TODAY   |  July 23, 2013

Treasure hunters find silver off Irish coast

Three miles down in the cold waters off the coast of Ireland, American treasure hunters found a mother lode: 110 tons of silver that was on a British steamship torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1941. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back now at 7:41 with a today exclusive tied to american treasure hunters that hit it very big off the coast of ireland. nbc's kerry sanders is with the bounty at a top secret location somewhere in the united kingdom . that much we can tell you. kerry, good morning to you.

>> i'm inside the vault here and yes, this is what more than $30 million worth of silver looks like. it's part of a $77 million haul. it was picked up by odd si marine exploration. it's been down there 72 years and it's tarnished but this is what the silver bars look like all shined up.

>> reporter: in the cold waters off the coast of ireland, a remotely operated vehicle sinks to the depth of the atlantic ocean . american treasure hunters found the mother load three miles down.

>> yeah.

>> in waters deeper than the titanic, precious silver in all, 110 tons.

>> fantastic, yes. hasn't quite sunk in yet. but it's about to dawn on me now what was achieved out here.

>> reporter: the silver was on a british steam ship torpedos by one of hitler's german boats in 1941 . the cargo ship was carrying silver from india to great britain to fund the war effort . in all, they pulled up 2,792 silver bars.

>> hm, his majesty's mint bombay.

>> reporter: we're sitting on $700,000 worth of silver .

>> yeah and the numbers are a bit mind boggling. i see them as heavy lumps of waste we've been plugging around for the last week.

>> the final silver bar was pulled to the surface days ago and all of it was quitely off loaded.

>> i don't think anyone ever expected to see it again.

>> and yet here it snchts here it is, yes.

>> also recovered, letters.

>> here's a stamp on the letter.

>> newspapers from 1941 , and financial documents.

>> manufactures life insurance company. this may be worth something to this family if it can be tracked down.

>> reporter: this salvage cost more than $20,000,000. because they found the silver the british government pays the expenses.

>> we split 80/20.

>> those don't come along very often do they?

>> no they don't.

>> what happens to the silver ? it's going to the british mint. the same one striking commemorative coins for the new prince. so indeed, the timing maybe perfect. matt, i want to point out, they said if i could pick this silver bar up with one hand they'd let me take it home.

>> that's a good hint, though, kerry. thank you kerry sanders .

>> same way to work in a royal baby connection too.

>> he was standing with 60 tons of silver . we have one of the bars right here in the studio. this is the first recovered from the ship back in 2012 .

>> it's 12 inches long, 6 inches wide, 3.5 inches tall. we'll guess how much it weighs.

>> can't try to move it even. you can't pick it up with one hand. it's similar in density and size to the rum cake you gave me at christmas.

>> you're welcome.

>> i think it's going to weigh about 100 pounds.

>> okay. i think 300 pounds.

>> 300 pounds.

>> well, i don't know.

>> no wonder that ship went down.

>> let's see --

>> 80 pounds.

>> oh.

>> 80 pounds.

>> let's go to commercial.

>> worth about $20,000.

>> oh my gosh, now you're really in trouble.

>> for more on the recovery and to see the silver in person, you can check out the shipwreck exhibit, got to be careful with that one, at discovery times square right here in new york