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'Treasure!' Part 3

The story so far: Tommy Thompson is a scientist and inventor who discovered the location of 21 tons of gold at the bottom of the ocean. It came from the California Gold Rush, but how did it end up in the ocean?

September 20, 2006|By Jennifer James | Times Staff Writer

"All that fateful night we watched and prayed not knowing but that every hour might be the last " — Journal of Adeline Mills Easton, survivor of the shipwreck of the SS Central America


IN September of 1857 newlyweds Addie and Ansel Easton boarded the luxurious steamship Central America heading for New York. They carried wedding gifts and gold. In fact, many passengers carried gold from California, though some had been more successful than others at finding it.

But even if there were some who hadn't found gold, they had survived the Gold Rush. What could be more difficult than that? They were to find out.

A hurricane hit and the cry went out, "The ship is sinking!"

Bells clanged, rain raged and the terrible wind howled, knocking the ship about in the sea like a cork. Confident that the ship could be saved, Capt. Herndon organized 500 men into bailing lines. They even sang songs while they bailed.

But after 30 hours of nonstop bailing, it became apparent that they were staring death in the face. Then, out of the storm came another ship.

"Women and children first!" is a rule of the sea. The lives of the women and children were saved because the men, heroically guided by Herndon, helped them into the lifeboats that took them to the other ship.

If Addie had known that the men were not allowed to follow them, she would have stayed with her beloved husband.

The SS Central America sank off the coast of the Carolinas in one of the worst hurricanes in maritime history. The ship went down with 478 passengers and crewmen and 21 tons of gold.

Miraculously, along with 48 survivors, Ansel was rescued. The Eastons tearfully reunited in the parlor at the National Hotel in Norfolk, Va.

Thursday: How does Thompson find and retrieve the ship and its treasure?

Look for Thursday's Kids' Reading Room in the middle of Weekend Calendar with the comics. This story will be on The Times' website at

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