For 156 years the so-called “Ship of Gold”, along with thousands of coins, bars and nuggets of gold, lay at the bottom of the briny Atlantic, producing dreams of riches and heated legal debates over who could dredge up the sunken treasure that went under the waves in 1857.
While deep-sea treasure hunters discovered the SS Central America in 1988 and were able to haul up some gold coins, along with boasting that one billion dollars of treasure lay off the coast of Palmetto state, over a decade of courtroom drama involving upset insurers and irate investors that have kept the gold a mile and a half below water.
But now, with the legal debacle finally cleared-up, Tampa Bay’s Odyssey Marine Exploration dropped its first robot into the Atlantic last month and returned to shore with five gold bars weighing 66 pounds valued at about 1.2 million as pure metal – and even more as artifacts. Excited by their findings, executives at Odyssey Marine Exploration hope to continue to scour for more gold and continue to explore the shipwreck.
Christened in 1853 as the SS George Law when it was first launched, the SS Central America was a 280 feet long steamship that operated the Atlantic leg of the San Francisco to New York voyages during the California Gold Rush. At its time on the seas it made 43 trips between Panama and New York.
“We want to show that it can be done right,” Gregory Stemm, Odyssey’s chief executive, said in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Experts believe that the SS Central America could contain a commercial shipment of gold valued at 93,000 dollars in 1857 prices and gold owned by passengers on the ship valued at between 250,000 and 1.28 million dollars could be locked away.
Along with the gold, Odyssey Marine Exploration’s remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), named Zeus, picked up a bottle, a piece of pottery, a sample of the shipwreck’s wooden structure and part of a scientific experiment that had been left at the site during a previous trip 20 years before.
“The skill exhibited and results achieved during the initial reconnaissance dive reinforces our belief that the Odyssey team was the absolute best choice for this project,” Craig Mullen, director of operations for the Recovery Limited Partnership, said in a statement according to Scientific American.