For the protracted war on the Crimean peninsula, the British prepared thoroughly. Although the landing took place only on September 14, back in July, the heavily loaded HMS Prince transport from London to the Black Sea came out. His spacious holds were filled with warm clothes. According to Illustrated London News of December 16, 1854, among the goods accepted by the Prince were 36,700 pairs of wool socks, 53,000 woolen shirts, 2500 post sheepskin coats, 150,000 sleeping bags, 100,000 woolen shirts, 90,000 flannel pants, 40,000 fur coats and 120,000 pairs of boots. The sailing-screw transport reached the Crimea only by November. The British soldiers were waiting for him with impatience, and not only because they were freezing without flannel pants and wool socks. HMS Prince was carrying the allowance for the entire English expeditionary force.
Transport safely reached Balaklava, but things went no further. When trying to stand on the raid, two stern anchors were lost. Hardly caught on the bottom of the last remaining. As it turned out, briefly and unreliable. November 14, 1854 a terrible hurricane that swept over the Crimean peninsula, threw on the rocks and sank three dozen ships, including the "Prince". Of its crew of 150 people, only six sailors got ashore. Commander Bainton and all the officers did not escape. After the death of transport, the losses from frostbite in the English army, which did not receive warm clothes, increased noticeably.
Balaklava Bay, the end of the 19th century
Immediately after the death of the "Prince" was followed by a flurry of publications in the European press about his sunken cargo. Journalists were not interested in shirts and blankets. They wrote only about "a significant amount of a silver coin and £ 200,000 in gold for the payment of salaries to the English troops in the Crimea." Over time, the amount in which the precious cargo was valued grew - 200 thousand, 500 thousand francs, 1 million pounds sterling, 60 million francs, millions of rubles in gold. But in all publications it was stated that gold and silver were securely packed in barrels, and are at the bottom in complete safety. In the 1860s, newspaper reporters renamed the transport to the Black Prince. A grim epithet was added explicitly for more romance.
Almost immediately after the conclusion of peace, attempts began to find a sunken ship. He was searched at the bottom of the Balaclava Bay by Germans, Americans, Italians and Norwegians. Searches were unsuccessful. The then primitive equipment did not allow to go any deep. In 1875, in France, in order to search for the "Prince", a solid joint-stock company was created, which purchased the most up-to-date space suits. But they also allowed divers to be at the bottom for just a few minutes. Nevertheless, the bottom of the bay was surveyed, and the remains of about ten wrecks were found. They were all wooden. Metal case "Prince" was not among them.
Wreck of the Black Prince, a painting by Ivan Aivazovsky
Russian search engines were connected only in 1896, but the inventor Plastunov, too, was left with nothing. The Italians were luckier. During several expeditions at the beginning of the 20th century, they found the remains of two metal ships, but could not identify the “Prince” in them. No gold found either. In the end, the Russian government, tired of treasure hunt search projects, banned diving work on the Balaklava raid - they interfered with military fleet maneuvers.
The Bolsheviks remembered the gold of the “Prince” after the Civil War. In 1922, an amateur diver accidentally discovered several gold coins at a shallow depth. The treasure became interested in the GPU. They found and interrogated eyewitnesses of a hurricane that broke out 70 years ago. The decrepit old men hardly remembered the storm, but they did not hear of some kind of “Prince”. Nevertheless, during interrogation, all of them showed where the English transport sank, although all these places were at a considerable distance from each other.
Meanwhile, a naval engineer, Vladimir Yazykov, became interested in finding the gold of the “Prince” of the head of the GPU, Heinrich Yagoda. An expedition of special purpose underwater operations (EPRON) was established at the security agencies, with Yazykov at its head. In September 1923, a specially designed underwater vehicle began to search the environs of Balaklava Bay. Annual searches did not give anything new. On October 17, 1924, one of the young divers discovered the remains of a steam boiler at a depth of 17 meters. Languages elated: according to his concept, the Prince was the only steam-powered ship that sank off the coast of the Crimea. All forces of EPRON were thrown to the place of detection of the boiler, but nothing valuable was found.
By this time, the cost of searches exceeded 100 thousand rubles. Berry was nervous. Through an embassy in London, they made a request to the British Admiralty with a request to clarify the information about the death of the “Prince”, but the local lords refused, citing the prescription of events. The situation risked for Yazykov was saved by the Japanese. Shinkai Kogiossio Limited Corporation was considered one of the leaders in underwater operations. She offered the Soviet government extremely favorable conditions: the Japanese took over all the expenses, trained the epronovts in diving secrets, searched for 60% of the found treasures to give to the USSR, and then also give the EPRON some of the equipment used. From June to November 1927, Japanese divers sifted through the remains of the found ship. The catch was small. Among the found horse bones, bullets and paddles for cakes were only five gold coins. Most likely they fell out of the pockets of drowned officers. In order to preserve the samurai honor, the Japanese fiasco declared that the steamer they had found was a “Prince”, but the British, eight months after the catastrophe who remained in Balaclava, probably raised the gold themselves in 1855.
Treasure hunters around the world were depressed, but then someone inquisitive climbed into the British archives and found out that Yazykov’s version was originally built on an erroneous assumption. "Prince" was not the only metal transport who died near the Crimean coast. About a dozen of them sank there, among them “HMS Jason” - the twin brother of the “Prince”, built at the same shipyard. Since neither the EPRON nor the Japanese found any fragments with the name of the ship, it is not known what kind of transport remains were carefully searched.
In 1928, the search for gold "Black Prince" turned. EPRON switched to more promising work on raising ships, sunk during the First World and Civil Wars. By the way, the economic effect of these works far exceeded the estimated cost of sunken British treasures. Vladimir Yazykov was shot in 1937. Among other standard accusations of that time in his case were the connection with Yagoda, who was exposed by the people, as well as cooperation with British and Japanese intelligence services.
An ideologically correct version appearing to everyone appeared in the USSR: there was no gold on board the Black Prince upon its death on November 14, 1854. The precious cargo was removed from transport even in Constantinople, where the quartermaster service of the English expeditionary corps was located. There, corrupt military officials wrote off gold and silver on British soldiers who had already died near Sevastopol. And in fact, they divided all 200 thousand pounds among themselves. The only confirmation of this version was the fact that in search of gold "Prince" Balaklava dive anyone, but not the British. The “correct” version was published on the pages of popular science magazines and even hammered into the heads of young listeners of the radio program “Club of Famous Captains”.
Again, the “Black Prince” was remembered only in 2010, when there were reports that a group of archaeologists from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, led by Sergei Voronov, discovered the “Black Prince”. Among the things they raised from the metal ship found near the Balaklava cliffs were items from the captain's dinner service. They had the word "Prince". Nothing was reported about gold, but it was emphasized that Voronov and his colleagues are looking for foreign sponsors to inspect a large area of the bottom in the area of the found ship. This information did not cause a new “gold rush”, and four years later the situation in the Crimea and around it has changed a lot.
The secret of the “Black Prince” is still kept by the waves of the Black Sea. However, is there any secret in their depth, so no one knows for sure.