Engineering the Recovery of Sunken Treasure
by Dennis Walikainen, senior editor
As a farm boy growing up in northern Michigan, Mike Milosh dreamed of the sea and the adventures of Captain Nemo and Mike Nelson of the TV show Sea Hunt. He even worked on plans for a one-man submarine. So when a real-life adventure presented itself, he didn’t have to think twice.
The Michigan Tech mechanical engineering alumnus never thought that adventure would involve searching for gold coins and bars 8,000 feet down in the Atlantic. “It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that you can’t turn down,” Milosh says. It took him a long way from his Columbus, Ohio, home, and it would blossom into his successful career.
In 1989, he was working at Battelle Memorial Institute, an Ohio-based R&D firm, when he caught drift of a co-worker, Tom Thompson, investigating the wreck of the SS Central America.
Thompson and his team located and identified the shipwreck 200 miles off the coast of South Carolina. Thompson approached Mike to be lead engineer to design, build and operate a new remote-operated vehicle (ROV) and special tools needed to do the delicate recovery operations.
“We were looking at picking up delicate objects from a mile and a half away while bobbing around in a boat," says Milosh. "One scratch and you destroy the value of a coin."
It was a challenge Milosh couldn’t resist. So he joined Thompson in the search and recovery of the SS Central America’s gold, so much (over three tons) that the ship’s loss caused the Panic of 1857 and a run on the New York City banks for which it was heading.
"I spent three seasons at sea and even got to find the largest bar ever, 74 pounds-- dubbed the ‘Eureka’ bar." It later sold for a record $8 million, although none of the booty ended up in Milosh’s pocket.
For the full story, see Michigan Tech News.