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September 12, 1857 - The World’s Richest Shipwreck

Saturday, September 12th 2020, 6:07 am - At the time of its sinking, Central America SS carried gold then valued at approximately US$8 million (2019 equivalent is US$550 million, assuming a gold value of $1,528.40 per troy ounce).

Sept 12 1857 As a consequence of the SS Central America sinking, 425 people were killed. Photo: Pexels

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SS Central America, known as the Ship of Gold, was a 280-foot (85 metres) sidewheel steamer that operated between Central America and the eastern coast of the United States during the 1850s. It was originally named the SS George Law, after Mr. George Law of New York.

On Sept. 3, 1857, 477 passengers and 101 crew left the Panamanian port of Colón, sailing for New York City under the command of William Lewis Herndon. The ship was laden with 10 short tonnes of gold that was obtained during the California Gold Rush.

Six days later, the ship was caught in a Category 2 hurricane off the Carolina coast. By Sept. 11, the 105 m.p.h. (170 km/h) winds and heavy seas had shredded its sails, taking on water and resulting in a failing boiler. SS Central America sank at 8 p.m. on Sept. 12.

Only 153 passengers, primarily women and children, made their way into lifeboats. The ship remained in an area of intense winds and heavy seas that pulled the ship and most of the company away from rescue. As a result of the sinking, 425 people were killed.

At the time of its sinking, SS Central America carried gold then valued at approximately US$8 million (2019 equivalent is US$550 million, assuming a gold value of $1,528.40 per troy ounce).

On today's podcast, Chris Mei discusses how the SS Central America sank and the financial impact of its loss to the U.S. economy at the time.

"This Day In Weather History” is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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