Wednesday, May 7, 2014
$1.3M in Gold Recovered from SS Central America Shipwreck
In mid-April, ocean explorers recovered nearly 1,000 ounces of gold worth approximately $1.3 million from a historic shipwreck in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the Maritime Executive. A sophisticated ROV was used to investigate the shipwreck of the SS Central America, which is located 160 miles off the South Carolina coast and sits 7,500 feet deep, the article explained.
The gold was brought to the surface by Odyssey Marine Exploration, a deep-ocean exploration company based in Tampa, Fla. The company confirmed that the shipwreck site had been undisturbed by treasure hunters since 1991, not long after the shipwreck and its horde of gold was discovered in 1988.
How Much Gold Had Already Been Recovered from the Shipwreck?
Between 1988 and 1991, more than $40 million in gold was recovered by a team led by Ohio engineer Tommy Thompson. However, that initial gold recovery effort came to a standstill in the midst of lawsuits involving who owned the rights to the gold and investors demanding their share in the treasure. Only 5% of the shipwreck was reportedly investigated at that time.
This past March, however, Odyssey won the rights to go to the shipwreck. Odyssey now has an exclusive contract to run the archaeological excavation of the shipwreck and recover any remaining cargo of value, according to an Odyssey press release.
What Kind of Gold Was Recovered?
Five gold ingots and two $20 Double Eagle coins (an 1857 coin minted in San Francisco and an 1850 coin minted in Philadelphia) were in the most recent gold haul, the press release noted. The average collector price for the Double Eagle coins alone is about $5,000 each, the Maritime Executive reported.
How Did The Ship Sink?
The SS Central America sank in September 1857 after getting caught in a hurricane. The 280-foot sidewheel steamship operated during the California Gold Rush era, carting gold on the Atlantic leg of the Panama Route between New York and San Francisco. All in all, the ship made 43 round trips between New York and Panama before it sank while carrying 21 tons of gold, including gold ingots, gold coins and raw gold, not to mention any personal wealth of the ship’s passengers.
Historians note that the loss of so much gold caused the American public at the time to lose confidence in the economy, which contributed to the Panic of 1857, the press release noted. The ship’s sinking reportedly led to one of the largest documented cargoes of gold to be lost at sea and the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history. The story of the SS Central America shipwreck inspired the best-selling book Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder.
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(Image from Maritime-Executive.com via Reuters)