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Copyright © 1986 Forbes, Inc.


April 7, 1986, Monday

LENGTH: 302 words

HEADLINE: Treasure hunt. (hunting the shipwrecked S.S. Republic)



Martin Bayerle, a 34-year-old professional driver from Brooklyn, N.Y., believes hundreds of millions of dollars in gold await in the S.S. Republic, a luxury liner that sank 50 miles off Nantucket in 1909. He is eager to let the world know that he will plunge 250 feet next year into those frigid, shark-infested waters, mainly because he's searching just as hard for dry-land dollars as for sunken loot.

Bayerle, whose Edgartown, Mass.-based Maritime Analysts Group, Inc. holds the salvage rights, has a team of writers and producers creating a TV documentary, a novel of the last Republic voyage, an "oversize, glossy" picture book and a separate booklength account. Other possibilities include a TV miniseries based on the novel, and even a series of how-to guides for would-be treasure seekers. With luck, Bayerle should come out ahead even if nothing glitters in that nautical grave. Earlier investors, he says, have already put in $3 million. HE is now hunting for "corporate sponsors" to "spread the risk."

Is there really any gold? For ten years, Bayerle reports, he studied import-export records, banking and insurance documents and newpaper reports. He found no smoking gun-rumors of gold in the hold were officially denied at the time of the disaster--but Bayerle has put together about 300 pages of intriguing clues that gold eagle coins with a current numismatic value of $200 million to $1.6 billion may indeed have been on board, part of a $228 million loan from the French government to imperial Russia through a New York City bank. Some key documents are missing. Bayerle argues that they were probably destroyed as part of an international cover-up.

"We've converted a lot of critics into believers," he says. If he does find gold, Bayerle will get about one-fourth of the treasure. IF not, there's always syndication.

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