Please select your home edition
Edition
Sailing Raceboats 2016/17 RS Quest 728x90

British set sail for Cocos Island in search of fabled lost treasure

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 13 Aug 2012
Cocos Island - half way from Panama to the Galapagos .. .
It doesn't just happen in story books and movies. A British explorer was this week preparing to set sail for a deserted Pacific 'treasure island' to search for pirate loot worth €200m. Shaun Whitehead, an engineer and lecturer from Leicester, will lead the expedition to the Pacific's Cocos Island, about half way between Panama and the Galapagos, but owned by Costa Rica, with the aim of retrieving the fabled treasure.

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 goods were stolen by British rogue and pirate Captain William Thompson in 1820 after he was entrusted to transport it from Peru to Mexico.

After leaving the port of Callao, near Lima, Thompson and his crew killed the Viceroy’s six men and sailed to Cocos, where they buried the treasure.


Shortly afterwards, they were apprehended by a Spanish warship. All of the crew – bar Thompson and his first mate – were executed for piracy.

The two said they would show the Spaniards where they had hidden the treasure in return for their lives, but after landing on Cocos, they escaped into the forest.

They are said to have been picked up by a passing ship a year later, but without the treasure.

Over the decades many treasure-hunters, including President Franklin D Roosevelt, racing car driver Sir Malcolm Campbell and swashbuckling actor Errol Flynn, all searched for the treasure.


The site, credited by some as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is uninhabited. It has also been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site for its unspoilt environment and variety of wildlife and it has taken around 18 months of negotiations with the authorities to secure permission to go there on an exploratory mission. It is also said to have been the inspiration for Jurassic Park, the book and film about an island on which dinosaurs are recreated.

Armed with new technology that has never been used on the island, Mr Whitehead says he intends to establish the most likely locations on which to focus his efforts.


'If it is there, it will be in a natural cave which was hidden by one of the many landslides that occur on the island.

'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,' he says.

'This is a scientific survey, including archaeological, geological and biodiversity aspects,' Mr Whitehead said.

'Unlike previous trips we are not going to dig vast holes or do anything destructive at all.'

The group are funding the expedition themselves, although they are hoping a television company may help to cover costs. They plan to travel after the end of the current rainy season, which finishes in November.

Harken AUS Reflex 660x82Pacific Sailing School 660x82 1Pantaenius - Fixed Value

Related Articles

Newport Bermuda Race - High Noon takes honours
As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, As the Newport Bermuda Race fleet rushed to the finish line on Monday in the wake of the first-to-finish boat, the powerful 100-foot grand prix Comanche, to the surprise of many they were led by an unusual boat and crew. High Noon, at 41 feet, is fully 59 feet shorter than Comanche and tens of feet shorter than many other entries.
Posted on 22 Jun
Platino recovery - Family confirms that tug has made rendezvous
Reports in social media say a salvage tug has made a rendezvous with the Platino earlier than expected. Reports in social media by family and friends of Nick Saull, the crew member killed during a catastrophic incident abroad the 66ft yacht Platino say the salvage tug which left on Tuesday night has made the rendezvous earlier than expected. The Facebook report says the tug, Sea Pelican, arrived on Friday morning, the weather in the area has eased and with a more favorable outlook.
Posted on 16 Jun
Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to ban bottled water
Approval has been given to create a ban on bottled water that comes in plastic containers. The RQYS Management Committee has confirmed that approval has been given to create a ban on bottled water that comes in plastic containers. This will place the club as a leader in environmental impact management in Australia and around the world. The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club earlier this year did likewise. Who’s next?
Posted on 16 Jun
Platino recovery operation well underway as crew arrive in Auckland
An ocean-going tug has left Whangarei to locate and attempt to salvage the luxury yacht Platino An ocean-going tug left Whangarei late on Tuesday night to locate and attempt to salvage the luxury yacht Platino which has been abandoned 550km NE of New Zealand. Weather dependent, we could reach Platino by Saturday and have the yacht and body of the person on board back in New Zealand early next week,” says Inspector Graham of the NZ Police.
Posted on 16 Jun
Search for Platino crew member lost in Pacific Ocean is suspended
Maritime New Zealand have advised that the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has suspended the search for t Maritime New Zealand have advised that the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) has suspended the search for the sailor lost overboard from the yacht Platino on Monday morning, 550km north of New Zealand. Sail-World understands that a tug has left NZ to rendezvous with the boat. That boat is believed to have an NZ Police officer on board responsible for the recovery of the deceased.
Posted on 15 Jun
Platino survivors expected in Auckland on Thursday
Southern Lily, with three crew members from the 66ft yacht Platino aboard, is expected to arrive in Auckland on Thursday The container ship, Southern Lily, with three crew members from the 66ft yacht Platino aboard, is expected to arrive in Auckland on Thursday morning. The master of the Southern Lily, Shashi Prakash, said that seas in the region at the time of the rescue were 3 metres high making for a tricky operation to rendezvous with the dismasted yacht.
Posted on 15 Jun
Platino rescue - Three crew safely aboard container ship
Two men and a woman have been rescued from their battered yacht, Platino, around 550 kilometres north of New Zealand Two men and a woman have been rescued from their battered yacht, Platino, around 550 kilometres north of New Zealand by the crew of the container ship Southern Lily. A rescue line was used to help get the trio safely on board around 3pm.
Posted on 14 Jun
Platino rescue - Top boatbuilder named as dead crew member
Maritime New Zealand has advised that a container ship is re-routing to assist three people aboard the Platino Maritime New Zealand has advised that a container ship is re-routing to assist three people aboard the battered yacht, Platino, 550 kilometres north of NZ. The stuff.co.nz website is reporting that the man who died onboard a yacht north of New Zealand was Nick Saull, the head of an Auckland boat building company, Brin Wilson Boatbuilders, located at Gulf Harbour about 40 minutes north of Auckland.
Posted on 13 Jun
One dead, one missing off 20 metre yacht in gale force winds
Maritime NZ has reported that a search is underway for a sailor lost overboard from a yacht another has been killed Maritime NZ has reported that a search is underway for a sailor lost overboard from a yacht 550km (300 nautical miles) north of New Zealand. The Rescue Coordination Centre NZ was advised at 11.20am today (Monday, 13 June) that one male had been killed and another man, in his 60s, knocked overboard from the 20m yacht
Posted on 13 Jun
Boaters warned to navitage safely as severe weather sets in across NSW
Roads and Maritime Services Director Maritime Angus Mitchell said Operation Boat Safe: Navigate Safely starts tomorrow. Roads and Maritime Services Director Maritime Angus Mitchell said Operation Boat Safe: Navigate Safely starts tomorrow and will continue until sundown on Monday 13 June.
Posted on 3 Jun