The Long Lost Treasure of Cocos Island
By: Chris Capps
The idea of pirate gold is still alive with us today even as legends of the findings are lost to antiquity. The idea that somewhere beneath the waves or buried on an obscure island a mountain of gold could be hiding is something that has taken pirate lore from Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island all the way to the modern Pirates of the Caribbean series still plundering the box office. But the real treasure is still said to be out there, and the legendary gold rumored to be on one island would make even the most affluent Hollywood actors take a second look.
Cocos Island is a small patch of land approximately eight miles in diameter with a height of less than two miles. And there is at least one thing that sets it apart from all other islands in the area. Cocos Island is said to host somewhere around 350 tons of gold on it worth billions. Situated just west of South America, the island has a long history for being the destination of pirates hoping to bury treasure. It was this simple island that would inspire Treasure Island, and it has been the location for over three hundred treasure hunting expeditions.
The stories lead all the way back to the dreaded pirate Captain Bennett Graham. When a woman named Mary Welsh was captured and transported to an Australian prison colony in 1819, she produced a treasure map, giving the approximate coordinates of a lost hidden treasure.
When she eventually found her freedom, she would return to the island in search of the treasure. Unfortunately, the chart she had been given was misleading. Something on the island had changed, though she couldn't pinpoint why or how. Ultimately she left, hoping to one day return on a second expedition. That expedition never materialized.
Another adventurer, a man by the name of August Gissler would later make it his life's work to uncover this treasure, focusing on the Golden Madonna - a human-sized jewel encrusted statue of the Virgin Mary made of solid gold.
But while Gissler searched all his life, the only artifacts he discovered were also some of the best evidence for the treasure's existence. During his long search within the colonies, Gissler discovered six gold coins, strewn throughout the island. Could someone have beaten Gissler to the treasure and then built an empire from the lost deposits of gold found throughout the island? Or is it still there waiting lost forever in the sands, well hidden from human eyes?
And Graham wasn't the only pirate said to have stashed treasure on Cocos island. In addition to the standard famous treasure of Lima, and the cache of Bennett Graham, there are other hordes said to be hidden on the island, including Benito "Bloody Sword" Bonito and his cut of gold said to be buried before he was caught and hanged. The strangest thing about Cocos, however, is that somehow the treasure left behind there is never found.