Wreck of Russian warship said to hold billions in gold found

A Russian warship said to have been carrying a trove of gold bullion and coins worth $130 billion before it sank in the Sea of Japan in 1905 was found 434 metres below the sea level off the coast of the South Korean island of Ulleungdo, a maritime salvage group claimed.

Although undersea growth had crusted almost the entire vessel, age could not wither the name Dmitrii Donskoi (pictured) written on the stern.

The Shinil Group said a team of experts from South Korea, Britain and Canada, who had been searching the sea, found the wreck of Dmitrii Donskoi 1.3 kilometres off Ulleungdo and filmed it using two manned submersibles.

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, Shinil said in a release. The company plans to raise the ship in October or November.

The 5,800-ton ship of the Russian Imperial Navy built in St Petersburg and floated out in 1883 took part in the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. It was a losing battle but Donskoi fought till the end and survived. On May 29, as the armoured cruiser was sailing north to Vladivostok, it was caught up by Japanese warships.

Reluctant to surrender and determined not to allow the Japanese to seize the gold, Donskoi’s crew sank the battleship.

While experts are raising doubts about the battleship carrying so much gold, Shinil exuded confidence.

The company says half of the treasure, once found, will be handed to the Russian government. Another portion will be donated for joint development projects in north-east Asia. Ten per cent of the treasure would be marked for projects to draw more tourists to Ulleungdo. This includes a museum dedicated to Donskoi.