Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

Gary Kinder, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $27.5 (507p) ISBN 978-0-87113-464-6
Enormous publicity surrounded the 1989 recovery of an estimated billion dollars worth of gold--one of the greatest sunken treasures ever found--from the 1857 wreck of the SS Central America. Most of the publicity, however, came from media that, according to the author, ""didn't have a clue what it was all about"" and centered on the sensational aspects of the find off the Carolina coast. The story of the wreck itself, and the staggering effort it took to locate and recover the treasure, is the subject of Kinder's involving, fully realized history of the ship that amounts to a treasure in itself. He begins with a vivid account of the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in California, then seamlessly moves into discussions of everything from the ship's departure from San Francisco to nuclear submarine technology to the modern legal mechanics of securing offshore salvage projects. Along the way, Kinder (Victim) introduces the reader to a genuine American archetype--the eccentric Tommy Thompson. The inventor/scientist/adventurer, who led the decade-long ""treasure hunt"" (a term he despised) from start to finish, is constantly at the center of activity that involves not just finding a wreck 200 miles offshore but the juggling of investors, competitors, lawyers, scientists, a sea captain and an endless cast of cantankerous characters. The reader is thrilled by the thoroughness and intelligence of Thompson's planning and execution, as well as by Kinder's research and writing. This account of discovery, greed, technology and the elements makes for a splendid sea adventure. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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