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 In the estuary of Achelous Rive Treasure chest

Captivating Great Treasure of Lima


Isla del Coco, or Cocos Island, has been visited for over 300 years by infamous pirates like ‘Benito of the Bloody Sword’ and explorers such as Sir Francis Drake. In more modern times famous treasure hunters like President Franklin Roosevelt have quested this island for what is without question, the largest real life lost treasure ever hoard known to mankind - The Great Treasure of Lima.

Cocos Island. Map Collection of the Perry-Castañeda Library, University of Texas. Public Domain

Cocos Island. Map Collection of the Perry-Castañeda LibraryUniversity of TexasPublic Domain

Cocos Island is a designated National Park located in the Pacific Ocean and is situated some 342 miles (550 km) off the coast of Costa Rica, with an area of approximately 9.21 2 miles (23.85 km 2). An official Costa Rican survey of the island in 1895 reported: “There are signs of mineral wealth, and gold has been found,” but the natural gold on this island nowhere near matches the volume of gold that has been hidden there.

Treasure legends permeate the cracks of every rock on this island, for example, according to writer Reagan Smith in 1845 a British explorer found: “an iron-bound chest high in a cave overlooking Wafer Bay, which spilled out a golden hoard of Spanish coins.” What is more, not only did Captain John Cook land a ship loaded with loot, which historians believe he left there, but Sir Frances Drake frequented the island and rumors persist that he also buried a treasure hoard. Long before the Great Treasure of Lima found its way here, ancient myths hinted at a great treasure being guarded by descendants of Inca leaders on Mount Iglesias, the highest point on Cocos Island.”

Separating Treasure Facts from Fantasy

The first reported case of treasure having been buried on the island was recounted in Public Broadcasting Service’s 2011 series Legends and Lore. Accordingly: “A woman named Mary Welsh claimed 350 tons of gold (about $16 billion in 2018) which had been raided from Spanish galleons had been buried on the island.” Welsh had been a crew member of Captain Bennett Graham’s pirate ship and having been sentenced for piracy she was transported to the Australian penal colonies to serve her time. Welsh claimed to possess a chart showing where Graham's treasure was supposed to be hidden and when she was released she immediately returned to Cocos Island with a treasure recovery expedition, but some of the points of reference on the landscape had vanished and nothing was ever recovered.


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Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems, in accessible and exciting ways. His books, articles and television shows explore lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and artifacts, symbols and architecture, myths and legends telling thought-provoking stories which together offer insights into our shared social history.

Top Image:  In the estuary of Achelous Rive Treasure chest (CC BY-SA 4.0)

By Ashley Cowie



That makes sense. You know, the queen gives you a license to go Privateer and take as much Spanish gold as you can lay your paws on, you have to put it somewhere. Your a treasure hunter! I could tell you where to look for the wonders of the ancient world and I suspect the British Museum might give you a budget to dig if you're interested. I would but I'm busy.

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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