Glass plate photographs from 1857 shipwreck revealed
Photographs recovered from an 1857 shipwreck have been revealed to the public for the first time.
Nicknamed the “ship of gold”, the SS Central America sank off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 after it was hit by a hurricane. The ship was carrying one of the largest cargoes of gold ever lost at sea.
Treasures including nuggets, ingots, and gold coins have been recovered from the surrounding seabed during expeditions between 1988 and 2014. Now however, attention has shifted to a collection of 19th-century daguerreotypes that have been recovered from the site and revealed to the public for the first time.
The recovered glass plate photographs are all portraits, depicting the faces of miners and merchants as well as their families. On board the SS Central America when it sank were a number of miners and others who had found wealth in the California gold rush and were heading to New York.
"We don’t know who the people in the photographs are. These were the last things these men had with them on the deck before the ship sank,” Bob Evans, who was the chief historian and scientist involved in the original recovery expedition, told The Guardian. "These were the things that were most important to them, their money and these images. They represented friends or relatives or maybe even themselves. When you look at the actual faces of people, it takes you right there. You are looking at folks who lived it – and they’re just like us, although the clothing and fashions have changed.”
Dozens of glass plate images still scattered across the seabed awaiting recovery.
The recovered daguerreotypes can be viewed in the latest issue of Wreckwatch.