Home Home Astronomy Chemistry Electronics Mathematics Physics Field Trips Home  

Miscellaneous Notes,
and Observations from Treasure Seekers

Wednesday 10 December 2008 – journal entry

"The treasure must be in the cave – we just have to figure out how" does not convince me that the clues irrefutably point to the cave, even if it is due north of a certain landmark on Glutton Rock. I'm not going to set sail for Isla del Tesoro based on that! Solve the clues to find the treasure, not the other way around.

There's a "green" mentioned in the clues but while there are several colours mentioned on the map, green isn't one of them. What could this mean? I'm sure the captain didn't make a mistake! Could something be missing? (Maybe that's why he never retrieved his treasure.)

[Insert evil laugh here.]

I was given some gold today! Some "frankincense myrrh gold" chocolate, to be precise. It actually has 23 carat gold in it! Or rather on it – it has a bit of gold leaf rubbed on the top. It's a seasonal chocolate made by Schoc chocolates of Greytown (near Wellington).

It seems that Captain de la Barba isn't the only one burying treasure. In July this year a treasure chest full of Cadbury chocolate bars was found on a beach near Dargaville. A few days later it was explained.

Thursday 11 December 2008 – journal entry

"Sixteen ninths is an improper fraction... It's 1.37 kilometres that way!" (while pointing). Ha ha. Probably the funniest thing I've heard today.

[Insert evil laugh here.]

It seems the treasure must be in the cave after all. Upon taking a look at the map, two more treasure seekers have declared it the ideal treasure-burying location. Unfortunately, there's still no good evidence for that conclusion.

With the valuable exception of cartesian coordinates (they know they need to find the coordinates of the location I'll have to dig – x axis first!) it seems that my two maths students have temporarily forgotten all the navigation skills learnt in their maths classes. They also haven't given up on their cave hopes from yesterday, so under firm instruction from the two young treasure seekers, I'm heading off to search the cave. I wonder what I'll find...

Friday 12 December 2008 – journal entry

Well, the trip to the cave was interesting. I got rather wet getting in – seems there's a waterfall over the entrance. Maybe I should have taken a better look at the map before I set out. Because this was such a quick trip I didn't have time to fully explore the cave, but I did find a couple of items.

The first was a small scrap of parchment with some strange rhymes written on it, eight lines in total. My guess is that they refer somehow to the clues on the map, but I'm really not quite sure how. I've handed the fragment to the two treasure seekers who wanted me to search the cave. I hope they understand its meaning better than I do.

The other item I found was a small scroll, perhaps a little more burned than the one I inherited. Upon it was drawn a map the same as the one above, but with some of the clues different. I'm sure they relate to chemistry, so I've given it to a young chemist who may be able to help sort out what they mean.

This looks useful: wikiHow – How to do an evil laugh.

Saturday 13 December 2008 – journal entry

I happened to bump into one of the treasure seekers last night. She informed me that she had the first two stanzas figured out (I don't know if the new rhymes helped) but was struggling with the Pythagoras bit. She seemed very calm, which didn't seem right, somehow, considering how long she has been working on it. It seems a bit hard to believe she could have made such a breakthrough, but time will tell if she is on the right track now.

I've been pouring poring over the map once again, while the new-found rhymes are fresh in my memory. (Alas! Already they fade. I should have kept a copy.) An old family story now begins to make sense. It seems that an Irishman by the name of Ned – small in stature but quite a talker from what I was told – was in the service of the Spanish pirate captain as a crewman. While several of the crew were rowing around Isla del Tesoro in a longboat, Ned, manning one of the oars at the time, was overpowered by the strong swell, which thus turned the longboat onto rocks at the east end of Three Bone Island. (Those rocks appear to have been named after Ned because of the incident.) The longboat was damaged but with lots of bailing the sailors made it to Four Palms Beach safely. After repairs were made they continued their circumnavigation, but the rest of the men wouldn't let poor Ned row when the winds picked up in the vicinity of Doom Cliff – as they are wont to do – because of the number of rocks in that area. For all Ned's talk, they were scared that he wouldn't be strong enough to keep the longboat away from the rocks there.

Of course, the story is so old it could well be considered fanciful, but then, the whole story of buried pirate treasure would be considered so too, were it not for the map itself. At least the map is more substantial than ancient family hearsay.

I've heard at least three theories relating to Pythagorean triangles and Glutton Rock. I wonder if Pythagoras ever visited the island, perhaps planting coconut palms as he wandered around on a tropical hilliday, er, holiday. I do hope treasure seekers occasionally take the time to have a break and smell the roses.

Other than the smell of roses, I've had to put the "frankincense myrrh gold" chocolate in a sealed box. It smelled so wonderful and I don't want to eat it just yet.

No, it's not the treasure.

A young treasure seeker has just informed me I probably should have been poring over the map, not pouring over it. I thought my efforts were rather wet. He says: "Shame!" He's good like that – an attention to detail that all treasure seekers should have.

One last jotting for this day – I have received a rather ingenious contrivance from a late-working treasure seeker who believes the treasure is buried... but no, I really shouldn't say. I don't understand all the complexities of the complicated mathematics he has employed, but it certainly sounds impressive. I'm off to dig in the location he has calculated. But do not fear. In the words of his namesake: I shall return.

Monday 15 December 2008 – journal entry

I spent yesterday wandering around Isla del Tesoro. Being the weekend I had more time to spend on this visit than my last quick visit to the cave, so I took my time going from point to point getting the lay of the land ("lay of the island" just doesn't sound right, while "lay of the cay" isn't technically accurate because of the hills) and seeing how the many treasure-locating theories I've heard might work in practice. I also tried one of my own, of which I will write at a later date.

Anyway, it was good to stand at the highest point of the island and see water all around. The view is really quite pleasing to the eye. At the top of one of the lower hills I came across an old weather-worn seat with the Scottish-sounding name McGee etched in it. Perhaps he was one of the crew of many long years ago – I've heard it was quite a multi-national bunch, not all Spanish by any means. I think the seat faced east, but now that I'm home again, I realise that I was a little careless with measuring directions. Once again, I should have paid more attention.

However, one of my main tasks was to dig at the base of a couple of palm trees under the instructions of a treasure seeker. I found the trees easily, but the only thing I unearthed from my excavations was a small box. It was rotten and fell apart when I pulled it from the earth, but it had done its job and protected its contents for long enough for me to take a photograph before that too fell apart. I'll try to get the film processed as soon as I can.

When I got back to the boat I finally treated myself to my "frankincense myrrh gold" chocolate. It was a little soft because of the heat, but it was wonderful – a lovely end to a very tiring day.

Monday 29 December 2008 – journal entry

I have been away for some time, including time on Isla del Tesoro, and have had little time for writing, so my apologies.

I have discussed at some length with various treasure seekers what the phrase "blue score to green" might mean, especially since there is no green on the map. Some are firmly of the opinion it refers to sea and grass respectively. At least a couple have expressed the belief that it is made from mixing yellow and blue, which is an unfortunately awkward task since Yellow Water Creek and Blue Bay Beach are on opposite sides of the island. However, it's just possible that a line passing through both could be considered a mixture of their two colours – a "green" line!

And then I started to wonder afresh what "score" might mean. A count or total, certainly, but it's also an old word for twenty. I have even seen it in the Good Book, the Authorised Version (KJV) of the Bible (first published, I might add, shortly before Capitán Rondo de la Barba sailed the Seven Seas), which contains the phrase "threescore years and ten" in Psalm 90:10, meaning seventy years.

And yet! I have remembered its use also in an origami television show I used to watch in my younger years. "And score just so" was an oft-repeated refrain. I thus believe this clue – and what a complicated one it is – might possibly have three meanings. I must admit, though, that simply folding the map so that Blue Bay Beach overlaps Yellow Water Creek seems too easy, but that would be the obvious solution were the clue "score blue to yellow" – if, that is, they were each a single point that could easily be overlaid.

However, I went ahead with the idea and took one point being the mouth of Yellow Water Creek and a point roughly in the middle of Blue Bay Beach (in the middle of the sandy beach itself) and folded the map so that the two points were overlaid. Imagine my surprise when the fold passed straight through... No! I won't say. But I found that a line directly joining the two points (the "green" line I described earlier) and a line directly joining the Yellow Water Creek mouth with the palm on Glutton Rock both intersect the scored line at the same coordinates! This surely is significant. Surely?

I have had much time in the last two weeks to explore the island, pitching a tent as I did within a short walk of the mouth of the cave. While there I decided to try my little theory, and started digging at the base of a rather young plant that doesn't appear to be marked on the map.

I must say that I got rather muddy exploring beneath the surface, and some distance down I came across a word carved into the trunk of the plant: Apophenia. It sounds like a disease! Alarmed, and not wanting to catch anything nasty, I quickly filled in the hole, doused myself with fresh water and hastily moved on. I do hope I haven't been infected with anything icky.

Now that I am back in my home suburb in Auckland reviewing my experiences, perhaps I over reacted. Maybe it's just the kind of plant it was – I was never much good with the scientific names of botanicals. For all I know there could have been "Made in China" stamped just beneath it.

Each line of the clues has meaning (and importance), and should be understood (and followed) in order.

Tuesday 30 December 2008 – journal entry

I have been accused of writing a blog. How base!

I haven't really, but it sounds interesting. I hope readers understand that this blog, if that's what it is, is really only for entertainment, and is quite possibly highly misleading. No essential clues are given here, but there may be the occasional very useful hint thrown in. The trouble lies in recognising what's useful and what's simply distraction.

Thursday 1 January 2009 – journal entry

A Happy New Year to everyone.

I hope you got more sleep than I did last night – it seems that whenever it's too hot at night my sleep is disturbed by strange dreams. I think I have been spending too much time with this map as I've started having strange dreams about it! In one particularly vivid dream I took the map and in a fit of frustration ripped it asunder then stuffed the larger part deep into a pocket. I awoke at that point, aghast at my actions, but curious too, as the fragment I had held in my hand showed the tear I had made in passion (and in haste) was quite regular, separating the sections rather neatly – could it be too neatly for a chance sundering?

I really must spend more time outside in the real world enjoying the great summer weather. All this time spent indoors does not seem particularly fruitful.

However, it may be that not all my study has been completely in vain. I have been investigating some ideas about why there are so many capital letters in the first stanza and have made an interesting discovery.

It seems that the translation from the Spanish may be slightly faulty. The first half line should perhaps have been better translated as "In Burgh of Hills ..." Of course, there may be an English word whose meaning fits better even if the number of syllables don't flow off the tongue as smoothly, but it escapes me at this time to imagine what it could possibly be.

Meanwhile, builders over in Argentina have discovered a Spanish galleon while digging the foundations for a new building. No treasure has been discovered on it yet.

Once again, a Happy New Year to everyone.

Saturday 10 January 2009 – journal entry

I've managed to commission a couple of artist's recreations of a couple of scraps of parchment found during various explorations of the island. I'm not convinced they say anything new, but I have the hope they might aid the understanding of the clues on the map. Unfortunately, I suspect there is also the possibility that they may also simply add to any confusion, and be just as hard to understand as the map clues are. And perhaps these rhymes will merely act as confirmation of a solution once one is found. If only I could understand what they refer to.

 Extra 1

 Extra 2

Friday 6 February 2009 – journal entry

After some (OK, much) discussion with a treasure-seeker it's possible that we're making some progress. It seems that each stanza has a specific purpose and needs to be understood in order, in order to find the treasure.

  1. Where – where to go.
     
  2. What – what to look for when we get there.
     
  3. How – how to find the treasure on the map.
     
  4. Here – as previously stated, the treasure is at a certain location on Isla del Tesoro, and is specified by the coordinates along the edges of the map.

With this in mind, and keeping with a separation of the first two stanzas from the map itself, combined with a radically different understanding of the first half of the first line of the first stanza (and all the rest of it, actually), we may now be close to making significant progress.

Also, somewhere in the discussion the suggestion was made that capital letters are used by proper nouns. This goes some way to helping explain the capital letters in the first stanza.

Before I forget, I saw one treasure seeker recently with a carefully ripped map, in a similar pattern to the one from my dream at the beginning of the year. He was holding the larger part with the map itself. The fragment with the first two stanzas was nowhere to be seen. Could I have been mistaken about which section I stuffed into my pocket? I don't think so. No, I'm sure I wasn't.

Saturday 7 February 2009 – journal entry

While reviewing the clues with the treasure seeker yesterday he asked lots of questions – as I imagine all the best treasure seekers do – such as "Can a triangle help aim anything?" and "What's the name of that BP station where you filled up on the way over here?" and "Where could I find a rose on the map?" and "Have I been fixated on fiction?" If only I knew the answers.

He also raised the possibility that lines 7 and 8 of the first stanza might come before the first line in terms of thought processes, before eating a red herring with a thoughtful expression on his face. He didn't seem needlessly distracted by the idea, and he commented that the seafood tasted rather nice.

Following up on our discussions, I've done some quick exploring on Isla del Tesoro – I didn't want to risk getting too sunburnt – and found two more scraps of parchment.

 Extra 3

 Extra 4

Thursday 16 April 2009 – journal entry

I was delivering a CD of photographs not very long ago and noted that a corner takeaway bar that I've always thought of anonymously actually has a name: Hillside Takeaways. Without being quite sure why, that started me wondering if I might be missing things – of greater or lesser importance – that relate to the map.

As for the treasure hunt, no progress has been made recently although I've heard a story that some horological pirate medallions have been uncovered and distributed locally in the last month.

Monday 27 April 2009 – journal entry

This evening a Treasure Hunter explained some interesting ideas to me about how to find the treasure, but as I told him, unless he can actually give me the correct coordinates of the treasure so I can go and dig it up they remain just ideas – which is an interesting idea in itself. It certainly all involves a degree of trust that I won't just scarper if I do find the treasure at the supplied coordinates.

Anyway, what I gather from his theories is that it seems some of the clues may be related, or repeating common themes on how to solve the other clues, and might be plainer than first thought, although perhaps in a more confusing way. Or something. I'm getting a little confused myself, but I was left with the impression that his ideas might also fit quite well with the extra scraps of parchment that I've been finding, especially the second half of the second scrap. Ah, the sweet smell of ratiocination via post-meridiem perambulation. Like fresh air, it is.

Tuesday 18 May 2010 – journal entry

It's hard to believe that over a year has gone by with no journal entries, and no progress in finding the treasure. And yet... Apparently it has. Where does time go? Like an overly large handful of fine beach sand, we can't hold it forever. And so the treasure remains unclaimed.

I mentioned the treasure to a couple of homeschool students today, and was surprised that they had never heard of it. Perhaps their fresh thinking will be able to solve the clues.

Monday 29 November 2010 – journal entry

My mind is reeling from a very tiring weekend of cave exploration, including the finding of ancient and weathered human remains. It's a sobering reminder of the dangers of treasure hunting.

Doing some research on pirates and hidden treasure in caves half way up cliffs, I've come across What Did Pirates Drink? – an article with more history than drinks, but interesting nonetheless.

Wednesday 25 May 2011 – journal entry

It seems incredible that yet another year has gone by with only a single journal entry in that time. It's now almost two and a half years that the treasure map has teased us with its clues. In the last few months I have directed at least one young would-be treasure hunter to these pages but it seems she either forgot or wasn't fooled by the lure of the map. Either way, the treasure remains unfound.

Saturday 10 December 2011 – journal entry

Today marks three years since we first embarked on this interesting yet unfulfilled journey. When will this treasure finally be located?

Saturday 1 March 2014 – journal entry

So much time has gone by! It is now over five years that we have been looking, and still the treasure remains unfound.

But we have had a reminder from Nelson that treasure hunting is sometimes fraught with danger. A group of school children were in the middle of a treasure hunt when one stood on a wasp nest in long grass. Multiple children and adults were stung multiple times. Several children were taken to hospital, along with a 61 year old woman who had a severe allergic reaction.

More on the story here or here (both on Stuff) or here (NZ Herald).

Friday 26 February 2016 – journal entry

Another two years, and I heard this week that another young treasure hunter has been making an effort to locate the treasure. Not everyone has given up looking! However, so much time has passed that I fear the treasure may be beyond finding. It has been so long since I visited the island that it could have been covered by an apartment block by now.

I must plan another visit.

Saturday 30 July 2016 – journal entry

News has it that another treasure hunt has suffered from a fatality. Five years ago a treasure was hidden by Forrest Fenn, an "eccentric millionaire" who made his money from art dealing. The treasure has not been found, but those seeking it have been getting ever more desperate in their searches, leading to the death of a 54 year old treasure hunter. His body has been found exactly six months after he went missing.

More on the story here (NZ Herald).

Monday 5 September 2016 – journal entry

I have had another report that some young treasure hunters have been trying to solve the mystery of Isla del Tesoro. As I have said, I do not know if the treasure even can still be found. Time passes. Islands change. Rocks fall.

I shall have to think about planning another visit to the island. But not this week.

Wednesday 21 June 2017 – journal entry

Today is the shortest day of the year (my calendar tells me the winter solstice occurs at 4:23pm local time) and it comes with the news that a second person hunting Forest Fenn's treasure has died, less than a year after the first body was found. More on the story here (Washington Post).

It seems that people are taking risks that are simply not required to find Mr Fenn's treasure. He points out in a response to a question about how to stay safe while searching "Please don’t ever overextend yourself. I was 80 or about when I hid the treasure and it was not a difficult task. I will soon be 87 and I could go back and get it if I were so inclined, I think. ... Don’t go into the mountains alone." Both treasure hunters who died looking for his treasure were searching alone.

Forest Fenn's poem which kicked off his treasure hunt in 2010:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.

Sunday 22 April 2018 – journal entry

Taking advantage of a holiday, I returned to the island last week, my first trip in a long time. Too long a time, perhaps, as each time I visit I always fear what changes the passage of time may have wrought on the island.

Although just a short stay, I was able to take some photographs which I have finally had a moment to review. Curiously, it seems some of the rocks scattered around the island have moved, while some are right where they used to be. I wonder why this might be. The good news is none have vanished, thankfully, and none of my favourite trees have suffered damage. They are still right where the map shows them to be – indeed, right where they should be.

It seems there is more to discover on the island. I must return again, preferrably sooner rather than later.

Tuesday 18 December 2018 – journal entry

It has been over ten years since I started hunting for this treasure under the instructions of those clever enough to figure out some of the clues. Or maybe they were just persuasive enough to convince me to go and have a look in certain locations. Either way, the treasure has not yet been found. I believe it can still be found, but it will clearly take some determined effort to make it happen.

Back to Treasure Hunt