Sunday, August 05, 2018

Treasure Quest - Season Three

Last Sunday (July 29), I blundered into the reruns of Season Two of Treasure Quest – Snake Island. In the last broadcast of the night, they were diving near a waterfall with a series of holes worn in the rock. As we left the team, they emerged with several artifacts, one seeming a gold sunburst of Inca design and several small, metallic llamas. Since llamas weren’t native to that area of South America, the conclusion drawn was that this showed that someone from Peru had been there at some point in the past. This was part of the treasure for which they had searched for two seasons… or at the very least, hints that it was near. They might have found the Treasure of the Trinity, and the only thing stopping them now were their permits from the government that were about to expire. They’d be back.

And now we learn that Season Three will premiere on Discovery on August 24 at 9 p.m. (EDT, 8 CDT and who knows for MDT and PDT). So, we would learn if they had actually found remnants of the Treasure of the Trinity or were they just being led astray by random artifacts that had no real anchor in that area.

But new season this isn’t really Treasure Quest of old, because they’re no longer looking for the Treasure of the Trinity and it is not the same team as the first two seasons. According to the Discovery press release (and who doesn’t trust the accuracy of a press release?), “This season, veteran treasure hunter Shawn Cowles, tech specialist Jeremy Whalen, and demolitions expert Jack Peters set out to Bolivia in search of the biggest land find [yes, that’s what it said] treasure in history – the legendary Sacambaya Treasure [emphasis added], reportedly worth two billion dollars.”

So, now I’m wondering what happened to most of other team and what happened to those amazing discoveries they had made at the end of Season Two that suggested they were close to the Treasure of the Trinity? I mean, it seemed they had found their elusive treasure and it was only a matter of extending their licenses and permits so that they could finish their work. It’s been nearly two years since the last episode aired and I thought the program had been cancelled.

The Highway of Death
Well, that seems to have been the case, sort of. There is a new crew and they’re after a different treasure. The Snake Island part has been dropped, probably because they were never going back there anyway, and they’re off to Bolivia, where the big news is they are going to driving along the Yungas Road, which if I remember my other Discovery shows right is also known as The Highway of Death. They actually mention this in the press release so that you know that they’re serious about it.

Okay, I’ve made enough fun of the press release. What else do we know? Well, they tell us, “Over the last three centuries, many explorers from all around the world have made the journey to unearth this billion-dollar treasure, but have been met with misfortune and death. The last man alive to have hunted for this fortune, Johnny Irwin, provides the TREASURE QUEST team with a crucial lead from his own expedition – after years of research, he has a new theory about the treasure’s whereabouts.”

The press release adds, “This season’s quest begins with a lead that points the treasure hunting team to an old and long-abandoned Jesuit monastery.”

Given that, we are led to Jesuits, who somehow, got their hands on the ransom paid by the Inca to recover their leader, according to some sources. The Spanish took the gold and killed the guy anyway, so the Inca took back the ransom. Now the treasure is called, “Sacambaya.”

Or maybe not…

Some writers who claim to be quoting the work of Cecil Herbert Prodgers tell us that the Jesuits used slave labor to dig a cave (treasure vault?) near the Sacambaya mission. Once it was done, the Jesuits killed the natives and then fled to Vatican City. The Jesuits were imprisoned there and all but one executed. You have to have one guy left to tell the tale or we wouldn’t have a show. There is always that one lucky survivor.

That lone Jesuit eventually made it back to Bolivia where he had a daughter by his mistress… because you don’t have a good story unless there is a little sex in it and a son or daughter to inherit the map or directions to find the massive treasure worth some two billion dollars. Without them, you’d just be wandering around the place with no real purpose.

But that isn’t exactly what we learn from the press release, and isn’t what I learned when I dug a little deeper. According to a book, Adventures in Bolivia, written by Prodgers, this treasure had nothing much to do with the Inca. He wrote that he had talked with Dona Corina San Roman, the daughter of an early president of Peru, who had an original document that had been given to his brother by Father San Roman. This was eventually given to her father, that is Dona Corina San Roman’s father, who finally gave it to her. This document told the tale of the treasure hidden by the Jesuits. She gave Prodgers a copy of the document, though I’m not sure where she got it or how it was copied. While it didn’t have specifics, according to Prodgers, it did mention that the treasure was hidden on the banks of the River Sacambaja, which is close to the current spelling. It then said:

If you find a steep hill all covered with dense forest, the top of which is flat, with long grass growing, from where you can see the River Sacambaja on three sides, you will discover on the top of it, in the middle of the long grass, a large stone shaped like an egg, so big that it took 500 Indians to place it there. If you dig down underneath this stone for five yards, you will find the roof of a large cave, which took 500 men two and a half years to hollow out. The roof is seventy yards long, and there are two compartments and a long narrow passage leading from the room on the east side to the main entrance two hundred yards away. On reaching the door, you must exercise great care in opening. The door is a large iron one, and inside to the right near the wall you will find an image made of pure gold three feet high, the eyes of which are two large diamonds; this image was placed here for the good of mankind. If you proceed along the passage, you will find in the first room thirty-seven heaps of gold, and many gold and silver ornaments and precious stones. On entering the second room, you will find in the right-hand corner a large box, clamped with three iron bars; inside the box is $90,000 in silver money and thirty-seven heaps of gold. Distributed in the hollow on either side of the tunnel and the two rooms altogether a hundred and sixty-three heaps of gold, of which the value has been estimated at $60,000,000. Great care must be taken on entering these rooms, as enough strong poison to kill a regiment has been laid about. The walls of the two rooms have been strengthened by large blocks of granite; from the roof downwards is the distance is five yards more. The top of the roof is portioned off into three distinct esplanades, and the whole has been well covered over for a depth of five yards with earth and stones. When you come to a place twenty feet high, with a wall so wide that two men can easily ride abreast, cross the river, and you will find the church monastery, and other buildings.
According to Corina San Roman, the Jesuits built the monastery in 1635 and left it in 1785. The treasure was accumulated over eleven years of mining in the region. The Jesuits used 2000 Indians. There were nine Jesuits. It is difficult to tell from Prodger’s work if seven of them died there of disease, or if eight of them did. Father San Roman was the survivor or one of the two survivors. It was also noted that of the 500 Indians “employed,” 288 of them died from disease during the last three months of the work.

The original document, given to her father, was given to her before he died, and she hid it in a book. After he died, she couldn’t find it, but there was that copy I mentioned, the one given to the brother, I think. The writing is a little confusing. Anyway, Prodgers wrote that he did see the copy… which had to be handwritten given the timing of all this.

Starting about the turn of the last century, there have been a series of “expeditions” into the area to search for the treasure. One of these was sent by the President of Bolivia, Malgarejo, and a second outfitted in Valparaiso in 1895. Both failed. Then in 1905, Prodgers set off to find the treasure.

Prodgers’ tale becomes a rambling travelogue of his attempts to locate the treasure. Supposedly, he found the cave but somehow failed to gather any treasure or proof of his adventure. Late in the year he was driven from the area by the rainy season. He came back the next year, 1906, but seemed to get diverted with all sorts of nonsense. With his workers, he began to:

…uncover the top of the hill… Exactly fifteen feet I came to a solid mason work, one big square stone and then a slab of stone; this formation went on for twelve feet down. Then I came on a stone cobble path, which I concluded was the bottom of the cave, but there was no sign of any door, so I decided to drill a hole between two blocks of stones… We drilled a hole for three feet and a half, and then pushed a thin bamboo twelve feet long through; it appeared to touch nothing except in one corner where it seemed to prod something soft.
Suddenly a very powerful smell began, so strong that it made us all feel bad; it smelt like oxide of metal of some sort… I got over it in a few hours.
This wasn’t his only misfortune that year. Prodgers told of four locals who joined him in the excavations. Then, one morning, they had disappeared. Prodgers tried to follow them but found only the remains of their uneaten dinner from the night before, which worried him greatly. His fingernails turned blue and he found that he had been poisoned. He was able to counteract the poison and survived.

Although he tried to mount subsequent expeditions, he either failed to do so or to find the treasure, and sold the information in 1920 to a Russian who had been born in Switzerland and was living in England, which I mention only to add another dimension of international flavor to the tale.

In the meantime, the information found its way to William Tredinnick, who had been working with the descendants of the original Jesuit survivor. Apparently, he gave up looking for the treasure, but then his reputation wasn’t all that great having committed a series of crimes in Bolivia. He passed the information on to Percy Harrison Fawcett who didn’t think much of the attempts to find the treasure, or that the treasure was buried in the location that Prodgers had found. Fawcett, it seems, disappeared in Brazil some years later searching for the lost city of “Z”, which was inhabited by people who dressed in a European style. I’m not sure what the importance that bit has, but thought it interesting.

This seems to be a theme throughout these lost treasure tales. A treasure or mine is located and then lost. Somehow a single person has knowledge of it but doesn’t manage to exploit that knowledge for him or herself. Instead, they share it with someone else who then attempts to find the treasure, often comes close but, in the end, fails. We have Oak Island. El Dorado. Treasure of the Trinity. The Lost Adams. The Lost Dutchman. Doc Noss and Victorio Peak. In none of these cases has the treasure been found, but many of them have been exploited to gain money from “investors.”

Which brings us back to what is now known as Treasure Quest. No Snake Island, and the crew from the first two seasons are nowhere to be found except for Whalen. This isn’t going to be the same show. They are no longer searching for the original treasure which must mean they didn’t find it; if they had, we’d have read about it somewhere. Just hints to the public that something big was coming… in the next episode or in the next season.

At the end of this latest season, there will be no treasure found. Why do I say that? Well, in the 1960s, more than half a century ago, two others from England, Mark Howell and Tony Morrison tried to locate the treasure using what for them was probably state-of-the-art equipment, but failed when the monsoons arrived. They were forced to go home.

According to their book, Steps to Fortune (for which I can find no reference other than in a magazine article), they were assisted by Juan Oroya. They asked him about the stories of the treasure, but Juan was less than impressed. He told them, “It’s a Gringo treasure.”

He meant, simply, that it was a tale for the Norte Americanos. Apparently, those who live in the region know better than to waste their time searching for a nonexistent treasure.


ChuckB said...

Interesting read, thanks !

Unknown said...

Thank you great read

Unknown said...

Wonderful information thanks for your time

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin, Excellent read, many thanks!!! Please allow me to give my take on this show and others of it’s kind since I have been a treasure hunter for more than 20 years. It’s the thrill of the hunt using “state of the art” technology that creates a positive mineset that fuels one’s passion, that feeling of an adventurous lifestyle is the real treasure, anything valuable found is a bonus. Even if this team does not find a Jesuit gold hoard in S3 or Montezuma’s gold in S4, I enjoy their professionalism, dedication and stamina to overcome virtually overwhelming odds of finding anything and quite possibly loosing their life in the persuit of adventure and comaradrie. Another bonus: if they find treasure of this magnitude, they will achieve immortal fame like the individuals who found Troy, King Tuk”s tomb, Nuestra Señora de Atocha, etc. Shows like this allow me to be an international treasure hunter without leaving home and I eagerly look forward to every episode show casing their ordeals, adapting and overcoming. -JDM

dbuck said...

You brought the requisite amount of skepticism to the Sacambaya treasure myth, and your observation that these stories often seem to flow from a supposed lucky survivor of the plot to hide the trove was spot on.

I believe the "magazine article" you referenced was mine, "Tales of Glitter or Dust," Daniel Buck, Americas, June 2000, accessible here,

The Sacambaya mission/church probably existed. But there's no credible evidence supporting the idea that there ever was a treasure there or for the even more preposterous tale, that the Jesuits left gold hidden in a booby-trapped hidey-hole. I suppose in the movie version, Johnny Depp will play the head Jesuit.

I wrote a second article, "Atahualpa's Ransom & Other Treasure Fables" Daniel Buck, Peruvian Times, 26 August 2011, which covers a cat's cradle of buried Andean riches, either mythical or fraudulent or both, available here,

dbuck said...

I should have reread my Americas article before posting, instead of trusting my memory -- looking at the article this afternoon, I see that I had concluded there was no Jesuit church or mission at Sacambaya, per various sources I consulted when I was researching the article back in 1999/2000, but there might have been a modest Jesuit farm. Thus the idea of any major Jesuit activity at Sacambaya is as improbable as the idea of a gold trove. Dan

Unknown said...

Tonight was the season finale. Does anyone know if they found the treasure? Of course the show left us on a cliffhanger.

Todó Segalla said...

They found the treasure. I saw the episode that airs Oct 5, they found the cave...using the drone they located another hill with a cave inside...silver coins, gold's flooded and requires expert diving to recover all the treasure. CONGTRATS!

Thomas kemp said...

I am not against people having adventure.

But I am against Fraud. Producers should hold their heads in shame. They have created an embarrassing documentary based on baseless facts, presented as real. presenting Fiction as fact in guise of documentary for a quick buck is indicative of today's crop of piss poor wannabe movie producers. Discovery should hold their heads in shame too to for buying such crap.

Some people actually spend years researching for real documents. Jesuits never had anything to do with convents or Sacambaya. At best a site perhaps small chapel in support of settlement of Sacambaya. An archaeological site in itself. The Jesuit estancias was near by in Cutti and Escola. Both was gifted to the Jesuit College in Oruo. After the expulsion they was valued about 6500 pesos. Both was cattle ranches nothing more.

But do not take my word for it you see for yourself ....

V. Arch. National Sucre. Leg. 1797 8 monetarist Certification by the Clerk of the Real .Junta of Temporalities of Cargo and Inventory of the College of Oruro. La Plata, November 10, 1774

The Author of the Ran Roman document was engaging in fraud There was never 7 Jesuit priests The document gives the names Diego de Olivar, Fray Gregorio Valdez, Fray Pedro Cuvay, Martínez Orbasi, Fray Agustín Oliva, Fray Runualdo Peña Soliz, Fray Carlos Bascopé and Fray Parisimo Buchini.

Ultimately none of any of priests mentioned above document existed in any official Jesuit documents even in ones predating the expulsion. Either in Lima diocese or the Paraguayan diocese.

So in effect if they had bothered to do research they may of made some far more reaching and balanced documentary than the scripted reality crap they come up with.

Unknown said...

So what about the gold bars in the river cave? Is this not real?

dbuck said...

Just watched season 3, episode 8, which I gather is the final episode of the season. Color me extremely skeptical. The supposed "water-proof wall" they blew up was a bunch of rocks loosely piled one atop the other, and looked like it had been constructed not 300 years ago but minutes before they filmed it. The coins (fake or not) they supposedly found can be bought in any number of antique stores or street kiosks in La Paz -- or even more easily on eBay.

Finally, what treasure expedition announces to the world it has found gold bars before it has retrieved them and determined what they are. Sorry, I don't believe any of it. Dan

Unknown said...

In for updates as well

Unknown said...

A ploy to have more funds released from their investors?

Unknown said...

Here here i agree whole heartedly with the faked string you along scenario! Coming from my years spent living in hollywood and knowing people in the entertainment industry its just that. JUST THAT! "ENTERTAINMENT" sorry folks but a real good 95% of what you see hear are told or shown threw the television is either staged, scripted or manipulated by clever people grasp intrigue and with hopeful intent hold your attention. All of which is what we consider and call enteraining or entertainment! Which all but but just that nothing but a clever clever convincing script which is played out in fact based shows or docuventures or even the live news! Its all designed to. Capture and hold your attention by what we all know as entertainment value...over many years of broadcasting and films our current sociaty is learning to realize more and more amongst the masses that ideas story scenerios the entertainment has more and more been losing its value do it all being being nothing old recycled stories or tales recycled from genration to generation but there own modern twists to fit the current times which they are told to appear as if were a new fresh untold idea story or in this case expedition but in these what i feel are our crumbling of society end times and be mindful im not religous but dosee it rapidly falling apart crumbling ourselves out of existense once again as many civilizations before which makes shows and producers getting more sneaky, clever and elaborate to contend with holding attentions and anticipations of things to come when pitted against the losing and what is inevitably going to finish us all much sooner then any of us unassuming sheep wondering the earth and that is rapidly growing technology and and its unescaping grip on humanity that pulls us quicker to a global demise......but dont be discouraged by any of this sir for if any of this treasure show has been intriguing enough to capture ur attention, get your interests peaked, keep you wanting more answers or evidence.....well then my friends they have done a great job "ENTERTAINING YOU" nothing more and you cant feel dupped, suckered, tricked for one main reason and the only reason that means anything....
Thats rite you wanted to be entertained! So now that ur awake AWAKE and wondered away the that global flock of sheep to see truth for truth and real in reality dont feel bad or feel you you have to do anything other then continue letting it amuse and entertain you all?!! It is at the least interestingly being played out i just am tired of the increasing theme of shows like this n oak isle n so on is now more and more its manditory clifhanger short season finales and stretching the conceptual storylines and entertainment over multiple or as many seasons as the publics interest while allow the story told and most importantly FUNDED to tell it rite.....! Trumps a moron primarily for the fact hes got all the muthafucking money and power in the god damn world yet hes all these years been monumentally to stupid to use any of those resources to do something to fix that retarded captian kangaroo style hair cut hes been proudly sporting since he was dressing like a zookeeper and making appearances on the Johnny carson show with exotic pets back in the fn day!!!!
Cmon yall that made it this far know EXACTLY who and what im fucking talking about ! Hahaha
The guy is a silly shocking distraction for what the goverment is really ploting planning and scheming for us all to suffer from in the background

Unknown said...

Yeah totally agree. The wall looked like it has been build just recently. One team member says 'What the hell .. another dead end' when they approach it. Now everybody can see that this is a man-made wall from 10 meter's away. So ... heavily scripted ?

But the biggest hint that this is all fake: They reviewed the GoPro footage in the Hotel and find _multiple_large_gold_bars. Not in the 100feet+ cave but in the 4 feet deep water just beyond the wall. Would you not go back the very next day and go and get it ?? Get a wetsuit, snorkle or a mask and just jump in. Its in 4 foot of water ! You might even be able to reach down without getting your face underwater. Or how about getting a diesel pump and just pump out enough water to grab whatever you can.

According to the show this is on top of a mountain and the water is stale, so chances are this is just accumulated rain water with no natural feed .. so pumping this out would be easy.

And as for the flooding .. This is on_top_of a 10000 foot mountain. This cave will not flood easily. Obviously it is reachable by car, too, so getting equipment up there would not be a problem. And please don't tell me there is no wetsuit in all of Bolivia - Lake Titicaca is actually a world famous dive location and about 200 km away. (BTW: This is another hint that this is all fake. At the beginning of the episode they do this strenuous hike up the steep mountain side to reach this 'hard to reach' location, but at the end they just throw everything on the back of a pickup truck and drive away ? - Oh and just leave the excavator behind ?)

So really, if you would know there is gold worth Millions sitting there and you can reach it with a 10 foot bamboo stick, would you leave the country and wait several month to come back to retrieve it without even trying to get at least some of it ? Oh yes and all the locals which know where you have been digging will just leave it alone for the next couple of months, for sure.

Nah - fabricated cliffhanger to make you eagerly await the next season.

JenAP said...

So was the season 2 ending in the waterfall bs also?

Unknown said...

Yah did you notice that they wore the same clothes the entire 6 weeks they were in Bolivia? Also, in the last episode Jeremy falls in the cave and rips his blue shirt (apparently the only shirt he packed for the entire trip) and cuts himself in two places on his back but in the final scene when they find the gold bars, his one and only blue shirt is in perfect condtion!!! What gives?

dbuck said...

Good observation. Fictional movies are not necessarily shot in chronological order. Chronology is irrelevant. Shoot the gold discovery first, shoot the beginning scenes later. Pretend it depicts actual events, and rearrange it all in the editing room, overlooking that the torn shirt early is whole later. Oops. By the way, I asked a Bolivian anthropologist friend who lives in Cochabamba, not too far from Sacambaya, if he had ever heard of the treasure hunt or the documentary. He had not. Nor could I find anything in the Bolivian media about it. I suspect it was just a movie, not a documentary of an actual treasure hunt. Dan

Unknown said...

Yes who in there right mind wouldn't have dug the gold out of the cave wall you didn't even have too put your head under water yes it's got to be some bs

Unknown said...

A good watch of pure fiction.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a big hoax but who dug the tunnels and why?

Unknown said...

I think the last part with the discovered cave on top of the mountain is completely fake.

The part before seems to be scripted but ok. They basically found a secret tunnel for refuge or storage and a transportation route up the hill people used for supplies and for the final departure from the monastery. Both could be authentic but unrelated to any treasure.

But, when they started to search for the other place with a drone capable to fly many kms away (check the place on google maps), spiders within a sealed cave without entrance, fear of underground flooding at the peak of a mountain, transportation of heavy machines and cars to the summit without roads, incorrect marking of the found cave on the map shown (the mark doesn't point to the summit shown), not finding the gold bars in the tunnel with the detector but later visually, unreasonable behavior after that find (they didn't go back), then the show reached a point where I felt betrayed.