Would you pay for vintage World War II era oil? Following the recent discovery of oil leaking from the sunken SS Coimbra—a tanker torpedoed in 1942 by a German U-boat some 30 miles off Long Island—one shrewd Hamptons entrepreneur has proposed retrieving the oil and selling it to pay for the recovery mission.
Norwegian billionaire Arn Olsen, a part-time Amagansett resident, says he would pay to recover all 9,000 tons of lubricating oil from the shipwreck 185 feet below the ocean’s surface, but only if he can then take possession of the spoils. Hamptons Police Marine Division crews are guarding the site until a decision is made.
“I believe there is a market for this 77-year-old oil,” Olsen said, speaking in his thick Norwegian accent and pointing out the lost oil in a live camera feed of the wreck. “It’s simply a matter of pulling these tanks up from the depths, removing the oil and repackaging it tastefully for collectors and discerning vintage oil aficionados,” he continued. “This is a win-win for all involved.”
Olsen showed off his package designs for the oil, which would be available in a range of sizes—from small, 2-ounce collector vials to standard one-quart cans, to 1–10-gallon options and 16-, 30- and 55-gallon drums (see examples above) for those who will only use antique oil in their antique machines. Fetching many thousands of dollars, starting at $1,500 for the two-ounce vials, each size would feature a beautifully designed label with details about the shipwreck and the oil’s vintage and chemical composition.
“I come from a rare class of automobile and vehicle collectors who refuse to sully our machines with oil and gas from incongruent years,” Olsen said. “My 1942 Mercury Woody Station Wagon, for example, has never had modern oil or fuel in its engine, and I would not have this any other way,” he explained, adding, “I know many fellow collectors who feel the same, and they are willing to pay a great deal for the privilege.”
Olsen’s proposal seems like a fair way to avert a growing environmental crisis, which compounds as the submerged oil tanks continue to corrode, but some officials argue that giving the oil to Olsen would be a missed opportunity to bolster the local budget. And now, since Olsen revealed the oil’s niche market value, Hamptons Police officers are encountering and turning away more suspicious boats approaching the Coimbra.
“We’re urging the local boards and attorneys to come to a decision soon,” Hamptons Police Department spokesman Larry Hirsch says. “Our men have grave concerns about clandestine, illegal recovery efforts and piracy, and the likelihood of these things grow by the day.”