A great American adventure story of the opening of Earth's last frontier.
In September 1857, the SS Central America, a side-wheel steamer carrying nearly six hundred passengers returning from the California Gold Rush, foundered in a hurricane and sank two hundred miles off the Carolina coast. Over four hundred lives and twenty-one tons of California gold were lost. It was the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history, a tragedy that remained lost in legend for over a century.
In the 1980s, a young engineer from Ohio set out to do what no one, not even the United States Navy, had been able to do: establish a working presence on the deep-ocean floor and open it to science, archaeology, mining, medicine, and recovery. The SS Central America became the target of his project. After years of intensive efforts, Tommy Thompson and the Columbus-America Discovery Group found the Central America in eight thousand feet of water, and in September 1989 they sailed into Norfolk with her recovered treasure: gold coins, bars, nuggets, and dust, plus steamer trunks filled with period clothes, newspapers, books, journals, and even an intact cigar sealed under water for 130 years. Life magazine called it "the greatest treasure ever found."
Now Gary Kinder tells for the first time this extraordinary tale of history, human drama, heroic rescue, scientific ingenuity, and individual courage. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea begins with a copiously researched historical record of the disaster, rendered in chilling detail with testimony from survivors and eyewitnesses. In a gripping narrative, the author re-creates the five days at sea in a rising hurricane and recounts the heroism of men like Captain William Herndon, the heartbreak of loss and separation for newlyweds like Addie and Ansel Easton, the daring rescue of women and children by a passing brig, and the eventual sinking of the Central America.
The book then becomes a fascinating account of the efforts of Tommy Thompson, the young visionary engineer who explodes boundaries of various disciplines---oceanography, computer science, information theory, and advanced robotics---to accomplish what everyone said was impossible: penetrate the deep ocean. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea is a testament to the human will to triumph over adversity. It is also a great American adventure story of the opening of Earth's last frontier
Thompson's Interest in Exploration
In the Summer of 1976, just having graduated from engineering school, Tommy Thompson went down to Key West to meet his childhood friend Barry Schatz, a reporter for the Miami Herald, who had just published a story on the infamous treasure hunter Mel Fisher. Tommy was intrigued with Fisher's search for the Atocha and joined his team for the summer.
That summer, after thousands of hours with their face masks down in the sand, the divers on the Arbutus had found nothing much more valuable than a barrel hoop. Yet they all wanted to be on the bottom, because as one put it, "If you're not down there, you're not going to find it." But more and more Tommy stayed topside trying to solve bigger problems and observing how others searched for treasure. He was more interested in why they couldn't find the Atocha than he was in seeing treasure, and as he watched, he got to thinking.
For two hundred years, fleets ...
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