Does the Lost Custer Treasure Really Exist?

Thanks to all of you who watched me on last week’s America Unearthed episode, “Custer’s Blood Treasure.” Recently, I’ve seen a few questions bouncing around about the exact nature of the lost Custer treasure, including several from my friend Scott Wolter himself. Some people have even doubted its existence all together. So, I thought I’d add in some details from four primary sources as well as some reporting by Kathryn Wright, who originally broke the Custer treasure story back in 1957. Perhaps this will shed a little light on the exact nature of the Custer treasure as well as how the story originated.

Where did the Custer Treasure Come From?

Two Moon Vault and supposed storehouse of lost Custer treasure (Constructed by W.P. Moncure)

Two Moon Vault and supposed storehouse of lost Custer treasure map (Constructed by W.P. Moncure)

The lost Custer treasure consists of about four months back pay given to the Seventh Cavalry more than a month prior to Custer’s last stand. Contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t stored in a pay wagon and taken to the battlefield but rather, was carried into battle by the individual soldiers themselves. After the fighting was over, the Indians stripped the dead soldiers of their belongings, including their various monies. This hoard of harvested pay and other trinkets, in total, makes up the lost Custer treasure.

So, the first question we must answer is whether or not there is evidence that Custer’s men were paid prior to the Battle of the Little Bighorn. And fortunately, there is. On June 22, 1923, Sergeant John M. Ryan, who was with Major Reno during the battle, published a first-person narrative entitled, “The Narrative of John M. Ryan” in the Hardin, Montana-based Tribune. In it, he states that the Seventh Cavalry marched out of Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 17, 1876. Upon arriving at the Big Heart River, they camped for two days. Around that point, probably on the evening of May 17 itself, “the paymaster joined us under an escort of infantry, and enlivened the boys’ hearts with about four months pay.” Ryan goes on to state that, “if (the paymaster) had paid at the fort some of the troopers would undoubtedly have deserted.”

Was the Lost Custer Treasure really worth $25,000?

So, we know the men went into battle carrying a substantial amount of back pay. But how much money were they really carrying?

Ryan adds no further details about the evening. But according to Private Peter Thompson, “the blood sucking sutler (arrived) with his vile whiskey, rotten tobacco, and high priced notions. It was plain to be seen that he would reap a rich harvest on this expedition.” So, we know the sutler (who went by the name of John Smith) took at least some of the pay given to Custer’s men, including the payment of old debts, when he left the next morning.

So, how much was left? As far as I’m aware, the sole account on this score belongs to Sergeant Daniel Kanipe, who was also with Major Reno during the battle. On April 27, 1924, Kanipe wrote a first-person narrative entitled, “The Story of Sergeant Kanipe, One of Custer’s Messengers” for the Greensboro, NC-based Daily Record. In it, he states what he saw after the battle had concluded: “In all this pile of men, not a one had a stitch of clothes on. The Indians had taken it all. They must have gotten about $25,000 in money off of them, too, for we had just been paid at Powder river camp before we left on the campaign and there had been nothing to spend a cent for.”

So, that’s the origin of the “$25,000″ figure that is bandied about amongst treasure hunters. Admittedly, it’s highly undependable since it’s based on one soldiers’ estimate of how much money his fellow troops collectively carried into battle fifty years after the fact. How does that $25,000 hold up under a little bit of scrutiny?

We know 268 U.S. troops (including scouts) were killed at the battle. In order to match Ryan’s $25,000 figure, each deceased soldier would’ve had to be carrying about $92 apiece, which breaks down to an average monthly pay of about $23 (this assumes none of the deceased had spent money with the sutler). It also excludes the value of any personal objects or additional monies carried by the troops into battle.

According to Private Charles Windolph’s book, I Fought with Custer, he was paid $13 per month in those days. Of course, that reference is from 1947, a full 71 years after the fact. But it matches up with what privates were paid at the beginning of the Civil War so it’s probably pretty accurate. Officers, of course, made much more money than privates. For example, a Lieutenant Colonel (General Custer’s official title) would’ve pulled in $181/month at the beginning of the Civil War. So, at first glance, an average monthly pay of $23 per deceased soldier seems reasonable to me. And if that’s the case, the treasure could very well have been worth $25,000 in total.

Was the Lost Custer Treasure just Currency? Or did it include Gold & Silver Coins?

So, we’ve established the lost Custer treasure existed. And we’ve also established that it’s value in 1876 dollars could’ve been around $25,000. But what form of currency did it take? Was it paper currency? Or were there gold and/or silver coins as well?

Ms. Kathryn Wright is the reporter who first investigated the story of the lost Custer treasure. She sought out an answer to the currency question in her original article, Indian Trader’s Cache, which was published in the Winter 1957 issue of Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Here’s what she had to say on the subject: “Not all of it was in currency. Army regulations covering 1876, which were checked for me by Raymond P. Flynn, archivist at Washington, D.C. at the request of Chief of Air Staff General Nathan F. Twining, show that the troopers were paid in gold, silver, and U.S. treasury or bank notes.”

David Meyer’s Analysis

Well, that’s all for now. I hope this clears up some of the many questions regarding this interesting treasure-based side note to one of history’s most infamous battles. Unfortunately, as is often the case when dealing with treasure stories, the details are murky and open to many questions. This is especially true since various primary sources crafted their reports decades after the Battle of the Little Bighorn had ended. Regardless, it seems likely the Seventh Cavalry carried a fairly substantial amount of pay into battle on June 25, 1876. Although the exact amount is in question, it very well may have matched Ryan’s estimate of $25,000. And that pay was probably in numerous forms, including gold, silver, and currency.

The bigger question is what happened to the hoard after the battle. And that brings us to the mysterious envelope which W.P. Moncure had once stored inside the Two Moon vault (pictured above). In her article, Wright reported seeing a couple of sentences typed on the envelope about its contents, including this one: “Hiding place and location of money and trinkets taken from dead soldiers on Custer battlefield.” Assuming the envelope still exists, it may be the only known reference to the final whereabouts of the lost Custer treasure.

 

David Meyer’s Wild West Coverage

Custer’s Blood Treasure (America Unearthed)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

David Meyer at "Custer's Last Stand"

David Meyer at “Custer’s Last Stand”

Date: 12/03/2014

Bestselling author David Meyer makes television debut on Custer’s Blood Treasure

David Meyer teams up with the #1 hit show America Unearthed for Custer’s Blood Treasure.

On Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 9pm EST, bestselling action/adventure author David Meyer will team up with world-renowned 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. David Meyer is an adventurer and creator of the Cy Reed Adventure series. In Custer’s Blood Treasure, he helps Wolter unravel the mystery behind a legendary treasure dating back to one of America’s most infamous events, Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

David Meyer is the international bestselling author of the Cy Reed Adventure series. Praised for relentless pacing and thrilling, twisty plots, his books—Chaos, Ice Storm, and Torrent—have taken readers on unforgettable journeys into ancient ruins, secret bases, and lost worlds.

Official Website: http://www.DavidMeyerBooks.com

Follow David Meyer on Social Media:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GuerrillaExplorer

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DavidMeyer_

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David Meyer’s Wild West Coverage

Beale Codes: Solving an Unsolvable Code?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a giant treasure in Virginia. It has never been found. The key to its location lies in one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Codes. But how does one go about solving an unsolvable cipher?

Beale Code #1

Beale Code #1
Source: Archive.org

The Mysterious Beale Treasure?

Last Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Treasure. On Monday, I posted the second installment. Yesterday, I discussed whether the Beale Codes are real or a giant hoax. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied it in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created three ciphers now known as the Beale Codes.

“The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Only one of the Beale Codes – the second one – has ever been decoded. It revealed the exact contents of the treasure.

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

Solving Beale Code #2?

Beale Code #2 is a book code. The “book” is the U.S. Declaration of Independence. In order to solve it, you take each number from the code and compare it to the relevant word in the document. Then you take the first letter from that word. So, the first number is 115. The 115th word in the Declaration of Independence is “instituted.” And the first letter in “instituted” is i. Below, you can see Beale Code #2 for yourself, as presented in The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered:

Beale Code #2

Beale Code #2
Source: Archive.org

This code was supposedly solved by a “friend” of Robert Morriss. The friend claimed to have stumbled upon the solution. I’ve always considered this one of the hardest parts of the Beale story to swallow. Without the key, a book cipher would’ve been pretty much impossible to solve at the time. Oh yeah, and the Declaration used to encode Beale Cipher #2 contains numerous mistakes. And yet, the friend was still able to figure out those mistakes. So, either the entire thing is a scam or the friend was using a similar version of the Declaration (actually, that second option isn’t impossible to believe…flaws abound in early reprintings of the Declaration).

Solving the Unsolvable Ciphers?

Assuming the Beale Codes are real, it stands to reason the remaining ciphers are encoded like Beale Code #2. That means there are two ways to solve them. First, a budding treasure hunter could search for the right key. This would involve seeking out texts of the time period and comparing them to the ciphers. One interesting idea presented by Tim Haydock in his book, Treasure Trove, plays off the fact that Beale’s full name was Thomas Jefferson Beale. Beale Code #2 was encoded with the Declaration of Independence, which is usually associated with Jefferson. So, Beale Code #1 might correspond to someone named Thomas (perhaps Thomas Paine). Beale Code #3 would then be deciphered with something having to do with the name Beale. An alternative suggestion is that all three documents might link to works published by Thomas Jefferson.

The second approach is to employ computers in a brute force attack. I believe this has been done in the past, but I’d be curious to know what modern computers could do with it.

Regardless, here are the remaining Beale Ciphers for those of you who wish to try your hand with them.

Beale Code #1

Beale Code #1
Source: Archive.org

Beale Code #3

Beale Code #3
Source: Archive.org

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Before you run off searching for old books, there are two things you should know. First, some scholars think the Beale Codes story is nothing more than a Masonic allegory.

Actually, of course, Beale and his treasure are illusory-merely part of an allegory meant to evoke the anticipated Masonic “discovery of the secret vault and the inestimable treasures, with the long-lost word” (as expressed in the Royal Arch degree). The contrast between the futile quest for gold and that for more spiritual wealth are didactically expressed in the allegory.” ~ Joe Nickell, Mysterious Realms: Probing Paranormal, Historical, and Forensic Enigmas

And second, in 1980 Jim Gillogly used the same Declaration of Independence in an attempt to decipher Beale Code #1. This resulted in some curious strings of letters such as AAA, TTTTT, and most interesting, ABFDEFGHIIJKLMMNOHPP. Gillogly concluded that Beale Code #1 was fake, created by randomly selecting words out of the Declaration that, at least in part, formed the alphabet. On the other hand, this could indicate a two-stage code. In other words, the alphabetic sequence might line up with a keystring. Regardless, it seems almost certain at this point that the Declaration of Independence was used in some manner to create Beale Code #1.

Beale Treasure: Real…or a Giant Hoax?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a giant treasure in Virginia. The Beale Treasure has never been found. The key to its location lies in one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers. But is the Beale Treasure even real? Or is it a giant hoax?

Is the Beale Treasure real...or a giant hoax?

Is the Beale Treasure real…or a giant hoax?
Description: Cover of the Beale Papers (published 1885)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Mysterious Beale Treasure?

Last Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Treasure. Yesterday, I posted the second installment. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied it in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created three ciphers now known as the Beale Ciphers.

“The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Only one of the ciphers – the second one – has ever been decoded. It revealed the exact contents of the treasure.

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

Is the Beale Treasure Real…or a Giant Hoax?

The remaining ciphers constitute two of the most famous unsolved codes in history. Many people find this suspicious. After all, high-speed computers and advances in code-breaking have enabled easy decryption of once unsolvable codes. That being said, numerous cryptographers have studied the remaining ciphers and concluded that the sequences of numbers appear non-random.

The story behind the Beale Treasure is problematic. Why would Beale and his companions dig up a giant treasure only to hide it somewhere else? Why didn’t they split it up and go on spending sprees instead? Why would they haul it out to Virginia if they intended to stay out west? And why would they entrust the secret to a man they barely knew – and thus further divide the Beale Treasure – rather than to one (or all) of the heirs?

Other problems abound. The second cipher – a description of the Beale Treasure – seems entirely unnecessary. And the third cipher – which provides the names and addresses of the heirs – seems entirely too short. It’s 618 characters long. Assuming it’s encoded like Beale Cipher #2 (one number is equivalent to one letter), each heir gets about twenty characters. That doesn’t leave much room for a full-blown address. For example, “Thomas Beale, Lynchburg,” runs twenty characters by itself. On the other hand, it is possible some of the heirs shared an address.

Also, some of the words used in Beale’s letters don’t seem to make sense. According to Joe Nickell, the words, “stampeding,” “improvised,” and “appliances” did not appear in print until decades after Beale’s letters were supposedly written. This would seem to indicate the letters were written at a later date or someone edited them along the way. There is also some evidence to suggest that the person who wrote Beale Cipher #2 also wrote the pamphlet that revealed the story to the public (The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Beale Treasure suffer from the same problem as so many other legendary lost treasures…lack of falsifiability. There is simply no way to disprove the story. And there is no way to prove it either. Undoubtedly, Beale researchers will continue to study the codes, searching for a breakthrough. It may come someday. Or it may not.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at some possible ways to approach the Beale Ciphers from a treasure hunting perspective. See you then!

Beale Ciphers #2: A Massive Treasure Revealed?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a gigantic treasure in Virginia. It’s never been found. In order to locate it, one must first decipher one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers.

What are the Beale Ciphers?

What are the Beale Ciphers?
Description: Cover of the Beale Papers (published 1885)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Mysterious Beale Ciphers?

On Friday, I posted the first story in a short series about the mysterious Beale Ciphers. To recap, Thomas Beale and thirty other people excavated a massive treasure between 1819 and 1821. They reburied this treasure in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Then Beale created a series of ciphers to make sure the treasure could be located in the event he and his group were killed.

“The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs.” ~ David Meyer, Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

In 1822, Beale locked the Beale Ciphers, along with two letters, in an iron box. He gave the box to Robert Morriss, a Virginia-based innkeeper, for safekeeping. Morriss placed it in a safe and proceeded to forget about it.

A few months later, Morriss received a letter from Beale. It was dated May 9, 1822. Beale claimed to be en route to the Great Plains on a two-year hunting trip. He told Morriss that the box contained papers that would “be unintelligible without the aid of a key…” He asked Morriss to keep the box for ten years. If no one came for it by then, Morriss was to assume Beale and the rest of his party was dead. He was then supposed to open the box and use a key (which would somehow be mailed in June 1832) to decipher the papers.

Morriss never heard from Beale again.

The Beale Ciphers…Deciphered?

June 1832 came and went. Morriss continued to wait and didn’t open the box until 1845. Inside, he found two letters, detailing the story of the Beale treasure. He also found three papers, covered with seemingly random numbers. In his letters, Beale asked Morriss to find the treasure and distribute it to thirty beneficiaries. For his efforts, Morriss would be entitled to an equal share of the treasure. Unfortunately, Morriss had never received the promised key. He was unable to decipher the codes and thus, the treasure remained lost.

In 1862, Morriss passed the Beale Ciphers to a friend (possibly James B. Ward). If he was able to locate the treasure, the friend would receive one-half of Morriss’ share. The friend believed the code was a standard key-code, with each number standing for a separate letter or word. For the next twenty years, the friend worked on the Beale Ciphers, comparing them to various documents. Eventually, he came upon a solution.

The friend compared the second Beale Cipher to the Declaration of Independence. Each number corresponded to a word in the document. The friend took the first letter of each word and came up with the following:

“I have deposited in the county of Bedford, about four miles from Buford’s, in an excavation or vault, six feet below the surface of the ground, the following articles, belonging jointly to the parties whose names are given in number three, herewith: The first deposit consisted of ten hundred and fourteen pounds of gold, and thirty-eight hundred and twelve pounds of silver, deposited Nov. eighteen nineteen. The second was made Dec. eighteen twenty-one, and consisted of nineteen hundred and seven pounds of gold, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight of silver; also jewels, obtained in St. Louis in exchange for silver to save transportation, and valued at thirteen thousand dollars. The above is securely packed in iron pots, with iron covers. The vault is roughly lined with stone, and the vessels rest on solid stone, and are covered with others. Paper number one describes the exact locality of the vault, so that no difficulty will be had in finding it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson Beale, Decoded Version of Beale Cipher #2

In a cruel twist of fate, the friend now knew the sheer size of the treasure but not the exact location. He returned to the remaining codes with a renewed spirit. Unfortunately, he never managed to decode either of the other two Beale Ciphers. In 1885, the friend finally gave up. He proceeded to publish the whole story as a pamphlet entitled, The Beale Papers, Containing Authentic Statements Regarding the Treasure Buried in 1819 and 1821, Near Bufords, in Bedford County, Virginia, and which has Never Been Recovered.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at the Beale Ciphers themselves. See you then!

Beale Ciphers: A Lost Treasure?

Between 1819 and 1821, Thomas Beale buried a whopping 2,921 pounds of gold and 5,100 pounds of silver in Virginia. It’s still there, waiting for someone to dig up. But there’s a catch. In order to find it, one must first decipher one of the most mysterious codes in history…the Beale Ciphers.

What are the Beale Ciphers?

What are the Beale Ciphers?
Description: Cover of the Beale Papers (published 1885)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Treasure Trove of Thomas Beale

In 1817, a man named Thomas Beale led thirty Virginians on a western hunting trip. They left St. Louis in May and arrived at Santa Fe in December. After several months of little activity, a few members of the group embarked on an excursion. Several weeks later, they sent word that they had discovered gold in a ravine, 250 to 300 miles north of Santa Fe. Immediately, Beale set forth to examine the site and found a large cache of gold and silver.

The group worked the ravine for 18 months, gathering a large quantity of gold and silver in the process. Afterward, they decided to transport the treasure to a cave “near Buford’s tavern in the county of Bedford.” After a long journey, part of Beale’s group arrived in Bedford. Unfortunately, the cave in question was being used by others. So, Beale’s group dug a vault in the Blue Ridge Mountains and buried the treasure. Beale later returned to the ravine, gathered more treasure, and proceeded to deposit it in the vault.

The Beale Ciphers?

The treasure was to be split into thirty shares, one for each member of the group. However, the group faced a problem. They didn’t want anyone to know about the treasure. At the same time, members were still actively hunting and prospecting at the ravine. As such, they were worried about Indian attacks and outlaws. If they were killed in a raid, no one would ever know about the treasure or who had rightful claim to it.

So, Beale created the Beale Ciphers. The Beale Ciphers were three codes which would enable one to locate the treasure and distribute it to the rightful heirs in the event that the group didn’t survive. The first Beale Cipher revealed the location of the vault. The second Beale Cipher described the contents of the vault. And the third Beale Cipher provided names and residences of the group members as well as their heirs. In a letter, Beale stated that the Beale Ciphers would “be unintelligible without the key…”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The full story of the Beale Ciphers is long and complicated. So, it’ll take me a few days to go through it. Tomorrow, we’ll look into what Beale did with those ciphers and how they became public knowledge. Stay tuned…the best is yet to come!

The Lost Apollo 11 Engines?

Apollo 11 Launch

“At 9:32 a.m. EDT, the swing arms move away and a plume of flame signals the liftoff of the Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle and astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.”
Source: NASA

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 launched from Kennedy Space Center, sending Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on a date with destiny. In the process, two massive F-1 engines were jettisoned into the ocean, seemingly lost for all time. Now, after a year-long expedition, billionaire Jeff Bezos has salvaged this history-making technology.

Salvaging the Apollo 11 Engines?

We first reported on this story in March 2012, calling it one of the most incredible salvage efforts of all time, ranking up there with Robert E. Peary’s search for “The Tent.” The cost of the recovery and restoration remains unknown but according to NASA, the engines will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum as well as Seattle’s Museum of Flight, respectively.

Who owns the Apollo 11 Engines?

The exact ownership of the engines remains unclear to me. I’m sure the U.S. government claims ownership. However, this would appear to fall under the Homesteading Principle. In essence, governments cannot legitimately own private property, since everything they have (including tax dollars) has been, in effect, taken with force. Even if you disagree with that assessment, NASA abandoned the engines, making no plans to ever recover them. Thus, I would argue no one owned the engines prior to discovery. Bezos Expeditions, on the other hand, is the rightful owner of its own labor. By salvaging the engines, it added its labor to the engines and thus, became the rightful owner.

Here’s more on the discovery of the lost Apollo 11 engines from Jeff Bezos at Bezos Expeditions:

What an incredible adventure. We are right now onboard the Seabed Worker headed back to Cape Canaveral after finishing three weeks at sea, working almost 3 miles below the surface. We found so much. We’ve seen an underwater wonderland – an incredible sculpture garden of twisted F-1 engines that tells the story of a fiery and violent end, one that serves testament to the Apollo program. We photographed many beautiful objects in situ and have now recovered many prime pieces. Each piece we bring on deck conjures for me the thousands of engineers who worked together back then to do what for all time had been thought surely impossible.

Many of the original serial numbers are missing or partially missing, which is going to make mission identification difficult. We might see more during restoration. The objects themselves are gorgeous…

(See the rest at Bezos Expeditions)

How much is the Oldest Baseball Card Worth?

A "baseball card" from 1865 showing the members of the Brooklyn Atlantics.

A “baseball card” from 1865 showing the members of the Brooklyn Atlantics.
Attribution: Hotographic print by Charles H. Williamson (1865)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

I’m amazed this only went for $92,000. It’s not a real baseball card, at least in the traditional sense. It’s more like a team photograph. But since it was handed out by the team, its often considered a predecessor to later cards like the Old Judge sets. Here’s more from Daniel Lovering at Yahoo News:

A rare 1865 photograph of the Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team, discovered at a Maine yard sale and considered one of the first baseball cards ever, sold for $92,000 at an auction on Wednesday.

A Massachusetts man offered the winning sum in cash after a brief round of bidding at Saco River Auction Co., said Troy Thibodeau, manager and auctioneer at the company in Biddeford, Maine.Thibodeau declined to name the buyer.

The photograph mounted on a card, known as a carte de viste, is the only one of its kind known to exist, though the Library of Congress has a similar image made from a different negative, Thibodeau said before the auction.

(See the rest at Yahoo News)

The Lost Treasure of Machu Picchu?

A secret treasure trove of gold, silver, and ancient knowledge buried beneath the ancient city of Machu Picchu? Yes, please. Here’s more from Heritage Daily:

Is there a Secret Treasure Trove buried beneath Machu Picchu? Description: Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru Attribution: Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Is there a Secret Treasure Trove buried beneath Machu Picchu?
Description: Hiram Bingham III standing on ruins at Machu Picchu in Peru
Attribution: Harry Ward Foote (1911-1923)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thierry Jamin and his team think they have realized an extraordinary archaeological discovery in the Inca city discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. This discovery was made possible thanks to the testimony of a French engineer who lives in Barcelona-Spain, David Crespy. In 2010, while he was visiting the lost city, David Crespy noticed the presence of a strange “shelter” located in the heart of the city, at the bottom of one of the main buildings…

In order to confirm the existence of cavities in the basement of the building, in December 2011 Thierry and his team submit an official request to the Ministry of Culture in Lima, to perform a geophysical survey with the help of electromagnetic (EM) conductivity instruments. This license was granted a few months later.

Realized between April 9th and April 12th 2012, the electromagnetic survey not only confirmed the presence of an underground room but several! Just Behind the famous entrance, a staircase was also discovered. The two main paths seem to lead to specific chambers, including to the main squared one. The different techniques used by the French researcher(s), (Molecular Frequencies Discriminator) allowed them to highlight the presence of important archaeological material, including deposits of metal and a large quantity of gold and silver!

Thierry Jamin is now preparing the next step: the opening of the entrance sealed by the Incas more than five centuries ago. On May 22nd 2012, he officially submitted a request for authorization to the Peruvian authorities which would allow his team to proceed with the opening of the burial chambers.

The Lost Treasure of the S.S. Gairsoppa?

In February 1941, a Nazi U-boat torpedoed the SS Gairsoppa, sending it to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. Its holds contained a treasure…one of the largest treasures in maritime history. And now, that treasure has been recovered. What is the lost treasure of the Silver Shipwreck?

What is the Lost Treasure of the Silver Shipwreck?

What is the Lost Treasure of the Silver Shipwreck?
“Shipwreck”
Drawn by Harry Chase sometime between 1870 and 1889
Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

What is the Silver Shipwreck?

The SS Gairsoppa was a massive cargo ship. In 1941, it left India with silver ingots, pig iron, and tea which it intended to bring back to Britain.  Initially, it traveled with a convoy. However, with coal running low and winds running high, the vessel split off on its own and headed for Ireland’s Galway Harbor. On February 17, the Nazi U-boat U-101 spotted the Gairsoppa and subsequently torpedoed her. She sank in less than twenty minutes, leaving only a handful of survivors.

The vessel sank in 15,400 feet of water, taking with it nearly 80 crewmen…and a priceless treasure. Back in September, the famed treasure hunting / salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration announced it had discovered the so-called Silver Shipwreck.

A Massive Treasure Salvage?

On July 18, Odyssey reported the recovery of 1,203 silver bars, or 48 total tons of silver, from the Silver Shipwreck. At the current rate of $31.46 per ounce, the treasure is worth roughly $48 million. And this only represented 43% of the total haul. At the time, Odyssey had plans to salvage the rest of the shipwreck.

Working backward, it appears the Gairsoppa was carrying roughly 112 tons of silver at the time of its sinking. Thus, the entire treasure could be worth about $113 million. Thus, it’s probably accurate this is being called “the deepest, largest precious metal recovery in history.”

“With the shipwreck lying approximately three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, this was a complex operation. Our capacity to conduct precision cuts and successfully complete the surgical removal of bullion from secure areas on the ship demonstrates our capabilities to undertake complicated tasks in the very deep ocean.” ~ Greg Stemm, Odyssey Chief Executive Officer

Technically, the UK government owns the treasure. It had insured the cargo and paid off the silver’s owners after the Gairsoppa sank. Under the terms of the salvage agreement, the government will keep 20% of the treasure, net costs. Odyssey will keep the rest.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Our congratulations go out to Odyssey. This is an excellent haul. And it appears this story will end far better than the controversial “Black Swan” debacle.

Back in 2007, Odyssey secretly salvaged 17 tons of gold and silver coins from a mysterious shipwreck codenamed the “Black Swan.” The Spanish government cried foul and demanded that the wreck be handed over to it. The Spanish government’s ownership of the wreck was questionable at best and it spent none of its own time, money, or effort to recover it. Yet, numerous U.S. courts sided with the Spanish government and ruled Odyssey had to relinquish the Black Swan’s treasure.

At the time the time, we predicted that particular outcome, which was possibly influenced by secret back room bureaucratic dealings, would have extremely negative effects on the field of shipwreck salvage.

“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

We still think that will be the case in the long-run. However, we’re pleased to see this particular salvage operation end on a happy note. Once again, congratulations to Odyssey!