The Chilean company Nautilus Sermares has been contacted by the owners of the converted cargo trawler “Polar Mist” to try and recover 16 million US dollars in gold and silver which were lost when she went down off the Patagonian coast, according to the latest reports in Argentina and Chile.
“It would be very interesting to address the task. Yes we have been contacted to consider if we have the equipment and capacity to find the vessel and later recover the containers with the metal”, Francisco Ayarza, manager of the rescue company told La Prensa Austral from Punta Arenas, in the extreme south of Chile.
The company has been involved in submarine exploration and recovery since 1959 along the Chilean coast and among its sophisticated equipment has underwater remote control vehicles, ROV Seaeye 600 and the ROV Seaeye Tiger. Her record includes over 600 immersions along both sides off the Patagonian coast (Argentina and Chile) and Tierra del Fuego.
In the nineties the company made headlines when it rescued from the Pacific several pieces and utensils belonging to the German cruiser Dresden, sunk in 1915 by three Royal Navy vessels in 1915 in the Robinson Crusoe Island.
Polar Mist is believed to be in 80 meters deep water somewhere between Punta Dungenes and Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz province capital, some 37 nautical miles offshore.
Meanwhile more details of the cargo and last hours of the Polar Mist and the mysterious intervention of the Chilean flagged tug Beagle have come to light.
According to the Argentine Customs manifesto the Polar Mist left with 9.359 kilos of mixed metal bars: 10% gold and 90% silver, of which 6.931 kilos belonged to Cerro Vanguardia and the rest to Triton. The 6.931 kilos were insured in London for transport purposes at 16.4 million US dollars. Triton did not supply a figure.
“There’s no mystery why we transport the metal by sea, as we have done for the last ten years and with no incidents until the January experience: fiscal benefits for shipping from Patagonian ports”, said Jorge Palmés general manager of Cerro Vanguardia.
“We make two shipments a month: from Rio Gallegos to Punta Arenas, where the cargo is then flown to Santiago and from there to Switzerland, arriving in three to five days”, he added.
Cerro Vanguardia in an official release said all the shipping operation was authorized by the Argentine Coast Guard and it’s up to the insurance company to decide whether to attempt the rescue of the cargo.
Regarding what happened on the night of January 17th when the Polar Mist, –with its valuable cargo–, which was being towed by the tug Beagle went down, not much more information has surfaced.
According to some unofficial reports, when the Beagle reached the Polar Mist which had been adrift since the day before –when she was abandoned in the middle of a severe storm and its crew rescued by an Argentina Coast Guard helicopter–, the engine apparently was still running and no major damages were visible.
The captain and crew of the Beagle stated before a federal court in Rio Gallegos that they acted to try the salvage of the vessel based on “humanitarian” reasons. However when towing the Polar Mist towards Chile, they were sighted and ordered by an Argentine Coast Guard helicopter to head for Rio Gallegos.
Polar Mist which was expected on January 18th never arrived. Later on the day, almost midnight Beagle reported the cargo vessel had begun to list dangerously and an hour later had gone down, a complete loss; but there are no photo records when the steel cable was disengaged or of her sinking.
“So far there’s no proven crime; abandoning a vessel in such circumstances: nature proved more powerful than man, but the case remains open”, said Federal Judge Gerardo Caamaño, who admits prima facie all seems an accident and nothing illegal has been discovered so far.
However if the insurance company o whoever owns the vessel wishes to rescue the Polar Mist will have to request authorization from the court.