AMERICA'S
LOST
TREASURE

The S.S. Central America
Recovery
Gathering Coins from the Site


From the earliest planning stages of Nemo, meticulous recovery has been the guiding principle of the Central America project. Working around the fallen timbers and tons of iron of a historic wooden shipwreck requires the ability to perform heavy work-lifting and moving unwieldy material and managing complex, multilayered excavation areas. Recovering coins and ingots from this complex environment also requires great delicacy and surgical precision. Valuable coins, for example, must be handled, often individually, with utmost care to preserve their exact condition and to avoid disturbing the rest of the deposit.Encassing in PLaster

Nemo recovers large ingots with padded fingers, but the robot recovers individual coins with a suction-picker. Using the 3-D monitory aboard the research vessel a mile and a half above to gauge distances to fractions of an inch, Nemo's operator carefully manipulates this device as close to the surface of a coin as possible and then activates the suction to hold the coin against a rubber cup. He then guides Nemo's arm to carry the coin to a nearby tray, and releases it into a numbered slot. Sitting nearby in the RV control room, the videographer records the entire process while the dive coordinator logs in the time and the number of the coin. Once the tray is filled, Nemo places it inside its retractable storage drawer for the trip to the surface.
Coins in PLaster
When coins are clustered together, the pilot follows a different procedure, using Nemo to surround the cluster with a padded frame, which is then filled with a special silicone gel. Thus held fast, the coins are brought to the surface. The congealed silicone is later peeled away, releasing the individual coins.

When Nemo surfaces with the gold, the collection trays go to the ship's lab. There team members are able to examine the coins and ingots closely, catalogue them in detail, and store them for transport back to labs on shore. Coins are usually protected in the plastic sleeves used by numismatists, although stable clusters are sometimes left encased in their silicone. Individual containers hold ingots, which are carefully wrapped in cloth. The dust and nuggets suctioned up from the ocean floor by the sea-vac are panned from the sediment and placed in numbered vials.

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