Home Travel X Marks the Spot – Five Destinations for a Treasure Hunt

X Marks the Spot – Five Destinations for a Treasure Hunt

In case you’ve somehow missed it, 2012 commemorates the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic. On 14th April 1912 the allegedly unsinkable ship hit an iceberg and lingered undiscovered on the bottom of the ocean floor until 1985.

You may wish to mark the occasion by watching that epic romantic film of the same name starring our beloved Kate Winslet; a film that caused millions to swoon and Celine Dion to – er – sing.

Whilst holding the rather dubious accolade of being the world’s most famous shipwreck the Titanic is not alone in remaining undiscovered for decades. If you fancy a bit of a treasure hunt this year you may want to head out to one of these destinations for your family holidays.

Key West, Florida

Back in November 1755, long before the days of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, the Spanish galleon Notre Dame de la Deliverance was caught in a savage hurricane after leaving Havana. Laden with gold and silver from South American mines, it met its nautical doom off the coast of Key West, Florida. The priceless bullion was lost with it and allegedly lay undiscovered until 2003 although it has yet to be recovered. Fear not, there are plenty more sunken ships to be explored off Key West, some of which were deliberately sunk to create artificial reefs, including the USS Curb and USS Wilkes-Barre.

Sumatra, Indonesia

Somewhere deep beneath the water’s surface off the north coast of Sumatra, lies a 16th century Portuguese ship Flor De La Mar. Legend has it that it went down in a storm around 1511 laden with stolen treasure from the state of Malacca including an estimated 60 tons of gold. Despite the best efforts of experienced divers, it has to date, never been found. If it’s a case of finders’ keepers it could be worth a trip to Sumatra. At the very least you’ll get to explore the volcanic lakes, Buddhist temples and tropical rainforests on an island whose name means ‘island of gold’ in ancient Sanskrit (after gold deposits were discovered in the 7th century).

Land’s End, Cornwall

Closer to home we have our own unrecovered treasure troves lurking off our coastline. Around 20 miles from Land’s End in Cornwall lies the Merchant Royal which contains a haul of Spanish treasure. Back in September 1641 returning to England with 500 bars of gold, silver and assorted gems it encountered a spot of inclement weather and, well, you know the drill. While you might not fancy heading that far off the Cornish coast, Land’s End with its beaches, surfing and open air Minack Theatre is definitely worth a visit. Diving for buried treasure is optional.


Back in the days of the Spanish War of Succession in the early 18th century, legend has it that the Spanish galleon The San Jose was sunk by an eager English Commodore near to Baru Peninsula off the Colombian coast. Despite sinking in less than 1,000 feet of water this treasure laden vessel is still classified as ‘undiscovered’. Although several claims of discoveries have been made, the Colombian government have yet to verify any of them. Dubbed ‘The Holy Grail of Shipwrecks’ a confirmed discovery will net the lucky discoverer half of the value of the haul, estimated at anything up to $1 billion. It also sank close to a place aptly named ‘Treasure Island’ – trip to Colombia anyone?

The Bahamas

If sailing holidays are your thing rather than treasure hunts, then why not combine the two with a leisurely cruise around the Bahamas? Avid divers can plunge the depths for undiscovered riches and all from the comfort of your very own deck. You’re almost guaranteed to unearth some hidden loot around here. An estimated 500 wrecked ships lie in the waters surrounding the islands. The most famous is the San Jacinto, America’s first steamship which met its untimely end when it sank in 1865. Ardent 007 fans can dive to the scaffold structure of the Vulcan bomber used in the James Bond film Thunderball. You’ll also find a Cessna light aircraft and the giant tanker Calibe Breeze. Who knows, you might even make a discovery of your own? The cargo ship Frascate sank in 1902 and has yet to be discovered. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Ship ahoy!’

So, if your friends or colleagues hire a boat and head off on their family holidays muttering ‘aaarrr Jim Lad’ under their breath they may actually have a reason for it this year. You could always go along – just to keep an eye on them of course. Happy hunting.

Kate Smedley investigates unusual family holidays to help you have fun.

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