Fifty miles off the coast of Nantucket, 270 feet beneath the Atlantic, lies the RMS Republic and her secret treasure. As soon as Republic sank in 1909, rumors spread of a precious cargo, but the ship has kept her secrets intact for over a century, until now. Life-long treasure hunter Martin Bayerle joined Connie Willis (email) for all four hours to discuss how he has devoted the past 35 years of his life researching the shipwreck and proving the existence of her reputed cargo of 150,000 American double eagle gold coins, a bounty worth over a billion dollars in today's economy, and his quest to recover it.
Bayerle detailed his initial 1981 dive to the wreckage and the technical issues associated with it, noting the high-risk nature of the endeavor. Experienced divers who had worked the Andrea Doria site were used on his charter. According to Bayerle, he was unable to make a positive identification of the Republic on his dive but a team that had gone ahead of him knew they had found the ship. "The original team that went down there actually had photographed it, knew they had found the Republic but didn't want to tell me," he said. The boat owner suspiciously called the expedition off a day early then later attempted to claim the wreck for himself, Bayerle revealed.
Bayerle outlined some of his legal battles to secure the salvage rights to the wreck, including his fight with the United States government. While some researchers believe the Republic's treasure is a rumor, Bayerle thinks it could be even greater than previously thought. The ship was carrying $3 million in newly-minted double eagle gold coins to be used as a short-term loan to the Russian State Bank, as well as $800,000 U.S. Navy payroll shipment going to the Atlantic battleship fleet at Gibraltar, he explained. And this may only be the tip of the iceberg. Bayerle suggested additional treasure inside the wreckage could bring the total in today's market to as much as $10 billion dollars, making it the largest maritime recovery of all time.