Now comes an amazing new phase of the celebrated mystery of the lost loot. It isn't buried on Cocos Island at all now, and
hasn't been there for years, according to a remarkable story told by Capt. James Brown in 1913.
Much treasure has been spent in seeking the famous buried treasure of Cocos Island. That mysterious sea-swept land on the coast Chili has been dug over many times by gold hunters seeking the fabulous millions believed to have been cached there by pirates. Its cost in lost lives and suffering has made Cocos Island an Island ot Despair. Now comes an amazing new phase of
the celebrated mystery of the lost loot.
It isn't buried on Cocos Island at all now, and hasn't been there for years, according to a remarkable story told by Capt. James Brown, eighty years old, but full of vigor after a life of adventure studded with tragic and romantic incidents.
It was dug up and hidden on a lonely and remote isle of the South Seas years ago, buried in caves on a coral island rarely visited even by the roving traders!
So convincing was the narrative to several hard-headed business men that a steam yacht has been fitted up secretly in an inlet near to New York, and even now may be on its picturesque cruise. The expedition was organized by George E. Crater jr. of Bensouhurst, who is a lawyer with an office in Mahhattan, and who also represents the Pill Mall Safe Deposit of London. Some
of Mr. Crater's friends who are prominent in banking and business in New York have financed the hazardous venture. Edward F. Carruthers, a prominent business man of Chicago, is also of the party, and others are from St Louis.
Capt Brown, white-bearded and straight as an Indian despite his age, has provided that his secret shall not die with him.
Charts giving the island's exact longitude and latitude and a diagrammatic key to the cavern that hides the treasure have been placed in the vaults of the United States Safety Deposit Company, only to be opened if nothing is heard from the treasure see-
kers after six months. in this event the secret passes to the immediate relatives of those furthering the quest. If successful
Brown receives one-half of the prize.
Nothing could be more gripping than the old seaman's recital of the crafty cheme by which, after securing the treasure, every member of the crew was sent to his death except one. That one was Capt. Brown, whom the pirate gold has mocked through
a life of misadventure, to be defeated in his pursuit of the yellow loot that once trickled through his fingers.
Hers is the grizzled Captain's story, as he dictated it to me at the home of Mr. Crater:
"No treasure will ever be found on Cocos Island. I helped dig it up. I saw it and handled it, between three hundred and four hun-
dred tons of it, with my own hands. I figured it out to be sixty millions or thereabout. The treasure is gold sovereigns, gold bars, bullion, silver dollars. Some is gold crosses, gold plate and gold angels that they took out of churches, and plenty of diamonds.
I was first mate, and when it came on board i took count and entered it on the book.
"Well, we start. I shipped as first mate on the schooner Sea Foam — wait. i shipped in New York on board a vessel bound for Kingston, Jamaica. Signed as second mate. We arrived at Kingston and fell in with a skipper, who was Henry Smith, comman-
ding he schooner Sea Foam, 400 tons register. He asked me to ship with him. I signed as first mate. He told me he was fitting
out to go pearl fishing Well, we sailed in July, 1850. After we were at sea four days he told me he was going to Cocos Island,
three hundred miles off Costa Rica, to get some treasure his father buried there in 1822. Then he told me about his father, Jonat-
han Smith. He commanded the schooner Black Witch, out of Salem, Mass. Smith told me his father was on the west coast off Peru, when the Spaniards were fighting there in 1820.
Before his father died, Smith told me, he gave him the secret. Every one was robbing right and left in Peru. The pirates Benito
and Blair and some other pirates were picking up Spanish treasure ships. Smith said his father got in touch, with some of the others, with some of the Spanish ships. Didn't say old Smith was a pirate. Howsoever, i draw my conclusions on that. He took
all their treasure from some of them and the other pirates took their share. They took the treasure to Cocos Island and buried
it in three parts, separate. They were afraid of being pursued by the Chilian fleet that was pursuing the Spaniards.
"We sailed out of Jamaica shorthanded. Only twelve men and the captain, first mate, second mate, and cook. Well, we put in
to Bahia, and the captain picked out ten or twelve and ten more at Rio, six at Buenos Ayres. and then we rounded the Horn
through the Straits. We called at Valparaiso, then Callao and sailed straight lor Cocos Island. Arrived in September. We had
a good English longboat and went ashore. The captain had charts where the treasure was buried. Right up to then i took it for
a yarn. Well, the yarn was true. In three places it was buried at different parts of the island, and that and gales took us about
six months to get it off. It wasn't buried very deep, and it was in boxes and barrels, some in chests and jars. We sent a different
gang off every day to dig — changed them about that way and served short grog. The captain stayed ashore when the digging
was on. I stayed aboard and weighed the treasure. The dead weight was about three hundred and eighty-six tons, if i remember. "Well, all was on board. This was about February. 1851. We set sail for the South Seas. The captain gave out we was bound
for Australia. That was a lie.
Capt. James Brown, who buried the treasure on a South Sea Island
A ship with sixty millions in treasure aboard ain't nothing to fool with — leastways it's bad with forty or fifty men that dug it in
port, and every one of 'em claiming prize money, and only twenty-eight years after churhes was scuttled and women living that
lost their precious stones; a crew spinning the tale and the whole world reading in the papers. Smith lied. After we was at sea
seven days he told me to bear off the track. We had to find a good island. When i heard that i knew every mother's son of that
crew would never see home. A thing in the captain's eye told me that. It was a short shrift for the poor devils. It was 4 o'clock
in the morning, before daylight, we sighted an island. As soon as the captain came on deck he said it was the island he was looking for. It lies some three thousand miles off South America. That's as near as I can say. We didn't stand in close for the
reefs. We had it rough taking the treasure ashore in the longboat; two typhoons set us back and the surf was rough in good weather. So it was a long pull to take the boat between ship and shore. "The captain built a hut on shore. Eight of the crew
was shifted to the hut. Then we searched the island for a good place to put the treasure. I stayed on the ship with sixteen pic-
ked men — them that was the most likely not to get ideas in their heads. The captain took sixteen men ashore to beat the
island for caves. The eight men in the hut manned the boat.
Well, we found a cave and it opened on the sea; was full of water. It ran up in the mountain, and there was an opening higher up, about the centre of the island. We closed up the sea end; sawed out blocks of coral and set 'em in brick-like. Then we pumped
the water out. If they was ever moved the sea would fill it. We moved all treasure ashore and it was put away high up in the cave,
all but a half million in gold sovereigns that was left in the hut. Seven months it took to get the cargo off, with the rough coast
and bad weather and short-handed shifts. You see, the men they died off; first one he'd go, then another. "The captain he kept laying it to the climate of the island and the things they was eating. He shot plenty of birds and caught fish. He gave the men
some of the ship's medicine chest, but they just kept dying. The eight men in the hut they died first. Then be put eight more
in the hut and they went the same way. Looked like it might be something on the island. After every man but the captain, me
and the cook was dead. I told myself the captain had poisoned the men. The cook comes to me when the captain was down
below, and he was pale about the gills he was that deadly afraid. Then he asks me if he was the next. I told him not while we
had to eat. "Well, it was October, 1851, when Smith gave the order to burn tbe schooner. We fitted out the longboat and stowed away the half million sovereigns. Then we went to Australia. When we was out four weeks and well past the Feejees the cook comes to me and said he didn't like the way the captain was acting. He said the way be looked at him made him feel uncom-fortable like. The captain and me had the watch about. In the middle watch that night i was sleeping forward; just with one eye
open. It was the captain's watch at the wheel.
I saw him lash the wheel and come forward. I knew it was the cook before me and i laid tight. He bent over and he passed his
left hand three ttmes across my face. He went right to my belt and be slipped my pistol out and took all the loads out and put
back empties. When it came my watch and he fell in the bunk below i went to the magazine and put in good cartridges and
"Well, about noon i was taking observations when i beard a shot and i pulled my pistol. The captain came toward me, grinning,
and he says: 'Well, i shot the cook. Why don't you shoot me? I had my gun in my hand. I said: 'I don't want to shoot you.' 'Well,
by God, then I'll shoot you,' he said. My pistol was on the aim and his arm was down. I shot him through the head. Then i heaved him over to the sharks. But i sewed up the cook and gave him burial. Then i set sail and steered to Australia. I was a good navi-
gator by the stars.
"I had plenty of time to think it all out. I didn't worry about the crew; they was tramps. Howsoever, i didn't suspect but Smith
might have some one waiting for him to come back who had the secret about Cocos Island. It was like him to give a man trouble after he was dead, not that i believe in spooks. Well, i decided to lose myself. Australia was a good place. Only convicts lived
there then. England sent them to Tasmania and they used to get away and get into Australia. They peopled Australia. I steered
for Cochin Bay, southeast of Melbourne. Then i run in and found a deserted place and i carried the half million of treasure ashore and buried it in the rocks, but i held out $20,000 that i put in a belt under my clothes. Then i took the longboat and put out to
sea. When i was off the reefs outside, where the surf pounded hard, i stood off shore a mile, i set her sail and lashed tbe wheel
to run her aground. Then i jumped overboard and swam ashore through the surf. And i was hard put to make a little beach be-
tween the rocks. I saw the longboat racing toward the wind and leaving me behind. I'd set her course true. As i came up on a comber i saw her pointing right for the rocks. She struck hard and went to pieces.
"Then i started to tramp to Bendigo, the gold diggings. In four days i arrived. I worked there for wages, all the time snickering as
i saw my pile stowed safe down by the sea. I was lucky then. I found a nugget. Then I wanted to go to Portland Bay. i went back
to the biding place and got enough to rent a Government farm. Nobody could buy from tbe Government. I went into sheep raising and stayed there fifteen years. Then it was time for a holiday. I had plenty and i dug up the rest on shore and went to London
and got caught — got a wife. I had my fling and lived it through. Got into bad company and bad business. The land sharks they
got me, where i dodged them in the water at Cochin Bay. You see, i was a fool. I owned that sixty millions, hey-ho! I thought
but to whistle if i wanted it. I was broke. It was time, so i turned to Australia after four years in London town as a fine buck. Yah,
they trimmed me, as you say. "I got a pilot's license at Melbourne and back i go to sea. This was in 1869. I had to earn the
money to go after the treasure. Once i got enough together after nigh ten years' work, i outfitted a small sloop but got wrecked
on one of the Samoas. That settled that. That was in 1879. I was, downhearted in Australia, so i shipped to the United States
with the wife and buys a farm in New England. After being ashore i went to sea again in four years. I got the money itch to go
after the treasure, so i went to filibustering in Cuba and Central America and Venezuela, i was at it up to 1898. when the United States' licked Spain. Well, i was in prison for getting too thick in revolutions, but i had an eye on the Pacific all the while. I got twenty thousand dollars together smuggling arms in during the war. In 1900 i got a schooner and laid my plans to go after the treasure, this time sure. I outfitted her in New York, but the customs seized the boat. They knew Brown. Then i was out again
and i had no money. Right after that i fell and broke my neck. That was the way Mr. Crater heard my story. I was afraid my shrift
was a short one, so i told part of the secret to him. But i got better and i kept the island to myself. But i told him about the
treasure and he promised to outfit a boat. Well, it looks like we'd get that treasure this time." Mr. Crater, speaking for himself
and his friends while plans for the vessel were shaping, said: "Myself and my associates are sufficiently impressed by Capt.
Brown and his statement of the existence of this treasure to furnish the vessel and money to enable him to go to the island of
which he alone claims the secret. I do not care to say where the yacht is being outfitted, as that would interefere with our plans,
in the matter of annoyance from outsiders, a desire to be very careful in selecting a crew and a further desire to avoid being
trailed on our journey from either this country or from some other part of the world if our plans are spread broadcast. For the
same reasons we prefer not to make public the exact date on which the yacht will sail or anything about the boat. This same
precautions will attend our movements after we have arrived at the island if it is our good fortune to load the vessel with the trea-
sure. We do not live in the days of pirates, but we are not foolish enough to take everybody into our confidence. Other gentle-
men who are associated with me in this enterprise are business men who prefer not to court the kind of publicity that such
an adventure invites. That is all i can say about the expedition." Capt. Brown's story is at least the flrst consistent explanation
of the reason many other expeditions have returned empty handed from Cocos Island. History gives considerable color to the tradition of buried pirate hoards on its waste. Lord Cochrane, an adventurous English nobleman who was made admiral of the Chilian fleet sent into Peruvian waters to capture Spanish prizes, tells in a book he wrote of the revolution how he pursued
Spanish frigates convoying $30,000,000 of golden booty taken by the Spaniards from Lima. Cochrane and the Chilian Gen.
San Martin split over this treasure. Cochrane scoured the seas but failed to find the Spanish vessels, and there is no record
that any one of them ever reached Spain. Hovering off the coast were notorious pirates. Benito de Sota, the most rapacious,
was afterward executed at Gibraltar. Cochrane captured Blair, an English pirate, right at Cocos Island during his chase of the Spanish galleons. The following day, at the same island, he captured one of his own ships which had deserted with a mutinous crew and turned pirate. These records serve to give a foundation to the tradition that Cocos Island was a haunt of pirate craft.
But ; while Cochrane got the pirates at Cocos he found nothing on board and it never occurred to him to search the scraggy
little waste that has since lured so many diggers for treasure.
Source. San Francisco Call, 20 July 1913