Priit Vesilind  /  National Geographic Ultimate Explorer
Caption: National Geographic Ultimate Explorer host Lisa Ling gets ready to dive more than 1,600 feet to the bottom of the Atlantic aboard a submersible. In “Lost Gold of the Republic,”Ling joins underwater explorers excavating the 138-year-old wreck of the S.S. Republic, the Civil War-era steamship that sank while carrying a fortune in gold and silver coins.
updated 4/19/2004 12:02:24 PM ET 2004-04-19T16:02:24

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer host Lisa Ling dives to the bottom of the Atlantic aboard a high-tech submersible, investigating the 138-year-old wreck of the S.S. Republic, the Civil War-era steamship that sank while carrying a fortune in gold and silver coins. Ling’s deep-sea journey represents the culmination of a long and challenging effort by underwater explorers Greg Stemm and John Morris, business partners who have spent more than 12 years searching for the treasure-laden ship. From the moment of discovery until now, National Geographic cameras have been on hand to capture this dramatic story of archaeology, adventure, perseverance and a treasure that could be worth more than $100 million.

In 1865, the Republic set off from New York carrying some 90 passengers and crew. The double side-paddle wheel steamship was headed for New Orleans, a city whose economy had been wounded by the Civil War and was starved for hard currency. The Republic reportedly carried the solution: a consignment of gold and silver coins worth $400,000 at the time. But the ship never reached its destination — it sank in a hurricane off the coast of Georgia.

For 138 years, the Republic and its lost cargo of riches represented every explorer’s dream — but it was the dedication and hard work of Stemm and Morris that eventually led to its discovery. After combing countlesssquare miles of the Atlantic with a variety of sonar equipment, the team of underwater explorers finally located the Republic’s remains. With the help of the state-of-the art exploration and salvage vessel Odyssey Explorer, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Zeus and an arsenal of other high-tech tools and sensors, Stemm and Morris have begun to recover what could potentially be the richest treasure ever discovered at sea.

Join Ultimate Explorer on this oceanic adventure as host Lisa Ling journeys more than 1,600 feet to the bottom of the sea and back, witnessing firsthand the yet-to-be-collected riches and the shattered remains of a ship whose ill-fated journey has become the stuff of legend.

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