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Shipwreck of the SS Central America (1857)

Updated on February 2, 2015

The SS Central America Shipwreck

In a story that would make a great movie, the "Ship of Gold", sunk in a hurricane on September 11, 1857. That ship, the SS Central America was a 280-foot side-wheel steamer carrying 400 passengers and crew and 30,000 pounds of gold. Roughly 425 people went down with the ship. In 1987, a group led by Tommy Thompson found much of the gold on the ocean floor, the gold's value today is between 100-150 million dollars.

Public domain photo courtesy Wikimedia

An artists rendition of the 1857 shipwreck.

Public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

ship of gold
ship of gold

Sinking of The SS Central America

On September 3rd, 1857, 100 crew members and over 475 passengers left the Panama's port of Colón, setting sail for New York under the leadership of Captain W. L. Herndon. The ship was carrying with around 14 tons of gold mined during the Gold Rush in California. After a stop in Cuba, the ship headed northward.

On the 9th of September the vessel was encountered a hurricane while passing the Carolina coastline. Two days later, the strong winds and harsh seas had ripped apart Its sails, the ship was rapidly taking on water. A leaky paddle wheel seal doomed her fate, and, around noon that day, her steam engine could no longer operate. This shut down the pumps that kept the water at bay and the paddle wheels that kept the ship pointed into the wind. The crew flew the ship's flag upside down to try to inform a passing vessel of their predicament.

When the back half of the hurricane hit, the ship was on the verge of sinking. With no power, the ship was whisked along with the storm. The next morning, two vessels were spotted, including the....(read more at Wikipedia)

Public domain image courtesy Wikimedia/Library of Congress

Ship of Gold

The detailed and engrossing story of the sinking of the SS Central America, and the quest to recover its cargo some 131 years later.

A recovered gold ingot from the shipwreck weighing 80 pounds sold for a record $8 million in 2001. It is recognized as the most valuable piece of currency in the world.

Gold from the Shipwreck

Any Thoughts on the SS Central America? - Feel free to leave a comment here.

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    • JulianBeams profile image


      6 years ago

      I knew about the America, a facinating story, thanks for the lens. I think it was mentioned in the plot of a movie I watched once but can't rmember which.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      why not leave a comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      why not leave a comment

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I saw an ingot, from this wreckage, at the Bowers Museum and it was amazing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like the section about Recent Shipwreck News. This lens is fascinating history. I pinned it to one of my Pinterest boards and gave it a Squidlike!

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 

      7 years ago

      This lens would go well with my History Pavilion lens. Thanks

    • SayGuddaycom profile image


      7 years ago

      Excellent lens

    • AlaskaHydro LM profile image

      AlaskaHydro LM 

      8 years ago

      Truly a tragedy. Then there is the gold. How did the commercial describe it? A rare numismatic opportunity? You too can own a piece of American history. If I had the money, I would buy a coin or two from this shipwreck.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      There's something so fascinating about a shipwreck. My husband actually survived a ship that caught fire and sank (off the coast of France).

    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      9 years ago

      What a tragedy for those people. Very nice job on the lens. I'm a bit curious about who claimed ownership of the gold. Sounds like it would make a great movie.


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