Sunken Gold Recovered Near South Carolina

    May 6, 2014
    Mike Tuttle
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Recovering sunken treasure sounds like the stuff of Disney movies, complete with busty heroines and Johnny Depp eyeliner. But a group has just brought up almost 1,000 ounces — about $50 million worth — of gold from a ship that sank in a hurricane over 150 years ago.

The S.S. Central America was called “The Ship of Gold”. It sank off the coast of South Carolina in 1857. It was on its way up the east cost of the United States, bringing gold back from California, where the Gold Rush was in full swing.

But the ship was never to reach its port. A hurricane sent it, and its huge stash of gold — 35,000 pounds, to the bottom of the ocean. The gold was valued in those days at around $2 million. There were also 550 passengers aboard, many of whom were likely carrying gold on their persons.

The amount of gold that went down that day was so large that its loss shook public confidence in the U.S. monetary system as a whole and contributed to the Panic of 1857.

All that gold stayed at the bottom of the ocean until 1988. A recovery company found the ship and started bringing artifacts and gold to the surface. But lawsuits were immediately filed by insurance companies that had paid out claims way back in 1857 and were still around. They said they had rights to some of the gold being recovered.

In the fracas of legal maneuvering that followed, no one went back for more gold from the ship. The man who led the 1988 expedition and ended up the target of lawsuits has been a fugitive ever since.

Odyssey Marine Exploration of Tampa, Florida finally got clearance from a judge to have another go at the ship. Half of anything Odyssey finds will be split among the litigants of the 1988 case.

Mark Gordon, Odyssey’s president, says they were shocked to find gold as quickly as they did.

“While we weren’t planning to recover gold so quickly, it did confirm that the site has not been disturbed since it was last visited in 1991 and there is gold remaining.”

The crew will continue to bring up gold.

Image via YouTube

  • matey yarrr

    “Want to learn more about Odyssey Marine Exploration?

  • TheDrWho

    “As for the site itself, there is
    one thing that I can tell you without any qualification – and that is
    that anyone who thought that the previous operations twenty years ago
    recovered all the gold and valuables from the site was clearly mistaken.
    Nearly every day of seafloor operations produces new discoveries and recoveries of gold in a dazzling array of different forms.
    Early recovery results are well beyond our expectations. We’ve already
    recovered over $100,000 in 1857 face value of ingots and other gold
    including rare natural nuggets, jewelry and a wide array of different
    coins. The collection we have recovered to date represents an amazing
    cross section of the type of wealth that resulted from the California
    gold rush, and coupled with the excellent methodical archaeological work
    our team is conducting, will contribute a great deal to the historical
    Based on estimates provided by the independent expert hired
    by the court-appointed Receiver, this gold recovered to date represents a
    small fraction of his best estimate of what remained on the site. Now
    that we’ve completed recovery of most of the gold and valuable artifacts
    on the surface outside the hull structure, we’re starting on the
    excavation inside the hull itself. Ingots, gold nuggets, dust and coins
    have been coming up from this new excavation area daily, so we are off
    to a great start on this project.’ ”

    Above from Odyssey Marine’s annual meeting this week. Not bad for only a few weeks on the site