Buried pirate gold? Seychellois family to resume hunt for La Buse treasure
Partial view of the site at Belombre where the search for the hidden treasure of la Buse have been ongoing for nearly 70 years. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Pirate treasure. Buried gold. A maze of criss-crossing underwater tunnels. The hunt for the La Buse treasure is set to resume.
Convinced that the longtime treasure hunt is entering its final stage, John Cruise-Wilkins plans to start digging later this year after securing a license form the Seychelles government.
Cruise-Wilkins is confident that this time he will find the treasure.
“Basically after all the work, we have now pinned down the area where the cavern is and also the tunnels where we have to enter because there are a lot of tunnels crisscrossing the site,” Cruise-Wilkins told SNA.
|John Cruise-Wilkins has been actively searching for the La Buse treasure since 1988, taking over from his father. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
The treasure buried at Bel Ombre, a district in the north of Seychelles’ main island Mahe, is believed to be that of pirate Olivier Le Vasseur also known as La Buse,who stole it from the Portuguese ship the Virgem do Cabo a week after Easter Sunday in April 1721.
Historical records state that the treasure buried in Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean, includes a seven-foot high Cross of Goa made of solid gold and encrusted with precious stones, which took three strong men to carry. Cruise-Wilkins said the treasure is estimated to be worth $250 million.
|Pumping of water, drilling of rocks, putting in place of huge boulders, these are only some of the activities that have taken place at the site over the years. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
John took over the search in 1988, a decade after his father Reginald Cruise-Wilkins, who started the quest in 1949, passed away.
It was not difficult for him to continue in his father’s footsteps as he used to work alongside his father as a kid during the holidays and weekends.
|Some of the old tools used by John's deceased father Reginald Cruise-Wilkins, who started the quest in 1949. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
“I would come and work on the site and, in fact, my first wages I earned on site as a labourer with him. I developed an interest this way and when he died in 1977, the responsibility fell on me to keep the treasure hunt going,” says John.
He added that he felt he had to continue with the project out of an obligation to prove his father right but it has proven to mean much more.
“It’s not just to prove my father right but I’ve developed an interest in the treasure hunt itself. It is now a passion as I want to beat the pirate at his own game,” says John.
|Although the digging continues for the hidden treasure, a few small items including one gold earring, one copper coin, human bones, pistols, musket balls, porcelain statuettes and others have been found. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
During the years, many equipment and methods have been used to facilitate this long search, he told SNA.
“We’ve used water pumps, drills and chisels, blasting and other tools. Recently, we’ve had to use excavators, not for the archaeological work but to help with huge boulders that have been put into place.”
The treasure hunter says the use of detection equipment, locators and detectors have been of little help on the terrain because there are minerals in the rocks and also iron pyrites called fool’s gold everywhere which can give false readings.
Findings so far have been one gold earring, one copper coin, human bones, pistols, musket balls, porcelain statuettes and other items. Most of the findings are in private collections in North America and Europe.
John told SNA that finding the treasure will be the achievement of a major goal in his life.
|John Cruise-Wilkins is convinced that the longtime treasure hunt is entering its final stage. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
“It will be a sense of accomplishment and relief because as well as being an exciting adventure it has been a real burden as well, financial and otherwise and there has been a lot of pressure on my social and private life. I would have achieved one of my major goals in life.”
John recounts how his father got hooked on the treasure hunt after a chance meeting with Captain Goldvorg. The captain introduced Reginald to his colleague Rose Savy, a Mauritian married to a Seychellois owning the coastal property where the treasure is believed to be buried.
Savy found carvings and demarcations on rocks in early 1920 leading her to believe that they were pirate’s signs. She visited the Bibliotheque Nationale in France to confirm that the documents she had were indeed for La Buse. She later sold the documents to Reginald for $29 which was a small fortune at the time.
John says, “on the very first day, he (his father) found two demarcations including the keyhole, and when he looked at the documents, he noticed that they corresponded to the site.”
|The bay at Belombre, where it is believed pirate Olivier Le Vasseur also known as La Buse arrived at in 1721, to hide his treasure stolen from Portuguese ship the Virgem do Cabo. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
Reginald, a businessman then in Kenya in East Arica left and came back in 1949 to continue his search for the treasure. When he died in 1977, Reginald had done 80 percent of the work.
The hunt has so far been financed only by the Cruise-Wilkins family and shareholders from Kenya and UK.
Cruise-Wilkins is currently working on the tourism project for the treasure site. This will give visibility to the location and assist with the financing of the digging for the next three years.
|Below are some photos of carvings and demarcations believed to be pirate signs, on rocks found at the site. (Joe Laurence, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY