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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
US shipwreck could yield millions
Rudder of what is believed to be the S.S Republic
The steamer was transporting funds for post-Civil War reconstruction
American experts say they have located the remains of a sunken 19th-Century steamship that could contain one of the richest cargoes ever recovered from a shipwreck.

The SS Republic was carrying thousands of gold coins, now possibly worth $150m, from New York to New Orleans when it sank off the coast of Georgia in 1865, according to newspaper accounts and historical records.

Greg Stemm and John Morris from Odyssey Marine Explorations, who have spent 12 years searching for the vessel, revealed on Saturday that they had found it last month.

Documentation and excavation of the shipwreck site using remote-controlled robotic equipment is due to begin in September.

Hurricane

Crews from Odyssey combed 3,840 square kilometres (1,500 square miles) in the hunt for the SS Republic.

John Morris (left) and Greg Stemm (right) review targets during the search operations
For Odyssey's explorers Morris and Stemm it is a dream come true
In the last two years, advanced sonar and magnetometer technology boosted their search.

The vessel believed to be the steamer was located in 510 metres (1,700 feet) of water about 160 kilometres (100 miles) off Savannah, Georgia.

"After all the years of searching for this particular shipwreck, finally finding it with just an incredible team of folks, it's just an indescribable feeling," Mr Stemm told the Associated Press.

The Republic, launched in Baltimore in 1853 under the name Tennessee, set sail bound for New Orleans on 18 October, 1865 with money sent to help finance reconstruction in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

On 23 October, the steamship with more 80 passengers and crew on board ran into a fierce hurricane off the Georgia coast.

Most were able to board lifeboats and get off alive.

A day later, the SS Republic sank to the bottom of the sea.

British treasure

According to Odyssey's website, a video inspection of the site revealed the starboard side-wheel partially buried by sediment. The ship's rudder can also be seen as well as a number of personal artefacts and bottles.

These include preserved bottles of fruit and other foods with corks still intact.

Odyssey, which is based in Tampa, Florida, is involved in several projects to search for shipwrecks.

Last year, the company entered into a partnership with the UK Government to excavate the wreck of a 17th-Century British warship which it found near the Straits of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean.

The HMS Sussex is believed to have gone down with nine tonnes of gold coins on board - a hoard that could be worth millions of dollars.


SEE ALSO:
Shipwreck 'could yield billions'
25 Feb 02  |  Europe
Hunting for Cuba's hidden treasure
23 Nov 02  |  From Our Own Correspondent


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