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The discovery of gold in seawater in 1872, created a kind of gold rush - or gold slosh, perhaps. "The ocean is a goldmine," the newspapers crowed. Even with an estimated gold content of less than 1 grain per tonne of water that meant a lot of precious metal just there for the taking. Prescott Jernegan's Electrolytic Marine Salts Company promised gold from the sea, and the town of Lubec, Maine, boomed as the company's gold-accumulating machines got to work, apparently very successfully. You can probably imagine what happened next.
In 1897, a stranger named Reverend Prescott Jernegan arrived in Lubec and made a bold claim: he could extract gold from seawater. To do so, he used so-called accumulators of electrically charged rods in iron pots. Fooling many, he hid the gold beneath a wharf in the Bay of Fundy during the night. He and his accomplice, Charles Fisher, preached with fervent enthusiasm as they built their factory and encouraged inspections, which reversed doubters to greedy high-stakes investors