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Gold recovery began early at SS Central America wreck

TNS Regional News • May 6, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Gold has been found and recovered from the SS Central America shipwreck.

The Odyssey Marine Exploration company brought up five gold ingots and two $20 coins during a two-hour reconnaissance dive on April 15 as its ship, the Odyssey Explorer, was traveling to a U.S. port to begin its recovery of the shipwreck gold. The find was revealed Sunday night.

The gold is from the Central America, a ship that sank in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina. The shipwreck was found in 1988 by a group of scientists based in Columbus who, over the next four years, brought up gold bars and coins worth more than $40 million. The recovery was halted in 1991, however, and was not resumed until April.

Investors, including The Dispatch Printing Company, had poured money into the original endeavor after its leader, Tommy Thompson, convinced them he could find the shipwreck and recover its gold. More than 100 people and companies invested, most of them from central Ohio, but none received any returns from what was originally found.

This effort’s aim, led by a court-appointed receiver put into place last year, was the result of lawsuits filed by The Dispatch Printing Company, which publishes The Dispatch and dispatch.com.

According to Odyssey Marine, the recovered gold bars weigh from 96.5 to 313 troy ounces each. At the current spot-gold price of $1,298 troy ounce, that would make them worth just shy of $1.3 million.

Millions of dollars worth of gold is expected to be recovered.

During the dive on April 15, the Odyssey’s remotely run robot, Zeus, looked over the site and saw gold bars and other artifacts “clearly visible” on the surface. The robot only brought up a small number of items at that time.

The find was not immediately announced for legal and security reasons. Reporters who visited the ship while it was in port in Charleston, S.C., on April 22 were not told of the find as they toured the ship and interviewed its crew.

“The dive confirms for me that the site has not been disturbed since 1991, when I was last there,” said Bob Evans, the chief scientist for the first trips to the shipwreck. Evans is the only one sailing on the Odyssey from the original trips.

The ship is again at the site. It left on April 23, returned to port in Charleston for several days last week and then went back out to the site.

Work at the site continues 24 hours a day; Odyssey hopes to complete the recovery by September.

Under its contract, Odyssey Marine is paying for the recovery operation and will receive 80 percent of the proceeds until certain expenses are paid. Then the company will receive 45 percent of the proceeds.

Thompson is a federal fugitive. U.S. marshals have been searching for him since the fall of 2012, when he didn’t show up for a contempt-of-court hearing in federal court related to lawsuits against his recovery company.


By Kathy Lynn Gray - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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