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Thousands of Gold Coins and Bars Found on Sunken Ship



The “Ship of Gold” is living up to its name.

Some 15,500 gold and silver gold coins, 45 gold bars, and 61 pieces of gold jewelry have been recovered from the SS Central America, the famed Ship of Gold that sank in 1857.

Odyssey Marine Exploration, the Tampa, Fla.–based company that earlier this year won the right to excavate the doomed vessel and keep 45 percent of the proceeds, said in a statement it is putting the expedition on hold for two to three weeks to repair the robotic equipment it is using to explore the site. However, sizable areas outside the main shipwreck still need to be explored, it said.

Among the best finds: a garment meant to be worn around someone’s waist, which contained 134 Double Eagle coins. The recovered gold jewelry is often found to be made of large gold nuggets.

The expedition also found a significant amount of “cultural heritage artifacts”—including luggage tags, parts of a music box, a pocket watch, wire-rimmed glasses, a pipe, and some early photographs, known as daguerreotypes and ambrotypes. They are the first photographs to be found in a 19th-century shipwreck. 

The boat, meant to travel from San Francisco to New York, was sunk by a hurricane some 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina on Sept. 12, 1857, killing more than 550 people and taking it with an estimated 14,000 kilos of gold. Experts believe the boat, soon nicknamed the “Ship of Gold,” held gold valued between $250,000 and $1.28 million (in 1857 terms), mainly in the form of ingots and $20 Double Eagle coins.

Historians say the amount of concentrated wealth that was lost in the shipwreck shook confidence in the economy and led to the panic of 1857. 

JCK News Director