AMERICA'S
LOST
TREASURE

The S.S. Central America
Gold Discovered
Gold Coins


The discovery of the Central America was an engineering success, and the shipwreck itself was a spectacular scientific discovery, but it was the gold that financed the expedition and that would allow us to stay and learn.

Predictably, the weather worsened by mid-October. Everyone was tired after long weeks at sea, and the pressure to get back to shore for the winter was intense. In the control room, our eyes began to play tricks on us as we searched the complex scene of rotting timbers, rusting iron, and general debris for something shiny or in the shape of an ingot.

Nemo Remote RobotThen, just days before we were to leave the site, Milt spotted some anomalies on some photographic negatives. One of the crew returned from the onboard lab, where he was developing some photographs. Bob, Barry, and I examined the images he was excited about and saw a color we had not encountered before: gold.

Because Nemo's dives are precise, we knew exactly where on the shipwreck site the underwater robot had taken the pictures and where the next dive would take place. Within hours, the submersible was back on the bottom. As we flew the ROV toward the location of the photographs, Milt set the lights. At first we thought we were looking at bricks, but as the beams were adjusted, the color came out. Suddenly, the same monitors that had revealed nothing but colorless ocean terrain for weeks now appeared to be painted brilliant gold.

Garden of GoldThese weren't bricks, but ingots, ingots everywhere… stacked on the bottom like brownies… stacked like loaves of bread… spectacular gold bridges of gold ingots piled on top of timbers and spread over the ocean floor. Then, a little farther along, we found piles of coins, heaped in towers and seemingly spilling into frozen waterfalls. The coins in this part of the shipwreck, which we named the "Garden of Gold," were spread amid the wreckage, stretching beyond Nemo's lights into the blackness of the sea.

We had all privately imagined the moment we would find the treasure, but none of us ever thought that it would be so otherworldly in its splendor. The gold of the Central America looked like something out of a fairy tale beyond one's wildest imagination. It sparkled with brilliance in the first light to play off its surface in 130 years.

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