With its cargo of more than two tons of gold bound for Nazi Germany, the Japanese submarine I-52 was a prime Allied target. As the sub made its way across the Atlantic on June 23, 1944, radio signals from the sub were intercepted by the Allies. An American bomber was sent to find the sub.
The plane attacked the submarine cruising on the surface and sank it. The I-52 went down with all hands - and all cargo -aboard.
Fifty-one years later, Paul Tidwell, a maritime historian, researcher, and salvager based in Manassas, Va., unearthed declassified documents that led him to the site of the sunken gold mine.
Using castoff cold-war technology, Tidwell discovered the sub three miles down and some 1,200 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, making it the deepest ship containing gold ever found. (A National Geographic Society TV documentary on finding the sub aired last September.)
Mr. Tidwell and his company, Cape Verde Explorations, face big challenges to recovering the sub, including lawsuits filed by one of the company's investors, claims on the gold by the Japanese government, and the difficulty of retrieving heavy gold bars resting 17,500 feet underwater.
Tidwell is upbeat and proud of his efforts so far. "The I-52 has allowed, in some strange way, a peace with the Japanese families and with the men who had caused their deaths," Tidwell said by phone. He hopes to begin salvage efforts in January 2001. Ultimately, he plans to display artifacts from the submarine in Kure, Japan, its home port.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society