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Sunken Steamer With Rumored Cargo of Silver Bars Found

August 11, 1987

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ A sunken steamer, rumored to carry silver bars worth a fortune, has been found in the San Francisco Bay after resting amidst treachorous currents for more than 80 years, a team of explorers said.

″We are as sure as you can be without being able to visually inspect it,″ said Gus Cafcalas, a San Francisco-area mortage banker who with four other treasure hunters purportedly spotted the wreck.

The City of Rio de Janeiro sank in 10 minutes on a foggy night in the winter of 1901 after hitting submerged rocks in the Golden Gate strait outside the entrance to the bay. The accident cost the lives of 121 of 211 passengers in one of the worst maritime disasters in San Francisco’s history.

On its return trip from China, the steamer was rumored to be carrying a fortune in solid silver bars, although its manifest listed only tin and an assortment of Chinese goods.

History buffs have long debated the rumor of a secret cargo, and its existence has never been proven. Treasure hunters have searched unsuccessfully for decades for the ship.

James Delgado, a historian for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, said the story is a myth. It started, he said, after someone mistook the tin cargo for silver.

But, Cafcalas said he believes the silver is on board.

Cafcalas said the remains of the steamer were discovered about one-half mile west of the Golden Gate Bridge in 200-feet of water with the aide of sonar and photographs taken by a robot submarine.

He provided no other details of the discovery.

Cafcalas and his partners have formed the Seagamb Corp., which has applied for a salvage permit from the State Lands Commision.

Cafcalas said Seagamb will not attempt to raise the ship because the condition of the hull and fierce tides and currents in the Golden Gate make the task virtually impossible.

But Seagamb hopes to probe the ship’s interior, and Cafcalas thinks they will find and raise the rumored cargo of silver.

The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. steamer was an iron-hulled passenger and cargo carrier and was on the final leg of its voyage back from the Orient.

Half of the passengers were Chinese and Japanese immigrants bound for new lives in the United States.

The Rio made its last stop in Honolulu, where the ship’s purser told the port’s assistant postmaster that the vessel was secretly carrying a cargo of silver bars.

No one knew where the silver came from, but there was speculation after the wreck that it was the treasure of some powerful Chinese officials that was being shipped out of his country because of political unrest.

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