Treasure Hunter Uncovers 'Ship of Gold' in 1989

Tommy Thompson talks to Sam Donaldson about his discovery off the coast of South Carolina.
4:43 | 01/28/15

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Transcript for Treasure Hunter Uncovers 'Ship of Gold' in 1989
Gold it'll make you rich. Since the beginning of recorded human history people of thirst that after gold and tonight off the coast of South Carolina there are as a group of people who may have struck it rich. 200 miles off the coast of south Carolina's a ship anchored and below 88000 feet on the Atlantic floor there is another sit this ship that's been sunk. At on that ship is a great payload. We're gonna go now by radio telephone to Thomas Thompson who's the leader of the expedition. That searching for buried. Or sunken treasure. Mr. Thompson. What did you find down there. I play we've found what should prove to be the largest. Treasure trove in American history. How much is there what's the cash value do you estimate. We have we have estimate that the value of cred. They have do about 400 billion dollars if we include both commercial shipments and passenger gold. Yeah a lot yet that we don't. Now aren't we hope to recover over the next month. I stand by mr. Thompson wanna find out more about how you gonna try to recover that at first. Let's take a look at some of the background of the story that brought you to where you are tonight. In the summer of 1857. The California gold fields where the center of the universe for the get rich quick crowd. The goal they dugout was shipped east in massive quantities. In September of that year the side Wheeler SS Central America bound from Panama the New York with a cargo of gold bars and coins. Failed and the jaws of a hurricane off the South Carolina coast. After four days of fierce buffeting sank with the loss of 423 lives and its precious cargo. A 129 years later in the summer of 1986. Tommy Thompson. A mechanical engineer from Ohio State with no previous salvage experience. Led a team of treasure hunters out to find the Central America. More than 100 investors pulled resources to purchase an old Canadian ice breaker named the Arctic discover to serve as a salvage ship. Using high tech sonar to scan the ocean bottom 8000 feet below the team Trace data pattern that looked like pay dirt. But it wasn't until next summer 1987. That they lord and unmanned submersible containing video cameras and confirmed their fine. Yeah. They brought up the few artifacts from the wreck this bottle the ship's bell. But no treasure. Then this summer Tommy Thompson and a crew of the Arctic explorer. Uncovered the goal that could make each of them written. Here. Rob maybe we'll have a lot longer dominate the game. Lots of excitement Tommy Thompson how are you gonna bring that gold up from the ocean floor. Well first family need to bring out the there is. Visible. It's been a very complex area of Iraq that we call upon timbers area. We cannot don't bring it up with human beings down there you're gonna bring it up with a machine the name all right. That's exactly right name design more. Deep Barnard geological work and the waves decided to handle a whole variety of tasks. But we will eventually have to do is dismantle this boy currently Carla fallen timbers area. Mr. Thompson let me ask you who owns that building and you found that is it finders keepers. Well not exactly. I've been appointed to substitute custodian for the US Marshal service. And been given the responsibility. To deliver it is a federal district court of Virginia. There and what they call the trial merits. Judge will decide. Who should. Have the right to the globe there could be other claimants. You mean like people who. Whose ancestors were on that ship moral or the insurance companies. Oh now you're gonna get something though and probably the lion's share what would you do very quickly Tommy what would you do with your share of this money. Well. We're gonna bring it up first there's it's going to be a very difficult torrent happily get that done at Morgan decide what to do next. Thank you very much Thomas Thompson 200 miles off the coast of South Carolina and he's found his Gil.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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