It’s led hundreds of treasure hunters to cry out a piratey “arrgghh” in frustration over the last 200 years, but now a team led by professional adventurer Shaun Whitehead hopes their high-tech spin will finally uncover the Treasure of Lima, one of the world’s most sought after buried treasures.
Currently valued at upwards of $250 million, the Spanish treasure is thought to have been stashed by British trader and sometimes pirate William Thompson somewhere on Costa Rica’s Cocos Island after a murderous double-crossing in 1820.
The long-sought treasure has eluded many, including President Franklin Roosevelt and actor Errol Flynn. But Whitehead, with teams from the University of Costa Rica and the Senckenberg Institute, will have a technological leg up over previous efforts. The team will employ an unmanned helicopter to generate a 3D map of the island as well as a robot equipped with ground-penetrating radar to detect promising underground cavities.
Located 350 miles off Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, Cocos is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site, so it’s no wonder negotiations to go digging around have taken nearly 18 months. Whitehead’s will be the first mission permitted there in 25 years.
An etching of a ship found on a rock wall on Cocos Island speaks to the island’s pirate past.
The uninhabited island has been featured in numerous pirate legends in lore and literature and its unofficial moniker is “Treasure Island.” It’s also believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s eponymous tale.
If the treasure is found, the island will doubly deserve the name, as inventory of the treasure is said to include 113 gold statues (including a life-size Virgin Mary), 1,000 diamonds, 200 chests of jewels, and many hundreds of gold and silver bars. If the group uncovers even a fraction, it will be quite a lot of compensation for 10 days’ work.
“It is not a case of following a map and ‘X’ marking the spot. It is about using a bit of logic to establish the likelihood of some areas where it could be,” Whitehead told the Costa Rica Star.
The expedition will set out at the end of the rainy season, in November. Besides treasure hunting, the group will carry out environmental and archeological studies.
Photos via Wikimedia