Is there gold buried off the coast of the Grand Strand?

Salvagers are working an old shipwreck offshore, with the hope of finding treasure.

The dredging boat Rio Bravo is docked at Crazy Sister Marina in Murrells Inlet this week.

The boat's crew wouldn't allow NewsChannel 15 cameras on board or tell us what they're doing, though officials at the marina say the boat is involved in a salvage operation.

And Kehl Carter says he knows what they're up to.

Carter has been diving the area for years and says he was contracted by the salvage company, Marex, in 1996 to work a shipwreck that local divers call the "Copper Pot".

"Some other businessmen here at the beach put together a full fledged salvage operation of the wreck site," Carter said.

He said the Rio Bravo is doing another excavation of that same site he worked years ago.

What divers call the "Copper Pot" wreck is really the steamship SS North Carolina. The boat was owned by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the world's richest men in the 19th century.

In 1840, the ship collided with a sister ship off Murrells Inlet and sank, with 56 people on board.

No one died in the wreck, but about a dozen senators and congressmen who were on board lost many of their possessions, some of which were later salvaged by Carter.

"We found artifacts, everything from personal items, shoes to room keys to luggage," Carter said.

They also found several gold coins and watches, a moment Carter will never forget.

"One of the highlights of my life was finding those two gold coins on that wreck."

Among the artifacts Carter found on the shipwreck was a gold coin minted in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1838.

Though the first excavation of the steamship did not find everything the divers had hoped for, Carter believes there could be plenty left to find in this second effort.

"Absolutely. No excavation operation ever gets 100 percent of what went down," he said.

Carter isn't involved in this latest salvage effort, but he wishes the crew well. Life is all about stories and experiences, Carter said, and he has plenty of them.

"Wealth comes and goes, but you can't take away memories."