Treasure Hunters Use Stars, Mythology in Quest for Fabulous Cache in Seychelles
Treasure hunters in the Seychelles are puzzling over the positions of the stars and obscure references to Greek mythology in their search for the fabulous hoard of an 18th-Century French pirate.
A team of eight laborers wearing T-shirts emblazoned with a skull and crossbones began digging at this secluded beach on Mahe island last month for the hidden treasure of Olivier Le Vasseur, a French pirate hanged in 1730.
Their work is being supervised by John Cruise-Wilkins whose father Reginald spent 27 fruitless years searching for the treasure before he died in 1977.
Cruise-Wilkins values the hidden treasure at $500 million and believes it includes “The Fiery Cross of Goa,” a massive gold cross encrusted with diamonds that needed three men to lift it.
Le Vasseur, nicknamed La Buse (The Buzzard), seized the cross and a hoard of other treasure from the Portuguese ship A Virgem do Cabo as it was returning to Lisbon from India in 1721.
The buccaneer, who was thought to use the Seychelles as a hide-out, was finally captured and sentenced to death on the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean nine years later.
His booty was never recovered, but as Le Vasseur went to the gallows he is said to have thrown a piece of paper to the crowd watching his execution, shouting “Find my treasure he who can.”
Just after World War I, a document thought to be Le Vasseur’s treasure chart came to light in the Seychelles, and a local family spent 20 years searching for the hoard.
The chart, and documents from the Seychelles National Archives, led them to Bel Ombre, where they found strange drawings of dogs, horses and snakes on the cliffs and rocks, but no treasure.
Eventually, in 1948, the chart was acquired by Reginald Cruise-Wilkins, an Englishman who came to the Seychelles after serving with the British army in Kenya.
He became convinced that Le Vasseur was an intellectual who based his cryptogram chart on the 12 labors of Hercules in Greek mythology and the position of the stars.
For 27 years Cruise-Wilkins labored at Bel Ombre, blasting away thousands of tons of rock.
But all he found were two coffins containing skeletons with pirate earrings and an eight-foot long drawing of a woman done in the classical Greek style.
Cruise-Wilkins also unearthed a trapdoor leading to a man-made cavern. But it contained no treasure.
He went bankrupt in 1975 and died two years later at age 63.
This year, however, Cruise-Wilkins’ son John, a 30-year-old communications technician, decided to resume the search.
“We are not doing this for money but to prove my father was right,” he told reporters.
“During his 27 years of search he unearthed far too much evidence for it not to be there,” he added.
John Cruise-Wilkins managed to convince both the Seychelles government and financial backers in the United States that his father was on the verge of locating Le Vasseur’s treasure when he ran out of money.
His partners have backed him with $100,000, and he has signed an agreement to share any treasure found with the Seychelles government on a 50-50 basis.
Cruise-Wilkins says his team will use mechanical digging and pumping gear to try to unearth the cache.
“We expect to be digging up to 30 feet below the water level. . . . There are many tunnels on the site going in different directions, and we will certainly have to pump water and sand out of them,” he told reporters.