Often in these times of corporations and modern warfare, we forget that some places in this world are still virtually untouched by our evil developmental hands. It has become hard to believe that there are still mysteries in this world. If you would have told me three years ago that a large stash of pirates gold still existed unfound I might have scoffed. That is, until I came across the tale of the Coco’s Island
This story is concerning 10 square miles of rain forest 500 clicks due west of Costa Rica. “Jurassic Park” and possibly “Treasure Island” were written with this tropical paradise in mind, while Jacque Cousteau called it “The most beautiful Island in the world.” The tip of a volcano, the island is surrounded by unfriendly cliffs protruding over the rocky shorelines. It is said to have two seasons, the wet season and the rainy season. The jungle surrounding Mt. Iglesias, the islands highest peak, is said to be scattered with waterfalls like something out of a movie. It is to date the largest uninhabited island in the world.
But the real story lies in the legends surrounding the tiny mass of land. It wasn’t always totally uninhabited.
The story begins in 1596, when a Spanish pilot by the name of Cabecas discovered the place. 16 years later, the French put it on a map and labeled it as lle de Coques, meaning roughly “Shell Island.” The Spanish misinterpreted that name and soon began to call it Isle Del Cocos, which proved to be fitting as early accounts of the island state that there was a large concentration of coconut trees present.
For the next century, the island became popular amongst the merry old jacking crews of back in the day. Yes, it is the fabled and legendary pirates I speak of. It was said that they had made the place into a sort of a bank, where they came to deposit their riches and would return later to retrieve them.
The trouble with being a pirate back in those days was that you did not always make it back to snag the booty. With all the pesky diseases and unsanitary conditions going around, plus the fact that someone was always looking to hang you, it tended to get a little hectic for those guys some days.
1820 was said to be the height of the treasure hiding. A couple of years before that, a British Naval Captain Bennet Graham took up a life of piracy and amassed a fortune of over 350 tons of gold from Spanish ships. He was eventually caught and executed. Years later, an old woman claimed to have witnessed the pirate bury his gold and also to know the location. She led an expedition to the island, however, by the time she had got there, decades had passed and it is said many of the landmarks she had once known were gone.
Another interesting story involves a pirate by the name of Benito “Bloody Sword” Benito. There could not be a more awesome name for a pirate anywhere, and around the same time as old Captain Graham was out robbing the Spanish blind, Mr. Bloody Sword was terrorizing everyone on the west coast of the Americas. He was said to have been one of the swash bucklers who used Cocos as his pirate bank. He was eventually snitched out by two right foul Englishmen and cut down at his hideout. However, the tattlers were killed before they could make it back to the island to retrieve the gold. To this day it is still not clear what happened to Benito’s stash of gold.
This brings us to the most famous of all the legends, and also the most sensational. During the same time there was a revolutionary army headed towards the Spanish stronghold of Lima. The Spanish, wanting to protect their treasures, put everything on a boat and gave it orders to sail around until the war had calmed down. The treasure was estimated at between 12 and 60 million dollars and included a life size, gem encrusted, and solid gold image of Mary the virgin.
A British sea captain named William Thompson was the man they entrusted with the task of keeping the loot safe. However, Thompson and his men had different ideas and cut the throats of the Spaniards on board and dumped their bodies into the ocean. They immediately made a beeline for the Cocos Island where they are said to have hidden the treasure. Not long after they left, the crew was picked up by a Spanish vessel, tried for piracy, convicted and hung. All except for Thompson and his first mate, providing they lead the Spanish back to their gold.
As soon as they stepped foot on the tropical island, the two made tracks into the jungle. There is no record of the Spanish treasure ever being recovered. It is said that the first mate died on the mainland of yellow fever; however, Mr. Thompson was never seen nor heard from again. There is no indication anywhere he ever returned to the island and retrieved the treasure.
Since the pirates disappeared, over 300 expeditions have traveled to the island in search of treasure. Nothing has been reported found except a few Spanish pieces-of-eight.
It is now one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world due to the huge number of hammerhead sharks that congregates off its coasts. If you are thinking about finding treasure there now you better break out your pirate flag because Costa Rica is no longer issuing permits to hunt for treasure on the island.
When you think about it, however, who better to find the loot than those flying the very same Jolly Roger as the men who put it there in the first place?