If you grew up reading Famous Five books or spent your nights playing Tomb Raider, odds are, the prospect of a real-life adventure in pursuit of fabulous lost treasures will leave you enthralled. There are plenty of lost treasures still waiting to be found – some that we know of, others that we do not. Only recently, an underwater expedition off the Greek coast came upon a massive haul that included more than 20 shipwrecks, with cargo dating back to 700 BC!
The prospect of recovering such unclaimed bounty should have any treasure-hunter salivating. To get you started on your hunt, we bring you a list of 10 such missing treasures that should have you raring to go.
Blackbeard was one of the most successful and notorious pirates of the golden age of piracy and he is undoubtedly the most well-known today. He is believed to have amassed fabulous riches during his long reign over the seas, but treasure-hunters have had little luck locating any of that wealth so far. Legend has it that shortly before his death, on being quizzed about the location of his gold, he exclaimed, ‘Only I and the devil know.’ Dismissed as fiction and a product of the overactive imaginations of writers, Blackbeard’s treasure still captivates the minds of modern-day treasure-hunters.
The legend of Captain Kidd’s treasure is, in fact, what gave rise to the popular perception of him as the quintessential, swashbuckling pirate. Hired by the British Crown to fight piracy on the high seas, Captain Kidd became a pirate himself and went on to amass a fortune in gold, silk, and jewels. He buried a small fortune at Gardiners Island, New York, which was uncovered to be used as evidence at his trial. The bulk of his booty is yet to be found, but is believed to be buried in different locations, waiting to be uncovered by treasure-hunters. If found, the haul could make you a millionaire, if not a billionaire!
King John is mostly associated with the story of Robin Hood, in which he is cast as the villain . What is more intriguing is the lost treasure associated with him. According to the stories, the king’s baggage-train was loaded with royal riches and was following him as he journeyed to Lincolnshire from Lynn, East Anglia. While King John took a safer route, his baggage-train took the shorter and more direct route, across a marshy bay. The ill-fated party was lost along with the treasure, believed to be claimed by either incoming tides or quicksand. This treasure included the crown jewels, as well as the king’s treasury and regalia, and has an estimated value of USD 70,000,000!
The Flor de la Mar was a Portuguese sailing vessel with an impressive history, having participated in numerous naval battles, including the battle of Diu and the conquests of Goa and Malacca. What would be of interest to treasure-hunters is the cargo of the ship, when it set out on its last voyage. Before the Flor de la Mar was shipwrecked on the Sumatran reefs, she had accumulated what many regarded to be the largest treasure of the Portuguese navy. This included bounty from Malacca and tributes from the King of Siam . The ship is believed to have gone to her watery grave with over 50,000 kilos of gold, estimated to be worth around USD 2.6 billion!
The treasure fleet that set sail for Spain in 1715 included 11 ships led by the mighty San Miguel, a Spanish battleship. The ships were loaded with silver, gold, pearls, emeralds, and other precious cargo and set out from a port in modern-day Cuba, sailing as a huge convoy to ward off any attacks from privateers and pirates. The overcautious captain decided to wait until just before the hurricane season, as this would further reduce the risks of piracy. Unfortunately, within a week of their departure, every ship was lost to hurricanes, along with all of the crew, and their enormous haul of treasure. While seven of the ships from the convoy have been located and some of the treasure retrieved, the bulk of it and the San Miguel still lie somewhere off the eastern shores of Florida. To this day, bits of treasure occasionally wash up on nearby shores.
The amber room is regarded as one of the greatest lost treasures of today. Constructed in the early 1700s and gifted to the King of Prussia, the room comprised a set of exquisite wall panels that were made with amber, gold, and mirrors. The panels were then fitted to actually create a room coated in gold and amber. The amber room eventually made its way to Russia, from where it was stolen by Nazi soldiers and moved to Königsberg Castle. Although it was officially reported as destroyed in the Allied bombing raids, evidence suggests that it was dismantled and stashed away by the Nazis, with many other priceless treasures that they had acquired. Although there have been numerous claims of discovery, no one has managed to produce any of the missing panels till date.
The Nazi onslaught across Europe didn’t just result in large-scale destruction and the loss of human life; it also resulted in vandalism, destruction and theft of priceless artwork, precious jewels, and huge reserves of gold. As the Allied forces closed in on the Nazis, they tried desperately to smuggle their plundered loot out of Europe or to hide it. As devious as they may have been in hiding their haul, valuables and artifacts and artworks still do turn up on occasion. In 2013, a collection of paintings estimated to be worth more than USD 1.2 billion was discovered in a Munich apartment. However with Hitler’s own diamond collection and the Reichsbank’s entire gold reserves still unaccounted for, the bulk of the loot remains missing. Due to accounts from eye witness, Lake Toplitz, in Austria, is probably the most famous site for treasure hunters, but this is unlikely to be the only site that holds Nazi loot.
The treasure of Lima disappeared in 1820 and included expensive jewels, precious candlesticks, and solid gold statues of Mother Mary carrying baby Jesus. Lima, in Peru, was a Spanish colony, occupied since the 16th century after the defeat of the Incas. The Spanish accumulated a huge amount of wealth in the ensuing centuries. These treasures were at risk in 1820, because of local wars of independence and the threat of revolt. The riches were loaded onto a ship for transport, but the captain turned rogue and buried the treasure on an unknown island off the Central American coast. All of the crew members were hanged, but the captain and his first mate escaped, without revealing the location of the treasure. Till date, no one has managed to locate the fortune, which has an estimated value of over USD 2 billion.
Diamonds may be forever, but not long ago pearls were worth a lot more than diamonds. Natural pearls are still worth a fortune and pearl prices only dropped, comparatively, with the introduction of pearl farming in the early 20th century. Before that, merchant ships made a fortune through the trade. Juan De Iturbe was one such Spanish merchant and explorer, who sailed up the Gulf of California, collecting a rich haul of pearls and oysters. Unfortunately for him, his ship was carried into an inland water-body, Lake Cahuilla, by a tidal wave. The vessel stayed trapped here, because in addition to the receding waters of the tidal wave, the lake was also drying up as a result of drought and desertification of the area. The vessel was therefore abandoned in what is today an arid wasteland, near Pinto Canyon, in Texas. If you do manage to find this ship, quite literally in a desert, you could become a billionaire.
India was known for its spectacular riches, so it is not surprising for Indian artifacts to appear on any list of treasures. The Patiala necklace, designed by the House of Cartier , consisted of rows of platinum chains that were embedded with 2,930 diamonds. To add to that, it also contained Burmese rubies and other jewels. The centerpiece of the necklace was a stunning 234.6-carat yellow diamond. Last seen intact in 1948, on Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, the necklace is believed to have been dismantled and sold by the Patiala royal family. Although the necklace was recovered and restored by Cartier, the impressive jewels remain missing.
In addition to treasure buried on land, estimates by the United Nations reveal that the oceans of the world could hold more than 3 million shipwrecks. It is hard to fathom the value of these lost treasures, but if you think you have what it takes to become a treasure-hunter, you should heave-ho, hoist the Jolly Roger, and brush up on your pirate jargon.