50 – WW2 Salvage Operation

Early in World War 2, German Raiders were laying sea mines around Australian & New Zealand coastal waters.

Here we tell the story of one ship that was sunk by those mines, and the exceptional salvage operation that was undertaken to recover precious cargo that had gone down with the ship.

(65 mins)

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Diving bell designed by Isaacs
RMS Niagara (Aust Nat Maritime Museum) (1924)
Niagara wreck site [Mike Lee] (Gold and Oil)
Niagara life raft
Castlemaine Historical Society’s Carol Dorman and Maldon Vintage Machinery Museum’s John Conn with a diagram of the diving bell. (THOMPSON)
Gold bars on the Claymore
Crew of the Claymore toasting their find
Gold ingots (Taylor 1950)
Captain James Herd (Taylor 1950)
Iron Man for 1953 Niagara Salvage (Whangarei Museum)
Niagara ‘still bleeding oil’ (2000 NZHerald)
The wreck of the Niagara (SeaROV Technologies Ltd)
Exhibition: Gold and Oil, The Legacy and Menace of the Niagara


MAYNARD, JEFF, 1996. Niagara’s Gold. Kenthurst, N.S.W: Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-766-6.

TAYLOR, JAMES, 1950. Spoils from the sea: The life and adventures of driver J.E. Johnstone. Sydney, NSW: George G Harrap.

SWANNIX, JOHN-MICHAEL. Race to prevent potential oil spill from Niagara shipwreck off Whangārei. Newshub [online]. [Accessed April 2021].   Available from: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/shows/2018/07/race-to-prevent-potential-oil-spill-from-niagara-shipwreck-off-whang-rei.html

LEE, MIKE. Niagara wreck site: Hauraki Gulf. [map].

THOMPSON, RENEE, 2015. Diving bell a deep mystery. Bendigo Advertiser [online]. 31 January 2015. [Accessed January 2021]. Available from: https://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/2849101/diving-bell-a-deep-mystery/

Thompsons of Castlemaine | www.engineersaustralia.org.au [online]. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: https://portal.engineersaustralia.org.au/heritage/thompsons-castlemaine

HUTT, KENDALL, 2020. Diver’s body retrieved 10 days after going missing in Northland. Stuff [online]. 7 April 2020. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/120878473/divers-body-retrieved-10-days-after-going-missing-in-northland

SWANNIX, JOHN-MICHAEL. Gold and Oil. Mangawhai Artists Inc [online]. [Accessed April 2021 b]. Available from: https://www.mangawhaiartists.co.nz/gold-and-oil.html
Nicola Everett’s exhibition. “Gold and Oil,The Legacy and Menace of the Niagara”

MEECHAM, Jan, 2018. The Niagara’s lost gold. Roger (Jan) Meecham [online]. 28 February 2018. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: https://janmeecham.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/the-niagaras-lost-gold/

THE AGE, 1953a. Sea Retains Five Gold Bars. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) [online]. Melbourne, Vic., 23 July 1953. p. 13. [Accessed January 2021]. Available from: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206446709

THE AGE, 1953b. Niagara Yields Up More Gold. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) [online]. Melbourne, Vic., 23 June 1953. p. 6. [Accessed January 2021]. Available from: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206444116

BUSHEY, AC, 1954. Recovery of Sunken Gold. The Military Engineer. 1954. Vol. 46, no. 312, p. 284–284.

COMPANY OF MASTER MARINERS AUSTRALIA. The Story of RMS Niagara – Underwater Gold Mine. [online]. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: http://www.mastermariners.org.au/stories-from-the-past/3065-the-story-of-rms-niagara-underwater-gold-mine

WHITE, Plumley Pearson &, [no date]. Our History – Plumley Pearson & White – Plumley Pearson & White. https://ppw.com.au/ [online]. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: https://ppw.com.au/our-history-plumley-pearson-white/

Additional items of interest:

DUNN, R. J. and JOHNSTONE, John, 1942. Niagara gold: the romantic story of sunken treasure retrieved from record ocean depths, New Zealand / by R.J. Dunn ; in collaboration with diver J. Johnstone. Wellington, (N.Z.): Reed.

GORDON, Keith, 2005. Deep water gold: the story of RMS Niagara : the quest for New Zealand’s greatest shipwreck treasure . Whangarei, N.Z.: SeaROV Technologies. ISBN 978-0-473-10056-8.


Māori Dictionary. [online]. Available from: https://maoridictionary.co.nz/

RMS Niagara. Wikipedia [online]. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=RMS_Niagara&oldid=1009072290

Bombing of Darwin. Wikipedia [online]. [Accessed April 2021]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bombing_of_Darwin&oldid=1017716653


No Podcast recommendation this month.