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Bell May Identify Ship Lost with Up to $180 Million

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MIAMI (Reuters) - A bell recovered off Georgia's coast could be proof that a Florida treasure salvage company has found a ship that sank almost 140 years ago with a cargo of up to $180 million in gold, the company said on Tuesday.


The bronze bell bears the inscribed letters "SSEE." The paddlewheel steamship, called the S.S. Republic when it sank, was originally named the S.S. Tennessee and ship's bells typically would carry the ship's original name, Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. said.


The Tampa, Florida-based firm said the rest of the inscription on the bell, found near the bow of the wreck, would not be visible until it was cleaned.


Odyssey announced in August that it believed it had found the Republic, which sank in a hurricane on Oct. 25, 1865, off Savannah, Georgia, reportedly with a cargo of 20,000 or more gold coins destined to pay for the reconstruction of the U.S. South following the Civil War.


The company's underwater robot found the wreck in 1,700 feet of water about 100 miles southeast of Savannah. The starboard side-wheel is visible but partially buried in sediment and the wreck site is littered with bottles and personal items.


The double-decked, 210-foot (64-meter) ship, en route from New York to New Orleans when it went down, was believed to carry gold coins then worth $400,000, Odyssey said.


The company said a coin expert has estimated the coins' retail value today could be $120 million to $180 million.


Odyssey said it began salvage work at the wreck site in early October using a remotely operated underwater vehicle.


"Detailed exploration of the site has begun and we are simply amazed at the cornucopia of well-preserved artifacts lying down there," Odyssey co-founder Greg Stemm said in a statement.


The Republic was launched as the S.S. Tennessee in August 1853, according to the company's research. During the U.S. Civil War, it served as a Confederate blockade runner.


Investors later bought the ship, renamed her the S.S. Republic and assigned her to the New York-New Orleans route.

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Some interesting information Greg - thanks. It seems like these finds are accelerating as so much of our underwater and remote sensing technology improves. Pretty neat stuff.



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