Treasure hunter Herbert Humphreys, the former owner of the Holiday Inn Grand Cayman, and his team say they have dived and filmed a gold-laden steamship lost off the east coast of the United States before the American Civil War.
Mr. Humphreys, known as Herbo, said the 19th century steamship is located about 40 miles offshore, in international waters and that divers have already recovered some gold coins from the wreck.
“We have positively identified the wreck as described in the research of Dr. Robert Stenuit of Brussels, Belgium,” said Hank Hudson, vice president of Marex Global, a deep sea recovery company. “From this detailed research, which includes contemporary newspaper reports, we have every expectation of a profitable and interesting recovery of pre-Civil War coins and artefacts.”
According to Marex, it has detailed information on the steamship, her passengers, and the valuable gold cargo she carried. The ship’s passenger manifest included several prominent congressman, as well as wealthy passengers.
Mr. Humphreys said the company’s dive team had conducted on site dives and photographic surveys.
The team has codenamed the wreck the SS Caribe. Mr. Humphreys said the real name of the ship would be revealed once it had been salvaged.
Tim Hudson, president of Marex, said the depth of the water was perfect for this type of salvage operation.
“We have assembled a strong team to complete the recovery phase. Our team will be on site to begin actual salvage as weather permits,” he said.
The wreck is scattered over about 2,000 feet of sand, 100 feet deep in international waters, close to the Gulf Stream, Mr. Humphreys said.
“It is a 19th century steamship with a wooden hull, much like the SS Central America. It has on board American pre-Civil War gold coins, some of which have already been recovered,” said Mr. Humphreys.
The SS Central America was a United States Mail steamship that sank in deep water off the coast of the Carolinas during a hurricane in 1857.
It held tons of gold ingots, coins and nuggets from the western gold fields and was nicknamed the “Ship of Gold”. It was found in 1986 and the treasure was recovered.
Mr. Humphreys said the Marex team has six partners involved in the latest find. He said he is hoping more will join.
He and his longtime friend Kem Jackson, a fellow treasure hunter and master boat builder from West Bay in Grand Cayman, have salvaged many shipwrecks over the years. In 1983, they brought to the Cayman Islands artefacts from the wreck of HMS Thunderer lost in the 18th century between Cayman and Jamaica.
“Our intention is to buy a new ship and talk Kem into coming back with us as vice president and chief engineer, at least while we are on the wreck site,” he said.
Asked if he was planning to join the expedition, Mr. Jackson told the Caymanian Compass: “Anything is possible.”
In the meantime, Mr. Humphreys and the Marex team are making plans to return to the Bahamas to try to find the missing stern section of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Las the Maravillas – the richest wreck lost in this hemisphere. The Maravillas sank off the Bahamas in 1656.
The Marex team have also begun recovery of another steamship, the SS Caribe, which sank in 1840. They found that ship in 2011 and have since recovered many gold coins and watches from the wreck.
Other wrecks the Marex team have found over the years included the El Cazador, which sank in 1874, from which 400,000 ‘pieces of eight’ were recovered, the SS North Carolina from which two gold coins alone fetched US$420,000, the Vera Cruz, the Jupiter wreck, the ‘Henry VIII wreck, and the Ancona, an Italian liner in 1,800 feet off Sardinia.