US Coins

Salvors recover coins from shipwreck site

Treasure salvors have reported recovering a number of gold and silver coins at a site off the coast of North Carolina believed to be the final resting place for the SS Pulaski, a vessel lost in 1838.

The past two months of salvage operations aboard the Blue Water Rose recovery vessel is a joint venture between Blue Water Ventures International from Green Cove Springs, Florida, and Endurance Exploration Group in Clearwater, Florida.

Micah Eldred, founder and CEO of Endurance Exploration Group, said the equivalent of as much as $150,000 face value in coins is reported to have been carried aboard the vessel.

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The American steam packet Pulaski was lost 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina when its starboard boiler exploded on June 14, 1838, sending the ship to the ocean floor in 45 minutes. Packet trade generally refers to any regularly scheduled cargo, passenger and mail trade conducted by ship. The ships are called “packet boats” as their original function was to carry mail.

Approximately half of the vessel’s 200 occupants, which included 37 crew members, died, many from being scalded by steam from the exploding boiler. The explosion occurred at 11 p.m., with many passengers in their bedclothes, having retired for the evening. The Pulaski was bound from Savannah, Georgia, to Baltimore.

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Blue Water Ventures marine archaeologist James Sinclair accompanied the crew and dove the site earlier in January.

According to Blue Water Ventures officials Jan. 25, “The main area of the wreck lies under approximately two to three feet of sand overburden,” explaining that overburden, also called waste or spoil, is the material that lies above an area that lends itself to economical exploitation, such as the rock, soil, and ecosystem that lies above a coal seam or ore body. The firm added, “Blue Water Rose divers noticed a small depression in the sand, and used a metal detector at close range to scan the area.

“After hand fanning the sand one gold coin was discovered. With further fanning a total of 14 gold coins and 24 silver coins of various origin and dates was recovered. All coins were brought to the deck for immediate conservation. Also recovered was a fascinating, small brass key and ceramic ware. Blue Water divers and Endurance personnel have been on the wreck site for approximately two months, and continue to work as weather permits.”

The coins recovered thus far were located approximately 115 feet below the ocean’s surface.

In a half dozen dives, approximately 70 U.S., Spanish, British and Mexican coins have been retrieved.

Eldred said Endurance Exploration enlisted Blue Water because of the latter’s experience in shallow water salvage. Eldred said the salvage operations have employed both human divers using commercial diving gear and specialists directing remote-operated vehicles.

Eldred said the salvors are not disclosing full details on every coin retrieved, as the finds are still subject to admiralty law, and the courts will still have to establish title before any of the finds can be sold. Eldred said Endurance Exploration is the physical custodian for items recovered from the wreck site.

Numismatic Guaranty Corp. in Sarasota, Florida, is assisting the salvors in cataloging the coins as they are retrieved. NGC will ultimately authenticate and encapsulate coins, after they are conserved through removal of incrustrations by NGC affiliate Numismatic Conservation Services, Eldred said.

The coins recovered date from the late 1700s through 1836, with a total face value of approximately $100, Eldred said

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