Ohio Company Wins Rights to Shipwreck's Gold

A fugitive treasure hunter's company has lost its bid to stop deep-sea explorers from bringing up gold and other artifacts from a ship that sank off the South Carolina coast in 1857 and has been the subject of legal fights for nearly 30 years. In a ruling Wednesday, federal Judge Rebecca Beach Smith declared that an Ohio company, Recovery Limited Partnership, has the salvage rights to the ship, the SS Central America.

Smith rejected arguments from another Ohio company, Columbus America Discovery Group, that it had exclusive rights to the shipwreck under a court order and that Recovery Limited was trespassing and should be held in contempt of court.

Operating under a court-appointed receiver, Recovery Limited has contracted with a Florida company and has been recovering treasure from the shipwreck since April. It has recovered at least 1,000 ounces of gold but the exact details of the operation have been kept secret under a court seal.

The ship was in operation for four years during the California gold rush. It sailed into a hurricane in 1857 and sank in one of the worst maritime disasters in American history; 425 people were killed and thousands of pounds of gold sank with it.

Image: Gold bars recovered during Odyssey's first reconnaissance dive to the SS Central America shipwreck site off the coast of South Carolina
Gold bars are shown in this April 2014 handout photo provided by Odyssey Marine Explorations Inc May 5, 2014. The coins were salvaged 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. Odyssey Marine Explorations Inc via Reuters


- The Associated Press