Friday, August 24, 2007

1857 DISASTER !!

When the 272-foot wooden-hulled steamship SS Central America set sail from Panama for New York she had aboard 581 persons (many carrying great personal wealth) and over $1 million in commercial gold. She also bore a secret shipment of fifteen tons of federal gold, valued at twenty dollars per ounce, intended for the eastern banks.

Devoid of modern weather tracking devices, the Central America sailed directly into the path of a severe hurricane. For four days the steamer's passengers and crew bailed water and carried coal to keep her iron boilers lit.

Distress rockets finally attracted the attention of a small Boston brig, the Marine, to which the women and children were transferred. Most of the men remained aboard, however, with life preservers and the hope that another ship would pass. However, about 8:00 P.M. on Saturday, September 12, 1857, the Central America momentarily righted, lurched three times, and went down stern first in the Gulf Stream, 200 miles off the coast of South Carolina. Of the 478 men set adrift only 53 were later rescued by passing ships.

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