What Was the Largest Movement of Physical Wealth in History?

Money: You can't take it with you, but you can sure send it a long way. The British proved that during World War II, when they shipped roughly 1,600 tons of gold -- the equivalent of $160 billion USD today -- from their banks to Canada to avoid its potential seizure by Nazi Germany. Dreamed up by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, "Operation Fish" was a scheme to ship all of the United Kingdom's gold reserves to the safety of North America -- specifically, to an Ottawa bank vault. Throughout the summer of 1940, ships carrying the loot inside crates that were marked as containing "fish" made the Atlantic crossing without the loss of a single shipment. It was quite an accomplishment, considering the might of the German navy, which sank hundreds of ships in the early stages of the war. Of course, the Germans never made it to British shores, and the gold eventually came home in perfect condition.

All that glitters:

  • The biggest gold bar in the world is 17.9 inches (45.5 cm) long, 8.9 inches wide (22.5 cm), and 6.7 inches (17 cm) tall.
  • Olympic gold medals are made almost entirely of silver; they also contain 6.16 percent copper and 1.34 percent gold.
  • Approximately half of all the gold that has ever been mined has come from South Africa's Witwatersrand Basin.
More Info: Bank of Canada Museum

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