Divers search for millions in gold lost in war wreckage (17 photos and story)
Diver Steve Jones took stunning pictures of undisturbed wrecks lying on the bottom of the sea. This image shows part of the First World War Super-Dreadnought class HMS Audacious, which hit a German mine before sinking on October 27 1914.
These stunning pictures show the undisturbed wrecks left from the two World Wars and now resting deep beneath the sea.
Military vehicles from the First and Second World War also lie on the sea bed while one of the giant vessels is thought to contain millions of dollars worth of gold bars.
Photographer Steve Jones, 43, from Aberdare, South Wales, took the underwater shots while on a dive at Malin Head, off the coast of Donegal, Ireland.
A diver examines part of the SS Laurentic (above) which lies underwater at Malin Head was on her way to America at the height of the First World War when she struck two mines and sunk in 40m of water, killing more than 350 of her crew.
One of the sunken vessels was SS Empire Heritage which was carrying a huge cargo of war materials including these Sherman Tanks during the Second World War. The wreck lies 67m below the surface at Malin Head, off the coast of Donegal in Ireland.
One of the ships, the SS Laurentic, was sunk while sailing to America during the First World War and was carrying 43 tons of gold ingots to pay for war ship supplies.
Much of it has already been recovered, and although Mr Jones, who has nearly 30 years of diving experience, and his team had a look for the remaining 20 bars they could not find the underwater treasure.
The four wrecks captured in Mr Jones’s stunning images show HMS Audacious, SS Justicia, SS Laurentic and Empire Heritage, which were all sunk during World War One and Two.
A diver exams the wreck of SS Justicia which was torpedoed by the German U-Boat UB-124 killing 16 men. It was one of the largest ships sunk in the First World War.
The 32,234 ton White Star Liner Justicia (above) was used as a troopship in the First World War. This image shows the vast foredeck, with capstans pushed up through the collapsing deck while a diver examines the interior.
Justicia (above) now lies 72m below the surface off Malin Head. The area has become extremely popular with divers over the years
SS Laurentic, SS Justicia and HMS Audacious were all sunk off Malin Head during the First World War while SS Empire Heritage went down during the Second World War.
Jones said: “We only had about 30 minutes down at the deepest point of each dive, as there is a very real risk of getting the bends.
Malin Head is one of the most special places I’ve ever dove.
The sailors that died on these ships during the two world wars made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the vital supply routes between the UK and USA remained open.”
Justicia was sailing from Belfast to New York when she was torpedoed by the German Type III Coastal U-boat UB-64 under the control of Otto von Schrader.
Photographer Steve Jones, 43, from Aberdare, South Wales, took underwater shots of SS Justicia (#8) and SS Laurentic (#9) while on a dive at Malin Head, off the coast of Donegal, Ireland.
One of the ships, the SS Laurentic (above), was sunk while sailing to America during the First World War and was carrying 43 tons of gold ingots to pay for war ship supplies.
Much of the gold has already been recovered from SS Laurentic, but 20 bars are believed to still be buried in the hold worth almost $6million.
The SS Laurentic (above), was sunk in 1917 while sailing to America during the First World War killing more than 350 crew members on board.
HMS Audacious (above) was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy which was sunk by a German naval mine off the northern coast of Donegal in 1914.
A number of Sherman tanks lie underwater off Malin Head after they went down as they were being transported by SS Empire Heritage
It was 23 miles south of Skerryvore, Scotland when it went down in July 1918 killing 16 crew members. Its wreck lies 28 miles north-west of Malin Head, Ireland 70m below the surface.
The 15,000-ton SS Empire Heritage was a steam tanker on her way from New York to Liverpool carrying a huge cargo of war materials including Sherman Tanks when it was struck by a torpedo in 1944, 15 miles off the coast of Donegal.
It was en route from New York to Liverpool when it was targeted by U-482. More than a hundred crew members were killed when she went down.
HMS Audacious was a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy which was sunk by a German naval mine off the northern coast of Donegal in 1914.
The mighty bow of one of the ships lies on the seabed, while a diver makes his way along the side using a torch to find his way in the darkness.
Sherman Tanks lie entangled with trucks, spread across the wreck of SS Empire Heritage 67 meters below the surface.
Laurentic was on her way to America at the height of the First World War when she struck two mines and sunk in 40m of water, killing more than 350 of her crew. The sinking happened in January 1917 and sparked an urgent recovery of the gold that had been stored on board.
Mr Jones said: “HMS Audacious was one of the most powerful warships the world had ever seen at the time. It was sunk by a mine during WW1 and lies in 65 metres of water. It was amazing to see it so up close.”
Another WW1 liner SS Laurentic was en route to the USA she struck 2 mines and sunk in 40m of water, killing over 350 of her crew.
In her holds were 43 tons of gold ingots to pay for war supplies.
Recovery of the gold was top priority but to this day 20 bars remain unaccounted for, which are worth nearly $6million.
Mr Jones said: ‘Due to the exposed location and depth, only divers trained in the use of mixed gas (use of helium mixed in with our breathing gas) can operate safely at these depths.
Malin Head has become legendary among this community of “technical divers” as having some of the best wrecks in the world. It is an amazing feeling to be able to photograph some of these amazing historical wrecks.
The seas off the North Irish coast are well known as being a mass graveyard for First and Second World War ships and submarines.
During the First World War, the area was a key strategic route for Allied navies and was used to keep important trade routes running, including to America.
The British fleet suffered heavy losses in what became known as the Atlantic U-boat campaign, with nearly half of Britain’s merchant marine fleet destroyed during the course of the war by German torpedoes or mines.
As well as First World War vessels, the seabed to the north of Ireland and west of Scotland is also the resting place of a number of ships sunk during the Second World War.
Allied convoys regularly passed the area on their way to and from the large ports at Glasgow and Liverpool.
During six years of intense action in the Battle of the Atlantic, ships would often be clustered in the coastal waters nearby and as a result of the heavy shipping traffic, the Nazis saw it as a crucial target.
But it also became a deadly place to be for German U-boats which were vulnerable to aircraft near land as well as Royal Navy vessels.
Photography by Steve Jones