A British archeologist says he plans to lead an expedition to a deserted "treasure island" in the Pacific believed to hold more than $200 million in gold, silver and jewels.
Shaun Whitehead, who previously explored uncharted passages inside Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza, said he will sail to Cocos Island, 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, this fall. His quarry: the fabled "Treasure of Lima" supposedly stashed there in 1821 by Captain William Thompson.
Thompson, a British trader-turned-pirate was tasked by Spanish authorities in Peru to transport the loot to Mexico for safekeeping but instead made off with the precious cargo and buried it on Cocos, Sail World details.
A Spanish warship soon captured the crew, all of whom were executed except for Thompson and his first mate. They were spared after they promised to divulge where they hid the treasure, but the duo managed to escape before they gave away its location.
The original inventory, according to the Telegraph, listed "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."
Finding the booty has been a dream for nearly two centuries. While no one has searched the island for more than 25 years, among the many who have tried were Franklin Roosevelt in 1910 and actor Errol Flynn, who searched in vain in the 1940s, the Montreal Gazette writes.
The uninhabited island is thought by some to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s "Treasure Island" as well as the film, "Jurassic Park." Still unspoiled, the Costa Rican island has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The 10-day expedition, which will include researchers from the University of Costa Rica and Germany's Senckenberg Institute, will begin after the rainy season ends in November. GrindTv explains that the high-tech endeavor, which will also include geological and wildlife studies, won't involve any actual digging on the protected island.
Instead, the team will use an unmanned helicopter with a camera to map the nine-square-mile island in 3-D. The helicopter will be followed by a robot equipped with ground-penetrating radar that can detect empty spaces down to 60 feet below the surface. By adding that information to the air-generated map, the searchers hope to find hidden caves they can explore with a "keyhole" drill fitted with a camera, reports the Daily Mail.
Even if the team finds the treasure, they won't get rich, vowing to turn over whatever they find to the Costa Rican government in return for a token salvage fee.