1857 sunken treasure recovered
Several gold bars with varying weights discovered at the stern of the SS Central America shipwreck.

An undersea team have recovered more than 13,500 gold and silver coins from an 1857 shipwreck after decades of legal fights over the sunken treasure.

The treasure, which also includes gold ingots, nuggets and jewellery along with cultural artefacts have been retrieved from the SS Central America wreck off the coast of South Carolina by Odyssey Marine. Forbes reports that a pistol handle, a Daguerro-type photographic plate and wooden domino pieces were among the artefacts recovered.

One of the two $20 Double Eagle coins recovered in April 2014 during Odyssey’s first reconnaissance dive to the SS Central America shipwreck site, which lies 2,200 meters deep and 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration / Facebook

A press statement from Odyssey says the company had been working on bringing the items to the surface since April after it was engaged by Ira Owen Kane, the receiver for Recovery Limited Partnership.

"RLP is the court-appointed salvor-in-possession of the SS Central America shipwreck," the statement said.

One of the piles of gold coins, lying on the surface, outside the SS Central America shipwreck hull. Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration / Facebook

"This is an iconic American shipwreck, and, as salvor-in-possession, we have a duty to not only recover the remaining valuable cargo and significant items of cultural heritage at the site, but to also share what we learn with the public," Mr Kane said.

The SS Central America - also known as the Ship of Gold - was an 85m wooden-hulled, copper-sheathed, three-masted side-wheel steamship launched in 1853 as the SS George Law. It was in continuous service on the Atlantic leg of the Panama Route between New York and San Francisco before it was caught in a hurricane and sank off the coast of South Carolina on September 12, 1857.

A depiction of the SS Central America. (Courtesy of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, October 3, 1857). Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration / Facebook

The ship had been carrying a big consignment of gold for commercial parties, mainly in the form of ingots and freshly minted US $20 Double Eagle coins. Because of the large quantity of gold lost with the ship, public confidence in the economy was shaken, which contributed to the Panic of 1857.

The location of the SS Central America shipwreck was confirmed in September 1988 at a depth of 2200m. Recovery operations were conducted over from 1988 to 1991 and a large quantity of commercial gold was recovered. But legal disputes halted the operation until this year.

A contemporary lithograph depicting the sinking of the SS Central America. (Courtesy of J. Childs, Philadelphia) Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration / Facebook

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