Gold worth $1.3m recovered from American shipwreck

The ingots recovered are believed to be similar to these, found on a previous search. Picture: Getty
The ingots recovered are believed to be similar to these, found on a previous search. Picture: Getty
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GOLD worth $1.3 million has been recovered from a 19th-century wreck sunk off the coast of South Carolina.

The SS Central America, a sidewheel steamer, sank in 1857, 160 miles off the coast of the Palmetto State with the loss of 425 lives, and has been the subject of previous recovery efforts between 1989 and 1991.

The Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. (OMEX), a marine salvager specialising in extracting cargo from sunken ships, recovered the gold from the wreck, which lies over a mile below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Among the haul were two $20 Double Eagle coins, minted in 1850 and 1857, and five gold ingots weighing between 96.5 and 313.5 troy ounces, Odyssey confirmed.

A spokesman added: “Gold ingots and other artifacts were clearly visible on the surface of the site during the dive and no excavation was required for their removal.”

The firm said that the dive was mainly focused on reconnaissance, but that the salvager had also brought up a bottle, samples of pottery, part of the shipwreck’s wooden structure and a scientific experiment left at the site around the time of the last recovery efforts in the late 1980s.

Once the company has completed a survey of the site, proper archaeological excavation will get underway.

SS Central America

The ship itself had left Colón, in Panama on September 3rd, 1857 and was bound for New York City, and heavily laden with over 9 tons of gold from the California Gold Rush.

It was caught in a hurricane off the coast of the Carolinas six days after setting sail.

105mph winds and heavy surf had all but destroyed the sails, the ship was taking on water and the boiler was at risk of going out.

Attempts to attract the attention of passing ships failed, and the ship lost all power. 153 passengers, primarily women and children, managed to make their way to two passing ships the following morning, but the Central America, continually battered by the storm, eventually sank around 8pm that night.

425 people lost their lives including the Captain, William Lewis Herndon, whose daughter Ellen married Chester Alan Arthur - later the 21st President of the United States - two years later.