A young 18-year-old man named [Dr.] Edward Lee Spence (1995, Figure 1-3) discovered the SS Georgiana Ship wreckage on March 19, 1965, that sank exactly 102 years on March 19, 1863 (Dan, 2017). Spence (1995) wrote about a fascinating shipwreck discovery thanks to his childhood prodigy of shipwreck archaeology since he was 12 (Dan, 2017). Spence filed enormous records of “over 160,000 pages of text, sketches, maps and photos,” many research resources and the onsite discoveries that still capture the fascinating history of the SS Georgina Ship. Spence emphasises preserving the ship and its history without being lost in time.

Lost in time: SS Georgiana Ship - Sheet1
Map of Shipwreck demonstrate Dr. Spence’s effort to restore the ship that was destroyed for a century (Spence, 1978, 1_Location of SS Georgiana Shipwreck_©Edward Lee Spence)
Lost in time: SS Georgiana Ship - Sheet2
Photo demonstrates efforts to salvage SS Georgiana Ship (Spence, Lee Spence and Ron Gibb taking break from salvaging the Georgiana no date 2_Lee Spence and Ron Gibb taking break from salvaging the Georgiana _©Edward Lee Spence)
Lost in time: SS Georgiana Ship - Sheet3
The leftover of the artifacts from Georgiana showing the treasure to find for Dr. Spence (Spence, Georgiana artifacts in crate on deck on salvage boat no date 3_Georgiana artifacts in crate on deck on salvage boat_©Edward Lee Spence).

The historical investigation and SS Georgiana Ship’s destruction 

Dr Spence (1995) is looking for history, where SS Georgiana Ship is tough to research regarding the findings to match the ghost ship he is fascinated about. Unfortunately, the story of the SS Georgiana Ship as the “most powerful Confederate cruiser” sank “fourteen feet of water off of the Isle of Palms, South Carolina, [United States]” is a very tragic story (ibid.). This sinking is the “major blow to the Confederacy” that opposes the Union during the Civil War in America (ibid.). Dr. Spence contested that the SS Georgiana Ship has a value of “five hundred and eighty tons of valuable cargo.” The cargo includes “rifles; musket balls; two, state of the art Whitworth breech-loading cannon, four Blakely rifled cannon, medicines, liquor, chin and other assorted merchandise” (ibid.) With the “buillions value of the coins” worth four and a half million dollars” in 1995, the “numismatic value” could potentially be higher (ibid.). The value of the SS Georgiana Ship is more valuable when adjusted for inflation in 2017 at $50 million (Dan, 2017).

In the ship’s last hour, a retired British Naval Officer, A.B. Davidson, attempted to escort SS Georgiana Ship with large cargo for the Confederacy to avoid the trappings of the Northern warships (Spence, 1995). With Georgiana speeding up against the slow, heavy ships of the Union, the Union amassed myriads of small to large gunships to eventually block the SS Georgiana Ship to gun her down (ibid.). Wissashickkon shot down the SS Georgiana Ship but narrowly escaped (ibid., Figure 3). Sadly, in the same spot as Spence’s discovery site, Davidson and his crews abandoned the Georgiana on the shore with no hope of recovering her (ibid.). Unfortunately, the Federal boarding crew for the Union would not risk taking the ship that lays down for the next 102 years as it is sinking 205 ft by 25ft ship is too massive to carry them (ibid., & Dan, 2017). The aftermath will explain why SS Georgiana Ship caused much trouble to the Confederacy, ironically having a peaceful end after the civil war. 

Lost in time: SS Georgiana Ship - Sheet4
Admiral Dahlgren made the legacy as the captain of Wisshaicken that luckily shot Georgiana that is doom to sinkage (Spence, 1995, Spence Admiral Dahlgren next to one of the big guns aboard the USS flagship Wissahicken no date 4_Admiral Dahlgren next to one of the big guns aboard the USS flagship Wissahicken_©Edward Lee Spence)

The aftermath

Unfortunately, the story does not end with the abandonment of the SS Georgiana Ship (Spence, 1995). Three incidents occurred to three ships, all of them “blockade-runners,” during the civil war to support the Confederacy: NosemanMary Bowers, and Constance Deicimer (ibid.). The Noseman is a “three-masted, iron-hulled, screw steamer” that attempts to reach Charleston full of rush through ploughed with the Georgiana; the wreck, unfortunately, is not recovered “due to sand” (ibid.). The second victim Mary Bowers struck “the sunken steamer diagonally, crossing through and over the aft end of the [SS] Georgiana [Ship]’s forward cargo,” resulting in a capsizing sink (ibid., Image  4). The 220 ft carried 660 tons of “coal and assorted merchandise,” resulting in more treasure-hunting opportunities (ibid.). 

The last victim is Constance Decimer, with 160 tons of arms and munitions with much gold and the return of cargo cotton, which attempted to avoid the SS Georgiana Ship wreckage with Captain Stewert in control (ibid.). The ships crashed into the Georgiana(ibid.). Unfortunately, the Bosun, who served for Captain Stewart, was attempting to save gold and documents inside a heavy chest for Captain Stewart with “swirling water” sweeping them out, as the Bosun became the only death out of every four wrecks 640 yards south of the Georgiana (ibid.). Despite having three infamous crashes after the civil war, there is no record of findings for the steamer, but a nuisance to people who does not tell how much treasure and history would be lost if it were not for Dr.Spence’s efforts to discover SS Georgiana Ship (ibid.).

Wrecks of the Georgiana & Mary Bowers (Spence, Wrecks of the Georgiana & Mary Bowers 2011 5_Wrecks of Georgiana & Mary Bowers _©Edward Lee Spence)

The process of finding Georgiana and its present day

The funny fact about finding the shipwrecks that are fortunately not removed thanks to Dr Spence discovering through fishermen that caught something in their nets (Spence, 1995). With three remaining ships found on the same day, their discovery saved all of them with the SS Georgiana Ship filled with sea fans and living corals (ibid.). There is some effort to pull many artefacts, with millions of them ranging from “extremely rare cannons and cannon balls to glass buttons and tiny sewing pins” (ibid.). The main interest comes to the Georgiana, not all the other ships. Fast forward to the present day, the ship remains this day for the Georgiana (Darling, 2022). Leonard (2014) is to show the fact that there are deteriorating woods of the Georgiana, although the deck with some of the main structures remains intact. Time is running out as Georgiana can one day disappear.

Legacy of SS Georgiana Ship

While there has been a process to have many artefacts on SS Georgiana Ship, there are more questions about the ship’s future that must avoid its demise. Should it be left the way it is as a beautiful landmark? Should they salvage the ship as Dr Spence admired the beautiful corals and natural scaping with Georgiana? Should there be more research on the steamer? There must be a balanced perspective to preserve the history that will hold the ship’s legacy in the ground. The sunken steamer plagued three steamboat victims. Why not continue the exciting story of the Georgiana for the future generation to look at the ship’s history without being lost in time?


Dan, M. (2017) March 19,1965: $50 million wreck discovered by teenage diver, History and Headlines. Available at: https://www.historyandheadlines.com/march-191965-50-million-wreck-discovered-teenage-diver/ (Accessed: March 27, 2023). 

Leonard, C. (2014) On her maiden voyage, Confederate Navy Ship georgiana was running a blockade in the Charleston Harbor of South Carolina when she was destroyed by the Union gunboat USS Wissahickon today in 1863. now we know em, nowweknowem.wordpress.com. Available at: https://nowweknowem.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/on-her-maiden-voyage-confederate-navy-ship-georgiana-was-running-a-blockade-in-the-charleston-harbor-of-south-carolina-when-she-was-destroyed-by-the-union-gunboat-uss-wissahickon-today-in-1863-now-w/  (Accessed: March 27, 2023). 

Spence, E.L. (1978) Location of SS Georgiana Shipwreck, Shipwrecks.com. Available at: https://shipwrecks.com/discovery-of-the-georgiana/ (Accessed: March 27, 2023). 

Spence, E.L. (1995) Discovery of the georgiana, Shipwrecks.com. Available at: https://shipwrecks.com/discovery-of-the-georgiana/ (Accessed: March 27, 2023). 

Spence, E.L. (2011) Wrecks of Georgiana & Mary Bowers, Shipwrecks.com. Available at: https://shipwrecks.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Georgiana-sidescan-S000241.jpg (Accessed: March 27, 2023).

Spencer, E.L. (no date) Admiral Dahlgren next to one of the big guns aboard the USS flagship Wissahicken. Available at: https://edspace.american.edu/silkroadjournal/wp-content/uploads/sites/984/2017/09/The-Dream-and-the-Glory.pdf (Accessed: March 28, 2023). 

Spence, E.L. (no date) Georgiana artifacts in crate on deck on salvage boat, Shipwrecks.com. Available at: https://shipwrecks.com/shipwrecks-galleries/georgiana-gallery/georgiana-artifacts/  (Accessed: March 27, 2023). 

Spence, E.L. (no date) Lee Spence and Ron Gibb taking break from salvaging the Georgiana, Shipwrecks.com. Available at: https://shipwrecks.com/lee-spence-and-ron-gibbs-with-dinner-plates-salvaged-from-the-georgiana/ (Accessed: March 27, 2023). 


Joshua Yae Joon Park wrote about urban planning and architectural articles ranging from urban design to missing middle. After graduating from the University of Waterloo and the University of Western Ontario, Joshua has experience in urban design and planning projects in Southern Ontario.