Event Detail


The Salvage of the Century

Mike Stewart
Thursday, 31 Jan 2019
Complimentary Drinks and Canapes Reception 6:30pm, Talk 7:30pm
The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Kellett Island, Causeway Bay
This event is full

In this talk, Mike Stewart speaks about his role in masterminding and leading one of the most challenging diving operations in history. This was the record-breaking British expedition in 1982, to recover five tonnes of Russian Gold from HMS Edinburgh, the sister ship of HMS Belfast on the Thames today, which was lost in the Arctic Convoys of WWII.

The huge gold consignment had left Murmansk in Northern USSR in 1942 on the way to the UK on HMS Edinburgh, a fast light cruiser. The gold on board was destined to pay the Western Allies for war materials and military equipment. The Edinburgh was carrying 4,570 kg of gold bullion, with a present value of US$180 million. In total, the ship had 465 gold ingots in 93 wooden boxes stored in the bomb-room just aft of where the first torpedo - fired from German ‘U’ Boat-456 - struck. The ship sank in over 800ft in the Barents Sea on 2 May 1942.

In April 1981, the survey ship Dammtor embarked began searching for the wreck in the Barents Sea. The area the Edinburgh was found was approximately 150 miles north of the coast of the USSR and Norway. Later that year, on 30 August, the dive-support vessel Stephaniturm steamed to the site and the diving operation began in earnest under the leadership of Mike Stewart.

In 1982, this diving endeavour was right on the edge of technology. Even now, the achievement of this saturation dive, working at 800 feet for nearly a year in appalling weather conditions in icy arctic waters, remains a world record to the present. The divers had to deal with Force 8 to 9 gales and had to cut through the thick armour plating of the war ship with special torches, not even knowing exactly where the gold would be.

Mike Stewart worked in and on the oceans of the world for over 50 years. He held a Short Service Commission in the Royal Navy, as a Clearance Diving Officer, specialising in diving and bomb and mine disposal. Later in his career, he went on to manage diving operations globally, from the North Sea to New Zealand and the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Members, guests and others are most welcome to attend this talk, which is HK$200 for Members and HK$250 for guests and others.

The Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong wishes to express its thanks to St James's Place Wealth Management for its generous assistance with this talk.

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