Expedition seeks $86 million in gold in 1857 shipwreck
By Liezell Hill - Star Tribune
Treasure-hunter Bob Evans has spent half his life dreaming about the SS Central America, a pre-Civil War steamship decaying in the lightless depths off South Carolina. Now he’s returning to the shipwreck after 23 years.
Evans set out this week with deep-ocean explorer Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. to revisit the remains of the 19th-century side-wheel steamer, which sank in 1857 with the loss of 425 lives and an undetermined amount of gold.
Despite recovery efforts in 1989 through 1991 that netted more than two tons of gold, Odyssey says there may still be $86 million of gold lying more than a mile deep.
“This is the greatest lost treasure in United States history,” said Evans, who was chief scientist on earlier expeditions.
Even with the plunge in gold prices last year, the metal is still worth more than triple its price in the early 1990s, when previous recovery efforts were suspended because of legal battles over rights to the treasure. And the rare coins that have been found at the site are selling for much more than their weight in gold.
For Odyssey, the shipwreck is another chance to show the potential gains from deep-sea salvaging. While the Tampa-based company has recovered tons of treasure in past projects, it has failed at others.
Odyssey is a “very atypical company in an atypical industry,” said Mark Argento, an analyst at Lake Street Capital Markets in Minneapolis. “It’s more like a biotech company: Not every biotech company gets every drug approved.”
Odyssey is undeterred. “Our research department and the court-appointed experts all believe there is enough gold remaining at the SS Central America to warrant the expense of conducting an expedition,” Odyssey President Mark Gordon said.