A chart drawn up by the late US astronaut Gordon Cooper led underwater treasure-hunter Darrell Miklos to the Caribbean wreck-site of one of the earliest European ships to explore the Americas.
That was the conclusion drawn in the final episode of Discovery Channel’s documentary series Cooper’s Treasure, which has just been broadcast.
Miklos and fellow-diver Eric Schmitt found a large anchor off the Turks & Caicos Islands that they believe comes from one of the late-15th century ships of Vicente Pinzon.
The Spanish explorer had reached Brazil and the Amazon in 1499 but in July of 1500 two of his vessels sank during a hurricane while anchored off TCI.
Pinzon had found fame after he captained the caravel Nina, one of Christopher Columbus‘ squadron of vessels that had claimed discovery of the Americas in 1492.
The Cooper’s Treasure series described how a “treasure map” was produced in the 1960s by the pioneering Mercury astronaut Cooper, a friend of Miklos.
While taking part in a record-breaking 122-hour space mission to detect nuclear sites from low Earth orbit, Cooper had photographed more than 100 anomalies in the southern Caribbean that he believed represented sunken ships, and secretly created the chart based on these images.
Before his death in 2004 Gordon shared his secret with Miklos, who later set out with a team of researchers and a camera crew to uncover what he hoped would be treasure.
“This validates everything – where there’s an anchor there’s a shipwreck. Where there’s a shipwreck there’s treasure,” said Miklos when he returned to the dive-site with archaeologist Jim Sinclair.
Sinclair confirmed that the 2-ton bower anchor was typical of early Spanish shipbuilding and would have come from a 300-ton vessel. It was raised and shown to have been forged by hand.
The anchor’s location was said to match the reports of the sinking of Pinzon’s ships, as did the damage it had sustained. Broken Majorcan pottery found alongside the anchor was also dated to the period.
Miklos now plans to search the area further using Cooper’s charts.
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