National Geographic and BBC Studios Announce LOST GOLD (w.t), a Three-Part Limited Series on the Rise and Fall of Tommy Thompson, Explorer Who Struck Gold With Discovery of Wreck of S.S. Central America in Late ‘80s and Later Imprisoned

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–National Geographic and BBC Studios’ Documentary Unit announced the greenlight of LOST GOLD (w. t.), a three-part limited series that traces the rise and fall of maverick scientist and explorer Tommy Thompson — from his life-changing discovery of the wreck of the S.S. Central America to the turmoil that led to his prison sentence.

In 1989, Tommy Thompson stunned the world by recovering three tons of gold and historically priceless artifacts. Despite this staggering achievement, Tommy would be caught in a maelstrom of litigation, deception and personal turmoil for the next three decades as he tried to hold onto his find. Facing serious allegations, accused of defrauding his 161 investors, he went from ship deck to courtroom to prison cell. How — and why — did Tommy’s extraordinary success unravel?

With exclusive access to an extensive video archive from the original expeditions, and produced with Gary Kinder, author of The New York Times bestseller about Tommy’s expedition, “Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea,” this series will tell the inside story of one man’s mission to achieve the impossible. And it will unpick the tangled story of what happened afterward.

LOST GOLD (w. t.) sifts through 600 hours of archive footage and thousands of slides, prints, photos and newspaper clippings on the original exploration mission — the majority of which have never been seen before. In addition, Nat Geo and BBC Studios have access to original footage and images, including archives from the court-ordered mission to recover the remaining gold from the site.

“Every so often, you come across a story so captivating that you feel compelled to get to the heart of it,” said Tom McDonald, executive vice president of Global Factual/Unscripted, National Geographic. “LOST GOLD (w. t.) encompasses all that we are passionate about at Nat Geo: exploration, adventure, discovery, and at its core, truth-telling. We cannot think of a better partner than BBC Studios to execute this series with.”

From treasures on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to one of the longest manhunts in the history of the U.S. Marshal Service and the prisons and courts of Ohio, this remarkable saga will be woven from intimate interviews with the key players, a wealth of unseen archive material, and dramatic recreations of key moments.

From National Geographic Content, LOST GOLD (w. t.) will be produced in partnership with BBC Studios’ Documentary Unit. For BBC Studios, Alexander Leith is executive producer, Georgia Braham is producer and Sam Benstead is series director. For National Geographic Content, Chris Kugelman is executive producer, and Tom McDonald is commissioner.

About BBC Studios

BBC Studios is a commercial subsidiary of the BBC Group with sales of £1.6bn (21/22). Able to take an idea seamlessly from thought to screen and beyond, the business is built on four pillars: a global Content Studio (producing, investing and distributing content globally); Channels & Streaming platforms in the UK and across the world; a Brands & Licencing operation which seeks to amplify the impact of IP; and the successful UK-based multi-channel network UKTV. Around 2,400 hours of award-winning British programmes made by the business every year, with three-quarters of its revenues from non-BBC customers including Disney+, Apple and Netflix. Its content is internationally recognised across a broad range of genres and specialisms, with brands like Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars, Top Gear, Bluey and Doctor Who., BBC Studios’ global digital news platform, has 139 million unique browser visits each month.

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About National Geographic Content

Award-winning and critically acclaimed National Geographic Content, part of a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society, creates and delivers riveting stories and experiences in natural history, science, adventure and exploration. Inspiring a deeper connection to the world, the content studio reaches 300 million people worldwide in 180 countries and 33 languages across the global National Geographic channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO), National Geographic Documentary Films, and direct-to-consumer platforms Disney+ and Hulu. Its diverse content includes Emmy® Award-winning franchise Genius, series Life Below Zero and Secrets of the Whales, and Oscar®- and BAFTA award-winning film Free Solo. In 2022, National Geographic Content was awarded eight News and Documentary Emmys, in addition to Life Below Zero’s Emmy win for Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program, its sixth Emmy overall. For more information, visit or, or follow Nat Geo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Jenn DeGuzman,

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