Ship of gold found off SC coast - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Ship of gold found off SC coast

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CHARLESTON, SC - By Bob Juback

Perhaps the largest lost treasure ever discovered at sea, sits at the bottom of the Atlantic, off the South Carolina coast.

Late last month, the "Odyssey Explorer" left port in Charleston for what could be a trip to end a mystery that began before the Civil War.

Odyssey Marine president Mark Gordon said, "we actually expect that we'll be able to accomplish this mission in about five to six months." That mission is to collect remaining gold from where the SS Central America sank on September 11, 1857, about 160 miles off the coast of Charleston.

More than 400 sailors died but could say the gold lived…at the bottom of the sea.

That loss led to financial "Panic of 1857," the first-worldwide economic crisis and a crisis that didn't fully end until after the end of the Civil War.

The "Central America's" gold was California gold, from the gold rush, and many gold coins ($20 Double Eagles) minted in San Francisco. Just in gold value (not counting the value of the coins, which tops the price of gold), the gold that went down with the ship may be worth more than half a billion of today's dollars.

In the mid-1980s, a group of Columbus, Ohio, investors paid to send a salvage ship to find the "Central America." In 1988, they found it.

"If we never make a penny, it was worth the adventure that we signed up for," Columbus investor Brad Kastan said. "But when they actually brought it in, you're like 'Holy Cow, this is really happening'."

Between 1988 and 1991, the treasure hunters found about $100 million worth of the gold. However, the original treasure hunter disappeared, presumably with a lot of loot. Then, legal battles as to who owned the treasure took up more than the next two decades.

The litigation was settled in March and last month, the "Odyssey Explorer" headed back to the site.

The ship uses a yellow submarine called "Zeus" to retrieve the treasure. There are cameras to find it, robot hands to move it, and small but powerful vacums to suck it. The spoils, loot, and booty then come into a room to be cleaned, counted, and kept until the ship comes back to shore.

"One of the really important driving forces for us at 'Odyssey' is restoring hope to the Columbus community that originally invested in this project," Gordon said.

"Odyssey" should do OK, too. Basically, the Ohio investors get 55 percent of what's found and the "Odyssey" gets 45 percent. And the world may get to the end of the 157-year story of the ship of gold, off of South Carolina.

Thanks to Columbus (OH) station WCMH for this story.

Click here for more on the "Odyssey Explorer."

Click here for more on the wreck of the SS "Central America."

Click here for more on the "Panic of 1857."



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