SS Central America, ’Ship of Gold’, was a 280-foot side-wheel steamer that operated between Central America and the eastern coast of the United States during the 1850′s. She was originally named the SS George Law, after Mr. George Law of New York. The ship sank in a hurricane in September 1857, along with more than 550 passengers and crew and 30,000 pounds of Gold, contributing to the Panic of 1857.
Commander William Lewis Herndon, a distinguished officer who had served during the Mexican-American War and explored the Amazon Valley, was captain of the Central America. Commander Herndon went down with his ship. Two US Navy ships were later named USS Herndon in his honor, as was the town of Herndon, Virginia. Two years after the sinking, his daughter Ellen married Chester Alan Arthur, later the 21st President of the United States.
Several books were written about this historic ship. One book is America’s Lost Treasure, a pictorial chronicle of the sinking and recovery. Gary Kinder’s Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea is an account of the rec
Lost for 131 years, the Central America shipwreck is a unique time capsule of information and artifacts of an era in which the very character and spirit of America blossomed.overy efforts.
The ship was located by the use of Bayesian search theory and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operated by the Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio, that was sent down on 11 September 1987. Significant amounts of Gold and artifacts were recovered and brought to the surface by another ROV built specifically for the recovery. Tommy Thompsonled the group. 39 insurance companies filed suit, claiming that because they paid damages in the 19th century for the lost Gold, they had the right to it. The team that found it argued that the Gold had been abandoned. After a legal battle, 92% of the Gold was awarded to the discovery team in 1996.
The total value of the recovered Gold was estimated at $100–$150 million. A recovered Gold ingot weighing 80 lbs. sold for a record $8 million and was recognized as the most valuable piece of currency in the world at that time.