Ships Aren’t Always in Ship Shape

February 26, 2011
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Treasures- everyone loves them; gold, diamonds, jewelry, ingots and much more. A popular American treasure is the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Bound for New York with 578 passengers and crew, and thousands of pieces of mail, the S.S. Central America also held tons of gold coins, ingots, and dust mined from the western gold fields. In 1857, she sank off the coast of the Carolinas with a great loss of life and all the gold. After 131 years of sinking, she was found! Who would get the millions of dollars of gold encased in her metal hull?

Even if you don’t know maritime salvage laws, you could think the group who found the wreck could claim the gold for themselves. The only problem was the gold on the S.S. Central America belonged to the United States Government. Most of the gold on the S.S. Central America was being shipped to the United States in the form of coins. This was because in 1857, the United States did not have any coin mints. Gold was sent to Spain and made into American coins, then shipped back to the United States.
The shipwreck hunters who found the wreck claimed the coins and sold them to the public. Although I think the coins should be given back to the United States government, it is very nice that people could have a chance to own a piece of history. Shipwrecks happen every day and we don’t know about them; or at least until the information is leaked to the public. Many people are shocked to hear major shipwrecks have happened in the last 20 years. Here are three major incidents that happened in the last twenty years.

In 2002, the Wind Song, a small sailing cruise ship, had an engine room fire which resulted in the ship’s passengers being evacuated. The ship was destroyed but still floating. The owners had the ship scuttled (sunk) because they didn’t want to pay for the costs of scrapping the ship. This was a major maritime incident that occurred in France yet many people still don’t know about the disaster.

On May 20th, 1999, the Sun Vista, a classic cruise ship, was at sea on her final leg of a seven day cruise. That was all ruined after the ship’s engine room was engulfed in flames. Passengers scrambled to the lifeboats and the lifeboats were lowered. Shortly after the last boat was lowered into the water, the cruise ship started to take on water at an alarming rate. The ship’s crew rushed to lifeboats and then two hours later, the ship sank with a loss of less then 50 persons. The ship cost three hundred million dollars to construct. Three years after this incident, Vista Cruises, the cruise line operating the Sun Vista, went bankrupt.
In December 2000, the S.S. Sea Breeze sank off the coast of North Carolina due to a minor boiler explosion. When the boiler exploded, parts of the boiler ruptured the ship’s hull starting large leaks in the engine room. The ship took on tons of water and started to sink. Passengers and crew were evacuated and the ship started to sink faster and faster. Two and a half hours after the ship’s boiler exploded, the ship sunk underneath the waves. This ship sunk off the coast of the United States.

Shipwrecks happen every day. People might think that shipwrecks are only historical occurrences like the Titanic. Yet despite advances in maritime safety, laws, and ship design, ships still end up at the bottom of the ocean. They are left to drift only to hopefully one day be discovered by scientists, researchers, and maybe even by scuba divers out for a pleasure dive!





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