without explanation.

Bayerle, who lives in New York, is fond of handing out faux 1909 American Gold Eagle coins with the name of his website,, and the inscription "The Greatest Legend in Lost Treasure Lore" on the back.

After years of research, Bayerle said he discovered that the ship may have been carrying 5 tons of American Gold Eagle coins that the French government had bought to support Russia's czar against a revolt. Bayerle also believes that the ship was carrying a government payroll on its way to the US Navy's Great White Fleet in Gibraltar.

The Republic, which like the Titanic was owned by White Star Line, sank in January 1909 after colliding with an Italian ship, the SS Florida, killing six people.

Bayerle said he plans to dive on the wreck next week to begin preparations for next year's salvage effort.

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