Hi Sue, congratulations on your appointment to Moderator.
I thought the following article deserves a read, perhaps it may convince some of the THunting faithful to accompany me on a proposed expedition to Cocos.
Especially, if they can find the hidden figure on my Cocos map, which is displayed on my web page.
Best wishes and a Happy, Hopeful, New Year.............Crowsnest.
TREASURES, SHIPWRECKS AND EPIGRAPHS:
Origin and Significance
Cocos Island has been an insular possession of Costa Rica since 1869, and was the base of operations and a required supply stop for British pirate expeditions between the 17th and 19th centuries, as well as for whalers. Treasure hunters also stopped there in search of legendary treasure that was supposedly buried on the island. A 1993 Masters thesis by Ra?l Arias S?nchez, the only one written on the subject to date, presented to the University of Costa Rica, analyzes the "History and Legend of Treasure" as an historic fact, demonstrating by documentary analysis that, in reality, one or more treasures were hidden on the island. 3
In 1793 an expedition of the British ship Ratler landed at Cocos Island. The Ratler was under the command of Captain James Colnett, who drew the first known map of the island and named the bays of Chatham and Wafer. He was also responsible for unloading 10 pairs of pigs that, with time, have become a major plague that negatively affects the environmental balance on the island. Other scientific expeditions arrived on the island, such as those of George Vancouver in 1795, Edouard Belcher in 1832, Alejandro Agassis in 1881 and Anastasio Alfaro and Henri Pittier in 1898. Currently, a great deal of scientific research is being carried out in the fields of Biology, Meteorology and Geology.
In 1846, a Canadian sailor named John Keating recuperated a small part of the Treasure of Lima, and he lived as a wealthy man in his native city of Saint Johns, Newfoundland, until his death in August of 1882. In 1844, Keating met a British sailor named Thompson in Cuba, who assured him that he was one of the only two survivors who had stolen the treasure in Lima in October of 1820. Thompson invited Keating to his home, where he lived with him for three months, and gave him the details of where the treasure was hidden in Wafer Bay.
The other survivor of the great robbery of Lima was a Scotsman named Mack Comber, who stayed in Kona, Hawai, for the remainder of his life after he and Thompson were rescued by Peruvian authorities in Panama. He was never able to look for the treasure. Nicknamed "Old Mack," by 1888 he had become an alcoholic and vagabond; in that year he met a German sailor named August Guisler, to whom he related all the details of his story. Guisler was so impressed by the story that he traveled to Costa Rica and went to Cocos Island to search for the treasure. He was also the Governor of Cocos Island between 1889 and 1908, the year he gave up his search and resigned his official position to go to New York, where he spent the last days of his life. He died in 1935, poor and frustrated
In 1931, three men from the U.S. were shipwrecked when their yacht capsized near Chatham Bay. They stayed on the island for six months, during which time (as they later reported in the American Magazine of 1932) they discovered the cave where the Treasure of Lima was hidden. In 1949, one of the men, Paul Stachwick from San Diego, California, sent a letter to the Costa Rican government, urging that an expedition be organized to find the treasure that he had discovered in 1931. Stachwick did not ask for anything for himself, but only insisted that the articles he found in the cave that belonged to the Catholic Church be returned to their rightful owner. The letter was filed and never answered.
Cocos Island did not have a legal owner until 1869, when the president of Costa Rica, Dr. Jes?s Jim?nez Zamora, ordered that an official expedition be sent, which was accompanied by a treasure hunter named William Tucker. President Jim?nez took possession of the island in the name of the government and the people of Costa Rica in September of 1869. The relationship of the island with Costa Rica did not come about because of Tucker's expedition, but had begun in 1832 when 13 shipwrecked Chileans were rescued by a schooner sent by the Costa Rican government, which in some way established the relationship of ownership and proximity that resulted in Costa Rica taking over the island in 1869.
Those in government never saw Cocos Island as anything but a worthless, large rock in the middle of the Pacific, finding it to be useful only for the establishment of a penal colony between 1879 and 1882, during the administration of President Tom?s Guardia. For decades the island was unprotected, with no military or political oversight, until 1978 when it was declared a National Park, during the presidency of Lic. Rodrigo Carazo Odio.
Cocos Island was declared a Natural World Heritage Site in 1997, but it has not been declared a national historical site, which is indispensable in the event that treasure ever be discovered. However, the historic inscriptions on the rocks of Chatham and Wafer Bay themselves constitute a National Heritage, subject to state protection.
Because of the numerous expeditions to Cocos Island between the 18th century and the present, many in search of treasure or whale boats that anchored in Chatham to take on a supply of fresh water, the rocks at Chatham and Wafer Bays display a unique and surprising variety of inscriptions, scattered in a disorderly fashion along the beaches. There are large-, medium- and small-sized rocks that are covered with inscriptions, some carved very artistically, others not, but all reflect the occasional visit of hundreds of people and ships throughout three centuries.
In the area of Chatham and Wafer Bays, which are shallow bodies of water, the remains of at least three vessels have been identified, one of which is possibly that of El Relampago, a warship that was converted into a pirate ship after a mutiny by the crew and was sunk by the British Navy in 1818. The second shipwreck is the Blair, also a pirate ship, which was sunk by a Chilean Navy crew under the command of Admiral Alexander Cochrane in 1822. The third ship belongs to Chile, but has not been identified. It was sunk near the island in March of 1832 and, for humanitarian reasons, the government of Costa Rica sent the schooner Carmen to rescue the 13 surviving sailors, who arrived in Puntarenas on April 13, 1832, and later returned to their native Chile. 4
The remains of the shipwrecks have been visited by a large number of amateur and professional divers, without restriction, for years, which has resulted in constant looting by unscrupulous people, particularly by Costa Ricans, who have taken valuable relics such as compasses, rudders and other articles of great historic, cultural and, of course, economic value.
On the other hand, there are a great number of rocks in the bays that are inscribed with the names of ships and people dating from the 18th century, many of which are submerged during high tide. There has been a great deal of speculation about the origin of the inscriptions, which have generally been attributed to occasional visitors who only wanted to register their names and that of their ships, as a way to prove that they visited the far away and marvelous Treasure Island.
In February of 1905, Agustin Guido, a journalist who accompanied the expedition of the Costa Rican steamship Turrialba, wrote the following upon landing for the first time on the beach of Chatham Bay:
To our surprise, we found ourselves in the middle of a cemetery. That is what we thought at first, but when we read the first inscriptions, we were convinced that what rested there were not the dead, but were mementos left by hundreds of boats that had harbored there, either deliberately or by force. 5
Guido describes, precisely, the sensation that is experienced when on the small, solitary island, where the only noises that can be heard are provoked by the waves and the faraway marine birds that nest on the imposing rocky isle of Manuelita.
There are rocks of various sizes and colors, along the beach as well as along the riverbed of the small stream that timidly comes to an end there. They are covered with copious, strange inscriptions, some almost illegible because of the passing of time or the actions of people, which constitute the silent and stationary welcoming committee for the visitor who overcomes the strong waves that pound the beach at the moment of landing.
It is true that inscribed rocks are found not only at Chatham, although the quantity is greater at that site than at any other. The rocks on the north side of the beach of Wafer Bay also exhibit inscriptions, some of which are very artistic. This raises some questions that we will attempt to clear up on the following pages: What is the significance of the inscriptions at Chatham Bay? Are they, perhaps, the beginning of simple imprints of those who landed on Cocos Island and decided to leave a testimony of their visit on the rocks, or, do they, perhaps, have a different origin?
The answer has been sought in the epigraphs themselves, in situ, as well as in the memoirs and reports of the ships' captains, researchers and adventurers. The latter believe that there is a hidden symbology on the rocks that, when deciphered, will lead directly to the fabulous treasure that is supposedly hidden on the island. In the attempt to find the correct meaning of the hidden origin of the inscriptions, Agust?n Guido offered an explanation that, without doubt, was given to him by Governor Gissler, which was:
During the 18th century and part of the following, Cocos Island was a station for whaling ships. In Chatham Bay there was a box that was protected against bad weather, where the boats that landed deposited the correspondence that they brought for the other whalers, and when they finished that duty it was the responsibility of the captains to collect the letters directed to the exterior and mail them in the first post office that they found.6
Not having any physical or documentary evidence of this fact, since the box that was mentioned has never been found, or, if it was, it was not made public knowledge, some historical sources were studied that could provide some insight to arrive at a better criteria to determine whether Guido's theory is valid:
1) In situ analysis of the inscriptions, classified by date, name and origin
2) Comparative analysis of the inscriptions on the rocks at Chatham Bay with the registry of merchant ships that anchored in the Port of Puntarenas between 1830 and 1849, classified by year, name, point of origin and destination.
3) Comparative analysis of the inscriptions on the rocks at Chatham Bay with the registries of whaling ships that left Britain and were in the "Records of Bristol Ships" of the National Maritime Museum.
4) Official Navy reports published by the captains that landed on Cocos during the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the first instance, although Levre mentions in his writings that the sailors of Vancouver's expedition recorded the names of their ships on the rocks during their visit in January 1795, the present analysis shows that the oldest inscription corresponds to that of a British ship in the year 1797.
In general, the inscriptions reveal a great majority of Anglo-Saxon names?British and North American?and a few in French; and, as we approach recent times, a number of very familiar Spanish names appear.
For its part, the comparative analysis between the list of inscriptions at Chatham Bay and the list relating to the Merchant Navy that anchored in the Port of Puntarenas shows that none of the names coincide. This leads us to suppose that Cocos Island was not on the route for the ships that landed in Puntarenas, coming from the South American ports of Valparaiso and Callao, anchoring in several ports to load and unload merchandise. Cocos Island was, rather, a parallel route to that of the continent.
On the contrary, the ships that did land on Cocos Island were those that had not put into port for a long time, and needed to restock with fresh water and to rest before continuing their voyage.
The above clearly identifies the seafaring vocation of the whalers, which, during the 18th and 19th centuries made their way to the waters of the Arctic in search of prey. On the other hand, nearly all of the ships dedicated to the whaling activity were from either Great Britain or, predominantly, the United States. This coincides completely with the observation that the greatest percentage of names carved in the rocks correspond to English names and, in many cases, identified their place of origin.
Complementarily, a 40-year analysis of the registry of ships that left England and were armed for hunting whales shows that at least one of the names coincides with the inscriptions at Chatham Bay: the ship Arcadia. The Arcadia's official registry indicates that it was built in 1825 in St. Andrews-New Brunswick and registered with number 44 at that port; it was registered again in Bristol with the number 85 on September 5, 1826.
The Arcadia was a 395-ton ship and had a turbulent history that included frequent changes of owners between 1825 and 1836; it was even abandoned by its crew and recuperated by a French whaling ship that sighted it. The ship was finally lost in 1839.
In respect to the inscription on one of the rocks at Chatham Bay, the name Arcadia appears together with four numbers: 4-29, 7-34. Upon comparing those numbers to the data registered in the "Record of Bristol Ships," it was found that those were the dates on which the ship anchored in the inlet. According to this, the first time that the Arcadia landed on Cocos Island was in April of 1829 and the second occasion was in July of 1834, with a return period of five years. In principle, it is clear that the ships that visited Cocos Island were not merchant ships, giving partial credit to Agust?n Guido's explanation, in the sense that such expeditions were for whale hunting, geographic exploration or simply in search of treasure.
On examination of the fourth historic source cited, which is the first official report worthy of consideration, and which corresponds to Captain George Vancouver's "discovery voyage to the northern Pacific Ocean and around the world,"6 published in 1798. This is a report of his landing and experiences on Cocos Island in the ships Chatham and Discovery in January of 1795.
Although he referred to his personal impressions in respect to some of the inscriptions found by his men, there was absolutely nothing about the alleged correspondence deposit box to which Guido's theory alludes, which implies that by the time in which the British explorer was in Chatham Bay, there was no evidence of previous ships, with the exception of their inscriptions.
As a matter of fact, Vancouver himself points out that the only physical evidence that can establish the visit of the Ratler expedition two years previously, in 1793, with certainty was the note signed by Captain James Colnett, which was found inside a bottle hanging in Wafer Bay.7
None of the ships with a military or scientific mission that landed at Cocos Island, the same as Captain Vancouver, mention having any knowledge about the commitment between the whaling ships to look for and take correspondence from any box and deposit it in other ports.
To sum things up, the origin of the inscriptions on the rocks at Chatham Bay is, without a doubt, due to the fact that the island was a necessary landing point for large ships on their route parallel to the continent, because of the need to restock fresh water before continuing their long journey.
As far as the box where correspondence was kept until it could be collected by other ships, perhaps it never existed. However, Guido thought that it was a primary moral commitment of the captains upon anchoring in the famous inlet:
That transit is, without a doubt, responsible for the only noteworthy thing we found on that island: the inscriptions on the rocks.
Despite the opinion of the journalist from Puntarenas, which, apparently is based on oral tradition, the main reason why ships landed was to take on a supply of fresh water, which the island offered generously, and was not to pick up maritime correspondence, although it is possible that there was some kind of mechanism established to transport international correspondence.
It is clear that many of the inscriptions that are found at Chatham Bay are enigmas for us, as they have been in the past for many other generations of visitors to Cocos Island. August Gisler, D. Lievre and many other treasure hunters are good examples of this. However, there are two inscriptions that are particularly enigmatic and whose significance is totally subjective and open to interpretation, and that continue to be studied.
The first of these appears at Chatham Bay, somewhat distant from the beach, on a large oval rock that contains a great number of carvings. The inscription is:
"Look r as you goe for ye S coco"
Lievre, who arrived on Cocos Island as a Navy official of the French government on an expedition of Le Chapelein in 1889, says in his description that:
On the same rock is found the undated inscription, half erased by time. The various interpretations that have been given are not at all satisfactory to me. Since mysterious characters appear from the beginning, there has been a long search for a translation that I believe only good sense should give.9
The same author, who is not in agreement with the interpretation that Captain Vancouver gives in his mention of the report in 1798, believes that the inscription refers to the absence of coconut palms at Chatham Bay, in contrast to the abundance that is found at Wafer Bay. For Lievre, this is a warning to the navigators that were excited because of the name of the island, where they could have been expecting to find coconut palms all over the place:
The sign r is the lowest branch of a cross, whose four arms point to the cardinal points. The letter that proceeds the word "coco" in the form of an S with slightly accentuated curves is nearly erased. The sign r and the abbreviation s, for "see" are used in England.10
According to Lievre, the synthesis of his interpretation is that the inscription means: "go south and you will see coconuts" the reference to south is to the inlet at Wafer Bay. No one, with the exception of the French explorer, has given a more coherent interpretation for the inscription carved in the rock, and, therefore, it can be considered to be acceptable even though it has an air of simplicity, which is not totally satisfactory.
Many other inscriptions are found on the beach of Wafer Bay, outstanding of which are those that commemorate the visit of the French researcher Jacques Costeau.
The second enigmatic inscription mentioned is found at Wafer Bay, above the waterway of the Genio River, and consists not in carved letters but in a drawing of a kind of long arrow with several pointers.
In conclusion, Cocos Island is, perhaps, the only place in Costa Rica where several submerged relics of historical value have been identified, in conformity with the definition of the UNESCO Convention. On the other hand, it is not possible to positively establish the origin or exact purpose of the inscriptions, many of which are real enigmas, but it has been shown that the great majority correspond to an historical registry engraved by the crews of ships in the desire to leave a witness to their presence on the island.
In recent years, from 1994 to 2002, events have occurred that tend to prove the theory that there is a hidden treasure on Cocos Island. Historian Arias S?nchez demonstrated in his M.A. thesis the certainty of the existence of the Treasure of Lima. In 1996 he proposed a project to locate the treasure and presented it to the Ministry of the Environment and Energy; the project would use remote sensors, concretely of satellite images and the technology of the Air Images System (A.I.S.), developed by NASA. He even contacted Costa Rican astronaut Dr. Franklin Chang, who agreed to intercede with NASA to facilitate the necessary technology. The proposal was never considered by MINAE.
In 1998 a government advisor named Alan David Shepard, whose name is identical to that of the famous North American astronaut who participated in the Apollo mission and who died of leukemia that same year, contracted, without official authorization, the services of a Russian-British company, Alkor International, to obtain a satellite image and to look for gold deposits on Cocos Island, using a new technology patented as GeoVision, which is based on particle physics called "microleptones."
The analysis was positive; the Alkor technicians found three deposits of gold, two on earth and one in the water, all in the area of Wafer Bay. When they communicated the results to Shepard, he promised to interest the Costa Rican government and to pay them for the study they realized, which were $10,000. The company says that the North American never contacted them again, and that the debt has not been cancelled to date.11
In 2002, the strong evidence that Arias S?nchez evaluated in his Master's thesis has caused some respectable organizations, such as the Association of Doctors and Surgeons, to support another presentation of the project to the Costa Rican government. Linkback:
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