The Central America sprang leaks, the water putting the fire out in the boiler, and the paddlewheel and pumps stopped working. Alarmed, the passengers and crew formed a bucket brigade to bail out the sinking ship, while Captain Herndon ordered the flag flown upside down – a universal distress signal.Only 49 men survived, and the loss of the gold to the bottom of the Atlantic caused several banks to collapse. Read the whole story of the sinking of the SS Central America and its aftermath.
By Saturday, September 12, the ship was doomed. That afternoon another ship was spotted, the Marine out of Boston, and Captain Herndon ordered the women and children into the Central America’s lifeboats to make the hazardous transfer to the Marine. Around 150 women and children made it before the weather forced the Marine to leave. The male passengers and crew could not make the transfer. Most of them were still on board when the Central America sank around 8 o’clock that night, settling on the sea floor about 8,000 feet below the surface, 160 miles offshore.