Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

by Gary Kinder, Kinder

Hardcover(Large Print)

View All Available Formats & Editions


"White knuckle reading...with generous portions of adventure, intrigue, heroism, and high technology interwoven."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review

This enthralling true story of maritime tragedy and visionary science begins with a disaster to rival the sinking of the Titanic.

In September 1857, the S.S. Central America, a side-wheel steamer carrying passengers returning from the gold fields of California, went down during a hurricane off the Carolina coast. More than 400 men--and 21 tons of gold--were lost. In the 1980s, a maverick engineer named Tommy Thompson set out to find the wreck and salvage its treasure from the ocean floor.

With knuckle-biting suspense, Gary Kinder reconstructs the terror of the Central America's last days, when passengers bailed freezing water from the hold, then chopped the ship's timbers to use as impromptu liferafts. He goes on to chronicle Thompson's epic quest for the lost vessel, an endeavor that drew on the latest strides in oceanography, information theory, and underwater robotics, and that pitted Thompson against hair-raising weather, bloodthirsty sharks, and unscrupulous rivals.

Ship of Gold is a magnificent adventure, filled with heroism, ingenuity, and perseverance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780783803777
Publisher: Cengage Gale
Publication date: 11/01/1998
Series: G. K. Hall Nonfiction Ser.
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 775
Product dimensions: 6.43(w) x 9.49(h) x 1.63(d)

About the Author

Gary Kinder is the author of the best-selling books Victim and Light Years. He began researching this story in 1987 and was aboard the Arctic Discoverer in 1989, when Thompson announced his find to the public. Gary Kinder lives in Seattle with his wife and two daughters. He teaches advanced writing seminars to lawyers across the country.

Read an Excerpt

Outside Battelle, Tommy was now amassing voluminous notes on underwater technology, beginning to formulate relationships with suppliers, and corresponding with historical archives at several libraries on the East Coast. For years he had collected information on deep-water, historic shipwrecks, and the list had grown to forty. He and Bob met more frequently, together refining what they called the Historic Shipwreck Selection Process and narrowing the targets to a project Tommy could present to investors. "We developed the language as we went along," said Bob, "the selection criteria for projects in general, and then we analyzed the risks involved with each ship."

They divided risk into intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic risks were those inherent to the site: probability of previous recovery, accuracy of historical documentation, and the environment around the site. All deep-water shipwrecks scored high in the first category; most of them scored high in the second category; few of them did well in the third. Shipwrecks with a high total score then advanced to form a universe of "Feasibly Recoverable Shipwrecks with Low Intrinsic Risk."

Next, they assessed the extrinsic risks, those that had to do with recovery: Favorable Operational Factors, Positive Site Security, Legal Rights Obtainable. Is the technology available to access that site, can we guarantee site security in that area of the world, and do we have legal protection?

Once they had eliminated all ships but those with low intrinsic and low extrinsic risks, each ship had to pass a final test: Was there anything on board worth recovering?

The Titanic was a hunk of steel seven hundred feet long that would burn a hole through a sonar chart; even if it rested in mountainous territory, they could probably find it, and the abundant historical documentation would help them narrow the search area. But the Titanic presented two insurmountable risks: Her steel hull would be impossible to penetrate even with the technology Tommy saw on the horizon. And if they could get inside, she carried nothing worth recovering; some loose jewelry perhaps, rings and bracelets and necklaces scattered in various small cubicles, but no treasure centrally stored, nothing they could use to make the payoff attractive to investors.

"In terms of financial risk," said Bob, "the Titanic was not a good project."

Other deep-water ships presented similar problems. Myths had arisen around some of them that tons of gold lay stored in secure compartments. But no historical data supported the myths. In 1909, the British White Star luxury liner Republic had gone down fifty miles off Nantucket, and for decades, rumors had circulated that it had taken millions in gold coins with it. But no official records existed. "Sure, there were a lot of rich people on board," said Bob,"but how much was in the purser's safe? Nobody knows."

The Andrea Doria, an Italian liner hailed by her owners as the "Grande Dame of the Sea," collided with another ship in dense fog in 1956 and also went down just off Nantucket. She was a glistening seven-hundred-foot floating museum of murals, rare wood panels, and ceramics designed by Italian artists, and her passengers also were wealthy, but once again myth about the treasure on board sprouted from rumor with no documentation.

Tommy and Bob were convinced that the San José had carried more than a billion dollars in treasure to the bottom when British warships landed a cannonball in her munitions cache and sank her in 1708. But the San José was off the coast of Colombia in murky, turbulent waters.

After many deep-water shipwrecks were run through the selection process, the sidewheel steamer SS Central America rose to the top in every category. It had sunk in an era of accurate record keeping and reliable navigation instruments. Dozens of witnesses had testified to the sinking, and five ship captains had given coordinates that placed the ship in an area where sediment collected no faster than a centimeter every thousand years. The extrinsic risks looked as favorable: She had a wooden hull, which would be easier to get into, and massive iron works in her steam engines and boilers that would provide a good target for sonar, even if much of the iron had corroded and disappeared. And it was off the coast of the United States, so they wouldn't have to negotiate with a foreign government and they could more easily provide site security.

One other thing appealed to Tommy and Bob: the ship was American and its treasure symbolized one of the most defining periods in American history, that narrow window running from the California Gold Rush through the Civil War. If they could find it, they would open a time capsule representing an entire nation during a crucial period in its formation.

"The Central America," said Bob, "scored much, much higher than any other project when subjected to this selection process."

And her gold shipment was documented: With gold valued at $20 an ounce in 1857, the publicly reported commercial shipment totaled between $1.210 and $1.6 million. Although many of the Central America's records, including her cargo manifest, had been destroyed in the Great San Francisco Fire of 1906, some accounts estimated that the gold carried by the passengers at least equaled the commercial shipment. And the Department of the Army recently had confirmed a story approaching myth that had circulated for years: that the Central America carried an official secret shipment of gold destined to shore up the faltering northern industrial economy. The letter, dated April 2, 1971, acknowledged that the information about the shipment had been declassified, and it verified that secreted in her hold the Central America had also carried six hundred fifty-pound bar boxes, or another thirty thousand pounds of gold.

Table of Contents

Ship of Gold........................................................17
The Deep Blue Sea..................................................241


On Friday, June 5, welcomed Gary Kinder, author of SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA.

Moderator: Good evening, and welcome to the live Auditorium. Author Gary Kinder joins us to chat about the extraordinary account of the sinking of the U.S.S. Central America, and the ultimate discovery of its sunken treasure, in his latest book, SHIP OF GOLD IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA. Mr. Kinder joins us via telephone this evening. Good evening, Mr. Kinder! Thank you for taking the time to join us online this evening. How are you tonight?

Gary Kinder: Doing just great.

Cheryl from Illinois: Where and when did the ship sink?

Gary Kinder: The SS Central America sank in 1857 off the Carolina coast.

Elise from Brooklyn, NY: What type of research did you do to get the information of what happened prior to the USS Central America's sinking?

Gary Kinder: There were a lot of survivors of the tragedy, and when they got to shore they told their stories, which were in newspapers for weeks, so we went through all the newspaper accounts and discovered journals that currently belonged to families that had been passed down in the families, written by passengers.

Paul from Are you still in touch with Tommy Thompson? What is he doing these days?

Gary Kinder: Yes, I am still in touch with Tommy; he just called me last week, although I was out of town. I am not sure what exactly he is doing these days. I only know a little bit about it, and what I do know I can't talk about. Stay tuned, you will be hearing a lot more about Tommy Thompson, who is continuing to work in the deep ocean.

Hank from What was your favorite part to write of SHIP OF GOLD? I have recently started it and am amazed at how elaborately detailed so many aspects of this story are.

Gary Kinder: As always, it is talking to the people. I had a few favorite parts. I really liked hanging out with Tommy, Bob Evans, and Barry Shot. They are funny, creative, imaginative, and really bright people. I also think it is interesting being on the ship while they were working on the bottom. It is a very, very arduous life out there. I was only out there for short periods of time, but it was a fascinating experience.

Dave Anderson from NYC: What is Tommy Thompson like?

Gary Kinder: Tommy Thompson is unique, you don't know anybody like Tommy Thompson; as my editor once said, he has an elegant mind. He is frustrating, he is a very demanding person, he pushes people way beyond what they think they are capable of, but he is also brilliant and by pushing people the way he does, he gets them into areas they never thought of going to. He also is very funny and interested in everything you could imagine. As I mention in the book, he hardly ever sleeps and has tremendous amounts of energy. I think that in the future, you will read about him in the same paragraph with Bell, Edison, Ford, Gates, etc.

Chad from New Jersey: Why do you think Thompson was able to accomplish what the Navy's engineers couldn't?

Gary Kinder: Tommy went back to the fork in the road and looked at the landscape and reexamined the path that led to conventional wisdom and figured that everybody had gone off in the wrong direction. He simply rethought the entire approach conceptually to working the deep ocean. And he had people in the Navy who were deep ocean experts -- who had been involved in many deep-water recoveries -- who told him he could not do what he was about to do. If you notice pictures of the vehicle, Nemo, you will see the front of this 12,000-pound robot, with all the sexy instruments, cameras, manipulators, thrusters, etc., but you never see the back end -- that is where all the conceptual thinking went. And one more thing about Tommy is that he looks at each step, isolates each step, and analyzes it and looks at it from all different angles and asks why can't we do this little part and figures out that you probably can figure out this little part. He then goes to the next one and does the same thing. It is just his methodical, creative approach.

Timothy from Cleveland, OH: I saw the "Dateline" piece the other night, and I am very interested in this story...this is one of the few times that I was happy to hear that somebody got superrich. Do you think that it is a pretty common sentiment to have people happy for Thompson's tremendous fortune?

Gary Kinder: Yes, it was the old David versus Goliath. In Newsweek's review, the last line was, "Who would have thought you could have so much fun reading about other people getting rich." You realize, too, that these guys didn't win the lottery. They didn't get lucky. He had many 20-hour days, many setbacks, and people telling him he couldn't do it. And he perceived and ultimately prevailed. I think it is very common for people to root for him.

Jennifer Sternberg from Oak Park, IL: From what I have read about your book, it seems like it is not just an account of what happened, but also quite a dramatic read. What sort of book is it, in your own words? What was it like to write about the lives of the passengers? How did you learn about these details?

Gary Kinder: SHIP OF GOLD is as near as can be documented of what happened; nothing is made up. All this is based on the interviews that were given by the survivors and some collateral research about the times and steamships back then. It was interesting reading about these people. I think what really moved me about the historical aspect was the heroism displayed by those 500 men. Only about 30 of them had family onboard, and yet they bailed without food and sleep for 30 hours, nonstop, to try to save the ship long enough to get the women and children off. And the heroism of the captain...he is someone I would love to have dinner with. There is a wonderful love story, that is true, between Ansell and Addie Easton. I got a phone call this morning from a great-great-grandson of the Eastons, and he was literally in tears. It was interesting and gratifying to make that contact.

Dorsey from Lebanon, NH: Does your book cover the lawsuit brought up by the various insurance companies that had to cough up money for the insured gold? Was that a huge trial for its day?

Gary Kinder: The lawsuit was resolved at the end of '96. I do not go into much detail about the trial. It is actually included in the epilogue, where I explain what the lawsuits were about, the different courts that heard the lawsuits, and the ultimate decision.

Joe from Westchester, NY: Have you read THE PERFECT STORM? What are a couple of books that you have recently read and would recommend?

Gary Kinder: I have read about half of THE PERFECT STORM. I think that Junger did a wonderful job making a story out of that. Currently I am enthralled with COLD MOUNTAIN. It deserves everything that it has gotten.

Kingsley Keaton from Bradenton, IL: What sort of hurricane was it, on a modern scale? Was it as big as, say, Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida a few years ago?

Gary Kinder: I don't know...we can only guess -- once we get to a certain point we don't know. I actually downplayed that point, I described 75- to 80-knot winds and 35-foot waves. They could have been 60-70 feet and wind at 130-140 knots, but I wanted to stay within reasonable parameters. We do know that a lot of seamen who were caught in the storm described it as one of the worst they had ever seen.

Kristie Johnson from Greenwich, CT: Did you know that "Titanic" would create such a rush of enthusiasm for books like yours when you wrote it? Also, from what you know about the sinking, what did you think of the film?

Gary Kinder: I will spend the rest of my life explaining to people why the timing of the publication had nothing to do with the movie "Titanic." I began researching SHIP OF GOLD in 1987, long before there was any attempt at a modern film on the Titanic. We tried to get the book published for three or four years and for various reasons, which included Tommy's willingness to divulge additional secrets about his technology and his capability and the lawsuits surrounding the story, we couldn't publish it until this spring. SHIP OF GOLD was actually cataloged by my publisher four times. For the movieI loved it and thought it was wonderful and was completely engrossed in it for 3-1/4 hours. And yet to get that movie made, James Cameron had to have a lot of the same belief in himself and the same steely resolve to see it through that Tommy Thompson had to accomplish what he did in the deep ocean.

Ryan from XXx: Have you ever personally been to the bottom of the ocean? What is that like?

Gary Kinder: No. Nobody in Tommy Thompson's group has been to the bottom of the ocean. I have scuba [dived] down fairly deep. Tommy Thompson's very first decision was no man submersibles.

Bob Weller from Concord, CA: What were you more personally interested in the story of the ship or the story behind the discovery of the gold?

Gary Kinder: Probably the story behind the discovery because I am fascinated by people who spend their lives doing what other people say they can't do. People who look at insurmountable odds and find ways to surmount them. I also was very touched by the Eastons and the captain of the SS Central America.

Gerard Finkell from Key West, FL: Did you visit the site where the ship sank? Could you describe it to us?

Gary Kinder: It is at 8,000 feet. I have visited above the site and was aboard the Arctic Discover twice. It is 160-170 miles out. Again, nobody goes down on the ship, in fact they just drop the rope out and 1 to 1-1/2 hours later it hits the bottom. All the people sit in an air-conditioned control room and sip on their hot coffee while doing the work, and I did exactly that except I don't drink coffee.

Frank from Greensboro, NC: What do you think of the sea as the Earth's final frontier? How has new technology changed the exploration of the ocean?

Gary Kinder: It is a new frontier; we are still exploring space as well, but the ocean is so inhospitable that we know so little about it. Everybody knows that water covers about two thirds of the earth's surface, but what we haven't stopped to contemplate is that life on land exists in a space of about 300 vertical feet; the ocean is 10,000 feet deep, and we are slowly discovering that the entire volume is filled with life, which means that probably, instead of two thirds of the Earth's surface, 97-99 percent of the volume of the living habitat on Earth is in the ocean. I have to give credit to a New York Times science writer, William Broad, who made this statement. We can do a lot of things on the bottom of the ocean, we can film, take photos, recover crude oil, but Tommy Thompson wanted to establish what he called a "working presence" on the bottom of the deep ocean. He wanted to stay down there, [with] tools to do anything that we could do on land. He wanted these tools to be interchangeable at will while remaining at the bottom. He wanted to be able to perform delicate, intricate, and heavy work. And these were the things that nobody else had been able to do. At the Central America site alone, scientists have already ID'ed 13 new life-forms. And Tommy's technology has allowed archaeologists to open a time capsule that was sealed on September 12th of 1857. There will be many more advancements. I believe from what little I know that that is the wave of the future. No pun intended...

Mitch from Marlboro, MA: What would you consider the most surprising thing you discovered while writing this book?

Gary Kinder: One of the most surprising things, which really isn't that much of a surprise, is how dark it is down there. Below about 500-600 feet, the ocean becomes pure black. That is why all of these pictures you see of the Titanic are artists' renderings. Because the lighting can only illuminate about 30 feet into the darkness. Every time I picture the Central America, I picture it moldering on the bottom, as though I can see it, but in reality it is moldering in complete darkness unseen.

Sid from Baton Rouge, LA: What are you working on now? Can we expect anything new from you in the near future?

Gary Kinder: I am taking a break from writing for a while. I am just now starting the tour. I have a lot of slides -- gold on the bottom of the ocean, the vehicle, crew members, the recovery ship, etc. I will be doing that the next couple of months, and around the country I teach an advanced writing seminar to lawyers, and my next book will probably be about that, but other than that I have no nonfiction projects on the drawing board.

Martin from Springfield, VA: Will you be going on a tour for this book? Any chance you will be speaking in the D.C. area?

Gary Kinder: On the East Coast I will be in Charleston on Friday, June 26th, Saturday I will be in Savannah, Monday the 29th I will be in Philadelphia, and Tuesday the 30th I will in Washington, D.C., at Olssons at 1200 F Street at 7pm ET. Annapolis on Wednesday, July 1st, and I will be at the B&N on Solomons Island Road. Then I will be in Norfolk on Thursday, July 2nd, and I will be at a B&N at 7 30 that eveing in Newport News.

Moderator: Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Gary Kinder. It has truly been a pleasure. Congratulations on the book! Before you go, any last words for your readers?

Gary Kinder: Once again, I have this fascination with people who strive to achieve the impossible, and I hope it spurs others, especially young people, to stretch.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read and re-read this awesome book. If ever there were a true story of deep interest to all numismatic collectors and treasure-hunters, this is it. It's beautifully narrated -- it's no cliche that you can't put it down -- it's a fact! The preceding review by Barnes & Noble about says it all; however, it's extremely difficult to describe the true excitement that this book generates! I give this book an unadulterated FIVE STARS. --
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outstanding character, intelligence, dedication and integrity of all who made this happen. And especially their leader Tommy Thompson
kenno82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The publisher needs to revisit the cover and the title. I thought it would be as interesting as reading the Sunday classifieds on first look. However, Kinder has provided a compelling account of one hell of an underwater adventure. I'd never heard of the sinking of Central America, but the tragedy is unique in terms of size, history and consequence. The book follows the project to find and salvage the wreckage. It's a great read. It reminded me a little of Shadow Divers, both in terms of the story, the way it's told and the enthusiasm and drive of the protagonists.
afterlifewriter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A marvelous book; a real page turner. Keep the reader's interest through all the 400 + pages.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1857, the SS Central America, a "side-wheeler steamer" sank, taking over 400 lives--and taking with it 21 tons of gold from the California Gold Rush. The book tells two entwined stories. That of the heroic efforts to save the ship and the struggles of the survivors, and over a hundred years later the tale of Tommy Thompson, a seemingly eccentric inventor, but one with the training of an engineer and the spirit of an entrepreneur who sees the recovery of the ship's treasures not just "as an end in itself, but as a way to learn how to work in the deep ocean" given the wreck was at a crushing depth in the ocean lower than many mountains are high. The author handled both halves of his tale well. I bought this book after reading The Perfect Storm, a truly fascinating tale of the sea. Ship of Gold scratched that itch as a great tale of the sea, of science, of human heroism and tragedy and adventure. It's something else I don't see much of--a tale of entrepreneurship. Of smarts and risks and high stakes. The challenges posed in the enterprise included historical, legal, technological, financial, poaching from competitors--and especially the sea, which many experts considered more forbidding to exploration than the moon. Given just the information in the back of the book, I thought I'd know how this book would turn out, yet the author managed to make it page-turning and suspenseful, making me more riveted to the page the further I read. Kinder had a great story to tell and it wasn't wasted on him.
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Weaves together the tales of a historical shipwreck and the high-tech deep-water search for its treasure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have reread this amazing story of a Tommy Thompson and his unique belief in what is possible at least five times
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great tale
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This narrative recounts the discovery and retrieval of piles of gold--gold bars, gold coins, and gold nuggets--from the SS Central America, which sank off the coast of North Carolina in a hurricane in September 1857. This was about 140 miles off the coast, on the other side of the Gulf Stream, in waters deeper than 8,000 feet. The book weaves the story of the original final voyage, sinking, rescue of survivors, loss of more than 400 passengers and crew, and loss of more that 20 tons of California Gold Rush gold, together with the search for the long-lost ship and the efforts to retrieve the treasure and many other artifacts--a major advancement in deep water technology work. This was a very long book, more than 500 pages, but well worth the read, which portrays an American tragedy redeemed by an American dreamer with boot-straps ingenuity and perseverance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an engineer by training, and I was inspired by Tommy's growth from a tinkering youngster to a disciplined and profoundly entrepreneurial engineer. In some ways, this is an interweaving of the stories of Titanic and Apollo 13. From Titanic you'll find the drama of a respected captain, a trusted vessel, and the hopes, dreams, and loves of hundreds on board--and a disaster which smashes it all. From Apollo 13 you'll find the marriage of human aspiration and human ingenuity--sometimes under unbelievable pressure--to see a project through: a project which has become greater than the sum of its parts. I've read plenty of books, and I'd say this is among the best I've read. Tommy deserves the credit and attention he's given. He earned the respect of every engineer, mariner, jurist, historian, investor, accountant and scientist he came in contact with. Now Kinder has allowed us to see his ability.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I like the way the author took the reader back and forth from the past to the present. It was interesting to see how much planning and inguenuity it took to accomplish the recovery of the gold. Once the treasure was found, I have to admit to having a mild case of 'gold fever' due to the vivid descriptions provided by G. Kinder. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because of the Tommy praising!!!! Alright already he certainly must walk on water, and if he doesn't he'll surely invent a way to. Inspite of the Tommy factor, this is a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was most impressed by the unbelievable persistence of Tommy ... and the incredible devotion to detail involved in the recovery of the gold. Surely as much attention was paid to minutia and history as was the understandable pursuit of wealth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Could not put this book down. First chapter or two was intense. The what and the how the team went through to salvage this ship was fantastic. This book has drama, history, and science.