I just finished a book that was a New York Times best seller almost 20 years ago, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea.
In 1857, the steamship SS Central America in a hurricane sank in 7,200 feet of water 160 miles off the coast of South Carolina. Before the Panama Canal, travelers from California bound for the east coast would take a ship to Panama, cross the isthmus and board another ship at Colón on the Caribbean side for the trip up to the east coast. In addition to the passengers carrying a small fortune in gold from their times in the California gold fields, the ship was carrying tons of gold coins minted in San Francisco and gold ingots to the east coast banks.
The author goes into great detail not only in the eventual recovery of the gold but a background of the ship’s passengers and crew, and a light background of the searching and recovery of ship’s treasure, starting with Mel Fisher and his discovery of the Spanish galleon Atocha.
Much of the story involves the brilliant engineer who developed the apparatus allowing them to recover not only the gold but other historical ship’s artifacts.
Who would have thought that a New York newspaper would still be legible after 131 years of being 7,000 feet down in the water?
I have a couple. Sometimes I felt that the author went into too much detail over things just best lightly covered, such as the extensive background of Tommy Thompson and some of the investors of Columbus Ohio who bankrolled this expedition.
But then this same level of detail revealed the methodical way Thompson used both historical accounts and mathematical formulas to isolate the likely positions of the Central America. And the author went into great detail about how Thompson conceptualized and built the underwater remotely controlled recovery device, on a comparative financial shoestring.
It was a device with capability that nobody, including the US Navy, had.
The author also went into some detail on the history of the manned submersibles. Did you know that the US Navy’s Alvin was built by General Mills? The same company known for Wheaties and Lucky Charms cereals?
So maybe I should in my own mind take the “good” and “excess” detail together and let each reader decide…
Oh, my other minor complaint?
All that the reader learns about what was recovered and the book had not one picture. So I just ordered this book from amazon.