It’s hard to say if my old friend Jason Williams is a treasure hunter obsessed with documentaries, or a documentarian obsessed with treasure hunters. Either way, I’ve had the pleasure to narrate a number of his projects, and wanted to talk to him about the recent announcement from Nat Geo and the BBC to document the remarkable life of Tommy Thompson – the most controversial and complicated treasure hunter alive today. (As of a few months ago, he was still in jail, where he’s been since 2015. I think he still is.)
Tommy was the genius who found SS Central America, which sunk in a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 with roughly 22 tons of gold on board. Tommy not only found the ship, he devised a robotic device to explore the site, 7,200 deep, and brought $50 million dollars of gold to the surface. What happened next is pretty extraordinary, and the subject of a documentary that Jason and I tried but failed to get on the air. I’m glad, but terribly envious, that Nat Geo is making it happen without us.
Jason is very British, and I daresay that many of you will enjoy our conversation simply because he’s so much fun to listen to. Happily, he is as always, as interesting as he sounds. Our whole conversation is here.
P.S. In the attached video, I mistakenly refer to a wreck called the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, as the SS Gairsoppa, an embarrassing conflation brought about my inability to recall everything I’ve ever narrated. Apologies.
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