Shipwreck Gold: Does Sunken South Carolina Steamer Contain Treasure?
A 19th-century ship which may contain chests full of gold, and is now a shipwreck off the coast of South Carolina, is being searched for gold and other goods.
The shipwreck was found in about 40 feet of water off near Cape Romain. The steamer has been identified as the SS Ozama by E. Lee Spence, an archaeologist and treasure hunter. The ship was made in 1881.
Like Us on Facebook
"We have positively identified the vessel through the engine type, length, width, type of decking and other construction features, as well as its location, which matches perfectly with historical accounts," Spence told NBC's Discovery News.
Spence said the ship, which is 1,028 tons and about 126 feet long, is "in surprisingly good condition with most of the ship relatively intact and sitting upright."
New York Times articles on the ship's travels provide clues into what the ship may hold. In December 1888, the Times reported the ship was traveling with "1,000 stands of arms, three Gatling guns and 500,000 cartridges." Another article reported that the Ozama was sailing with $300,000 in paper money, and would later be traveling with an additional $700,000.
In November 1894, the ship sunk while en route from Philadelphia, Pa., to Charleston, S.C., after running into shoals.
"The water quickly filled the fire rooms, rendering the engines useless. The steamer floated off the shoals soon after striking, and at 2 a.m. sank in six-and-half fathoms of water," the New York Times reported.
"We don't know that anyone searched for her. Newspaper accounts said she was traveling in ballast, without cargo. This would have discouraged any attempts at salvage, which would have been both dangerous and expensive back then," Spence said.
But that doesn't mean it wasn't carrying gold, Spence said. The SS Ozama was used for "extensive gun and money smuggling to Haiti," Spence said, and smugglers of guns and gold often didn't mention the fact that they were illegally carrying things, obviously.
In fact, Spence himself first discovered the shipwreck in 1979, but didn't realize there was a possibility that the shipwreck contained gold and other valuables until he learned the identity of the ship and its colorful smuggling past.
Spence believes that not only is there a horde of valuable gold and other cargo in the shipwreck, but that it is in good shape.
"Whatever is still there, we have good reason to believe at least some of it will be intact, as I have already brought up some unbroken china," Spence said. He added, "As you might guess, I am hoping to find gold, and gold should not only be intact, it should still be shiny."
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.