Century-old wine bottles off the coast of the United Kingdom are just out of reach for scuba divers looking to salvage the underwater vintages.
The wreckage of SS Libourne, which sunk during World War I off the Cornish coast, is believed to contain bottles of red and white wines, as well as Benedictine liquor. The merchant ship was reportedly struck down by the German Navy when it was traveling from Bordeaux to Liverpool in 1918. The Mirror UK reports that the site contains some 10,000 bottles of wine and liquor.
Scuba divers initially discovered the historic site — and preserved bottles — during a 2015 dive. The team, named “Darkstar,” has since taken photos of the underwater wreckage but has been unable to recover any of the ship’s cargo.
The group of scuba divers applied for permission to retrieve the bottles, a request that was denied by the English government. The underwater wreckage is protected by Historic England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. According to The Mirror UK, a 2001 Unesco policy, observed by the British government, prevents the team from gathering the artifacts for commercial gain.
The bottles could sell for millions, according to Metro UK. Similar bottles recovered from a Swedish shipwreck were sold for £9,000 each, but diver Ian Hudson anticipates these bottles to reach up to £25,000 each.
In addition to the numerous bottles, the merchant ship also contained gherkins when it sank in 1918. However, these have yet to be discovered by the divers.