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SS Republic - Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachusetts

SS Republic
Civil War-Era Ship Discovered

Image: Peabody Essex Museum, Salem Massachusetts
Click here to see a larger view of the image... zoom image

East Coast Diving | Shipwreck Corner | Shipwreck Gallery


After a 12 year search, the Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. received a report on November 07, 2003 from its recovery vessel called the RV Odyssey Explorer that they believed they have found the sunken remains of an 1860s steamer called the SS Republic, which could yield thousands of gold coins worth as much as $180 million. After careful archaeological excavation of the site using Odyssey's Sediment Removal and Filtration system a substantial number of gold coins were revealed. Once numismatic experts have had the opportunity to inspect the recovered coins, the company intends to release their reports detailing the number, condition and value of the recovered coins. Because the wreck is in international waters, Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. didn't need a salvage permit, but was granted federal "admiralty arrest" of the site to make it illegal for others to lay claim to it.

Gold CoinHistorical records indicate the Republic sank with 20,000 gold pieces -- worth between $120 million and $180 million today. But based on early excavation of the site, coin expert Donald Kagin thinks there could be close to 30,000 pieces down there. Either way it will almost certainly turn out to one of the richest shipwreck cargoes ever recovered. The S.S. Republic also carried 59 passenger, thousands of bottles of everything from pickled fruit to stomach bitters, and various other cargo from New York to New Orleans when it sank in a hurricane off Savannah, Georgia, on October. 25, 1865, according to newspaper accounts and other historical records.

Lucky all 62 passengers aboard the four life boats and 2 out of the 18 passengers on a makeshift raft were rescued by passing ships, but the coins that was intended to help pay for reconstruction of the South after the Civil War went to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean with the Republic. The ship was initially name the SS Tennessee, and was later changed to the SS Republic in 1865.

How do you know the shipwreck is the SS Republic?

According Odyssey's research, the wrecks profile seems to be the correct size compared to historical records, the engine structure and the sidewheels are what was expected, and the SS Republic is the only sidewheel steamer that was know to have sank in that area. They also recovered the ship's large bronze bell, which bears an inscribed ribbon with the letters "SSEE" still clearly visible on the side. Since ship bells typically carry the name of the foundry or the original name of the ship and since the SS Republic was originally known as the SS Tennessee, this pretty much confirmed the identity of the shipwreck as that of the SS Republic.

RV Odyssey Explorer

RV Odyssey Explorer - Courtesy Odyssey Marine Exploration This vessel has been used extensively for government, university and oceanographic institution expeditions throughout the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Mediterranean for deep archaeological, biological and oceanographic projects. The Odyssey is fully qualified to handle deep exploration type missions. She is outfitted with a 3000 meter Edgetech Chirp Deep Tow side scan sonar, three 1800 meter Edgetech DF1000 side scan sonar's, integrated magnetometer and two Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).

Dimensions: LOA: 113' Beam: 23' Displacement: 186.66 tons Draft: 8'6"
Aft Deck:
Without Portable Lab - 22' X 52' With Portable Lab - 22' X 35'
Twin Caterpillar3406-B Eng HP: 375 @1800 rpm Bow thruster 90 hp
3,000 miles @ 9.5 Kts 5,000 miles @ 8 Kts

Click here to see a larger view of the image... RV Odyssey - zoom image


ZEUS ROV - Courtesy Odyssey Marine Exploration Zeus, a sophisticated "Remotely Operated Vehicle - ROV" that acts as the crews' eyes and hands. Driven by a 250-horsepower motor, this 7-ton apparatus is equipped with fiber-optic video and still cameras, and has robotic arms that can handle the most delicate finds. A vacuum system lifts the coins and other artifacts into a container for transport to the surface. The ROV has snapped about 7,000 pictures of the wreck and debris field, allowing the assembly of a detailed overhead photo map of the site. On a computer screen, they can zoom in tight on specific artifacts in the wreck and send the ROV directly to them for pickup.

Displacement: 7 tons
Motor: 205 horsepower
Rated Depth: 2,500 meters (8,200 ft)
Extras: two Schilling seven-function Conan Force-Feedback manipulators

Click here to see a larger view of the image... ZEUS ROV - zoom image

Additional information about Odyssey, the SS Republic and the Odyssey Explorer is available at


Historical Background ( pictures, video clips )
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. | Project Overview


Ship Specifications

Date Sunk: 
Date Launched: 
Type of vessel: 
Hull Construction: 
Depth of Water:
Skill Level:  
Loran C Position: 
October. 25, 1865
August 13, 1853, as the SS Tennessee
210 feet
33 feet and 11 inches

1,149 tons
Sidewheel Steamer

1700 feet

about 100 miles SE of Savannah, Georgia

Renamed: SS Republic in 1865. She was fitted with a vertical beam engine whose massive single piston was steam powered by a pair of double return flue boilers. It drove a pair of 28-foot-diameter iron side-wheels and could transport 100 passengers and 5,000 barrels of cargo.

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Last Modified: December 03, 2005

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