Treasure, with a side of history - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Treasure, with a side of history

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Gold coins and gold bars are lifted from a depth of more than 7,000 feet off the South Carolina coast. The treasure is being brought up by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) owned by Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration.

In court papers, experts say there could be $50-million to $100-million worth of gold on this shipwreck, first discovered in the 1980's, but untouched in decades.

"What we've brought up includes gold bars and an amazing array of gold coins," said Mark Gordon, Odyssey's CEO.

The coins are more valuable than their weight in gold because of when and where they were minted.

THE LOST GOLD

It's the wreck of the SS Central America, a steamship that went down in a hurricane in 1857. Five hundred passengers were on board; only 75 survived.

Also lost was tons of gold on its way east from California and the famous gold rush. The money was sorely needed in New York where a worldwide financial crisis had left thousands of people unemployed.

When the Central America's cargo of gold didn't arrive, it was worsened. It further dragged down the economy of the north and, according to some historians, contributed to the start of the Civil War.

"So the loss of this shipwreck had a lot of impact on our economy, and ultimately our country," continued Gordon.

WINDOW TO HISTORY

When this so-called ship of gold was first discovered in 1988, only part of it was brought up before the expedition ended in a court fight. Odyssey was hired to go back and find the rest.

Along with riches, they've brought up historical artifacts. There's a ring that's actually a series of rings.

"If you put them together just right, they form a band and then they're held together with two hands clasping," said Gordon.

Looking at the artifacts is like looking through a window in time.

"We found a saddlebag, for instance," Gordon explained. "You can almost imagine this was a Wells Fargo pony rider's saddlebag filled with gold nuggets from the gold fields."

To see pictures and learn more about the wreck of the Central America and other Odyssey Marine Exploration projects, visit www.shipwreck.net.

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