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Shipwreck Hunter Recovers Gold From Atlantic Site

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Odyssey Marine Exploration
Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc.'s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) ZEUS returns to the surface following work on a deep-ocean shipwreck site. Source: Odyssey Marine Exploration via Bloomberg

(Corrects conversion to kilograms in second paragraph of story published May 5.)

May 5 (Bloomberg) -- Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc., a marine salvager specializing in extracting cargoes from sunken ships, recovered its first gold from a 19th-century vessel lying more than a mile beneath the Atlantic Ocean.

Odyssey recovered almost 1,000 ounces (31 kilograms) on April 15 during its first reconnaissance dive to the wreck of the SS Central America. The precious metals included five gold ingots and two $20 Double Eagle coins, Tampa, Florida-based Odyssey said today in a statement.

“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,” the company said.

The Central America, a sidewheel steamer, sank in 1857, 160 miles (260 kilometers) off the coast of South Carolina, with the loss of 425 lives. Previous recovery efforts in 1989 through 1991 netted more than two tons of gold. Odyssey said in March that based on certain assumptions, including that the remaining items are in the form of Double Eagle coins, there may still be $86 million of gold at the site.

The two Double Eagle coins recovered in the April 15 dive were minted in 1857 and 1850, while the gold ingots were stamped with assayer’s marks and weights that range from 96.5 to 313.5 troy ounces, Odyssey said today.

The dive took place as Odyssey’s research vessel, the Odyssey Explorer, was en route from the U.K. to Charleston, South Carolina, to prepare for the SS Central America project.

‘Archaeological Excavation’

Only a few items were recovered because the dive was focused on reconnaissance, Odyssey said. The items brought up from the site also included a bottle, a piece of pottery, a sample of the shipwreck’s wooden structure, and part of a scientific experiment that was left at the site more than 20 years ago.

Odyssey was contracted for the salvage work by Ira Owen Kane, a court-appointed receiver for the companies that undertook the original recovery project that ended in the early 1990s. Odyssey will receive 80 percent of recovery proceeds until a fixed fee and a negotiated day rate are paid. After that, Odyssey will get 45 percent.

The company said it will begin its archaeological excavation of the wreck once it has completed survey of the site.

Odyssey is being targeted by short-seller Ryan Morris of hedge fund Meson Capital Partners LLC, who said in March it was unlikely Odyssey would find any easily recoverable gold at the SS Central America site.

Odyssey rose 7.6 percent to $2.27 at the close in New York. The shares have gained 12 percent this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Liezel Hill in Toronto at lhill30@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Casey at scasey4@bloomberg.net Robin Saponar

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