Tampa-based Odyssey Marine retrieving gold in richest U.S. shipw - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa-based Odyssey Marine retrieving gold in richest U.S. shipwreck

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The Odyssey Explorer set off from Charleston South Carolina Wednesday afternoon to recover gold from the shipwrecked S.S. Central America. Photo courtesy Odyssey Marine The Odyssey Explorer set off from Charleston South Carolina Wednesday afternoon to recover gold from the shipwrecked S.S. Central America. Photo courtesy Odyssey Marine
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WFLA) -

Tampa-based Odyssey Marine crews are on their way to retrieve gold from the richest shipwreck in American history.

The Odyssey Explorer set off from Charleston, South Carolina Wednesday afternoon to recover gold from the shipwrecked S.S. Central America. The Central America sank 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina during a hurricane in 1857.

The Odyssey Explorer is more than 230 feet long, with a crew of 41. Their very specialized job is to hunt for treasure on the ocean floor.

Odyssey Marine crews have been very successful at the task in recent years. They recovered treasure and artifacts from the historic wreck of the HMS Victory. Odyssey crews also recently recovered more than 60 tons of silver from a World War II era cargo ship, the S.S. Gairsoppa and they previously recovered coins and other artifacts from the S.S. Republic.

Their primary tool onboard the Explorer is a six and a half ton remotely-operated vehicle named Zeus that maneuvers underwater. Senior project manager Andrew Craig says Zeus is a highly specialized piece of equipment.

"The ROV is capable of going down to 2,500 meters. This project, we're going to be at 2,200, so it's right down there near the edge of it's working range," said Craig.

Zeuss has six onboard cameras to aide with the recovery of artifacts and treasure and to document the finds.

"We can zoom in on a coin with this camera and read the date. It's pretty clear," said ROV technician Tom Money.

For many members of the Odyssey crew, documenting the history of the wrecks is a personally rewarding as the recovery of treasure.

"For me, it's the history. That's what I find entertaining, that's the treasure for me, so I'd like to find something that's a personal item that we can put with people, passengers on the ship," said crew member Dave Kamm.

The S.S. Central America is rich in history. The ship was on the way back from the California gold rush when it sank. Onboard the ship were men miners and wealthy businessmen. Some of them were paid the equivalent of seven ounces of gold for the voyage.

Historical records also indicate many of the passengers were carrying their personal fortunes in gold when the ship sank.

The wreck of the S.S. Central America was first discovered in the 1980's by a salvage company funded by investors from Columbus, Ohio.

At that time, salvager Tommy Thompson found the wreck site and recovered some gold, but the investors said they were never paid.

The issue has been tied up in litigation since then and no one has returned to the wreck since 1991.

Odyssey Marine was recently given approval in a legal judgment to salvage the wreck.

WFLA.com will let you know what Odyssey crews find on the shipwrecked S.S. Central America.

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