​Shipwreck Gold Treasure Identified Off East Coast​​

By: | 06/06/2021 06:15 PM ET

A shipwreck from the 19th-cetury, that may also contain a treasure in gold, has been identified off the coast of South Carolina as the SS Ozama, a 216-foot-long iron-hulled steamship.

The gold was on the ship after it launched in Scotland in 1881 as the Craigallion, and was active with helping to build the Panama Canal in the Caribbean Seas.

The ship suffered a wreck in the Bahamas in 1885 and was rechristened Ozama after a river in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a frequent port of call. But in 1894, on its way to Charleston, S.C., the Ozama struck the shoals off Cape Romain, S.C.

A New York Times report from 1894 describes how the wreck “stove a hole in the engine-room compartment. The water quickly filled the fire rooms, rendering the engines useless. The steamer floated off the shoals soon after striking, and at 2 a.m. sank in six and a half fathoms of water.”

The captain and crew were saved, but the ship was declared a total loss.

Fast-forward to 1979, when the wreck of an unidentified ship was seen off the South Carolina coast during a magnetometer survey on other shipwrecks conducted by renowned underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence, WBTV News 13 reports.

“The secret is out. We’ve discovered the wreck of the SS Ozama,” Spence wrote on his Facebook page.

But Spence said what “definitely has me excited” is the opportunity to find a bounty in gold and other treasure on the Ozama due to its checkered past in illegal smuggling operations. “Her colorful history is packed with events such as a mutiny and extensive gun and money smuggling to Haiti,” Spence said, as quoted by Discovery News.

Indeed, a New York Times report from 1888 claims the ship was carrying “1,000 stands of arms, 3 Gatling guns and 500,000 cartridges to Cape Haytien [a Haitian port] … doubtless for the use of Hyppolyte’s soldiers,” referring to the president of Haiti.

President Florvil Hyppolyte and his supporters were at the time locked in a power struggle for control of Haiti. In poor health, Hyppolyte’s supporters desperately needed arms and money to fend off political rivals, so it’s likely the Ozama was carrying gold as well as arms.