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Tuesday 12 March 2019

Expedition to rescue lost World War I wine treasures

In 1918, just two months before the end of World War I, a German U-boat torpedoed and sank a merchant vessel sailing from Bordeaux to Britain carrying a cargo of Champagne, rare wines, brandy and Benedictine.

The ship - which has been code-named Mercury - has laid undisturbed on the seabed off the Cornish coast for a century. 

Now Cookson Adventures, an adventure travel group, is offering divers and wine lovers the opportunity to join a team who discovered the ship's secret location and help them to retrieve a potential treasure trove of cargo.

At around 100 metres below sea level, the darkness and constant cool temperatures should have done an exceptional job in preserving the bottles’ contents. Estimates from archival research and initial dives put the number of bottles on board in their thousands.

The base of the salvage operation will be Falmouth in Cornwall. Should you wish to join the mission your stay will be a luxurious one. Your base for the week will be a private Cornish mansion with its own beach, stunning sea views and a dedicated personal chef.

The bottles remaining on board are potentially worth several million pounds, UK magazine Drinks Business reported. 

Phase Two of the project will see several days of further mapping and surveying before the salvage work begins.
Several bottles will be sent to the University of Dijon for further testing and the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall in Falmouth has apparently expressed an interest in housing some in its collection.

Adam Sebba, CEO of Cookson Adventures, said: “We don’t consider ourselves a luxury travel company or an adventure travel company – we like to do things differently. That’s why this is precisely the type of unique experience we like to build for our clients. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be a part of one of the most significant historical discoveries of the century.

“The rarity of such a cargo is unprecedented and we’re waiting with bated breath to dive and see if we can recover the wine. The dive will be challenging but, by working with a team of leading experts in a number of specialist fields, we are confident that we can extract the prized artefacts intact.”

# The press released actually says "baited breath" - but that sounds unlikely.   

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