Author of Treasure Island, The Untold Story
Buried treasure! Two words that stir the soul!
My personal treasure hunt began in 1978 while researching the Spanish warship, La Galga
, which ran ashore on Assateague Island, Virginia, on September 5, 1750. That led me to finding out more about other ships in the 1750 fleet bound from Havana to Spain.
One ship, the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, arrived at Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, so damaged she could no longer sail. She was loaded with a million dollar cargo which included over a hundred chests of silver pieces of eight. The cargo was offloaded onto two sloops to be transported to Norfolk, Virginia .
On October 20, 1750, while the bumbling Spanish captain was away trying to get help from the North Carolina governor, two brothers, Owen Lloyd and his one legged brother, John, sailed away with the treasure. Although John got caught, Owen made it to the British Virgin Islands where he buried the majority of the pieces of eight on Norman Island
Something clicked when I read this abbreviated account in an archival document found in England. Buried treasure? A one legged pirate named John? It happened in 1750?
It had been many years since I had read Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island but my faded memory recalled some similarities between Stevenson's tale and this true life piracy. At the very beginning of the book, one will find Stevenson's treasure map, now the most famous treasure map in the world. It was dated August 1, 1750.
After rereading Treasure Island, I delved into the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and the genesis of Treasure Island. I was shocked and amazed at the unexplained coincidences. Piracy was nearly nonexistent in 1750. Why would Stevenson choose this year to bury his treasure? This and many other questions would not be answered for another twenty years as my focus in 1980 was to locate the shipwreck of La Galga. She was ultimately located in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in 1983, off limits to everyone but the federal government.
I knew then that someday I would write about the history and my experiences with La Galga. I also knew that my research would include the search for the real Treasure Island
In 2001, my search began anew in the archives of Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean, prompted by my first visit to Norman Island the year before. My treasure hunt became a relentless pursuit of the true story behind Treasure Island. My adventure spanned ten years which not only included six trips to Norman Island but sailing the BVI as well. Anyone planning a trip to the BVI can easily relive my adventure of discovery which yielded not a single piece of eight but a treasure that will last me a lifetime.
Signed: ... John Amrhein Jr.
Mr. Amrhein and family live in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He enjoys fishing, sailing and history. When it comes to the 1750 Spanish fleet, John is the leading authority. He has spent over 30 years researching, documenting and splicing together bits and pieces from here, there and everywhere, to produce a cohesive treasure trove of information regarding their comings, goings and ultimate destiny.
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Text copyright © John Amrhein & Bareboats BVI. All rights reserved.
Photo Provided by the author