One of two $20 Double Eagle coins recovered from the
shipwreck. Photos: REUTERS/Odyssey Marine Explorations Inc
A deep-ocean exploration company in Florida says it has
recovered nearly 1000 ounces of gold, worth $US1.3 million at
current gold prices, on a reconnaissance dive to an historic
Atlantic Ocean shipwreck.
The dive confirmed that the ship had not been disturbed since
1991 when another company stopped recovery work, Tampa-based
Odyssey Marine Exploration announced. The ship's sinking in
1857 with 21 tons of gold aboard in a hurricane off the coast
of South Carolina sparked a US banking panic.
Recovered gold included five gold ingots and two $20 Double
Eagle coins, an 1857 coin minted in San Francisco and an 1850
coin minted in Philadelphia. The gold ingots were stamped
with the manufacturer's "assay-mark" and weigh from 96.5 to
313.5 troy ounces.
US $20 Double Eagle coins fetch an average of $5000 from
collectors, Odyssey's chief operating officer Mark Gordon
told Reuters last week.
In March, Odyssey won the rights to return to the shipwreck
from a receiver who had been appointed by an Ohio court to
represent the ship's first exploration company after a
decades-long court battle over rights to the treasure and
return for investors
Two of five ingots that were also recovered.
More than $40 million in gold was recovered by the
original team led by Tommy Thompson, an Ohio engineer who
discovered the shipwreck in 1988 using sonar and robotic
technology he developed. The recovery efforts were derailed by
lawsuits and investors accused him of failing to pay them. He
has been considered a fugitive since 2012 when he failed to
appear in court for a hearing.
Only about 5 percent of the shipwreck site was explored in
the late 1980s, Gordon said.
The two-hour reconnaissance dive in mid-April took place as
the company's research vessel, Odyssey Explorer, was
traveling from the U.K. to Charleston, the company revealed
Odyssey Explorer left Charleston recently to begin the bulk
of recovery work at the shipwreck 160 miles off the South
Carolina coast and 7,500 feet (2.2 kilometers) deep.
The 280-foot (85 meters) sidewheel steamship carried as much
as 21 tons of gold ingots, freshly minted gold coins and raw
gold from the California mines, as well as the personal
wealth and belongings of its 477 passengers, most of whom
were lost when the ship sank.
Historians say the loss of the gold caused a banking panic
that contributed to a larger US economic crisis, called the
Panic of 1857, that lasted several years.