19th century smuggler ship found off the SC coast - WBTW-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Florence, SC

19th century smuggler ship found off the SC coast

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Dr. Spence initially found the wreck in 1979 but it wasn't until recently that he discovered what the ship really was Dr. Spence initially found the wreck in 1979 but it wasn't until recently that he discovered what the ship really was
Dr. Spence initially found the wreck in 1979 but it wasn't until recently that he discovered what the ship really was Dr. Spence initially found the wreck in 1979 but it wasn't until recently that he discovered what the ship really was
Dr. Spence has been discovering shipwrecks for over 50 years and some of his most noted finds have included the H.L. Hunley and SS Georgiana. Dr. Spence has been discovering shipwrecks for over 50 years and some of his most noted finds have included the H.L. Hunley and SS Georgiana.
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CHARLESTON, SC -

The wreck of a 19th century iron hulled steamer was announced Monday by Dr. E. Lee Spence. 

Dr. Spence has been discovering shipwrecks for over 50 years and some of his most noted finds have included the H.L. Hunley and SS Georgiana. In all his time, though, he says "this one definitely has me excited."

The wreck of the SS Ozama, which happened in 1894, occurred just off the outer shoal of Cape Romain, South Carolina. Dr. Spence says that it is "in surprisingly good condition with most of the ship relatively intact and sitting upright."

The 1028 ton, 216 foot vessel was built in 1881 in Scotland and was used as a British steamer called the Craigallion. Four years later it wrecked off the coast of the Bahamas, was salvaged, and renamed the SS Ozama after the river in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, one of its regular ports.

Over the years, the ship would smuggle arms and munitions to the Caribbean as well as large amounts of money. It was once seized by Haiti, sparking an international incident that resulted in a Captain of a U.S. warship threatening to shell the city of Port-au-Prince unless the steamer was immediately released.

In November of 1894, on her way to Charleston from Philadelphia, she struck the shoals of Cape Romain, resulting in a hole of the hull near engine room. According to newspapers from that time, she was bound for the Dominican Republic with 3 Gatling guns, 1,000 stands of arms and 500,000 cartridges. The steamer was also reportedly carrying gold.

Dr. Spence initially found the wreck in 1979 but it wasn't until recently that he discovered what the ship really was. "I had absolutely no idea it might be valuable until this year when I finally learned her identity during a research on other wrecks."

Dr Spence is recognized as the "true and exclusive owner" of the wreck site, which includes debris believed to be from other shipwrecks. He hopes to find cargo and even intact gold.  "As you might guess, I am hoping to find gold, and gold should not only be intact, it should still be shiny."

Dr Spence and his team will continue to map the wreck before they start to dig into it.

 

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