While Simon Bolivar marched through Peru in 1823, a group of Spaniards in Lima seized the state treasure to keep it out of the hands of Bolivar.
The treasure, now estimated to be valued at more than $20 million, consisted of 200 chests of jewels, 250 swords with jeweled hilts, 150 silver chalices, 300 bars of gold and 600 bars of silver, just to describe some of the trinkets taken.
To get their treasure out of South America, it was put on board the Mary Dier which was under the command of a Scotsman called William Thompson.
The governor of Lima and a bishop, along with some other Spaniards traveled with the treasure so that the wrong hands wouldn’t get hold of it. They were no match for Thompson and his crew and were killed outright. Thompson then ordered his crew to sail his vessel to the island of Cocos which is on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. There, the treasure was stashed in a cave. Soon after leaving the island, they were captured by a Spanish frigate and Thompson and a member of his crew was returned to Cocos on the promise that their lives would be spared if they disclosed the whereabouts of the treasure. Once on the island, Thompson and his crew member escaped. The Spanish left the island empty handed and Thompson was rescued when a whaler showed up to get a supply of fresh water. He claimed that the crewman died. Thompson never returned to the island but he later gave his friend John Keating a chart which specifically stated where the treasure could be found.
Keating went to the island and rediscovered the treasure but the crew of the vessel he was sailing on mutinied and Keating and a friend narrowly escaped to the island with their lives. Keating was rescued (without his friend who, not unlike Thompson’s friend, also died) and Keating, like Thompson, never returned to the island. He did however entrust his secret to a friend.
In 1872, Thomas Welsh and his wife, the owners of the South Pacific Treasure Island Prospecting Company and several of their followers dug a tunnel 85 meters into the mountain on Cocos Island but netted nothing for their efforts.
A German named August Gisler, using a treasure map which supposedly belonged to a pirate called Benito Bonito, searched the island from 1899 to 1909. He found no treasure but he did find clues, such as stone with the letter K (for Keating) carved in it and a cable attached to a hook.
Since then, there have been several expeditions to the island, and even Sir Malcolm Campbell, (the famous race driver) Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Count Felix von Luckner tried their hands at searching for the treasure.
In 1932, Colonel J.E. Leckie using the services of a metal detector did uncover some of the gold, however, to this day; the bulk of the treasure still remains on the island. Cocos Island is situated 643 kilometers west of Costa Rica and can be reached only by a chartered boat.