Art & Literature

GIS & Mapping


Base Camp

Channel Island Secret Treasure

(This challenge combines historical fact with a few fictional elements to tell as story of piracy, treasure hunting, and possible discovery. It can be undertaken by a few small groups, or by the entire class, and one map per group - or one for the entire class - can be sent in. )

I. The Story

Ahoy me Mateys, we have a story to tell that is a little known mystery about the Channel Islands On the remote side of a Channel Island, before the California Gold Rush, it is rumored a Spanish treasure was buried by an English Pirate, possibly the fearless young Thomas Cavendish. It is known that Cavendish captured a Spanish galleon and its treasures off the coast of Baja California, and he may have then sailed north and landed at a southern Channel Island where part of the treasure and loot was buried ..

Some years later an American carpenter working at Mission San Gabriel was befriended by the Channel Island native Indians who had been moved to this inland Los Angeles-area mission from their island home. The elder of the Indians told the carpenter a story. He said he remembered being told that a pirate had come ashore on his island years before, and buried a Spanish treasure on the Pacific side of the island. He gave the carpenter a treasure map ..

II. Can you find the location of the treasure ?

Answer these questions on your path of discovery :

1. When did Thomas Cavendish sail the waters off Alta California ? How old was he ?

2. Was he a pirate ? Or a privateer ? SEARCH

3. What are the next islands he might have stopped at off the coast of what is now California ? SEARCH

4. Which of the southern Channel Islands has a legend associated with a lost treasure ? SEARCH

5. Who was the carpenter who learned the tale ? SEARCH

6. When were the native Indians probably removed from the island to the Mission San Gabriel ? SEARCH
7. How many years would have elapsed since Cavendish might have buried the treasure on the island and the old man who knew the tale might have been born on the island ?

8. What did the carpenter do once he heard the story ? SEARCH

9. Did he ever find the treasure ? SEARCH

III. More Clues

Here are a few further clues to discovering the location of these purported treasure - you will need a map of the island to study the clues effectively. You can find a map online by searching the web sites that specialize in this island. You will need to print a 8'1/2 x 11" map out in order to complete the challenge.

1. Study the Pacific side of the island, which is where the pirates would most likely have landed to remain unseen from the mainland shore.
2. Look for a pair of coves separated by a small headland.
3. At one of these beaches there is a prehistoric rock art painting on a weathered cliff and it has one of the few coastal dune ecosystems still intact on the island.
4. Just inland from one of the coves is a small palm tree grove now, but it would not have been there when the pirates landed.
5. Select a spot nearby that you think the pirates would have chosen to bury their treasure - qualities to look for are :
a) Not too far from the shore as they would have had to carry its heavy contents
b) Far away enough from the shore that the tides would not have disturbed it
c) A site with soft, easy to dig soil, not rocky
d) A place which they would be able to recognize later with clear landmarks.

IV. Tell Us What You Discover

When you think you have found the best spot where the treasure might be mark the spot with a big X on a 8-1/2 x 11" map, and fax it, and the answers to the first nine questions above, to Camp headquarters at 805-899-8698. Be sure to put your teacher's name on the map, and the names of the students who undertook the treasure hunt. We will let you know who picked the right spot . And we will tell everyone who sends a map how to find a treasure at their own school.