Dutch businessman and treasure hunter Bernard Keiser has spent much of his life - two decades - on the hunt for 800 barrels crammed with gold and jewels that is rumored to be hidden on Chile's Juan Fernandez island, according to Bloomberg.
Juan Fernandez island is 400 miles off the Chilean coast and is where "Scottish privateer Alexander Selkirk was marooned for four years in the early 18th century". The event is said to have inspired the story of Robinson Crusoe.
The treasure supposedly arrived on the island years after Selkirk left. The story involves hurricanes, shipwrecks, looting, murder and mutiny. There are accounts that value the treasure at $10 billion and claim that it includes a "giant rose made of gold".
Despite the fact that the story of how the 18th century gold got on the island continues to change, it hasn't stopped Keiser from pushing forward with his search.
And this week, Chile has officially thrown their hat in the ring for the hunt, adding a new chapter to Keiser's story.
Chile has announced that it gave Keiser permission to dig up part of a national park using heavy machinery. Environmentalists oppose the idea, saying that the intervention of a 8.7 ton excavator will be "irreversible".
Diego Ibanez, a congressman with left-wing coalition of parties Frente Amplio said:
“It is a clear twisting of the law that’s being used to favor a Dutch multimillionaire who hasn’t found any evidence after years of searching. It’s important to preserve the land, and not to give it away to investigations that seem to be based more on religion than science.”
The treasure was rumored to have been amassed by the Spanish Crown in Latin America and then buried by admiral Juan Esteban Ubilla around 1714, during a civil war in Spain, on Juan Fernandez island.
One of the most common stories about the treasure says that Ubilla, before dying in a hurricane, told his ally and Captain George Anson where the treasure had been hidden. Anson then sent another Captain to dig the treasure up years later, but his ship was hit by a storm on his way back, forcing him to return and bury the treasure again.
Then, after hearing plans for a mutiny, the story says, the captain burned his ship, killed the crew and fled in a rowboat to the mainland, before dying.
The story garnered attention in 1950 when a letter was discovered that reportedly gave a description of the treasure's location.
Keiser has now been conducting "yearly searches" in a rocky northwest area of the island called Puerto Ingles. Teams of about ten people using portable equipment have drilled up to 23 feet below the surface in the search for an underground cave where the treasure is supposed to be buried.
Keiser is now stepping up his excavating muscle, filing with Chile's government that he now intends on using a backhoe that has a lifting capacity of 4.4 tons.
His plans continue to create controversy. The regional director of the forestry agency, Conaf, resigned this month in opposition to Keiser's plans. National Heritage Minister Felipe Ward was also criticized for meeting with Keiser before Conaf approved the excavator.
But the ends could justify the means for Chile if Keiser has success: he must give 75% of any treasure he finds to the Chilean state. With the treasure valued at $10 billion, we're sure that's a toll Keiser would be more than willing to pay.