The wreck of a Russian cruiser scuttled in 1905 and found this week off the coast of South Korea could contain £100 billion worth of gold
The wreck of an Imperial Russian Navy warship has been discovered off the South Korean island of Ulleungdo. Sunk in May 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war the Dmitrii Donskoi is believed to contain gold bullion and coins worth £100 billion.
The wreck was found by a South Korean salvage operation consisting of personnel from South Korea, Britain and Canada. They were able to identify the wreck as that of the Dmitrii Donskoi when one of their two manned submersibles was able to get close enough to film the ship’s name.
The salvage company, The Shinil Group, described the body of the ship as “severely damaged by shelling, with its stern almost broken, and yet the ship’s deck and sides are well preserved”. Reports say that while the masts and funnels are broken the armour-plated sides are intact despite the stern being 380m below the surface and the bow a further 50m deeper at 430m.
It is rumoured that the 5,800 tonne ship was carrying the Russian fleet’s treasury, consisting of 5,500 boxes containing gold bars as well as 200 tons of gold coins – valued today by the Shinil group at £101.3 billion.
The fact the ship was carrying such treasure could help explain her fate. Completed in 1885 the Dmitrii Donskoi was sent around the world to engage the Japanese in 1904 following the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war in 1903. In May 1905 the Russian fleet, having travelled thousands of miles was obliterated at the Battle of Tsushima. The Dmitrii Donskoi evaded damage and was steaming for Vladivostok when she was intercepted by the Japanese. After heavy shelling and loss of life the captain, Ivan Lebedev, ordered his crew to land on the island of Ulleungdo, where they were eventually captured, before he scuttled the ship.
The Dmitrii Donskoi now rests 1.3km from Ulleungdo, at N37°-29′.2″ E130°-56′.3″.
Pictured top: The Dmitrii Donskoi at anchor