The Search for the Guggenheim Treasure

Loot valued at $20 million lies off the coast of Staten Island, and Ken Hayes is on the hunt for the sunken silver bullion

In 1903, a barge called the Harold tipped somewhere off the coast of New York City, sending most of its 7,700 silver-and-lead bars to the bottom. (Peter Barritt / Alamy)

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“Maybe you’ve seen ‘The Sopranos,’” the caller said.

“No,” Hayes replied, “but I do like ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’”

The day lengthened. The probing continued in new spots, without success. “Well, we know where it’s not,” he said. “Ten square feet at a time, we’ll know where it’s not.”

The sun slumped low toward the old Asarco smelters. It was time to give up for today.

But Hayes and company were hardly relinquishing the quest. Over the winter they developed a sampling device that can plunge deep in the mayonnaise to collect a small flake of metal from suspected silver bars, “much the same way a surgeon would biopsy a tumor,” Hayes said.

Come spring, they’ll be out on the Arthur Kill, poking and prodding at targets again. If the tests say there’s silver down there, you can bet they’ll be back soon, ready to haul it up.


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