Court Okays Gold Hunt on 150-Year-Old Shipwreck

It carried one of the largest cargoes of gold ever lost at sea, so much so that it was nicknamed the Ship of Gold.” And now Odyssey Marine Exploration has been given court approval to recover what it can from the SS Central America. 

In 1857, the SS Central America shipwrecked 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina because of a hurricane, killing more than 550 people and taking it with an estimated 14,000 kilos of gold. According to Odyssey Marine, experts believe it still holds a commercial shipment of gold valued at $93,000 in 1857, as well as passenger gold valued in 1857 at between $250,000 and $1.28 million. 

Spokeswoman Liz Shows declined to say how much that would be by today’s value, but added, “It will be higher than the melt value because of the shipwreck premium.”

An Ohio court granted Odyssey Marine exclusive salvage rights to the shipwreck, the fate of which had been tied up in a long-running legal battle. A company statement said the shipwreck site was discovered in 1987 at a depth of approximately 2,200 meters (7,200 feet). Less than 5 percent of the site was investigated at that time, but an extensive collection of gold coins, bullion, and raw gold was found.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, that first expedition was led by scientist Tommy Thompson, and he and his crew emerged with a haul that was eventually sold for more than $40 million. But investors weren’t paid, and Thompson is now a fugitive.

In 2013, a receiver was appointed, who has now transferred the rights to Odyssey Marine. The expedition will begin in April, Shows said, and use “advanced robotics” to discover the loot.

JCK News Director