Ozama Steamship Used to Smuggle Arms and Gold into Haiti

Marine archeologist Dr. Spencer has recovered an English steamer, the Ozama, near the U.S. South Carolina coastline. Originally named Craigallion, the vessel is an integral part of Haiti's history, believed to hold a ballast of gold in its hull for well over a century.


The Ozama sailed the South region, most frequently to Panama and the Caribbean, including Haiti. In 1888, the Ozama hauled an armament of artillery to Cap Haitien. The shipment was intended to halt a planned coup d'etat against Haitian President, Florvil Hyppolite.

Another time, the Ozama transported $300,000 gourdes to Haiti, part of $1,000,000 in secured bonds Haiti would receive later. The vessel caused a world-wide uproar when Haiti stole it one time. In a cause célèbre, the U.S. told Haiti if they did not return the Ozama, the U.S. would bomb Port-au-Prince.

The Ozama has survived two wrecks, in the Bahamas in 1885, and in the U.S. in South Carolina waters off its coastline. It ran into a sandbank, causing indirect damage to the engine and the vessel to sink.

Dr. Spence discovered the Ozama in the late 70s, using a radioactive instrument. He did not realize the vessel's value until over four decades later. He believes the Ozama contains a well-preserved wealth of gold coinage, which he can claim since he is the entitled owner of the vessel.

With the recovery of the Ozama, a colorful part of Haitian history has been restored and is now part of its cultural lore.

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Read more: Florvil Hyppolite, Ozama Steamship, History

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