Tuesday, May 20, 2014
The New York Times describes the story of an incredible treasure, the legal battle over its ownership, and the adventurer who has disappeared in the aftermath of the court battle:
[T]he quest to salvage the S.S. Central America — which went down in 1857 in a hurricane off South Carolina carrying 425 souls, as well as thousands of coins, bars and nuggets of California gold — has produced a quarter-century of broken dreams and legal nightmares.
[...] Thirty years ago, Thomas G. Thompson, a plucky Ohio native who was a young engineer at Battelle, began wooing investors with dreams of finding the Central America. Soon, the Columbus America Discovery Group was formed to finance the hunt, including a robot with lights, cameras, arms and claws. The team hit pay dirt in September 1988: Piles of gold coins and ingots lay scattered across the ship’s rotting timbers, and overnight, the investors became millionaires — in theory, at least. In all, the team lifted up about two tons of gold. If sold today as pure metal, it would fetch $76 million.