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The S.S. Port Nicholson

In today’s issue of The Virginian-Pilot, an article appeared about a recent and potentially valuable maritime discovery made off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Treasure hunter Greg Brooks says that he has discovered the wreck of the S.S. Port Nicholson, a British steamship that was torpedoed by German u-boats in 1942. Brooks claims that the ship was carrying some 71 tons of platinum, valued today at around $3 billion. Brooks also believes diamonds and gold bullions to be among the cargo some 700 feet underwater. Salvage efforts have yet to begin, but, as Brooks states, “I’m going to get it, one way or another, even if I have to lift the ship out of the water”.

The S.S. Port Nicholson

But Brooks might be in for a big disappointment, as he is apparently not the first to have sought the treasures of the Port Nicholson. Both an American and a British company have previously searched for the contents of the ship, and some sources say that they successfully retireved a portion of the ship’s cargo. Others claim that the ship may not have even been carrying valuable materials. Anthony Shusta, a lawyer representing the British government, states, “Our initial research indicated it was mostly machinery and military stores”.

Interesting aspects of the story of the Port Nicholson not reported by the Virginian-Pilot came to light after searching for the vessel in Lloyd’s War Losses. The records confirm that the ship was sunk by German u-boats on June 16, 1942. According to Lloyds, Shusta’s claim that the Port Nicholson was carrying nothing more than machinery and military stores seems to be accurate. However, common sense would seem to contradict the given records. In 1942, World War II was raging, and the United States had only just entered the war. Why would Britain ship valuable machinery, resources, and military stores to the United States, especially with the threat of German u-boats at its peak? Even if the cargo were destined ultimately for Wellington, NZ, the ship’s final destination, there is still something odd about Britain sending out supplies in June 1942 when New Zealand was actually rationing food at home to be able to increase food supplies sent to Britain.

A brief note in the Lloyd’s entry for the Port Nicholson also reveals a heroic tale. After the torpedo hit, the Commander of the Port Nicholson, along with three of his crew and six crew members from one of the escort corvettes, went aboard the Port Nicholson in a desperate attempt to salvage the vessel. The four Port Nicholson crew members and 2 of the corvette crew lost their lives trying to save the ship. The heroic efforts of these brave men may indicate a cargo more valuable than the automobile parts and military stores recorded in Lloyd’s War Losses.

The story of the S.S. Port Nicholson is a fascinating one, regardless of the ship’s contents. Soon, Greg Brooks will begin his salvage efforts. Only time will tell if the treasures believed to be on the wreckage are actually there.

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