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Copyright © 1985 The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe

September 2, 1985, Monday

SECTION: Metro; Page 19

LENGTH: 770 words



SOURCE: Boston Globe


FAIRHAVEN - It's difficult to get Martin Bayerle to concede that his dream of recovering millions of dollars in gold coins from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean may be a fantasy, that 10 years of trying to pinpoint the treasure might have gone wrong somewhere.

"If we were presenting a case in court, I'm sure we'd get a conviction and an execution," said the 34-year-old diver, who is the driving force behind an expedition to survey the SS Republic, which sank 50 miles off Nantucket in 1909. "Sure, sometimes innocent people are convicted, but you can't come to any other conclusion with the evidence that we have," he said. "The gold has to be there."

Outfitted with the latest in high technology diving and salvage gear, Bayerle and a handful of other divers were planning to sail from this southern Massachusetts fishing port this week to survey conditions at the site of the Republic wreck, and determine which areas on the 585-foot luxury liner are most likely to contain the gold they hope to find.

If all goes well they will return next summer to retrieve the gold, which they believe was carried aboard the vessel in the form of mint condition American Gold Eagles with a face value of $3 million and a potential numismatic value of from $400 million to $500 million.

The Republic sank Jan. 24, 1909, in 260 feet of water after colliding in fog with an Italian liner, the Florida. Because the ship sank slowly, all but two of its 461 passengers and 450 crew members were rescued.

Bayerle located the wreck in 1981 and secured salvage rights in 1983 after its identity was confirmed. He believes rescuers had no time to salvage any gold allegedly on board - at least none of the news accounts at the time mention any such recovery.

In fact, news accounts only mention the gold as a rumor. Bayerle said official records that would prove the existence of the gold are missing or destroyed.

But Bayerle believes that's because of an international conspiracy to cover up the gold's existence. It was destined, he thinks, for Russia, where it was to be used in the construction of railroads and to improve the czar's army.

"That's why it was covered up," Bayerle said last week, suggesting the loss of gold for such a strategic purpose in the volatile days before World War I would have been kept secret.

Bayerle is convinced the gold exists primarily because of complicated financial transactions on the gold market just before the Republic sailed. In early January 1909, he said, two New York banks sold the French government $3 million in gold, money that France had loaned to Russia. Because there was a shortage of gold bullion at the time, he said, the banks bought freshly minted Gold Eagles for the shipment, an unusual occurrence.

Bayerle, who has traveled to Paris, London, Washington and New York for his research, said that gold never arrived in France or in Russia. "In looking at all the America Gold Eagle transactions between 1904 and 1914 we found only three shortages - one in 1904, one in January of 1909, and one in 1914," he said last month. "I've accounted for the other two, which leaves the January 1909 transaction."

That transaction took place less than 10 months [sic, should be days] before the Republic sailed, the usual time period for completion of such gold transactions then, said Bayerle, whose Edgartown company is Maritime Analysts Group Inc.

None of the gold is expected to be recovered on this expedition, said Charles Haggert, who will supervise all the diving. Undersea work on this cruise will be done mostly by a robot submarine, also called a remotely operated vehicle, Haggert said. Divers will assist only as necessary. Once the Republic is thoroughly photographed, Haggert said, a determination will be made as to where the gold was most likely kept and what is the best way to recover it.

The recovery is scheduled for July or August 1986. Only during those two months is the weather calm enough for such deep-sea diving, said Haggert, who works for Wolf Sub-Ocean Ltd., of Nova Scotia, a Canadian deep-sea salvage firm. Last week $700,000 in high technology diving equipment provided by Wolf Sub-Ocean was loaded aboard the Mandy Ray, a 120-foot scallop dragger hired for this summer's expedition.

Bayerle and Haggert said no one could have recovered the gold previously because the technology for making such deep-water salvage operations has only recently become available. "Also, gold prices in the 1970s are what made the project financially feasible," Haggert said.

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