Thursday, 21 November 2013

They Found Gold -Ch 8 thru 10 incl.

From They Found Gold by A. Hyatt Verrill dated 1939.
Digitized by Doug Frizzle, November 2013.
Stillwoods.Blogspot.Com
Chapters 9 and 10 are autobiographical.

Chapter VIII.
THE WORLD'S MOST SOUGHT-FOR TREASURE. 106
The hidden treasures of Cocos Island, and those who have searched for them.

Chapter IX.
SALVAGING THE SPANISH GALLEON. 122
The author's visit to Silver Shoals and the finding of a sunken treasure galleon.

Chapter X.
OUR SECOND VOYAGE TO THE SILVER SHOALS. 138

The jinx shows its hand and tragedy follows. 

CHAPTER VIII
The World's Most Sought-For Treasure
  
OF all the lost, hidden, sunken and secreted treasures, real or fabulous, probably the most famous and assuredly the most familiar to the public and the most sought for, is the treasure of Cocos Island. Hardly a year passes I might almost say a month without news of another Cocos Island treasure hunt. Yet not one single piece of eight, not a single centavo of the Cocos Island treasure has ever been found by the countless seekers after the island's hidden hoards. No, I must qualify that statement, for the first searchers for the treasure actually found it as I shall explain later, but the discovery brought death to all but one man, and the sole survivor was glad enough to escape with his life with never a dollar of treasure as his reward.
Although always referred to as the Cocos Island treasure, yet in reality there are at least three distinct treasures concealed on the little Pacific Ocean island; three immense treasures whose aggregate value is beyond all computation, quite aside from the archaeological and historical value of the hidden objects which would be many, many times the bullion value of the treasures.
Isolated, uninhabited, out of the track of all vessels, with no safe harbor or shelter, Cocos Island presented an ideal spot for hiding treasure. In the days when the buccaneers cruised the Pacific and sacked and burned the Spanish towns along the western coast of South and Central America, the freebooters frequently put in at Cocos for fresh water and for a supply of coconuts. For their purposes the island was a "delectable spot," as Lionel Wafer, the buccaneer surgeon-author, called it. "The middle of the island is a steep hill surrounded with a plain declining to the sea," he wrote. "This plain is set thickly with coconut trees; but what contributes greatly to the pleasures of the place is that a great many springs of dear, sweet water, rising to the top of the hills, are there gathered as in a deep basin or pond, and the water having no channel, it overflows the verge of the basin in several spots and runs trickling down in pleasant streams. In some places of its overflowing, the rocky hillside, being perpendicular and overhanging the plain beneath, the water so pours down in a cataract as to leave dry a spot beneath the spout... We did not spare the coconuts. One day some of our men, minded to make merry, went ashore and cut down many of the trees from which they garnered the nuts and drew about twenty gallons of milk. Then they drank the healths of the King and the Queen and drank an excessive quantity. Yet did not end in drunkenness, but so benumbed their nerves that they neither could move nor stand nor could they return on board the ship without help, nor did they completely recover under four or five days' time."
At the time when the meticulous Wafer wrote of the "delectable" features of Cocos Island, and the remarkable effects of imbibing vast quantities of coconut milk, he was surgeon on board of the Bachelor's Delight under command of Captain Edward Davis, the famous "extraordinarily stout" buccaneer, as the chronicler called him. Although less known to posterity and fame than Sharpe, Morgan, Swan, Hawkins and many another buccaneer chieftain, yet the freebooters themselves regarded Davis as the greatest of them all, and he was chosen by them as the leader and commander-in-chief of all Buccaneers in the Pacific. But long before this he had made a name for himself in the Caribbean, and had won notoriety for his strict but fair discipline, his lack of cruel savagery and his humane character, coupled with an almost uncanny knowledge of seamanship and amazing luck at taking rich prizes. Then, in 1683, he decided to try his luck farther afield, and with seventy men, among whom were Wafer, Dampier and Cook, he set sail from the Chesapeake Bay bound on a round-the-world buccaneering cruise. But his ship, the Revenge, proved a slow craft, and having captured a swift Danish ship he transferred his men and loot, his equipment and guns to her, scuttled the Revenge, and rechristened his new vessel The Bachelor's Delight. Rounding Cape Horn the buccaneers sailed along the west coast of South America, sacking the Spanish towns, taking Spanish treasure ships and bringing terror to the inhabitants, until with his ship fairly groaning with accumulated loot, he put into Cocos Island.
Realizing that to continue his piratical cruise with so much treasure in his hold would be risking the loss of riches as well as ship, and being insatiable in his desire for more, Davis decided that he could scarcely find a better spot in which to temporarily cache his treasure.
Having attended to this matter, he careened and cleaned the vessel and set sail in search of further prizes. Davis, however, had a flair for visiting out-of-the-way spots and doing a bit of exploring as a side line, and putting in at the Island of Plate, he and his shipmates devoted an entire day to dangling tallowed leads over the ship's side angling for the tons of silver coins which Sir Francis Drake had jettisoned when he had found his Golden Hind laden with more treasure than she could safely carry. But to men who were accustomed to counting loot by hundreds of thousands of pieces of eight, fishing for stray silver at the bottom of the sea was tame sport, and, having pulled up a thousand or more silver coins, they wearied of the game and again set sail. But again Davis's desire to investigate and explore got the better of him and he had a try at salvaging the treasure galleon, with some ten million dollars' worth of minted silver aboard, which had been wrecked off the Ecuadorean coast many years before. In this he was not successful, but while at the scene he met buccaneer Swan in the Cygnet, and the two joining forces, they attacked Guayaquil and took four ships in the harbor. Then off they sailed to Panama, picking up a few stray prizes en route. At Panama they were met by a fleet of buccaneer ships with a total complement of nearly one thousand men, and Davis was unanimously elected admiral of the fleet. For months the buccaneers had a merry time of it, taking ships, sacking towns, ina.fring raids on the cities, plantations and mines inland, and accumulating a vast, incalculable fortune in loot, all, or most of which at least, was added to the store already concealed on Cocos Island.
No doubt Davis, as well as others of the buccaneers, filled their private coffers and their sea chests with the most valuable and easily transported objects of gold and with precious gems, for Davis, who vanished from the realms of buccaneering, next turned up as a wealthy merchant in the Orient, having received the King's full pardon for his piratical exploits. While he was in the East it happened that Captain Kidd arrived in his Adventure Galley, and Davis wishing to return to America, the worthy Kidd took him as passenger for a worthwhile consideration. Without any event of importance occurring, the ex-leader of the buccaneers of the Pacific was set ashore, together with a huge chest presumably containing his fortune, on our Atlantic coast. There he drops out of the picture, having settled down to an easy life ashore and never, as far as records show, having returned to Cocos Island to disinter his buried treasures.
It was more than a century after Captain Davis hid his loot on Cocos and Wafer penned his description of the "delectable spot," that the second treasure was concealed there. At this time the Spanish colonies of South America were in the throes of rebellion. Bolivar, San Martin and Sucre were in the field. Venezuela, Colombia and other countries had been freed from the yoke of Spain, and the liberating army was advancing on Peru. Of all the South and Central American colonies of Spain, Peru was the richest, the most important. For centuries it had been the seat of the colonial government of New Spain. All the coins in use in Spanish America—as well as much of the currency of Spain—were minted in Lima. The mines of Peru and Bolivia (then a portion of Peru) sent a steady, apparently inexhaustible stream of gold and silver flowing into the treasury of the Peruvian viceroys, and Lima, the City of the Bangs, was famed as the richest city in the entire world. Its churches were filled with golden and silver holy vessels, gem-studded robes of saints, jewel-encrusted chalices and monstrances, altars and pulpits covered with beaten gold, and in one of the hundred and more churches in the Peruvian capital the supporting columns to the roof were wound with wreaths of golden and silver flowers and leaves adorned with precious stones. Almost as rich as the churches were the hidalgos, the merchants, the mine owners, the planters and the government officials. Many of the citizens were multi-millionaires. It was not unusual for kitchen utensils to be of solid silver, and solid gold table services caused no comment. And in those days a man's wealth was in good solid bullion or currency and not in bonds, stocks, paper or other so-called "securities," which we have learned to our sorrow are far from being secure.
But the Peruvians felt secure enough. Although Callao, their seaport, had in times past fallen to the buccaneers, although Lima had heard the dare devilish British freebooters thundering at the city gates, and had paid heavily in tribute to be rid of them, yet with the completion of the great Rey Felipe fortress at Callao there was small fear of a repetition of piratical attacks or of invasion by a foreign foe, while the massive walls and ponderous gates surrounding the capital were well-nigh impregnable.
But when news came of the amazing victories of the liberators in other Spanish colonies, the inhabitants of Lima became most uneasy and disturbed. The obscure, unknown countryman named Bolivar appeared to possess some occult or supernatural power. With a mere handful of ragged, barefooted or sandaled peasants, poorly armed and equipped, he had defeated the best of Spanish troops, he had taken town after town, fortress after fortress and now, so rumor had it, he was marching southward upon Peru. Moreover, from a mere mob of half-starved peons and farmers his "army" had grown into a large force of thoroughly seasoned, well drilled and splendidly armed men. And when word reached Lima that Colombia and Ecuador had been freed, and that Bolivar with his army of liberation was already over the 'boundary of Peru, and that Lord Dundonald, having joined the cause of freedom, was sailing northward from Chile with a fleet of war vessels, the people became mad with terror.
In vain the Viceroy and the generals strove to calm the citizens and the priests. They had scant faith in the efficiency of the easy-going, luxury-loving officers and their indolent garrisons.
And even if the rebels found Lima too hard a nut to crack and were defeated and driven off, there would most assuredly be desperate fighting; the fever of freedom would be infectious and would arouse internal rebellion, and there would be death and fire and ruin with looting and destruction. Moreover, with nearly fifty million dollars worth of treasure to be had for the taking in Lima, it was certain that the patriots would make every effort, would exert themselves to the utmost to take the town, for their funds were low and the millions within the Lima mint, the millions in private fortunes and the additional millions in the churches would go far to aid the patriots' cause and place the newly formed republics on a firm financial footing.
There was only one thing to be done to safeguard the treasures, public and private. The Rey Felipe citadel was the most powerful, the most impregnable fortification in all South America, and within its walls the treasures would be fairly safe. Steadily from dawn until dark, from night until morn, for day after day, plodding burros, sweating porters, pack mules and horses, ox carts and drays plied back and forth over the dusty road between Lima and Callao, transporting the millions in gold, silver and gems from the capital to Rey Felipe. Never in the history of the New World had a greater treasure been gathered together at one place at one time. Every peso's worth placed within the fortress was duly registered and receipts given the owners, and these, still preserved, prove that over thirty-five million dollars' worth of valuables were lodged in the citadel at that momentous period in 1820. And aside from this vast treasure, placed under official lock and key, there were more millions concealed and buried in the fortress by owners who did not even trust the security of vaults and massive walls. Still others, among them the priests, were so filled with dread that they dared not let their riches remain on Peruvian soil, but chartering any ships which happened to be available, they loaded their treasures on board and set sail for parts unknown. Some of these treasure-laden ships arrived safely at their destinations with cargoes intact. Some were never heard from and no doubt foundered at sea or fell to pirates, but among them there was one whose history is well known and whose cargo of riches went to swell the hidden treasures of Cocos Island.
This ship, which was of British registry and was named the Mary Dear, was a small merchant brig in command of Captain Thomson, and within her hold was placed the greatest of all the Lima treasures the precious contents of the Lima Cathedral, the richest church in all America and probably the richest in the world at that time. Never before or since has a pot-bellied little trading brig held such a cargo as filled the 'tween decks of Captain Thomson's ship. Gem-studded golden crucifixes, bejeweled vestments, silver and golden candelabra, chalices worth a fortune each, shrines of gold ablaze with precious stones, rosaries of emeralds and pearls, clerical furniture covered with gold and silver; and bulky chests of minted coin filled the Mary Dear to full capacity.
There is a well-known axiom that every man has his price, and while there may be exceptions to prove the rule, few ordinary mortals can successfully withstand the temptation of incalculable riches when placed conveniently within one's reach. No doubt, under all normal conditions, the captain of the brig was a most honest and exemplary skipper as skippers go. He might drive a hard bargain, being of Scotch blood; he might knock his surly, cutthroat seamen about in order to maintain discipline aboard ship, he no doubt hated the Catholics as the devil hates Holy Water, and unquestionably he was not averse to earning many an honest penny by smuggling. But as far as known he had never developed any criminal characteristics until he sailed away from Peru in his ship loaded to her hatches with treasure.
Twelve million dollars in tangible precious metal and precious stones is enough to tempt many a man more godly and more law-abiding than an impecunious merchant skipper, and Captain Thomson succumbed to the temptation. And once the devil had got the worthy skipper in his clutches he saw to it that Captain Thomson became a worthy disciple.
Without the slightest compunction the skipper murdered the Spanish priests and the custodians of the treasure, together with a number of passengers, callously tossed their still warm bodies to the sharks, and thereby was transformed into an out-and-out pirate.
Being a practical and hard-headed fellow he realized that he could scarcely expect to sail boldly into any port and discharge twelve millions in treasure and claim it as his own without most embarrassing questions being asked. For that matter, even to attempt to exchange golden and jeweled church property for coin of the realm would excite suspicion. In other words he was a multi-millionaire unable to profit by his blood-stained wealth. Very probably, had he foreseen this condition of affairs before he committed his crimes, the second and greatest of Cocos Island treasures would never have been hidden on the sea-girt spot. But as it was, Captain Thomson decided that the only course to follow was to cache his loot until circumstances permitted him to cash in on it, and recalling the loneliness and the other advantages of Cocos Island, he squared away and reaching the "delectable" bit of land buried his twelve millions so safely that it remains there yet. Then, as he was obliged to earn a living and to find the wherewithal to pay his men, as he could no longer afford to trade along the coast of Peru, and as he was already a pirate, he decided to cast honest dealings to the winds, and joined as scoundrelly and bloodstained a fiend as ever walked a ship's deck, an infamous Spanish pirate named Benito Benito.
Between them they accumulated a vast amount of loot, and at Captain Thomson's suggestion this was added to the store at Cocos Island and formed the third great treasure which lies buried there.
But by the year of our Lord, 1821, the law-abiding, honest, sea-going folk had become heartily tired of being killed and robbed by pirates, and the British and American governments decided that strenuous measures should be taken to wipe these gentry from the seas. Thus it came about that the notorious Benito and his ship were captured by the British frigate Espiegle. Then, for the first time in his ill-spent life, Benito did the right thing and blew out his brains rather than be taken prisoner and hanged, which was the fitting fate of his crew.
But Benito's partner in piracy escaped. Finding life on the high seas was becoming far too dangerous to his liking, he managed to elude the armed vessels of the United States and Great Britain, and reaching England, settled down under an assumed name.
A quarter of a century had passed since Benito Benito had pistoled himself and Captain Thomson had abandoned the sea, when the former skipper of the Mary Dear decided to take a trip to Newfoundland. On the voyage out he became friendly with a Newfoundlander named Keating, and at the latter's invitation took up his residence in the home of his shipboard's acquaintance where the two lived like brothers. For several years Captain Thomson kept the secret of his identity, but at last he revealed the fact that he had been a pirate, that he had served with Benito Benito and that he had a secret which would make them both millionaires. Nowadays, of course, should a friend of several years' standing suddenly announce that he had been a blood-steeped pirate and had millions in treasure cached on a lonely isle, he would either be laughed at as a romancer of the first water or would be clapped into an insane asylum. But at the time when Captain Thomson divulged his past to his friend, piracy and pirates were almost current events, there were plenty of retired freebooters living ostensibly respectable lives ashore under assumed names, and Keating, who had noticed an "air of mystery" about his guest, was scarcely surprised at the latter's disclosures, and listened with interest to his proposition.
Keating, he suggested, should secure a staunch ship with a competent captain and crew; together they would sail to the Pacific, and there the ex-pirate would guide them to the hiding places of enough riches to "buy all of Newfoundland" and leave them wealthy in addition.
As there was little to be risked and much to be gained in the venture, Keating at once agreed and enlisted the services of a friend to supply the vessel and equipment, and induced another friend, a Captain Bogue, to take command. But before the ship was ready to sail Thomson died. This, however, did not interfere with the plans of the treasure seekers, for he had prepared a chart of Cocos Island on which he had indicated the cache of the Lima treasure with explicit directions for finding it
In due course of time, and without adventure, the ship arrived at Cocos Island and Keating and Captain Bogue, armed with a map, went ashore.
Everything tallied perfectly, and with little trouble the two located the cavern in which Thomson and Benito had concealed their treasures. And as they gazed upon the vast store of precious things they were speechless with amazement. They had been assured that there were immense riches in the cache, but never for a moment had they even dreamed of seeing millions in gold, silver and jewels dazzling their eyes. And now that the treasure was actually within sight and reach it suddenly dawned upon them that they were in much the same dilemma as Captain Thomson had experienced after he had taken possession of the treasure entrusted to his ship. To let the crew of their ship suspect the presence of the treasure would be dangerous in the extreme. They were rough, unprincipled, ignorant seamen, and the sight of gold would in all probability lead to open mutiny and murder. Yet they could not get away with any considerable quantity of the treasure without the crew knowing of it.
Finally they decided to return to the ship and say nothing of their discovery, and to think up some plan for getting away with a portion of the immense treasure. But their manner or their suppressed excitement betrayed them. The men sensed that the treasure had been located and at once became mutinous and unruly, declaring that their officers Intended to cheat them of their share In the treasure, and threatening to maroon or kill Keating and Bogue unless they showed them the hoard of riches. It was useless for the two men to plead or argue. The men were inflamed with the thought of treasure, and at last the mate and most of the crew went ashore leaving the captain and Keating under guard aboard ship. But without the chart the hunt was hopeless, and angrier and more dangerous than ever the fellows returned and forced Keating and Bogue to agree to lead them to the cache the following morning. Both the men were convinced that their death warrants were sealed if they remained on the ship. If they showed the crew the treasure the rascals would unquestionably do away with them, and if they failed they would equally surely be killed. So that night they stole away in the whale boat, rowed silently to the shore and helped themselves to all the valuables they could carry. Then, as they pulled away through the surf, the boat was capsized by a huge wave. The captain, his pockets filled with gold and silver, sank like a stone too heavily weighted down to swim; but Keating managed to save his life. He had knotted his coat to form a rude sort of sack to hold his treasure and had placed only a few coins in his trousers pockets. By gripping the overturned boat with one hand he succeeded in emptying his pockets of their burden, and drawing himself upon the bottom of the whale boat dung to it as it drifted out to sea. Two days later a Spanish vessel sighted the capsized boat and rescued Keating who was landed in Costa Rica. Although only half-clad and without a dollar to his name, the shipwrecked treasure-seeker worked his way across the country and shipped on a trading vessel bound for the States, whence he found his way back to Newfoundland.
Although he was the first and only man actually to have seen the Lima treasure since the day Captain Thomson concealed it in the cave, yet his harrowing experience had completely cured him of treasure seeking for twenty years to come. Then, having heard Keating's oft repeated tale, Nicholas Fitzgerald induced him to take part in another expedition to Cocos. But like Captain Thomson, Keating died before the vessel sailed and left the precious chart to his wife. And as she and the promoters of the search could not agree on the shares of the treasure, if found, the expedition was abandoned. Not until 1894 was another attempt made to wrest the Cocos Island treasure from its hiding place. And this time the expedition, in charge of a Captain Hackett in the ship Aurora, was a complete failure. The vessel was buffeted by tempestuous weather, provisions gave out, the crew mutinied, and long before Cocos Island was sighted the ill-starred voyage was abandoned and the expedition returned to Newfoundland.
Since then, innumerable attempts have been made to salvage the treasures hidden on the little Pacific island. Men of all nationalities and in all walks of life have gone treasure hunting to Cocos. There have been practical, hard headed business men, bankers and brokers, rich men and poor men, college students and amateur yachtsmen, sailors and soldiers. Even Sir Malcolm Campbell, the famous racing car driver, has had a try at it, but equally without success.
From time to time there have been rumors that the treasure, or one of the treasures, had been found; but each time it has proved a false alarm. Not long ago a newspaper published a long story of some man who purchased a book on mathematics in a second-hand bookshop in London and discovered, hidden under the lining to the back cover, a map purporting to be that of the hiding place of the Lima treasure and signed by Captain Thomson. But, unfortunately, the person who claimed to have found the map was unfamiliar with the customs of mariners and the illiteracy of the pirate-merchant skipper, for his alleged signature was spelled "Thompson" and NOT Thomson, as it appears on old documents still preserved, and read "Captain of the Mary Dear" which immediately branded the map as a fake, for no seafaring man would sign a document as "Captain of the Mary Dear" but would write: "Master." Moreover, Captain Thomson was shy on spelling. It was a difficult and painstaking matter for him to write at all, and he invariably spelled the name of his brig "Mary Dere."
Equally unauthentic charts supposed to reveal the hiding place of the Cocos Island treasures have bobbed up from time to time, and persons ignorant of the true facts have been fired with the desire to wrest the millions from their caches and have set off for Cocos, only to return sadder and wiser men. In all the long years that have passed since Davis visited "the delectable spot" and Benito Benito and his partner, Captain Thomson, ravished the Pacific, the only treasure that has been found, and kept by the finder, was a Spanish doubloon of 1788 which was picked up by a German named Geissler who dwelt like a hermit upon Cocos Island for over thirty years and constantly searched for the hidden treasures.
It is not at all surprising that all efforts to recover the vast treasures of the island have been failures. There is no question that the vast accumulations of gold, silver and gems are still there, but Mother Nature has hidden them far more effectively and securely than did buccaneers or pirates. Some years after Keating and Bogue gazed upon the treasures in the secret cave, there was a great landslide on the island. A huge section of the "rocky side of the hill, being perpendicular and hanging over the plain beneath," broke away and buried the treasure cavern and the treasures under thousands of tons of bowlders, earth, fallen trees and debris. There it is likely to remain forever unless some one solves the problem of successfully landing a fleet of powerful steam shovels on the surfbeaten shore and methodically digs away the mountain side. And even then, it would be time and money wasted, unless the excavators were in possession of the original map which guided Keating and Captain Bogue to the spot where the Lima treasure was cached.

CHAPTER IX
Salvaging the Spanish Galleon

THROUGH the crystalline waters of the tropics I have looked down upon the remains of a stately Spanish galleon that, laden with treasures, was driven by a hurricane upon the coral reefs three centuries and more ago. In diving suit and helmet I have picked my way among masses of giant corals, exploring the ancient wreck, prying cannon balls and weapons from the marine growth, salvaging utensils and fittings from their centuries-old resting-place, scraping the encrustation from the huge clumsy cannon, breaking up lumps of coral in search of doubloons and pieces of eight. And from the bed of the West Indian seas I have seen the fittings and the contents of the three-hundred-year-old wreck come dripping over the rail of my boat as the divers wrenched them from their resting places and we hauled them upward from the ocean's depths. It is fascinating, thrilling, a strange experience to move about the bottom of the sea where the water is as dear as glass and at a depth of forty feet the sunlight streams downward and illuminates the bottom and the reefs as if under a floodlight. Marvelous are the colors of the living corals—orange, yellow, crimson, mauve, brown, green, scarlet, black and fawn; and endless in their variety of forms. Some are dome-shaped, others like giant mushrooms, some form great flat shelves, others with innumerable branches form veritable jungles; still others are like gnarled forest trees, and everywhere among them are the waving purple and black sea-plumes, the orange, golden or mauve sea-fans, the gaudy sea anemones and the multicolored growths of bryozoans. In precipices and overhanging cliffs that tower far above one's helmet, great mysterious blue caƱons and caverns open before one. And even more brilliantly colored, more striking than the corals are the fishes. Dazzling blue parrot fish, gaudy graceful angel fish of blue, yellow, orange, black and zebra-striped; butterfly and four-eyed fish, marbled groupers, and scarlet snappers and vermilion squirrel fish, cruel-jawed barracudas and great, gray, baleful-eyed sharks swim lazily about, paying no heed to the strange misshapen being invading their domains.
Probably no human eyes had ever looked upon this sunken galleon since the day she went to the bottom of the sea. No man had ever before gazed downward upon the centuries-old hulk amid the reefs. No human being had seen her since that far distant day when, in the fury of a West Indian hurricane, the plate ships of Spain were hurled to destruction upon the jagged coral fangs, and never a man of the hundreds on board lived to tell the tale of the greatest catastrophe that ever befell the merchant marine of Spain.
It was in the summer of 1637 that the fleet of plate ships—the treasure-laden galleons from Panama, Vera Cruz, Margarita, Colombia, Venezuela and other rich ports of the Spanish Main, gathered in the harbor of Puerta Plata on the northern coast of Hispaniola. Fifteen treasure ships, carrying a cargo of gold and silver bullion, specie and precious stones, pearls and plate, golden and silver objects from ancient Incan graves and tombs a cargo valued at nearly seventy million dollars, formed the fleet; and convoyed by two frigates heavily armed, the flotilla set sail for Spain. Two days after leaving Puerta Plata the fleet was struck by a hurricane and the fifteen galleons and one frigate were driven upon the Silver Shoals, nearly one hundred miles from any land, and went to the bottom with all on board. But one frigate escaped, and crippled and half-wrecked, limped into port and reported the catastrophe. As was customary in those days tie admiral in command was court-martialed, and although exonerated of all blame, the proceedings of the court, which are still preserved, give us the facts of the tragedy and the names of the lost ships and a list of the valuables in their holds and strong rooms. Fifty" years after the treasure fleet was lost, stout, bluff, old Captain William Phipps located one of the lost plate ships and from it, fished up nearly four hundred thousand pounds worth of gold and silver. Phipps, who numbered the King of England and members of the nobility among his partners, was knighted and appointed Governor of the Massachusetts Colony for his success, and never returned to wrest the "greater parte" of the treasure from the lost galleons. Neither did he, as far as any one knows, leave a chart of the treasure wreck's exact position so that others might profit thereby. But in a single "fly" published at the time of Phipps' triumphant return to England, he gave a very good account of his discovery, while his journal or log records the daily results of his treasure fishing.
But with no exact position of the wreck recorded, and with no accurate chart with the wreck noted thereon, it seemed a rather hopeless proposition to attempt to locate the wreck or wrecks after three hundred years. And when, two years ago, I was asked if I thought it would be possible to find one of the galleons, I was very doubtful.
Still, treasure hunting at its best is a gamble, and in this case the stakes were high, and with what meager information I could secure the expedition set sail. From Phipps' notes, with both contemporary and modern charts, and here and there in Sir William's journal a chance remark, I had plotted the latitude and longitude where I assumed Phipps had anchored three centuries earlier, and had worked out the position or rather the assumed position of the wreck; little enough to go on to be sure.
In due course of time we arrived at the shoals and cast anchor at the spot I had selected as Phipps' anchorage, or as near it as possible. It was a dangerous place, with threatening green patches of reef showing through the azure water on every side. But it was a calm day, the lapis-lazuli sea lay with scarcely a ripple under a cloudless sky, and only the upflung breakers of the ground swell on the "boilers" broke the line of the horizon.
Never will I forget the sensation we all felt as we approached the first of these coral-heads. Just awash, with the long ocean swell sweeping over them and then receding, leaving the sharp, talon-like corals exposed, they seemed endowed with some malignant purpose terrible, sinister monsters reaching out hungry hands to grasp our craft and drag the small boat to destruction. Even the most sea-hardened of our men, old sailors that they were, confessed to such a feeling of terror, and all of us actually shuddered with dread each time a surge sucked our boats toward the jagged masses. Very lonely and at the mercy of the sea we felt, too, with our little hundred-foot ship looking very small and insignificant in that vast waste of waters, and we realized fully that should anything happen to the vessel we were all as good as doomed.
So transparent was the water that the bottom at eight or ten fathoms appeared within reach of one's outstretched hand, and with every detail standing out sharply and dearly. Yet the objects upon that floor of the reef filled ocean were amazingly deceptive. There were great fingers of coral which were the exact counterparts of the timbers and ribs of sunken ships. There were strange sea growths that looked like kegs and chests, and again and again we felt certain we had located a wreck only to find when we went down in the “hats" (diving helmets) that our "wrecks" were merely natural formations. But we had searched for scarcely an hour when we spotted an anchor. Almost coincidently another of the men found two more anchors, and the next moment a great cannon was seen. Excitement ran high. Here was indisputable evidence that we were above a wrecked ship, and the type of the anchors and gun left no doubt as to the vessel's age. With straining eyes we searched the sea floor for further wreckage, but nothing of the sunken ship's structure was visible. Quickly the air pump was manned, and donning their suits, the divers dropped down. Intently we watched. And then came a surprise. From our boat the two smaller anchors had appeared no larger than ordinary kedge anchors; but when a diver grasped one and raised it upright the shank extended for more than two feet above his head! It took all our tackle and herculean labor to salvage the smallest of the three; the largest was more than twelve feet in length.
Though they had rested under the sea for nearly three centuries, yet the massive, hand-forged anchors that once had served to moor a treasure galleon of Spain were in a remarkable state of preservation. Beneath the two-inch incrustation of lime the iron was still sound, and a little chipping and cleaning would have rendered them fit for service again.
Next, we attempted to raise the cannon in hopes that it might bear the name of the ship on whose decks it once had been mounted. But the great gun with its ornate breech and oddly-placed trunnions proved too much for our tackle and when within a few feet of the surface it broke away and plunged back to its resting place. So we left the ancient weapon to the fishes and devoted our efforts to tracing the outlines of the wreck and locating its strong room. This was a most difficult task. Nowhere was there a timber of the ship visible. Through the centuries, the detritus from the surrounding reef had completely buried the wreck in fine fragments of broken coral which had become so firmly cemented together by the lime that the wreck was covered with a concrete-like armor nearly two feet in thickness. And such objects as had been upon the galleon's decks or protruded from the cement-like surface, were coated with white lime and appeared like mere irregularities on the ocean's bed or like lumps of coral. Only by striking every object with a crowbar or hammer was it possible to determine which were natural growths and which ware portions of the ship.
Inch by inch the divers examined the ocean's floor, and presently up came a bundle of bent and twisted iron work—hatch bands and chain-plates, toggles and rings, and finally the massive iron sling that had held the "Jimmy Green" or water-sail yard beneath the galleon's bowsprit.
Obviously we had reached the bow of the wreck, and now the divers worked in the opposite direction. From amid a mass of broken coral they salvaged a swivel-gun crutch of steel almost as perfect as on the day it was forged in some smithy in old Spain. In another spot they came upon some irregular black lumps which we at first mistook for iron, but which proved to be cannon powder still capable of burning with a strong sulphurous odor when dried.
However, the forepeak of a galleon is no place to search for treasure, and little by little the divers worked aft—or in the direction I assumed was aft. For a time they found nothing. Then, thirty feet back of the anchors and gun, they came upon more wreckage—chain-plates and standing rigging, iron plates and mast-bands, which convinced me that we were working where once had been the galley and the carpenter's shack abaft the mainmast. Here was a real mine of antiquities, and at each descent the divers salvaged new and surprising objects. There were massive lumps which looked like meteorites, but which, when broken apart, proved to be the remains of kegs of nails. Not a nail remained, but each hand-forged nail had left a perfect mould in the mass of iron oxide and lime which had formed about them. Other material was found which had every appearance of graphite. It could be whittled with a knife, it could be used like a pencil-lead, and I puzzled over it for hours, until I at last discovered it once had been cast iron! Imagine whittling cast iron with a pocket knife!
Here, too, hidden under the limestone crust, was an iron kettle. To one side the divers found a crudely-made, hand-forged, five-pronged grapnel which no doubt had once been in the galleon's longboat. Every moment was filled with intense interest and excitement as we stared downward through our glass-bottomed water buckets, for no one could know what the divers might unearth next. And at any instant we might haul up a diver's stout canvas bag filled with gold or silver bars or masses of ancient coins.
And here let me digress to remark that pieces of eight and doubloons and golden onzas buried under the tropical sea for three hundred years are not the bright and shining disks described in fanciful tales of treasure-trove and pictured by imaginative artists. Instead, they were shapeless lumps that no one would recognize as coins, that might easily be mistaken for masses of dead coral. Through the centuries the coins have become firmly cemented together by oxides and lime which, covering the metal, has retained more or less perfectly the form of bags or chests in which they were once contained. And only by their greater weight and by breaking the lumps in pieces with a heavy hammer can one distinguish the ancient coins from coral formations.
Working about the spot where the ship's galley had once stood, the divers salvaged many a strange and totally unexpected object. There were pewter plates, bearing the arms of Spain, on which the coarse fare of the ship's crew had once been served. Three grindstones were found, worn and out of shape from sharpening many a knife and sword and halberd. There were articles and utensils of iron and copper whose original purposes still remain a mystery. There were broken plates and bowls, and wine jars, with blue and yellow designs still dear upon the crackled glaze. There were fragments of the galleon's rails and gun carriages with the wood still well-preserved. We found a pike head as bright as silver (for unwittingly the old Dons used rustless steel forged from iron ore containing chromium) still bearing the gold damascening upon its surface. There were the remains of a tool chest still containing the handles of chisels and other tools, a hammer head, a caulking iron, a hatchet and an adze. We even found the galleon's sounding lead a rudely-hammered lump of metal weighing about ten pounds, its smaller end perforated by two holes instead of one as modern sounding leads are. More remarkable yet, we secured a portion of the ship's bilge pump, and to our utter amazement found the leather and tow packing of the piston in perfect condition!
From the vanished galley we salvaged the long-dead cook's scouring or Bath brick, and when one of the divers' bar struck metal, and there was a dull gleam of yellow amid the broken crust, every one was on the qui vive. But the find proved to be an astonishing, immense copper kettle with huge bronze legs and a long copper spout. Obviously it was an extemporized cooking utensil, for it was built up of sheets of copper of varying thickness riveted together, and with the crudely-cast bronze legs riveted in place. But it was not the workmanship of the thing which drew our interest; it was the fact that there was scarcely a trace of verdigris upon the metal which showed a dull, purplish-black patina, and that it was enormously heavy. Had the legs been of solid gold they could scarcely have weighed more. But the puzzle was eventually solved. The thing was made from copper, probably from Peru, smelted from ores that were rich in silver and gold. Little did the long dead cook dream, as he sweated over the galleon's galley fires, that he was boiling the crew's soup in a kettle containing more gold than he could earn by years of toil. The old pot was a find in another way, too. The portion that had been hidden under the crust of lime was filled with loose sand. Obviously, we reasoned from this, the concrete-like coating was merely a floor above sand which buried the wreck, and in this loose material we would find her timbers and her treasure intact.
There were amusing incidents, also. Once a diver brought up some strips of bright shiny metal and remarked that he guessed they were remains of old sardine tins. But if the Dons had used that metal for sardine containers well, the empty tins would be worth more than their weight in gold today! For the strips our diver had found were platinum! Of all the various metals we found, only the platinum had retained its pristine color and brightness. But to the old Spaniards platinum was not a precious metal. They regarded it as almost worthless "false silver," they called it; too soft for most purposes and of value only for making the cheapest, most ordinary utensils. In all probability the platinum strips on the wrecked galleon had been used for repairing pots and pans!
Slowly the divers worked beyond the site of galley and carpenter's shack. Another great gun was discovered lodged in a jungle of stag-horn coral. Twisted portions of iron work of the mizzen rigging were found, and at last they came upon the massive wrought-iron hangers that had supported the ship's huge rudder. The stern of the galleon had been reached! Beneath the divers' feet, under the corals and the limestone crust, was the lazarette, the floor of the high stern-castle and the galleon's strong room. We felt certain of it, for by now we had fairly well established the wreck's outline and her position on the bottom. She was resting wedged between three reefs, her port side jammed against one, and in a sort of small cove or basin surrounded by five coral-heads. It was a dangerous spot in which to work, for in the event of a blow and heavy seas arising the diving boat, moored above the wreck, stood a good chance of being lost. And even in the smoothest weather the swell, surging over the reefs, created a rise and fall, a swinging of the boat that constantly chafed and cut the steel wire cables with which we moored her to the coral heads. But the weather was holding good, and feverishly the divers labored. We were working against time, for the hurricane season was near at hand; each night it blew a half-gale, and in the ever increasing seas our ship a converted submarine chaser rolled horribly (she thought nothing of a 45-degree angle and often did fifty) and each time she rose to a sea the anchor chain, tangled amid the coral, snapped and crashed as if torn asunder. And if it had parted well, it would have been just too bad for all on board, for on every side and astern the waves were breaking white on countless coral heads.
But dangers to the mother ship or the diving launch were forgotten for the time. Only a foot or two of limestone crust separated us from the treasures in the galleon's hold. We felt that luck had been with us from the start, that we had laid the jinx that seems ever to guard lost and sunken treasures. But we had counted our chickens too soon.
Despite their every effort the divers found it impossible to make adequate headway in getting through the crust. A man under water can exert very little power on a crowbar and cannot strike much of a blow with a sledge, and the crust was not only hard and tough but, in addition, at every blow struck the pulverized material would rise like white smoke, clouding the water and forcing the men to stop work until it had cleared away. A week of this work and we were all convinced that it would be hopeless to continue, that at the rate of progress being made it would be impossible to get into the wreck before the weather forced us to flee for our lives. Drills and dynamite would be required to blast a way into the galleon's hold and strongroom and, as we had neither, we reluctantly decided to abandon our treasure wreck until the following year.
But we had accomplished a great deal. Our forehold was filled with objects salvaged from the three-centuries old galleon, and now we knew where the wreck was, it would be an easy matter to find it the next time, when with compressed air drills and pavement breakers, sand pumps and dynamite we would return to wrest the treasure from the old plate ship. Also, we had become almost convinced that the wreck we had found was the same which Sir William Phipps had salvaged in 1687. It seemed impossible that there could be two wrecks so similar in their position, their condition and appearance. In his description of the wreck he salvaged he says:

"Yet though we might most dyligenetely make search, naught might be seen of ye galyon save ye grate gunne and somme anklers (anchors), all about beinge whyte marie, until such time as ye dywers did discouvere that ye wrack was hydden by ye lyme thereon.
"Such pieces of eight and dollars and halve dollars as were fished were with difficultie counted upon our decks, beinge bound one unto another so that blows with a maule must be struck themme that they should break aparte.
"Ye wrack lyeth within ye compasse of two reefs, wedgette fast atwixt ye twain, with no manner of mastes, nay or stern castle nor poope remainynge, but sank to. ye chayne-plates in ye sands and marie. And upon ye forecastle lyeth her grate gunne and anklers, the whych are alle that might be seen from above the sea.
"Notwithstandinge that ye dywers did wearie of dywinge to ten fathoms, yet they could not make entry unto ye bellie of ye wrack wherein muste lie ye greatest of ye treasure."

It would seem impossible that two of the wrecked galleons should have been so identical in position and in condition a great gun and anchors on the forecastle the only objects visible from above, wedged between two reefs, covered with white limestone and buried to the rails in sand. Moreover, although we salvaged cannon balls which did not fit the large cannon, and also found a swivel-gun crutch, we could find no swivel guns, carronades or bronze cannon; but if our wreck was the same as Phipps' that is easily explained, for he states that he raised ALL the bronze guns on the wreck. To be sure, there were sixteen ships lost fifteen galleons and a frigate and Phipps found but one, as did we, and it would seem a remarkable coincidence that we both found the same wreck. But despite our most careful searching we could locate no others in the vicinity, and I came to the conclusion that in all probability most of the doomed ships either became wedged on the reefs, to be broken to bits in succeeding storms, or striking the coral, were carried over and sank in deep water where they can never be found.
But even if our wreck and Phipps' were one and the same, it did not affect our expectations of securing the treasure. Phipps' galleon was identified by the name on her bronze guns, and documents prove that she carried bullion and specie worth fully one million pounds. And as Phipps salvaged barely half that amount, and knew as he recorded that the greater treasure still remained in the "bellie" of the galleon, there was plenty left for us.
Neither had our first expedition been lacking in adventure, thrills and sport. Fish swarmed in the sea, and constantly, savage tiger and gray sharks swam slowly about the anchored ship. Whenever time hung heavily on our hands or weather did not permit us to work on the wreck, we amused ourselves by capturing the monsters. Often, as they swam close to the surface, we would shoot them with rifles; but as a rule we either harpooned them or caught them on a hook and line. And believe me, it is some sport with plenty of excitement to haul in a twelve or fourteen foot tiger shark. Yet despite the abundance of sharks, not to mention huge barracuda which are even more dangerous, they never molested the divers in their suits or even when we went down in the “hats" only. At first I assumed that they were frightened away by the rising air bubbles from the escape valves. But later I proved to my own satisfaction that it was the vibration of the motor-driven compressor that terrified them, for often, when sharks and barracuda were present, I have seen them dash madly away the moment the compressor was started and before a diver had entered the water. But the huge groupers that haunted the reefs had no fear of either divers or vibrations. In fact they were a great nuisance, for the moment a diver commenced to stir up the bottom, and uncover worms and other marine creatures, the great, clumsy looking groupers would appear on the scene, gobbling up the exposed crustaceans and worms, and in their efforts to gorge themselves they would frequently dash between the divers' legs, or bump blindly into them, knocking the men off their feet. And despite blows aimed at them with crowbars, grains thrust into their sides, and being stabbed by the divers' sheath-knives, the groupers never seemed to take the hint that they were not welcome.

CHAPTER X
Our Second Voyage to the Silver Shoals

WE had learned much by our experience on our first expedition to salvage the ancient treasure galleon. Before we had set out, no one had had the least idea of what condition a wreck would be in after three centuries under the tropical sea, for no one had ever seen such a wreck. I had assumed that it might be more or less overgrown with coral, that few or none of the upper works would remain, that the iron work and fittings would have completely disappeared, and that the hull, during centuries of rotting and being eaten by worms, would be a fragmentary skeleton with ballast, cargo and treasure easily accessible.
Instead, we had found the wreck completely buried in sand and covered with limestone as hard as concrete. Nobody had foreseen such a condition, and hence we had not taken along the proper tools and equipment for salvaging the wreck. But in outfitting for the second attempt we knew just what was required, and compressed air-drills and pavement breakers, powerful grappling toggles, and an ample supply of dynamite and detonators were part of the equipment. Also, having learned the impossibility of working while the water was opaque with the powdered lime stirred up by digging through the crust, we added a sand-pump to the outfit. The very latest and best of diving suits, helmets and compressors were purchased, and as I had found the flat-bottomed skiff, which had been our small boat on the previous trip was not a desirable craft for knocking about reefs in the middle of the ocean, I designed and had built three dories of a special style, equipped with outboard motors, masts and sails, and with an open well in the center to enable us to use our water-glasses more conveniently than by leaning over the sides. And although these dories were small the largest but sixteen feet in length they proved the staunchest, most seaworthy of craft, and more than once one of them carried nine men through heavy seas from the mother-ship to the wreck and return in safety.
Only one item of the expedition was not what it should have been. That was the salvage ship. I had planned to use a powerful, fully-equipped wrecking steamer; but one of the men interested in the project owned a schooner yacht, some of the financiers were his intimate friends, and nothing would do but to use this vessel. She was wholly unsuited to the work, and had we been provided with a proper ship the results might in fact certainly would have been far different and stark tragedy might have been averted.
From the very beginning bad luck seemed to surround the schooner like an aura. She was to sail from New York in March, but the coldest weather ever known swept over New York and freezing rivers and harbor sealed our vessel immovably in the ice where she remained for two weeks. When she finally got dear she was so badly cut and injured by the ice that we were compelled to haul her out and repair her planking in Nassau, with another fortnight's delay. She was supposed to make eight or nine knots under power, but the best she could do was less than six; she was a slow, clumsy sailer, and although a wonderfully buoyant and staunch sea-boat her decks leaked like sieves and each time it rained or when a sea broke over her everything below was treated to a shower-bath. Moreover, she was overcrowded, for instead of the nine men aboard as planned, the owner-captain added three of his friends to the list.
But at last we set sail from Nassau and before a forty-five mile gale, and the heaviest sea in the memory of the oldest local inhabitant, we made the run to Great Inagua in record time. Here we picked up the diving launch and compressor which had been shipped by steamer, and headed for Puerto Plata to obtain fuel and provisions. On our previous expedition we had several times made the run from this port to the anchorage on the shoals without the least trouble, the captain picking up his mooring buoy dead under his bow on the dot. But our amateur yachtsman-owner-captain, who had represented himself as a skilled navigator, as well as his mate, made a sad mess of it. When at last we sighted the coral-heads and reefs we were more tha.n twenty miles to the south of the wreck, and as it was late in the afternoon, there was nothing to do but anchor, for to navigate among the coral at night was unthinkable. Near our anchorage were two large reefs, and suggesting to my chief diver that there might be other wrecks in the vicinity, we launched a dory and made for the reef. Within a few minutes we discovered an immense anchor and several cannon, and all were highly elated and excited at thought of having located a second treasure ship.
Down we went to find ourselves surrounded by wreckage. Everywhere, scattered among the giant coral growths, half -hidden under waving sea-plumes and huge multicolored sea-anemones were cannon, masses of twisted iron work, fragments of huge timbers, massive anchors and hundreds of cannon balls. Also, scattered about among the broken corals and the marine growths, were lumps and masses of white limestone which, when struck by a hammer or bar, revealed many a surprising and unexpected object. Ancient muskets with the flints still in place in the hammers and with the barrels intact although the wooden stocks had long since rotted away, pistols and cutlasses, spike-headed boarding axes, hammers and adzes, a huge iron caulking tool, a heavy spearshaped boarding pike were pried from their coral beds. We found a dozen blue willow ware plates still neatly stacked, although slightly awry, just as they had been placed in the galley of the wrecked vessel. We salvaged mixing bowls of brown and yellow earthenware, cut glass bowls—badly broken, old-fashioned blown glass bottles, tools and cutlery, several grindstones, and finally the old ship's sounding lead. We had felt confident that we had stumbled upon another sunken galleon with treasure somewhere near, but with the discovery of the sounding lead our hopes were scattered.
Compared to the sounding lead we had found on the old galleon the previous year this was modern. It was well made, octagonal and obviously of comparatively recent date. But the muskets and pistols were flint locks, the cannon and anchors were certainly over one hundred years old, and the crockery and glassware proved that the wrecked vessel had lain under the sea for a century or more. Also, it was obvious that she had been no peaceful merchantman but a heavily armed vessel—perhaps a warship, possibly a pirate or a privateer, for scattered about, overgrown with coral, half-buried in the sand and limestone, we found twenty-one guns!
Moreover, it was evident that we did not discover all the cannon that once had grinned from the wrecked ship's ports, for among the countless cast iron cannon balls were many which could never have fitted the bores of any of the guns we found. Also, it was soon evident that to search for any treasures she may have carried was a hopeless task, for the doomed ship had been beaten to pieces against the reef and her remains were scattered over an area fully three hundred feet in length and half as many in width, while everywhere masses of staghorn coral, great brain and mushroom corals and miniature reefs had grown among the wreckage, covering many of the relics under several feet of flinty-hard limestone. But it was great fun searching about, never knowing what one might find next, chipping the encrustations from our finds. And when, on several of the salvaged tools and weapons, we found the Broad Arrow stamped in the metal we knew that the long lost ship was British, while a check up of the articles we had recovered convinced me that she was either a sloop-of-war or a privateer during the War of 1812.
Possibly a more thorough search of the old wreck might reveal a gun or even the ship's bell bearing her name, and thus a mystery of the sea might be solved. But we were after wrecked Spanish galleons, not sunken British war vessels, and hoisting anchor we headed northward towards the spot where we had worked on the previous expedition. But again the amateur navigators erred, and we found ourselves several miles too far north. Eventually, however, we reached a spot where the formation of the reef appeared familiar, and anchored. Launching the dories we headed for the maze of reefs, and within half an hour I once more looked down upon the anchors and cannon of the ancient wreck.
It was a fairly calm and a pleasant afternoon, and fearing we might not have a better opportunity if we waited, we loaded the compressor and the diving gear into the launch, ran her to the position above the wreck, and moored her securely with new steel cables to the coral heads. By the time this was done it was too late to attempt to go down and we returned to the schooner with high hopes of blasting our way into the galleon's strong room the following day.
But that night a terrific gale swept across the shoals. It lashed the sea into a fury, the rain came in a deluge, lightning flashed and thunder roared incessantly. And, believe me, it is no fun to be pitching and rolling in a seventy-five foot schooner in a tropical electrical storm with five hundred sticks of dynamite and as many detonators on board. And it was small consolation to know that if the dynamite did explode none of us would ever know it. But the danger of such a catastrophe was not our only worry. At each shuddering pitch of the vessel her anchor chain, snagged on the massive corals, would strain and scream and then, with a crash and jar, would tear free, and each time we expected the cable rather than the coral would part. Nothing on earth could have saved us if the cable had given way. On every side the seas were breaking heavily on the coral heads, and before we could have started the motor or got steerage way upon the schooner she would have been shattered on a reef.
But the chain held, the little ship rode out the storm, and toward morning the wind died down and the sea flattened out. And as day dawned and with our glasses we swept the line of reefs a mile distant there was not a sign of our launch visible. Our worst fears were borne out when we reached the spot where she had been moored. The heavy seas, breaking over the reefs, had filled her and there she was, lying on the bottom beside the wreck of the old galleon. All our equipment—our drills, hand-pump, compressor were at the bottom of the sea. Still there was a chance that both launch and equipment might be salvaged. It would be a herculean, a terrific undertaking, but my chief diver was a herculean, a marvelous man in his profession. We still had the hand-pump, and slipping on his helmet, Dave went down. Presently he came up and reported that the launch appeared to be uninjured and that he believed it could be raised with compressor and equipment intact. Aboard the schooner were six empty oil drums, and by midday we had these over the wreck. Then, lashing timbers across two of the dories to form an extemporized platform from which to work, we prepared to raise our launch and outfit Everything went smoothly. The drums were filled and sunk, the diver, laboring under most difficult conditions, lashed them securely on either side of the sunken launch, and air was forced into them. Slowly the launch rose toward the surface, the rails appeared above the water, every one felt elated at our success and then, without warning, one of the drums burst a seam, the launch, deprived of the buoyancy on one side, tipped half over, the lashing gave way and down it plunged to the bottom. All the terrific labor had been wasted. And, worse yet, the sinking craft had struck a jagged fang of coral and had torn a huge gaping hole in one side. To salvage the launch would be a waste of time. We realized that our chances of making any great headway on the galleon had been shattered. But there was still a chance to save the valuable power-driven compressor and diving gear. Then followed one of the most remarkable feats of diving ever known. Working with helmet alone, Dave labored for hour after hour beneath the sea, cutting the shaft and connections of the launch motor with a hack saw, unscrewing the sis great lag-bolts from its bed, and freeing the big compressor from its fastenings. By using the oil drums as pontoons the machinery was floated, and lashed to the timbers between the dories it was towed through a bad choppy sea to the schooner. And then we came very near having a real tragedy added to our long list of mishaps. Just as the tackle from the schooner's masthead was made fast to the salvaged compressor, one of the oil drums filled, the extemporized raft careened, the timbers cracked ominously, and the dory nearest the schooner began to fill. Even then all might have been well had not one of the amateur sailors lost his head, and whipping out his sheath-knife, cut the lashing that secured the timbers to the dories. Instantly, the dories capsized and the next moment half a dozen men were floundering in the shark infested sea amid a chaos of splintered, jagged timbers, bobbing oil drums, capsized boats, tangled ropes and lines, and with the suspended compressor rising and falling to the roll of the schooner like a ton trip-hammer over their heads. Luckily the men were all expert swimmers. Diving and dodging, they escaped death or mutilation from splintered timbers and the compressor, the racket had frightened off the sharks, and in less time than it takes to tell it some had clambered on board and others had righted the dories and were bailing them out. In the dories had been the hand air-pump, the divers’ hose and helmets and other gear vitally important to further diving. We had expected that all of this would have been forever lost—gone to the bottom in thirty fathoms. But when the swamped dories were finally brought alongside, we discovered to our amazement that by some miracle the precious hand-pump, and nearly all the diving gear, had caught under the thwarts and been saved. Only one shallow water helmet and a single length of air hose had been lost!
Handicapped though we were through the loss of our launch and the impossibility of using the power compressor, the pneumatic drill and the hand-pump, yet we were determined to try to salvage something of value from the galleon. Using the two dories with timbers and planks lashed across them for a diver's pontoon, we moored it over the wreck. Then for three days the divers worked like Trojans. Chipping and drilling holes with their crowbars and hand drills they fired several charges of dynamite. And when the cloud of white silt and pulverized coral had settled, down went the divers to see what the blasts had revealed. Rapidly we hauled up load after load of salvaged objects which had been torn loose from the limestone bed by the explosives.
Ancient fire arms and weapons—a bit of armor, broken dishes, mauls and hammers, axes and halberds, hatchets and sword hilts, torn and twisted fragments of copper and brass, cannon balls and gun flints.
Then, as we gazed downward at the divers and saw one of them bending over a rectangular object with rounded top, excitement ran high, for the thing looked like nothing so much as a treasure chest. And when the diver ran his bar along it and a dull gleam of metal showed, we felt certain our luck had turned and a portion of the galleon's treasure would soon be ours. As we tailed it onto the tackle and the coral-crusted mass came slowly towards the surface, its weight confirmed our hopes, for certainly, we felt, nothing but a chest of gold could be so heavy for its size. Even when it was at last safe upon the .platform and we gathered about we felt sure it was a treasure chest. But as we scraped away the white coating our hopes were again shattered. It was lead—four hundred pounds of sheet lead tightly rolled!
Another strange object brought up was a mass of petrified day pipes. I say petrified, for that was what they were. Originally they had been packed in a metal box, but through centuries under the sea the lime in the water, and the oxide of the metal, had embedded the pipes in a solid rock-like mass from which it was impossible to separate them. There they were small bowls set at an angle to the stems, rudely ornamented, hand-molded, forming a portion of the rocky formation itself, and looking at first glance like some unknown variety of fossil shells in their bed rock. Another interesting find was a portion of an arms-rack containing the remains of a dozen or more cutlasses. In some the hilts were still well preserved, in others the metal oxides and lime had rendered them as seemingly petrified as the pipes, but the wood of the hilts and of the rack was in perfect condition. Our blasting also disclosed another fact. We had thought the wreck to be resting on a nearly level keel; but we now discovered that she was almost on her beam ends, and in order to reach the lazarette or strong room it would be necessary to blast away practically all of the old hulk and her tons of ballast. Moreover, each time we fired a charge of dynamite immense quantities of pulverized coral and limestone would cloud the water, and settling down, would cover everything with a white blanket. It was impossible to distinguish one object from another under this white coating, and the least agitation a diver walking about or poking here and there with his bar would raise a milky cloud as impenetrable as a smoke-screen. Had we been able to use the sand-pump we could have removed this silt easily and rapidly, but without it we were helpless. As it was soon evident to all that to continue blasting under such conditions only made matters worse, and that even if we opened up the strong room we could not find the treasure beneath the silt, we finally gave up. And not any too soon, for when we reached Puerto Plata news of a hurricane had been posted. Luckily it veered, and the schooner reached the States in safety, yet tragedy followed in her wake. Within three weeks after she arrived her owner-captain hanged himself, and a few weeks later my chief diver a man who had won fame by his unprecedented exploits in salvaging sunken American submarines and had come unscathed through dangers no others dared face was killed while working in shallow water repairing a bridge abutment in the Cape Cod Ship Canal. Once more the jinx who guards lost treasures had triumphed. Only stout Sir William Phipps had been able to snap his fingers at the evil genius watching over the sunken plate ships, and, defying the jinx to do its worst, had sailed away with some of the vast treasures of the Silver Shoals. Yet such is the lure of treasure-trove that even now another expedition is being formed to attempt to secure some of the millions lying amid the hungry coral reefs. Perhaps they may be even more successful than Sir William, or again the attempt may end in a tragedy and the bones of the treasure seekers and the shattered timbers of their ship may be added to those of the long-lost galleons and the hundreds of Spaniards who went down with their ships on that hurricane-torn night three centuries ago.

Next Chapters: http://stillwoods.blogspot.ca/2013/11/they-found-gold-chs-11-and-12.html

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.