Divers off the South Korean island of Ulleungdo have discovered the fabled wreck of the Dmitrii Donskoi, a Russian warship that was sunk in 1905 and is rumoured to still contain 5,500 boxes of gold bars and coins said to be worth US$133 billion.
The badly damaged Russian Imperial Navy cruiser was located by manned submersibles at a depth of 434 metres about 1.3km off Ulleungdo on Sunday morning.
The Seoul-based maritime salvage company Shinil Group has been searching for the precise site of the wreck for several years and put together a team of experts from South Korea, China, Britain and Canada for this year’s effort.
Video footage released by the company shows images of extensive damage to the 5,800-tonne warship, which was scuttled after an encounter with Japanese warships in May 1905.
The footage also shows cannons and deck guns encrusted with marine growth, as well as the anchor and ship’s wheel.
The divers were finally able to positively identify the ship when floodlights on one of the submersibles picked out the name in Cyrillic characters on its stern.
“The body of the ship was severely damaged by shelling, with its stern almost broken, and yet the ship’s deck and sides are well preserved”, the company said in a statement on its website.
Built in St Petersburg and launched in August 1883, the Dmitrii Donskoi was designed to serve as a commerce raider and was fitted with both a full set of sails and a coal-fired engine.