The Lost Treasure of the Atocha

A few days ago, Mel Fisher’s Treasure announced the discovery of a $500,000 emerald ring, two silver spoons, and other artifacts.  It is the latest haul from the 1622 shipwreck of the Spanish Galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha.  And it could lead to one of the greatest lost treasures of all time.

The Lost Atocha?

The Atocha is one of a fleet of Spanish Galleons that sank off the Florida Keys during a hurricane in 1622.  It lay untouched for over three centuries.  Then, on July 20, 1985, Mel Fisher discovered the wreck and in the process, uncovered one of the largest treasures of all time.  All told, the “Atocha Motherlode” was estimated at $450 million (in 1985!).  And amazingly, that’s only half of it.

A whole other treasure still lies out there, waiting to be discovered.  You see, the Atocha broke apart during the hurricane, causing the stern castle to separate from the rest of the ship.  Centuries of currents and storms drove them even further apart.  According to Sean Fisher, the ship’s manifest indicates that the stern castle could contain at least “100,000 coins, 400 silver bars, and personal jewelry.”  And that doesn’t include any treasures that were deliberately left off the manifest by clergy and nobility who wanted to avoid taxes.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Mel Fisher, who searched for the Atocha for sixteen years, was well-known for his motto, “Today’s the Day.”  If Sean Fisher and his fellow divers have anything to say about it, “Today” could soon turn out to be a lifetime instead.

HT: Thanks to the Guerrilla Dad for providing the idea behind this article!

Secret Shafts within the Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid of Giza is, in my opinion, the single most spectacular structure on earth. Constructed around 2560 BC, it has weathered over 4,500 years of natural disasters, wars, and modernization.

Secret Hieroglyphics inside the Great Pyramid?

Even today, with all of our modern tools and equipment, the Great Pyramid remains shrouded in mystery.  New discoveries and theories as to its purpose are common.

The latest chapter in its long saga took place just a few weeks ago.  The Djedi Project announced that it discovered ancient red hieroglyphs inside a secret air shaft that leads out of the Queen’s Chamber.  The shaft is one of two accessible from the room.  Mysteriously, neither one was originally connected to the Chamber and neither one exits the Great Pyramid.

The discovery was made using a micro snake camera engineered to fit through a small hole in a stone door at the end of the shaft.  In addition to the hieroglyphs, the camera also enabled the examination of two copper pins which have been used to support Christopher Dunn’s “power plant” theory.  According to the Project, the latest images indicate that the pins “were more likely ornamental rather than electrical connections or structural features.”  (You can read Dunn’s rebuttal here.)

The images also showed that the other side of the stone door was “finished and polished,” suggesting that it might have served a purpose beyond just blocking the shaft.  Next, the Project plans to examine the far wall to see if it is another door or a solid block.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Great Pyramid remains one of the greatest mysteries of history.  While commonly thought to be a giant tomb, not a single burial has ever been discovered inside of it (although that could be due to grave robbers).  In fact, out of more than eighty pyramids along the Nile Valley, (including the sealed Step Pyramid of Sekhemkhet) not a single body has ever been found.

In the absence of bodies, other theories have sprung up to explain the pyramids.  Some of these include: granaries, calendars, observatories, and public works to unite Egypt’s tribes.  Perhaps the most likely alternative theory is that the pyramids were cenotaphs, or monuments to the Pharaohs but not their actual tombs.

Regardless, one thing seems certain…the Great Pyramid has yet to give up all of its secrets.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the best ones are still to come.

America’s First Secret Weapon?

On September 7, 1776, a sudden explosion rocked New York’s East River, causing a tower of water and chunks of wood to soar high into the air.  The cause behind this bedlam?  America’s Turtle, an invention of David Bushnell and the world’s first submarine deployed in combat.  It’s one of the most significant crafts of the Revolutionary War.  And its been missing for over two-hundred and thirty years.

David Bushnell’s Invention: The Turtle submarine?

Invented by David Bushnell, the Turtle was designed to attach explosives to the undersides of Royal Navy ships moored in American harbors during the Revolutionary War.  The vessel consisted of two wooden slabs, which looked like turtle shells, held together by tar and steel bands.  It measured ten feet long, six feet tall, and three feet wide and contained enough air to stay submerged for thirty minutes.

David Bushnell initially trained his brother to operate the vessel.  But after the man fell ill, Bushnell turned to Ezra Lee, a gunnery sergeant.  Around the same time, a massive fleet of Royal Navy ships, led by the HMS Eagle, formed off the coast of New York City.  They aimed to capture the city.

On September 6-7, 1776, Ezra Lee manned the sub through New York Harbor to Liberty Island.  He positioned himself under the HMS Eagle and attempted to anchor a “torpedo” with the help of a drill.  His first attempt failed when the drill struck an iron fitting.  After subsequent attempts also failed, he abandoned the torpedo, which drifted into the East River and exploded harmlessly.  Although not a success, the noise spooked the Royal Navy, causing them to raise anchors and leave the harbor (it should be noted that British naval historian Richard Compton-Hall disputes this version of the events).

After another failed attempt, the sub’s tender vessel was sunk by the Royal Navy, sending the Turtle to the bottom of the sea, somewhere near Fort Lee, NJ.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So where is it today?

After the end of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson wrote to David Bushnell, inquiring about the Turtle.  In his response, Bushnell stated:

Soon after this, the Enemy went up the river, and pursued the boat, which had the submarine Vessel on board, and sunk it, with their shot. After I recovered the Vessel, I found it impossible, at that time to prosecute the design any farther…I therefore gave over the pursuit, for that time, and waited for a more favourable opportunity, which never arrived.

If we are to believe David Bushnell, he successfully salvaged the Turtle.  However, its ultimate fate remains unknown.  Maybe he dismantled the vessel.  Maybe he stored it away somewhere.  Maybe he never even recovered it and merely stated that he did so in order to keep anyone else from salvaging it.  Regardless, if the Turtle is ever found, it would undoubtedly be one of the most significant discoveries in naval history.

Where is Amelia Earhart?

At 8:43am on July 2, 1937, Amelia Earhart vanished somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.  Seventy-four years later, her disappearance, along with that of her navigator Fred Noonan, remains one of the most spectacular unsolved mysteries of history.

Background on Amelia Earhart

07:42: KHAQQ calling Itasca.  We must be on you but cannot see you – but gas is running low.  Have been unable to reach you by radio.  We are flying at 1,000 feet.

Prior to her disappearance, Earhart was a famous aviatrix, best known for being the first woman to fly a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1936, she decided to plan a 29,000 mile circumnavigational flight around the earth.

07:58: KHAQQ calling Itasca.  We are listening (circling?) but cannot hear you.  Go ahead on 7500 with a long count either now, or on the scheduled time on half hour.

Her first attempt failed due to a blown tire (or according to some, pilot error).  A few months later, Earhart tried again.  With Fred Noonan as her navigator, she left California on May 21, 1937.  Thirty-eight days and 22,000 miles later, she landed in Lae, New Guinea.  On July 2, Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae in a Lockheed Electra 10E, heading for Howland Island.  Hours later, they vanished, never to be seen again.

What happened to Amelia Earhart?

08:43: KHAQQ calling Itasca. We are on the line 157 337. We will repeat this message. We will repeat this on 6210 kilocycles. Wait.

The above message is the last known transmission received by the United States Coast Guard cutter Itasca, which was tasked with helping Earhart land on Howland Island.

Official search efforts initially focused around Howland Island.  Later, the grid was expanded to include the Phoenix Islands.  Still later, Amelia Earhart’s husband, George P. Putnam, continued the search with no success.  So, what happened to her?  Here are a few of the most prominent theories:

  • Crashed into the Pacific Ocean: Howland Island is a very small piece of land in the very big ocean.  After running out of fuel, she and Noonan were forced to ditch into the ocean.  While perhaps the most widely accepted theory, there is no evidence to support it.
  • Crashed on Gardner Island: This is the favored theory of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR).  Based on Earhart’s last transmission, they believe that she maintained her heading and crash-landed on the reef of this uninhabited island.  Some evidence supports this position.  A woman’s skeleton (now missing) was discovered on the island in 1940.  Most recently, TIGHAR found what could be a woman’s finger.  However, as of March 2011, DNA testing of the fragment remains inconclusive.
  • Captured by Japan: Earhart may have crashed on Saipan Island while under Japanese occupation.  After being captured, she and Noonan were executed.  Supporting evidence, while interesting, is scanty.
  • Spy Mission: This is often tied into the one above.  Essentially, it involves Earhart and Noonan deliberately vanishing in order to spy on Japan.  To the best of my knowledge, no evidence exists to support this theory.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Personally, I prefer the second theory.  TIGHAR has done amazing work to uncover a significant body of anecdotal evidence.  You can read the short version of their theory here.  If they are correct, Amelia’s Electra “lies in deep water off the island’s west end.”

Next year, TIGHAR plans a “major underwater search” in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance.  Their goal is to find the Electra.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.  Hey, if anyone connected to TIGHAR is reading this, let me know if you need an extra diver!


Controversial Treasure Unearthed in Kerala

Yesterday, the BBC reported that a gigantic treasure, worth in excess of $500 million, is being unearthed in Kerala, a state in southern India.  The treasure, accumulated centuries ago, was stored in six secret underground vaults beneath the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple.

The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Treasure?

The Kallaras, or granite chambers, were sealed up in the 1860s to protect the treasure from the British Raj.  Two of these chambers have remained unopened since that time.  The other four were last opened in the 1950s.

The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple itself was constructed in the 1500s by the kingdom of Travancore.  The Travancore Maharajahs dedicated themselves, the temple, and its wealth to Padmanabhaswamy, “an aspect of the Hindu God Vishnu in eternal sleep.”  Since that time, their descendants have controlled the temple along with the treasure.  However, a recent court case allowed the state government to seize control of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple and its wealth, supposedly to protect the treasure from theft.

Despite numerous Hindu protests and court appeals from the family, India’s Supreme Court ordered the vaults to be opened.  It also appointed a seven-person committee to inventory and assess the treasure.  According to the Business Standard, the recovered treasure includes:

  • Three sets of golden crowns of the kings of Travancore
  • Kulasekhrara Perumal crown
  • Precious stones including pearls, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires
  • Heaps of gold shaped like paddy
  • Around 1,000 Sarappoli chains, the longest of which is eighteen feet long.  Four of these weigh around 2kg each. Total weight of these is more than a quintal
  • Long ropes of gold like the traditional coir rope of Kerala
  • Diamonds
  • Hundreds of golden coins kept in bags and wooden boxes
  • Pendants and a large number of golden batons
  • Around 100,000 gold and silver coins
  • Golden waistbands studded with diamonds, each weighing 2kg
  • Gold and silver bars weighing 1-2kg each
  • Gold and silver utensils, crowns, golden umbrellas and pots

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

What a haul!  It’s exciting to see these treasures, some of which date back centuries, come to light.  But I’m deeply troubled about the way in which it happened.  Essentially, the Supreme Court declared that private property belonging to a religious temple was a national treasure and then used that as an excuse to seize possession of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple.

I sincerely hope that the treasure of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple adds to our understanding of the kingdom of Travancore.  Still, I wish that Kerala’s government and the Supreme Court had gone about this in a far different manner.

The Lost Treasure of Indiana Jones

On June 27, Egypt’s antiquities ministry announced the discovery of hundreds of ancient limestone blocks in San El-Hagar.  San El-Hagar was once known as Tanis and, according to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.

The Lost Treasure of Indiana Jones?

The Indiana Jones-like discovery was made by a team of French archaeologists, led by Philip Brousseau.  So far, one hundred and twenty blocks have been cleaned.  Seventy-eight of those blocks were painted and/or carved.  The names of King Osorkon III and King Osorkon IV are inscribed on at least two of the blocks.  Other inscriptions read, “Mistress Mut of Isheru Lake.”

These blocks are an astonishing, beautiful find that could help to fill in some blanks about Egypt’s Twenty-Second and Twenty-Third Dynasties.  King Osorkon III was a Pharaoh of Upper Egypt during the 8th Century BCE.  He ruled for approximately twenty-eight years after winning a civil war against the combined forces of Pedubast I and Shoshenq VI.  King Osorkon IV was a ruler of Lower Egypt around the same time period.

The archaeologists believe that the blocks “were used to build the sacred lake walls of a temple dedicated to the goddess Mut.”  Afterwards, they may have been reused for other purposes.  According to Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass, the archaeologists plan to eventually reconstruct the blocks in order to determine whether they were used to build a temple or a chapel.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

I love this type of story.  It reminds me of all the amazing treasures still out there, waiting to be discovered.  A tip of the fedora to Brousseau and his team…congratulations!

Bigfoot’s DNA?

So, the other day I wandered over to Cryptomundo and noticed an exciting announcement about Bigfoot.  A group known as the Sanger Paranormal Society claims to have found possible DNA evidence of the elusive Bigfoot.

“The reason that we’re holding this press conference is because we have potentially what may be the best evidence of the existence of what the Indians have called them for hundreds of years -Sasquatch,” – Allen Thomas

New Evidence for Bigfoot?

The best evidence ever?  Well, that sounds promising!  So what is this evidence you ask?  A smeared car window.  Apparently, the vehicle was abandoned in California’s Sierra National Forest during a snowstorm.  When a member of the Sanger group returned, he discovered what may or may not be paw prints on the glass of his window along with nearby footprints.  That’s right.  They didn’t actually see what touched the window.  They just assumed it was Bigfoot.  Good lord.

The Society hired a forensic expert named Mickey Burrow to study the smudges and prints.  Now, they are looking for funds to pay for a DNA analysis.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

I don’t know about you but there’s nothing here to make me think this is anything other than  bear.  The Society has absolutely no evidence to support its claim that these smudges were left by Bigfoot.  And the fact that they called a press conference BEFORE getting a DNA analysis is, to me, a big red flag.

I’ve been reading Bigfoot news for years now.  Unfortunately, credible physical evidence is in short supply.  And outside of some miracle, I don’t expect these smudges or prints to add anything to the debate.  In the meantime, the best proof available to us, in my opinion, continues to be the somewhat controversial Patterson-Gimlin film.  It’s over forty-years old, but it’s the best we’ve got!

The Hunt for Bin Laden’s Corpse

Did Osama Bin Laden really die in Pakistan?  Was his corpse truly stuffed into a rubber-lined canvas body bag, weighed down with lead, and then buried in the North Arabian Sea?  According to a recent interview with TMZ, deep sea treasure hunter Bill Warren intends to find out.

“I am doing it because I am a patriotic American who wants to know the truth.  I do it for the world.” – Bill Warren

Where is Bin Laden’s Corpse?

Warren wants to raise $400,000 in order to fund his expedition to recover Bin Laden’s corpse.  It’s an incredible story, one torn straight out of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Adding to the drama are the many conspiracy theories that have cropped up in the wake of Bin Laden’s demise.  According to the official White House line, Bin Laden was killed by members of SEAL Team 6 during Operation: Neptune Spear on May 2, 2011.  Afterwards, the corpse was removed to a U.S. base in Afghanistan.  Biometric facial recognition and DNA tests confirmed that the body belonged to Bin Laden.  Al-Qaeda confirmed the death on May 6.  Less than twenty-four hours later, the corpse was taken aboard the USS Carl Vinson and buried at sea.

Searching for Bin Laden?

Warren plans to use side-scanning radar to locate the body bag.  The problem with his strategy is obvious.  The Arabian Sea is gigantic and side-scanning sonar is a slow, tedious process.  Finding a corpse in it is like finding a needle in a haystack…a haystack that measures 1.5 million square miles.However, conflicting accounts as well as the White House’s refusal to release photographs have created significant doubt.  Some people think he’s still alive.  Others think he died years ago.  Still others believe that he died on May 2, but under entirely different circumstances or that his body was disposed of in some other manner.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Perhaps even more problematic are the limitations of side-scanning sonar.  Even shipwrecks, with their hard edges and solid structures, are difficult to discern from the natural underwater landscape.  Distinguishing something as small and with as little acoustic resonance as a corpse is next to impossible, even when taking into account two-hundred pounds of lead in the body bag.  And the deeper the corpse lies, the harder it will prove to find.  At the same time, depth is desirable as it, along with low temperatures, will slow decomposition.

It’s a waste of money.  It’s a waste of time.  But I’m still rooting for Warren.  If he succeeds, maybe we’ll finally be able to put all of those crazy Bin Laden conspiracy theories to rest.  After all, the man’s dead and buried at the bottom of the Indian Ocean.

Isn’t he?

The Guerrilla Explorer at Tikal

A Manifesto

Greetings and welcome to Guerrilla Explorer.

“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them.  I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” – David Livingstone

The Guerrilla Explorer at Tikal

David Meyer, author and adventurer
Ancient Maya City of Tikal
Flores, Guatemala

Welcome to Guerrilla Explorer!

We are the adventurers, the explorers, the treasure hunters.  We are the ones who cross uncrossable boundaries, who search for strange monsters, who seek answers to history’s mysteries.

My name is David Meyer.  I’m an adventure/thriller novelist.  Later this year, I will be publishing my first book, a tale that involves treasure, forgotten science, and the “lost world” of abandoned subway tunnels under New York City.

The purpose of Guerrilla Explorer is to create a destination for adventure lovers.  My articles will center on subjects like treasure, shipwrecks, historical mysteries, cryptids, conspiracies, forgotten lands, and explorers.

Now put on your boots, grab your machete, and strap on your holster.  Adventure awaits us!