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Copyright © 1987 U.P.I.

United Press International

August 17, 1987, Monday, PM cycle

SECTION: Domestic News

LENGTH: 408 words

HEADLINE: Treasure hunters seek help from shipwreck kin


    The lead salvor in the search for a fortune in gold believed to be aboard the luxury liner RMS Republic has gone to England to seek help from relatives of survivors of the 1909 shipwreck.

Martin Bayerle flew to England Sunday in hopes of gathering more information on the exact location of a 5-ton cache of gold coins believed to be stashed aboard the sunken ship.

''One of the reasons I'm going to London is to speak with several descendants of the Republic's crew who have mentioned they have information that will assist us in our salvage effort,'' Bayerle said before departing.

Bayerle's team -- financed by Sub-Ocean Salvors International, a Tampa, Fla., group investing $2 million in the treasure hunt -- feels it has a good idea where on the ship the gold is located.

But it is an educated guess. The original plans for the White Star Lines ship vanished from the Library of Congress shortly after the Republic collided with the S.S. Florida, loaded with Italian immigrants, on Jan. 23, 1909.

''We have a very good idea where it is in terms of the general location. But we're dealing with a vessel which could contain the equivalant of 20 Spanish galleons,'' Bayerle said. ''It's comparable to a 60-story luxury hotel.

''It would not be inconceivable for us to continue salvaging for the next two or three years. Even a five-year effort certainly would be justified,'' he said, noting at today's prices the coins could be worth a staggering $1.6 billion.

Since the crew of 23 divers began round-the-clock exploration of the 580-foot Republic in late June -- from a pressurized diving bell lowered 280 feet from the salvage ship, SOSI Inspector -- little has been brought to the surface.

''We have only been recovering artifacts which have gotten in our way,'' Bayerle said. Several thousand cases of wine have been found in the ship's first-class dining salon and adjacent galley.

Christies of London, an auction house, has agreed to sell wine and other artifacts found aboard the ship.

Bayerle said the salvagers' ''primary emphasis has been the gold.''

Worth $3.5 million in 1909, the cache was being sent by the French government to the failing Czarist Russian Empire at a time when most of the world's gold was stored in the United States.

With hurricane season approaching the salvage site -- 55 miles south of Nantucket Island off Cape Cod -- Bayerle said the hunt may well have to be postponed until spring.

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