The Treasure of Lima
In 1919, Franklin Roosevelt traveled to Cocos Island, an uninhabited outcrop off Costa Rica, famed for its natural beauty and its wildlife. But it wasn’t the flora and fauna that had drawn the future President. What he sought was another kind of treasure the so-called Treasure of Lima. And Roosevelt isn’t the only famous figure who has tried their luck on Cocos Island. In the 1920s, the British racing driver Sir Malcolm Campbell led an expedition there, so too did movie star Errol Flynn, the latter in the 1940s. Countless other adventurers and treasure seekers have also been drawn here. Why? And what did they hope to find?
The story dates back to 1820, when the Spanish feared they were about to lose control of the city of Lima. A freelance trader, a Captain William Thompson, was tasked with transporting a precious load from Peru to Mexico. Despite his orders, the cargo was just too tempting for Thompson. In all, it included 113 religious statues, all made of gold, 200 chests filled with jewels, more than 1,000 diamonds, not to mention dozens of gold and silver bars and solid gold coins.
Soon after Thompson set sail in his ship, the Mary Dear, he and his crew put their plan into action. They ruthlessly cut the throats of the Spanish guards sailing with them. They also murdered the priests accompanying the religious icons, tossing all the bodies overboard. The ship was redirected to Cocos Island and, so the story goes, the entire stash of loot buried. The gang decided to lie low for some time, agreeing to meet up in a few years, to dig up the treasure and divide the spoils.
Before long, however, the Mary Dear was captured, and the crew tried and executed. Thompson and his first mate were spared after agreeing to take their Spanish captors to the exact spot the treasure was buried. Once they landed on Cocos Island, however, the pair managed to escape into the jungle, never to be seen again. Some say Thompson succeeded in getting back home, abandoning his dreams of getting rich and taking his secret with him to the grave. And what of the Treasure of Lima? Numerous people have tried – and fail – to find the loot, which is today valued at $200 million. Most recently, in 2012, a team of scientists and academics returned to the island but left empty-handed. Given their lack of success, some amateur sleuths now believe that the riches are actually buried on another island, just waiting to be dug up.