Mystery of the Polar Mist Solved

Vessel owners doubted about lost fortune.

The POLAR MIST sank in about 80 meters of water between Punta Dungense and Rio Gallegos about 37 nautical miles offshore. According to an Argentine Customs manifest, the vessel was transporting 9.359 kilos of unrefined gold and silver (mixed metal bars: 10 percent gold and 90 percent silver).

Cerro Vanguardia SA, the owner of 6.931 kilos of the fortune, insured it in London for $16.4 million. Minera Triton Argentina SA owned the rest. Both owners estimated the loss cargo to be worth $22 million.

The POLAR MIST, a Chilean-flagged refitted fishing trawler, was abandoned by its crew in high seas, leaving the question why would they do so when it was safer to stay on board. The vessel was left spinning in circles with its engine at full speed on January 18, 2009 at the mouth of the Straits of Magellan, sinking two days later.

Speculation questioned whether there were any precious metals aboard the ship, and both the Argentine navy and a federal court began investigating the sinking of the ship. A salvage company was brought in with ROVs. Meanwhile, the cargo and last hours of the Polar Mist and the mysterious intervention of the Chilean flagged tug Beagle, which began towing the vessel, added fuel to the speculations that foul-play had taken place.

The captain and crew of the Beagle stated before a federal court in Rio Gallegos that they acted to try the salvage of the vessel based on “humanitarian” reasons. However, when towing the POLAR MIST towards Chile, they were sighted and ordered by an Argentine Coast Guard helicopter to head for Rio Gallegos.

The vesselt eventually began to list and an hour later had gone down, a complete loss; but there are no photo records when the steel cable was disengaged or of her sinking.

“So far there’s no proven crime; abandoning a vessel in such circumstances: nature proved more powerful than man, but the case remains open”, said Federal Judge Gerardo Caamaño, who admits prima facie all seems an accident and nothing illegal has been discovered so far.

The Update:

Divers battling high winds and waves have recovered nearly a ton of unrefined silver, easing suspicions about insurance claims on the vessel. About 20 divers aided by a robot submarine recovered the metal from the wreck of the Polar Mist on Tuesday, said a police official in the city of Rio Gallegos.

Obviously, the mystery has been solved but why the crew abandon the vessel in high seas requiring a helicopter recovery still creates doubts about the seaworthiness of the ship.