We are happy to welcome Alex Lemaire of Metal Detector Planet with this story of a shipwreck filled with gold. – The Editor
The SS Republic was a side-wheeler that was built in Baltimore, Maryland. The ship was 210 feet long and her side-wheels were 28 feet in diameter. She was originally built to accommodate 100 passengers only. The rest of the space was meant to store cargo.
She began her service in 1853 operating between Baltimore and Charleston. She then sailed to England making her the first Baltimore steamship to cross the Atlantic. After this voyage, the vessel made regular trips between the US and Central America. She was modified to carry an additional 400 passengers. It helped to transport hundreds of gold seekers to California during the Gold Rush.
When the Civil war began in 1861, the SS Republic was trapped in port in New Orleans and it was confiscated by the Confederates. It was meant to be used as a blockade runner but failed to do so. In 1864, the ship was hit by a storm. It was badly damaged and her military career came to an end. She was sold for a cheap price, repaired, and then provided regular service between New York and New Orleans.
On her fifth civilian voyage, the SS Republic was hit by a hurricane and sank in 1865. The crew and passengers successfully abandoned the ship. But her precious cargo was lost. The vessel was heading to New Orleans. It carried $400,000 in coins that were intended to aid post-Civil War Reconstruction efforts.
The shipwreck was located in 2003 by Greg Stemm. He is considered one of the best the deep-ocean explorers and treasure hunters in the world. The SS Republic lies beneath 1,700 feet of water and 100 miles southeast of Savannah, Georgia. After nearly 140 years of being underwater, the hull disappeared but the paddle wheels, the bell, the anchor, and the steam engine are still relatively intact.
What excited the underwater archaeologist the most is the ship’s cargo that could be worth 180 million dollars. The ship’s paperwork indicated that it was carrying $ 400,000 in coins. Most of the recovered coins were 10 and 20 dollars gold pieces. The coins were in good condition. Archaeologists have only to rinse a thin layer of mud to find a shiny mint-state surface.
To make sure these precious historical coins were not scratched, a specially designed limpet was designed for the ROV (remotely operated vehicle). It is made of soft silicone. And it is very accurate, it can pick one coin at a time. This operation is delicate and slow; the machine can recover up to 1000 coins per day.
In addition to the coins, the SS Republic carried other items with great historical importance. The salvaged artifacts offered a window to the past. They allowed historians to see what life was like after the end of the Civil War. They also allowed them to understand more about what the southern states needed the most during the reconstruction era. These items are now displayed at various museums around the world
About the Author
Alex Lemaire is passionate about treasure hunting. He started his blog, Metal Detector Planet, to share his passion with the world. He believes that the most precious treasures are not necessarily made out of gold. The most important finds are those who help us learn more about the history of mankind.