Saturday 16 November 2019

Explorers closing in on pirate's fabled buried treasure

Jasper Copping

It eluded Franklin D Roosevelt, Sir Malcolm Campbell and Errol Flynn, but now an explorer from Melton Mowbray may be closing in on a multi-million-euro hoard of gold, silver and jewellery stolen by pirates and buried on a treasure island.

Shaun Whitehead is leading an archaeological expedition to Cocos Island, the supposed hiding place of the 'Treasure of Lima', one of the world's most fabled missing hoards.

The haul -- said to be worth €200m -- was stolen by a British trader, Captain William Thompson, in 1820 after he was entrusted to transport it from Peru to Mexico. He is said to have stashed his plunder on the Pacific island, from where it has never been recovered.

An original inventory showed 113 gold religious statues, one a life-size Virgin Mary; 200 chests of jewels; 273 swords with jewelled hilts; 1,000 diamonds; solid gold crowns; 150 chalices; and hundreds of gold and silver bars.

The site, credited by some as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, is an uninhabited territory of Costa Rica, and lies about 350 miles off the coast of the mainland.

It has also been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site for its unspoilt environment and variety of wildlife and it has taken about 18 months of negotiations with the authorities to secure permission for an exploratory mission.

Although there have been no official expeditions to the island for more than a quarter of a century, Mr Whitehead will join an impressive line of notable adventurers and explorers who have succumbed to the lure of the 'Lima loot'.

They include Mr Roosevelt, the American president from 1933 to 1945, who travelled there with friends in 1910; Mr Campbell, the racing driver, who went there in the 1920s; and Flynn, who made a trip in the 1940s.

Another explorer, August Gissler, a German, spent 19 years living on the island hunting the treasure but uncovered just six gold coins.

However, Mr Whitehead's team is equipped with technology that has never before been used on the island. He has also established the most promising locations on which to focus his efforts.

Mr Whitehead, who has previously led a project to explore uncharted shafts inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, said: "Given the amount of treasure, it would have been too heavy to carry far and stories suggest the use of caves. We can also rule out where others have looked -- like on the beaches.

"It is not a case of following a map and X marking the spot. It is about using a bit of logic."

© Telegraph

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