Captain Henry Morgan & the Lost Inca Treasure?

On January 28, 1671, Captain Henry Morgan led a daring raid on Panama City, which at that time was the richest city in the Americas. In the process, he escaped with one of the greatest hauls in history. What happened to the lost treasure of the Incas? And what does a recently-discovered shipwreck have to do with it?

Captain Morgan: Pirate…or Privateer?

Today is the 324-year anniversary of Captain Morgan’s death. But while much is known of his later life, the early years of Henry Morgan are shrouded in mystery. He was born in Wales, probably in 1635. No records of his life exist before 1655. However, we do know he took his first command in late 1665, under the guidance of privateer Edward Mansvelt. After Mansvelt was captured and executed by Spanish forces, the remaining crew elected Captain Henry Morgan to take his place.

In this role, Captain Morgan was a privateer, or a government-sanctioned pirate, similar to the infamous Captain Kidd. Outfitted with letters of marque from Britain, he began a series of daring raids that rocked Spain’s tenuous grip on the New World.

Captain Henry Morgan sets his sights on Panama

By 1670, Spanish forces were starting to threaten Jamaica, which was under English control. The legendary Captain Morgan was given extensive authority to wage war on Spain. Since the commission was unpaid, Captain Henry Morgan had extra incentive to attack high-value targets. He assembled a mighty fleet of thirty-six ships and some 2,000 men. Then he set out to pick a target. He considered several cities before finally settling on the infamous Panama City.

At that time, Panama City was the richest place in the Americas, thanks to endless loads of Inca gold taken by the Spanish conquistadors. It was also considered invincible. It sat on the Pacific Ocean, which was defended with heavy fortifications. On the other side was the Chagres River and miles of nearly impenetrable jungle. In addition, the entrance to the Chagres River was guarded by the Spanish fortress, Castillo de San Lorenzo. To make matters worse, the Spanish government had become aware of his large fleet. So, Captain Morgan was forced to act quickly.

Captain Morgan decided on a land attack. While he waited for the rest of his fleet, he sent Colonel Bradley along the Chagres River with orders to seize Castillo de San Lorenzo. Colonel Bradley took 3 ships and 470 men. They landed in secret and on January 6, 1671, launched an attack on the fortress. They set it on fire using firebombs and grenades and then killed the survivors. However, the cost was steep. Colonel Bradley, along with about 100 other men, died in the battle.

The Lost Fleet of Captain Henry Morgan?

Five days later, Captain Morgan and his fleet arrived at Castillo de San Lorenzo. However, their excitement was short-lived as four to five ships, including Captain Morgan’s flagship Satisfaction, met an untimely end.

“The cheers from those on the cliff and those on board the ships soon turned to horror as Satisfaction ran head on into Lajas Reef, which lay in the path of the river covered by a mere few feet of water. Three to four more ships followed the Morgan onto the reef. The ships were shattered and none was recovered.” ~ Lost Ships of Henry Morgan Project Press Release

Amazingly enough, a team of archaeologists led by Frederick “Fritz” Hanselmann and funded by Captain Morgan Rum may have recently discovered one of these lost ships.

In September 2010, the team discovered six iron cannons at the mouth of the Chagres River. In 2011, they located a 17th century wooden shipwreck. This year, they discovered other artifacts, including a sword, several chests, wooden barrels, and cargo seals. The team’s next step is to confirm the identity of these artifacts and hopefully, determine whether or not they came from Captain Morgan’s lost fleet.

Captain Morgan reaches Panama

After arriving with reinforcements five days later, Captain Morgan and his men repaired Castillo de San Lorenzo. He left 300 men behind to guard it. Then he paddled up the Chagres River with the rest of his fleet and about 1,400 men. On the way, they passed four small forts, which were guarded by a total of 400 men. The Spanish hoped to use these forts to drain Captain Morgan’s forces. However, the Spanish soldiers fled instead and Captain Henry Morgan passed through without a single shot fired. On January 28, 1671 Captain Morgan reached Panama. He caught the Spanish defenders by surprise, outflanked their counterattack, and seized the city.

The Lost Treasure of the Incas?

Captain Henry Morgan spent several weeks in Panama and eventually left with 175 mules loaded with gold, silver, and jewelry. The haul was relatively light due to the fact that a few treasure-laden Spanish vessels managed to flee the harbor. Still, many of the privateers were suspicious that Captain Morgan had cheated them.

“However, since Henry Morgan paid his men just ten pounds apiece for their help in the raid, many researchers speculate that he took the rest of the treasure for himself and hid it before returning to Jamaica.” ~ David Meyer, The Lost Fleet of Captain Morgan?

Did Captain Henry Morgan abscond with the lion’s share of the Lost Inca treasure? If so, where did he hide it? In the jungles of Panama? Somewhere else? These questions, at least for now, remain unanswered.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Captain Henry Morgan left behind a fascinating legacy, including the recently-discovered shipwreck as well as the possibility of lost treasure. However, his raid on Panama City and other Spanish targets had a much larger impact. Captain Morgan changed the course of history by helping to bring an end to the Spanish Empire and the “Old World”, which had been driven by religion, laws, and birthrights. The British Empire and a “New World”, driven by money, free trade, and democracy, rose in its wake. In that respect, Captain Morgan remains one of the least known, yet most influential people in modern history.

“Morgan had helped, in his own way, point a path toward the future. Some historians have even argued that without Morgan the Spanish would have been able to settle and defend Florida more vigorously and even extend their control along the Gulf Coast, creating an impregnable empire stretching to Texas. Without him, who knows what the map of the Caribbean and even of the United States might look like. He battled a divine empire on behalf of men interested in trade and gold and rational society (but certainly not freedom for every member, as the pirates had insisted on). The next great world empire, the British, would be a mercantile, not a religious, one. The world had turned Morgan’s way, and he’d nudged it along.” ~ Stephan Talty, Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s Great Pirate Army, the Epic Battle for the Americas, and the Catastrophe That Ended the Outlaws’ Bloody Reign

The Lost Declaration of Independence?

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence. It declared the 13 original colonies were no longer part of the British Empire. The original Declaration is probably the most important document in U.S. history. And amazingly enough, no one knows where it is.

The Declaration of Independence: The Official Story

On April 19, 1775, British troops stormed Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. Colonial minutemen, warned by Paul Revere, Williams Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, lay in wait for them. The Battles of Lexington and Concord broke out and thus, the Revolutionary War began.

A little over a year later, in June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. The document went through numerous changes. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare independence from the British Empire. Two days later, the Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Today, the Declaration of Independence is one of the most famous documents in history. It resides at the National Archives. Its encased in titanium and aluminum and surrounded by inert argon gas.

Or is it?

The Declaration of Independence: The Real Story

The copy of the Declaration that sits at the National Archives is known as the Engrossed Copy. It’s basically a final version, crafted several weeks after the debate concluded. It was then postdated to July 4, 1776. Most scholars think it was penned by Timothy Matlack, who served as clerk to the Secretary of the Continental Congress.

But if that’s the case, then what did the Congress ratify on July 4? Well, in 1823, Thomas Jefferson penned a letter to James Madison in which he described writing the original Declaration of Independence. He said that the Committee of Five “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.”

So, it appears this “Fair Copy” was the version used by the Continental Congress. It was probably edited during the debate by Charles Thomson, who served as Secretary to the Congress. And it was most likely the document which was considered during the vote. In other words, the marked-up Fair Copy is, for all intents and purposes, the original Declaration of Independence.

Where’s the original Declaration of Independence?

The Fair Copy has been missing for over two hundred years. But what happened to it? Some researchers think it was accidentally destroyed by John Dunlap. Earlier in 1776, Dunlap had secured a printing contract with the Continental Congress. On the evening of July 4, John Hancock asked him to produce the first official “broadsides,” or printed copies, of the Declaration. These Dunlap broadsides were then distributed throughout the 13 colonies. So, it seems possible the Fair Copy was destroyed in the process.

Another theory is the Fair Copy was intentionally destroyed. Many delegates were in favor of keeping their deliberations a secret. This was a contentious issue at the time and was opposed by both Jefferson and Ben Franklin. Nevertheless, the Congress eventually decided to invoke a secrecy rule. So, perhaps the Fair Copy was destroyed so no one could see the changes made to it.

However, this is slightly problematic. Several draft versions of the Declaration exist, at least two of which were kept by Thomas Jefferson. Why would delegates keep those versions and yet order the destruction of the Fair Copy?

There is another possibility. Perhaps the Fair Copy survived July 4. Perhaps it’s still out there somewhere, waiting to be found. It could be lost in the National Archives. Or maybe it was kept by Thomas Jefferson or Charles Thomson. We should note that Jefferson’s “Rough Draft” wasn’t located until 1947.

One more thing. Remember those broadsides printed by John Dunlap? Well, one of them fetched $8.14 million at auction in 2000. If a printed copy of the Declaration generated that much money, just imagine what the Fair Copy would be worth. For all you fellow treasure hunters out there, happy hunting!

“The Declaration originated as a spoken thought, expressed on June 7, 1776, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, who moved that ‘these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.’ A written version was produced on June 28, primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson, who left at least seven rough drafts, one found as recently as 1947. On July 2, Congress approved the first paragraph of the Declaration, officially separating from England.

Then, on July 4, the rest of the text was approved. Jefferson claimed that a ‘fair copy’ of the document was in the room that day, and John Hancock possibly signed something, making it legal. If this manuscript still exists, it is the holy grail of American freedom.” ~ Ted Widmer, Looking for Liberty, New York Times, July 4, 2008

The Lost Norseman?

In 1956, Ghia built a concept car named the Chrysler Norseman. This prototype was anticipated to be a major attraction during 1957 auto shows. However, it subsequently vanished, never to be seen again. What happened to the Lost Norseman?

The SS Andrea Doria – The Last Resting Place of the Lost Norseman?

The Chrysler Norseman was designed by Chrysler stylists and built by Ghia, a coach-building firm based in Italy. The vehicle was fully drivable and featured a very unusual cantilevered roof.

On July 17, 1956, the car was loaded onto a New York-bound ocean liner named the SS Andrea Doria. All was well at first. Then on July 25, the Andrea Doria smashed into the MS Stockholm near Nantucket, Massachusetts. It managed to stay afloat for 11 hours, giving time for most of the crew and passengers to escape. However, the Norseman was not so fortunate. The following day, the ocean liner sank into 150 feet of water, taking 46 lives and the concept car with it.

“Given what your average car looks like after ten Michigan winters, after a near sixty year salt bath, it’s likely that little remains of the Norseman.” ~ Rob Sass, Legendary Lost Cars

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Norseman was never shown in public and indeed, few people ever saw the completed vehicle. Today, it lives on only in photographs. The Andrea Doria has been extensively salvaged over the years. At present, most of its valuable artifacts have been recovered. However, no one has rescued any of the vehicles contained in its 50-car garage. Thus, the Norseman is still down there, lost in 150 feet of cold, turbulent waters. Silently, it waits. It waits for an intrepid diver to recover it and restore it. It waits for one more chance at wowing the world.

“The Norseman was put into a wooden crate and placed in the number 2 cargo area. While looking for a lost diver, I had an opportunity to see the Norseman for myself in the cargo hold. The crate had disintegrated and the car was in very, very poor condition. The ocean’s salt water invaded the Norseman’s metal and most of the car is rust, corrosion and a heap of indistinguishable junk. The tires are still there and have assisted to its identification.” ~ David Bright, Prototype Car of the Future Lost on the Andrea Doria – Norseman

The Lost Treasure of General Custer?

Update: On Saturday, December 6, 2014, I will be teaming up with forensic geologist Scott Wolter in the world premiere of Custer’s Blood Treasure, the latest episode of H2’s #1 hit original series, America Unearthed. You can read more about it here.

On June 25, 1876, General George Custer led the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry Regiment against a large Indian army. He and his forces were wiped out in what became known as Custer’s Last Stand. In the process, he left behind a valuable treasure which remains lost to this day.

The Lost Treasure of General Custer?

The 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie guaranteed possession of the Black Hills, a region stretching from North Dakota to Montana, to the Lakota Indians. In 1874, General Custer was sent on a scouting mission to the area. He returned a month later, reporting gold “from the grassroots down.” This touched off a gold rush. Initially, the U.S. Army tried to honor the treaty by evicting the many prospectors. But eventually, it gave up.

In 1876, the Lakota joined forces with the Cheyenne and Sioux. Led by Gall, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, they revolted. General Custer, along with 650 men, was dispatched to end the uprising. When he arrived at Little Bighorn River, he distributed four months of back pay to his men, some $25,000 in gold coins and paper currency.

On June 25, 1876, Custer led his men into battle against the combined Indian army. They were severely outnumbered and Custer’s poor leadership led to an eventual slaughter. Here’s where the story gets a bit odd. Supposedly, the Indians stripped the dead and stole their gold coins and paper money. They placed it in a saddle bag and buried it in a secret location. A Cheyenne chieftain named Two Moons later told the story to a white Indian trader named W.P. Moncure. Two Moons also drew him a map to the lost treasure.

The Lost Treasure Gets Lost Again

In 1936, Moncure reburied the body of Two Moons in a stone and mortar mausoleum. Twenty years later, a reporter named Kathryn Wright investigated the mausoleum. She discovered a hidden vault under a bronze plaque. She persuaded the Cheyenne to open it for her.

“Inside the vault were remembrances of Two Moons. These included a portrait of Two Moons, stone tools, arrowheads, sacred Indian relics, and a rifle belonging to one of the troopers of the Seventh Cavalry. There was also a large manila envelope.” ~ Dick Mullins, The Daily Inter Lake, July 1, 1957

A message about the lost treasure was typed on the envelope. Part of it read, “Hiding place and location of money and trinkets taken from dead soldiers on Custer Battlefield.” The last part of the envelope said it was to be opened on June 25, 1986. This would be 110 years after Custer’s Last Stand and 50 years after the reburial.

In 1957, Kathryn Wright published her story in Montana magazine and received permission to open the envelope. However, someone had already beaten her to it, breaking open the vault and stealing the sealed envelope and other artifacts. The lost treasure of General Custer has never been found. It’s possible it was dug up years ago by whoever stole the envelope. But its also possible no one ever found it. For all we know, Custer’s lost treasure is still out there somewhere, waiting to be dug up.


Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

The Hunt for Bin Laden’s Corpse: Part III

Did Osama Bin Laden die in Pakistan? Was his corpse stuffed into a rubber-lined canvas body bag, weighed down with lead, and then buried in the North Arabian Sea? Or was he secretly transported back to the United States?

Where is Osama Bin Laden’s Corpse?

Back in June 2011, treasure hunter Bill Warren was attempting to raise $400,000 to locate and excavate Bin Laden’s body, which the U.S. government claimed had been buried at sea. We’ve been skeptical about his chances…highly skeptical.

“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.

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.” ~ David Meyer, The Hunt for Bin Laden’s Corpse

Warren recently resurfaced for an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. And he claims to have struck pay dirt.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Unfortunately, we’re still skeptical. Warren has had little luck soliciting donations on his website, apparently raking in just $15 from a single donor. So, it seems probable he’s just trying to drum up some attention to fund his hunt.

We also find it hard to believe Bin Laden was buried at sea in the first place. That story never made much sense. It seems far more likely he was secretly transported back to the United States. But, we’re holding out hope for Warren. Maybe he really will find the body and put an end to all the crazy Bin Laden conspiracy theories…

But we wouldn’t count on it.

The Lost Spitfire Squadron?

In August 1945, a dozen Spitfires were shipped from England to Burma. Another eight were mailed in December. However, they were considered excessive and soldiers were ordered to bury the boxes before they’d even been unpacked. What happened to the Lost Spitfire Squadron?

The Lost Spitfire Squadron?

After fifteen years and over $200,000, British farmer David Cundall recently announced the discovery of the forgotten Spitfires. He was inspired to search for them by a comment made by a U.S. veteran to his friend Jim Pearce.

“‘They told Jim: ‘We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires.’ And when Jim got back from the US, he told me.” ~ David Cundall

According to Cundall, the Spitfires were buried under forty feet of soil in their original crates. The individual parts were waxed and wrapped in greased paper. The wings were folded back against the bodies. The joints were tarred. These efforts, designed to protect the planes during the shipping process, may have helped to preserve them as well.

Why were the Spitfires Abandoned in Burma?

The Americans expected the British to return to the burial site and dig them up. But this never happened, partly due to the increased production of newer, faster jets.

‘In 1945, Spitfires were 10 a penny. Jets were coming into service. Spitfires were struck off charge, unwanted. Lots of Spitfires were just pushed off the back of aircraft carriers into the sea. On land, you couldn’t leave them for the locals – they might have ended up being used against you.” ~ David Cundall

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Prior to Cundall’s discovery, there were only 35 Spitfires in existence. Strong demand and high prices (a refinished Spitfire sold for ~$3 million in 2009), have led aviation enthusiasts to search the globe for rumored caches of buried planes. So, where are Cundall’s new Spitfires? For the moment, they’re still underground, deep in the jungle.

“We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates. They seemed to be in good condition.” ~ David Cundall

They are likely to remain that way for at least a little while. International sanctions make it illegal for Burma to ship military materials in or out of the country. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently visited Burma, attempting to strike a deal to lift the sanctions as well as permit Cundall to excavate the site. With any luck, these Spitfires may eventually see the light of day and after more than six decades, finally reach the skies.

Will Spain sell the Black Swan Treasure?

Two months ago, U.S. courts forced Odyssey Marine Exploration to hand over the so-called Black Swan treasure to the Spanish government. What will Spain do with it?

What will happen to the Black Swan Treasure?

Spain’s claim to the treasure was tenuous at best and completely lacking in proof. But as you might expect, international laws regarding shipwrecks are murky and highly tilted toward governments. Regardless, the Spanish government now owns the Black Swan treasure.

We tend to think this outcome, which was possibly influenced by secret back room bureaucratic dealings, will have extremely negative effects on the field of shipwreck salvage for years to come.

“Going forward, treasure hunters will have little to no incentive to report their findings to the world. The black market for antiquities will grow. The treasure hunting field will attract a greater number of reckless and unskilled individuals. Thus, salvage work will be done with more haste and less care.” ~ David Meyer, The Black Swan Heist

The Spanish Culture Ministry has taken possession of the treasure (and to add insult to injury, is suing for legal costs as well). The Spanish government claims it merely wants to divide up the treasure to be exhibited in multiple museums. But since Spain is deep in debt, it seems possible the government will sell some of the treasure instead and use the proceeds to pay its bills. While no hard evidence exists of an upcoming sale, there are some recent clues hinting at it. Here’s more on the Black Swan treasure from NumisMaster:

On Feb. 25 Jose Ignacio Wert, Spain’s education, culture and sports minister made no mention of value, simply saying, “The legacy of the Mercedes belongs to Spain.” It is likely Spain went to all the trouble of fighting for this waterlogged hoard in court due to its value, not due to the treasure simply being a legacy rightfully belonging to Spain.

But, wait a minute. This is treasure trove dredged from the ocean floor. What kind of collector value are we really looking at?

The first hint comes from a Feb. 27 Associated Press story. Within this story is the comment, “After two centuries under water, parts of the trove of coins are stuck together in big chunks, sometimes in the very shape of the chests or sacks they were originally stored in, said Milagros Buendia, part of the specialized team that went to Florida to get the booty.”

The AP story continues that “Spain will now set about classifying and restoring the 594,000 coins and other artifacts involved before it figures out how to display them for the public.”

The word “restoring” is the key, a word that likely goes over the head of the average potential buyer of such coins. This is part of the reverse psychology that has been applied many times when someone is publicizing a hoard of coins in preparation to selling them to the public. (There is no indication at this time that Spain will seek to sell the coins.)…

(See NumisMaster for more on the Black Swan treasure)

The Hunt for the Lost Space Engines?

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. A short while later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerged, becoming the first humans to ever walk on that rock. Now, billionaire Jeff Bezos is after the original engines from that flight. He’s already located them. But recovering them won’t be easy.

The Hunt for the Lost Apollo 11 Engines?

Bezos’ team will have to descend 14,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, confirm they’ve actually got the right engines, and then raise the multi-ton hulks to the surface. No date has been set for the expedition but it promises to be one of the most incredible salvage efforts of all time, ranking up there with Robert E. Peary’s search for “The Tent.” Here’s more on the hunt for the lost Apollo 11 engines from Bezos Expeditions:

The F-1 rocket engine is still a modern wonder — one and a half million pounds of thrust, 32 million horsepower, and burning 6,000 pounds of rocket grade kerosene and liquid oxygen every second. On July 16, 1969, the world watched as five particular F-1 engines fired in concert, beginning the historic Apollo 11 mission. Those five F-1s burned for just a few minutes, and then plunged back to Earth into the Atlantic Ocean, just as NASA planned. A few days later, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.

…I’m excited to report that, using state-of-the-art deep sea sonar, the team has found the Apollo 11 engines lying 14,000 feet below the surface, and we’re making plans to attempt to raise one or more of them from the ocean floor. We don’t know yet what condition these engines might be in – they hit the ocean at high velocity and have been in salt water for more than 40 years. On the other hand, they’re made of tough stuff, so we’ll see…

(See “F-1 Engine Recovery” for more on the hunt for the lost Apollo 11 Space Engines)

Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece?

On June 6, 1505, Leonardo da Vinci began to paint The Battle of Anghiari in the Palazzo Vecchio. Over fifty years later, Giorgio Vasari was hired to remodel the room where da Vinci’s mural was located. In the process, da Vinci’s mural vanished into thin air. New evidence suggests that not only does it still exist but that it is in the exact same place where it was painted all those years ago!

Battle of the Anghiari – The Lost Leonardo?

The Battle of Anghiari is often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo.” At the time of its creation, it was considered his finest work. Today it’s remembered via a few sketches done by da Vinci as well as a Peter Paul Rubens drawing which was apparently inspired by a copy of the original work (Ruben’s drawing is pictured above).

For many centuries, this work was feared lost. However, it turns out Vasari had a penchant for secretly preserving artwork. Back in 1861, workers removed a wall from Santa Maria Novella. The wall had been adorned with Vasari’s Madonna of the Rosary. Behind it, they discovered a 1428 piece by Masaccio entitled Trinità. Rather than destroy Masaccio’s fresco, Vasari had covered it up with a false wall and in the process, saved it for future generations.

Did Giorgio Vasari save The Battle of Anghiari?

Art diagnostic expert Maurizio Seracini believes Vasari used similar techniques to save The Battle of Anghiari. In 2005, he used sophisticated radar equipment to discover “a narrow cavity behind the Vasari fresco Battle of Marciano.” In true Da Vinci Code fashion, he also found an inscription from Vasari on the Battle of Marciano. It reads “Cerca, trova.” Or, “Seek and you shall find.”

Yesterday, Seracini’s team reported that they have uncovered chemical evidence of da Vinci’s lost work. Here’s some details on the search for the lost Battle of Anghiari from Live Science:

  • “One of the samples contained a black material with a chemical composition similar to black pigment found in brown glazes on da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and “St. John the Baptist,” identified in a recently published scientific paper by the Louvre, which analyzed all the da Vinci paintings in its collection.
  • Flakes of red material found seem to be made up of organic material that may be associated with red lake (lacquer) — something unlikely to exist in an ordinary plastered wall.
  • From the high-definition images captured by the probe, the researchers saw a beige material on the original wall, which, they say, could only have been applied by a paintbrush.
  • The researchers confirmed an air gap between the brick wall holding Vasari’s mural and the wall behind it, something that had been identified in previous research using radar scans. The researchers speculate Vasari may have built a wall in front of da Vinci’s masterpiece in order to preserve it.”

Even if Vasari did store the mural behind a false wall, experts believe it could be in extremely poor shape. Still, we continue to believe the search is worthwhile. For if Seracini is right, then what may have been da Vinci’s greatest masterpiece will get a second opportunity to see the light of day…and to dazzle the world.

How much Treasure lies Underwater?

Don’t worry shipwreck hunters…according to some estimates, as much as $60 billion in sunken treasure still lies beneath the ocean’s surface.

How much Treasure still lies Underwater?

No one knows for sure how much treasure lies underwater, waiting to be discovered. But according to recent estimates, as much as $60 billion in sunken treasure still awaits the intrepid treasure hunter. Here’s more on underwater treasure estimates from Popular Mechanics:

It’s been a busy month for shipwreck headlines and shipwreck hunters. The team that announced the discovery of the Port Nicholson, a World War II–era British merchant ship found 50 miles off the coast of Maine, says it bore 71 tons of platinum ingots worth about $3 billion. Other shipwreck hunters turned up the HMS Victory, which sank in the English Channel in 1744 with a “secret” cargo of gold valued at $1 billion. And, in an episode that shows the high stakes of shipwreck salvaging, Spain is currently recovering the estimated $500 million haul of gold and silver from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes that sank in 1804; an American company found the ship but lost court cases to Spain over the rights to the treasure.

All this undersea treasure hunting got us wondering: Just how much money is out there buried at sea? We put the question to marine archeologists, a historian, and a shipwreck hunter. Their answers ranged from “Who knows?” to “$60 billion”—and each was instructive…

(See What’s the Total Value of the World’s Sunken Treasure? for the rest)