There’s gold and silver at the bottom of the sea.
Before the digital age, money was transmitted physically. This meant stage coaches in the 1850’s would bring gold from San Francisco back east or ships laden with gold and silver from the New World in the 16-19th centuries would traverse the Atlantic Ocean from Central and South America to ports in Europe. During the 20th Century in between World War I and II, gold was sent via ocean liner to the United States from Europe.
Often times the precious cargo never reached its destination. Bandits on the road would hold up stage coaches, pirates on the seas would commandeer ships carrying gold and silver, enemy torpedoes sunk ships carrying precious metals and some vessels simply sank from storms or accidents.
Much of the sunk gold was considered lost never to be recovered. Over the past few decades, technology has allowed treasure hunters to locate and recover gold and silver from the ocean floor. Gold from antiquity has been found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Ship of Gold
The most recent major display of gold from a sunken ship involves a 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina. The S.S. Central America steamship sunk enroute to New York from Panama during a hurricane that year while carrying about 10 tons of gold mined during the California Gold Rush. Over 400 people were killed and all the gold was lost.
The ship was found in 1988 and an investment pool company funded the recovery of about $50 million in gold. In 2000, the investment pool company sold the gold to the California Gold Marketing Group. The booty from S.S. Central American is on display this week end at the Long Beach Convention Center. The gold on display is for sale and many of the pieces are prized far in excess of their bullion value due to their rarity and historical significance.
Other notable gold and silver shipwrecks and recoveries
The 60 cannon galleon San Jose was lost in sea battle in 1708. At the time it was carrying gold and silver coins and emeralds from Peru and headed towards Spain when it was sunk off the coast of Columbia. The ship’s location was discovered in 1981. The treasure from this ship wreck has yet to be recovered as legal wrangling continues over ownership.
In 1715, eleven of a fleet of twelve ships travelling from Havana Cuba headed to Spain carrying gold and silver went down in a hurricane off the central coast of Florida. It is estimated that $400 million worth of precious metals were sunk.
In June 2015, a treasure hunter found $1 million in gold coins off the Florida presumed to be from the 1715 Fleet Wreck. A month later, $4.5M of gold coins were found in shallow water off coast of Vero Beach Florida, just a few mile north of the June find. The recent finds constitute only a fraction of the gold that was lost. Because of the riches thought to be just offshore, the central Florida coast of Florida from Melbourne to Fort Pierce is often referred to as Florida’s Treasury Coast. Recovery companies continue to battle over salvage rights.
In 1941, a German Uboat sunk the SS Gairsoppa off the Irish coast. The ship was bound to India and was carrying about 3,000 bars of silver worth about $50 million. The ship’s location was discovered in 2011 and recovery efforts began soon thereafter. Some of the silver retrieved was sold in its original cast bar form and the rest was melted down by the U.K. Royal Mint and recast in to commemorative Silver Britannia SS Gairsoppa coins and by other companies that produced SS Gairsoppa silver commemorative rounds.
This article by BGASC is not, and should not be regarded as, investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular course of action.