Friday, June 6, 2014

Recovery from Ship of Gold 'beyond expectations'

Gold and other valuables from outside the hull of the SS Central America have been retrieved, and a crew has begun bringing up nuggets, ingots and coins from inside the shipwreck, the recovery company reported yesterday.

“Early-recovery results are well beyond our expectations,” CEO Greg Stemm told shareholders at Odyssey Marine Exploration’s annual meeting in Tampa, Fla. “Nearly every day of seafloor operations produces new discoveries and recoveries of gold in a dazzling array of different forms.”

Shares of Odyssey Marine jumped at the news. The shares, which initially fell yesterday morning to their lowest level in more than a year, rose 25 cents to $1.51.

Odyssey reported a month ago that it had brought up gold bars and coins in mid-April during its first visit to the shipwreck. That treasure was worth more than $1 million based on the spot-gold price at the time.

The company has been unable to report specifics about subsequent finds because of legal restrictions by a federal judge in eastern Virginia. Court documents listing the recovered items have been sealed.

The operation continues 24 hours a day while Odyssey’s vessel, Odyssey Explorer, is at the site. A remotely operated vehicle picks up the gold and artifacts, which are too deep in the ocean for divers.

Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., a company that specializes in deep-ocean exploration, has retrieved five gold bars and two gold coins from the sunken ship the SS Central America.

The artifacts were recovered during a reconnaissance dive to the shipwreck site on April 15. Odyssey Marine Exploration researchers are in the process of documenting the underwater site, and they eventually plan to conduct a full archaeological excavation of the shipwreck, according to company officials.
The Central America sank off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 with tons of gold in its hold. In the early 1990s Tommy Thompson and his companies, Columbus America Discovery Group and Recovery Limited, brought up part of the treasure and sold it for more than $40 million to California Gold Marketing Group. Investors received nothing.

In 2006, a U.S. District Judge ordered Thompson to produce all inventories of the treasure that had been recovered. They turned over an inventory and said it was the only inventory the company had, the motion says. Thompson’s attorney, Rich Robol, repeatedly told the court that no other inventories existed, according to the motion. But after a receiver took over Thompson’s companies this summer, he found the original inventory in files in Robol’s office, the motion says.
Thompson became a federal fugitive last year after he didn’t show up for a court hearing.

Odyssey was selected for the project by the court-appointed receiver who represents RLP and Columbus Exploration LLC. The contract has been approved by court.
“During the dive, Odyssey’s ROV ZEUS flew over the shipwreck to assess the current condition of the site. Gold ingots and other artifacts were clearly visible on the surface of the site during the dive and no excavation was required for their removal. Given the reconnaissance purpose of the dive, only five gold ingots, two gold coins, a bottle, a piece of pottery, a sample of the shipwreck’s wooden structure, and an element of a scientific experiment that was left at the site more than 20 years ago were recovered.”
The ship is again at the site. It left on April 23, returned to port in Charleston for several days last week, then went back to the site. Work at the site runs 24 hours a day. Odyssey hopes to complete the recovery by September.

Under its contract, Odyssey Marine is paying for the operation and will receive 80 percent of the recovery proceeds until a fixed mobilization fee and a negotiated day rate are paid. After that, the company will receive 45 percent of the recovery proceeds.

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