Update: SS Central America Salvage
Odyssey Marine Exploration completes current phase of SS Central America recovery; 15,500+ gold and silver coins, 45 gold bars recovered to date; 161,000-square meter, high-resolution visual site survey complete
Deep-ocean exploration company Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. has completed the current phase of the recovery operations on the SS Central America shipwreck project. The recovery ship, Odyssey Explorer, has returned to Charleston, South Carolina, for necessary repairs and installation of new equipment, which is expected to take approximately two to three weeks.
In addition to more than 15,500 gold and silver coins, 45 gold bars and hundreds of other gold nuggets, gold dust, jewelry and artifacts recovered from the shipwreck site over the past five months, an extensive amount of knowledge has been gained about the formation of the site. Significant sections of ship's structure, associated cultural heritage artifacts and coins were located some distance from the main shipwreck area, requiring excavation over a large area. Sizeable areas remain to be inspected and excavated outside the main shipwreck.
The Odyssey Explorer also recently completed a 161,000-square-meter, high-resolution video survey of the shipwreck and surrounding seabed. The extensive time involved conducting this planned site survey, as well as days of unworkable weather due to Hurricane Cristobal, resulted in a smaller than average inventory of items recovered during the past month.
While the shipyard work on the Odyssey Explorer is being performed, Odyssey and Ira Owen Kane, the court-appointed Receiver of Recovery Limited Partnership (RLP), will evaluate information and data gathered from the 2014 operations including the new visual survey, to plan future operations. Depending on the results of this analysis operations at the SS Central America site could resume within the next 12 months.
"The recovery and survey work we completed on the site over the last 60 days has dramatically increased our knowledge of the extent and orientation of this wreck site," commented Mark Gordon, Odyssey's president and COO. "We now know that a significant amount of work remains to be performed in the debris field before this project can be considered completely processed. We hope to return to the Central America site before the end of the 2015 season depending on conclusions drawn from the analysis that will be completed over the next several months."
"Our team and the Receiver's team aboard the Odyssey Explorer have been working 24/7 over the past five months, so we agreed this would be an appropriate time to suspend recovery operations to take a break for repairs and review the work we've recently completed," continued Gordon. "We're pleased with the efficiency, results and profitability of the project to date and look forward to working with the Receiver to maximize returns for RLP and Odyssey as we monetize the recovered cargo."
After the repair and equipment installation is completed, Odyssey plans to conduct sea trials with the new Teledyne-Reson Dual SeaBat 7125 deep-tow system recently acquired to advance the company's deep 20th-century commodity shipwreck search and mineral exploration operations. The company then plans to deploy the Odyssey Explorer to one or more shipwreck projects off the coast of the southeastern United States, which may include additional operations at the Central America site, or pending final permitting, to a shipwreck project in a different operating area.
The SS Central America was an 85-meter (280-foot) wooden-hulled, copper-sheathed, three-masted side-wheel steamship launched in 1853 as the SS George Law. Operating during the California Gold Rush era, the ship was in continuous service on the Atlantic leg of the Panama Route between New York and San Francisco, making 43 round trips between New York and Panama. The Central America was caught in a hurricane and sank 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina on September 12, 1857. When she was lost, the SS Central America was carrying a large consignment of gold for commercial parties, mainly in the form of ingots and freshly minted U.S. $20 Double Eagle coins. Because of the large quantity of gold lost with the ship, public confidence in the economy was shaken, which contributed to the Panic of 1857.
The location of the SS Central America shipwreck was confirmed in September 1988 at a depth of 2,200 meters (7,200 feet). Recovery operations were conducted over a four-year period (1988-1991) and a large quantity of commercial gold was recovered from approximately 5% of the shipwreck site during more than 1,000 hours of bottom time.
In 2014, Recovery Limited Partnership awarded Odyssey the exclusive contract to conduct an archaeological excavation and recovery of the remaining valuable cargo from the SS Central America shipwreck. Odyssey will receive 80% of recovery proceeds until a fixed fee and a negotiated day rate are paid. Thereafter, Odyssey will receive 45% of the recovery proceeds. Odyssey was selected for the project by Ira Owen Kane, the court-appointed receiver who represents Recovery Limited Partnership (RLP) and Columbus Exploration LLC (CE). The contract was approved by the Common Pleas Court of Franklin County, Ohio, which has given Mr. Kane responsibility with overseeing the recovery project The United States District Court, Eastern District of Virginia has confirmed RLP as the salvor in possession of the SS Central America shipwreck and that Odyssey may conduct operations at the site on behalf of RLP.