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Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World's Richest Shipwreck
by Gary Kinder

Published: 2009-10-20
Paperback : 560 pages
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Originally published in 1998 and a best seller in its hardcover and paperback publications, Gary Kinder’s Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea tells the story of the sinking of the SS Central America, a side-wheel steamer carrying nearly six hundred passengers returning from the California ...
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Introduction

Originally published in 1998 and a best seller in its hardcover and paperback publications, Gary Kinder’s Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea tells the story of the sinking of the SS Central America, a side-wheel steamer carrying nearly six hundred passengers returning from the California Gold Rush, two hundred miles off the Carolina coast in September 1857. Over four hundred lives and twenty-one tons of California gold were lost. It was the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history, a tragedy that remained lost in legend for over a century.

In the 1980s, a young engineer from Ohio set out to do what no one, not even the U.S. Navy, had been able to do: establish a working presence on the deep ocean floor and open it to science, archaeology, history, medicine, and recovery. The SS Central America became the target of his project. After years of intensive efforts, Tommy Thompson and the Columbus-America Discovery Group found the Central America in eight thousand feet of water, and in October 1989 they sailed into Norfolk with her recovered treasure: gold coins, bars, nuggets, and dust, plus steamer trunks filled with period clothes, newspapers, books, journals, and even an intact cigar sealed under water for 130 years. Life magazine called it ?the greatest treasure ever found.”

Gary Kinder tells an extraordinary tale of history, human drama, heroic rescue, scientific ingenuity, and individual courage. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea is a testament to the human will to triumph over adversity. It is also a great American adventure story of the opening of Earth’s last frontier.

Editorial Review

The facts speak for themselves. In 1857, the Central America, a sidewheel steamer ferrying passengers fresh from the gold rush of California to New York and laden with 21 tons of California gold, encountered a severe storm off the Carolina coast and sank, carrying more than 400 passengers and all her cargo down with her. She then sat for 132 years, 200 miles offshore and almost two miles below the ocean's surface--a depth at which she was assumed to be unrecoverable--until 1989, when a deep-water research vessel sailed into the harbor at Norfolk, Virginia, fat with salvaged gold coins and bullion estimated to be worth one billion dollars.

Author Gary Kinder wisely lets the story of the Columbus-America Discovery Group, led by maverick scientist and entrepreneur Tommy Thompson, unfold without hyperbole. Kinder interweaves the tale of the Central America and her passengers and crew with Thompson's own story of growing up landlocked in Ohio, an irrepressible tinkerer and explorer even in his childhood days, and his progress to adulthood as a young man who always had "7 to 14" projects on the table or spinning in his head at any given moment. One of those projects would become the preposterous recovery of the stricken steamer, and the resourcefulness and later urgency with which the project would proceed is contrasted poignantly with the Central America's doomed battle in 1857 to stay afloat.

Thompson, who spent nearly a decade planning and organizing his recovery effort, emerges as one of the great unsung adventurers of these times (the technical innovations alone required for such a task produced a windfall for the scientific community and defined a new state of the art for deep-sea explorers and treasure hunters), and the story of the steamer's sinking is compelling enough to make any reader wonder why the Central America sinking isn't synonymous with shipwreck in this Titanic-happy age. --Tjames Madison

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by krilljack (see profile) 07/04/20

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