The World Today - Treasure Island
[This is the print version of
The World Today - Monday, 26 September , 2005
Reporter: Julia Limb
TANYA NOLAN: Like any good pirate story, the discovery of
the island home of fictional character Robinson Crusoe now involves
Treasure hunters claim to have located a cache of 18th
century jewels and gold coins worth $13 billion on an island off the coast of
Chile in the Pacific Ocean.
The island was the base camp of Alexander
Selkirk, the marooned 18th-century mariner, whose ordeal inspired the story of
And it was believed to be a haven for pirates
crossing the vast ocean and legend has it that a Spanish navigator stashed the
treasure trove there in 1715.
Since then, treasure hunters have spent
years searching for clues that might lead them to the fortune, which it's
believed was later reburied by British sailor Cornelius Webb.
Limb has been speaking to Australian archaeologist Simon Haberle, who has
spent some time on the island and has doubts about whether the treasure will
ever be uncovered.
SIMON HABERLE: Well, it would be a great find if it
is true, but I have my suspicions that the people who are making this claim
may be jumping the gun a little bit.
There's certainly been lots of
rumour and even some written evidence that perhaps there was buried treasure
and many people have been looking for this for many years on Robinson Crusoe
Island. But nobody has yet really come up with any solid evidence.
people who are reporting this week have been also looking for a number of
years and using a range of techniques and I think what they're suggesting is
that they've possibly found a potential locality for the buried treasure, but
I believe that haven't actually recovered any treasure as yet, so we'll wait
JULIA LIMB: Now there is quite a story behind this treasure
trove. What is that legend?
SIMON HABERLE: There is, I mean, there are
a number of legends of buried treasure. A number of the islands were used in
the 1700s in particular as a sort of pirate hideaway, if you like. And so a
number of pirates actually visited the island, presumably with treasure and
may well have left treasure there, but all of it appears to be, sort of,
hearsay and rumour with very little solid evidence.
And this is just
another one of those stories that were put together and a group of fairly
wealthy treasure-hunters have taken this on board and gone to see if they can
actually recover this treasure.
JULIA LIMB: Now you've spent some time
on this island. Did you come across treasure-hunters while you were
SIMON HABERLE: Yes, we did. Yes, there was one particular group
and the current group who have made the claim were there, busily excavating
one particular spot, which had the look of a scorpion, a red scorpion, that
was just this volcanic, sort of, feature, a little mound, and that's described
in one of the early letters that describes this buried treasure as a place of
the scorpion. And this was a locality that this group had been digging
My impression of the site when I was there was simply that it was
an exposed volcanic ridge that probably was very unlikely to hold any buried
treasure. But this was certainly, they were pursuing this idea at the
TANYA NOLAN: Something straight out of the fiction books, but
seems to be a reality.
Archaeologist Simon Haberle from the Australian
National University with Julia Limb.
© 2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation