News Article:

The Fantasy Of Treasure

By H. Glenn Carson

A fine line runs between the ecstasy of fantasy and the doldrums of reality in the realm of treasure. It's true of most other fields of human endeavor as well, but treasure is our great passion, and we'll leave other folds to speak of theirs. An individual is called a daydreaming fool if he goes far across the line into fantasy ("eccentric" if successful, rich, or any combination of both), or dull and boorish if mired on the other side of the line in stark reality - which points out an important fact, namely that one should not worry too much about what others think.

Be all that as it may, it is those who wander the glittering fields not too far across that linen into fantasy who enjoy the pursuit of treasure the most. Without a few daydreams of treasure, there seldom is treasure hunting. Most people don't believe in treasure, because they think that anyone who does have such dreams is already out in la-la land or swiftly getting there. Not believing in treasure, they seldom find treasure.

Those who dream, especially those who stay close enough to the line back into reality, are able to sort possible treasure from the impossible, and they are the ones who most often find and recover treasure. The Atocha, the silver of the Silver Shoals, the Minoan gold and that of Troy, and hundreds of thousands, millions of lost coins, detected one or a few at a time would never have been retrieved unless there were those who daydreamed long and strong about treasure, enough to force them to search for it.

Has you imagination never run wild? Have you never thought of cleverly concealed wall panels, or secret doors leading to must, cobwebbed corridors along which walled-up vaults exist? You've not envisioned crusty, corroded casques filled with ancient jewels, mysterious golden coins, and emblems form times past and almost forgotten? Pirate chests and outlaw loot have never entered you mind? No fantasies of mystic temple troves, crude gold and silver bars stacked high in vaults deep in ancient mines, or family wealth hastily buried as great battles raged nearby?

Perhaps you need to cross over the line into a bit of fantasy and daydreaming. Only those who dream ever pursue their dreams. Carefully hidden treasure is seldom found by others than those who have such dreams and pursue them.

There are many dreamers, and many of them have been successful in the pursuit of their dreams down through the years. Not that the general public would ever have given them a snowball's chance in a warmer clime.

One such dreamer was an otherwise ordinary Pennsylvanian named Burt B. Webber, Jr. He started daydreaming early. In his teens he read about the Concepcion and the silver gone down on the Silver Shoals. He knew it was there, for Sir William Phips took a handsome amount of the precious stuff off the site many years after the Spanish ship went down - a known fact, and a good starting place for daydreamers. When he was 16, he was learning how to scuba dive by searching the waters in abandoned quarries there in Pennsylvania for slot machines. It was not big treasure, but tit was closer to romantic adventure than most people ever get, as well as money to keep going.

From that small start he was drawn to Florida, as an iron filling is drawn to a magnet. After a time he met Art McKee and worked with him on a wreck salvage south of Jamaica. Burt began a yo-yo type of existence for the next 17 years, taking very ordinary jobs in Pennsylvania to bring in some money, and using whatever time he could afford to seek treasure in the Caribbean. He looked for the Nuestra Senora de Atocha - in the wrong place to be sure. Another big-time dreamer, Mel Fisher, found the Atocha first, in 1971.

Burt was in that Never-Never Land, this side and that of the fine line between fantasy and reality, laboring in brickyards in Pennsylvania, selling encyclopedias, and putting up with neighbors' snide remarks and pitying attitude. Still, in 1977, he got nine men to dream with him, and a 65' boat to do it on, and arranged with the Dominican Republic to split any treasure with them raised from the Concepcion. During 1977, he surveyed the 42-mile-long shoals of the silver bank, placing buoys in the most probable spots.

Soon 1977 was gone, having floated by on dreams and borrowed money. The scoffers obviously were going to have another ruined daydreamer to deride.

1978, however, gave Burt Webber what he needed. A man named Goin Haskins had located Phips' logbook and joined Webber's search. The logbook had been in the mate's family for generations, almost forgotten. The notations in the logbook considerably narrowed the search area to part of a mile along those shoals, not 42 miles.

Finding that logbook was a treasure recovery in its own right, by the way. Read about it, if you ever get a chance to do so.

The second key was Burt's obtaining a hand-held cesium magnetometer - $17,000, new, state-of-the art, equally important as the ancient logbook. Both were vital to the search.

Perhaps the third key was the fact that Burt somehow managed to get another ship beneath his daydreaming feet. With $350,000 already spent, the daydreaming bricklayer had not so much as one tarnished real to show for it. The point is, Burt was still enough of a realist to find and interest other realists who had at least enough daydreaming in them to part with some money. The Concepcion was not found with brickyard worker's wages!

Sure enough, they quickly found ballast stones. With Venturi suction hoses they began to bring up from beneath the ballast stones sea-blackened Spanish pieces of eight.

Something is well worth noting. After the Spanish recovered some treasure not long after the ship went down, after Phips also took off enough to perhaps foolishly buy himself a governship, and after Webber and his crew retrieved what they thought was most of the treasure - another group returned and still found more.

Have not many of us remarked that a good spot is seldom entirely hunted out?

Burt Webber went on to be instrumental in the recovery of the sunken Americas trove. Much more could be said about him, but alas, there is no room for all that here.

What about Mel Fisher? What about a hundred other dreamers and doers whose names you might or might not recognize? What of those thousands armed with little other than a detector who put feet beneath their dreams daily? These are the cast of our great treasure play, the leading actors and bit players or our drama. Most of these men and women also wander back and forth across that fine line between reality and fantasy. They seek and often find treasure, and their lives are better for the effort of it.

Put all this in a single article? It would take a library of many books.

We all mostly write our own books, in a way: a new page or two each day, each search, each project. If we wander over into the realm of fantasy a bit, so what?

Is it just a few old coins and trinkets to you? Too bad. You are missing some real pleasure if you can't see at least a small mystical glow room that last Mercury dime or Seated Liberty quarter. You may only be searching for a particular old site, but if you can't feel a bit of drama and mystery when walking in those paths of yesteryear, should you find the place, much of the effort of going there is surely wasted upon you. Can anyone do the best possible coin-shooting if he cannot to some degree flesh out the scenes of days gone by, not seeing what is in a given place now but think what was there those years ago? I think not.

Beware! The thieves, dragons, curses, and dangers of older days have not vanished. The same dangers still exist. Greed abounds, thieves are now better armed, and more people are now willing and ready to wrest treasure from anyone who finds it and foolishly lets it be known. Governmental agencies and regulations are poised to discourage the hunter, and to seize whatever a hunter finds in spite of the discouragement.

No dragons, you say? Wait until you are before ea judge and facing a feral pack of lawyers. You will soon begin to wish you only had to face drooling dragons ad ghastly wraiths brought up by curses imposed up on the trove. In our realistic world, they don't allow you a sword to whack away at those opposing you. Too bad, that's the way it is, the dull - boring, correct way of court to say what you feel about the judge and the crumbling system, let alone whack him or any of the jackal lawyers with a sword. What's this world come to?

I suspect that Webber, Fisher, and a good many others would have preferred a few dragons and sea monsters to some of the legal battles they've had to fight.

Must you give up treasure hunting? I won't! Furthermore, I won't, and you should not, say much to those who never cross into the fantasy side. They won't believe what you say, anyway, and will make fun of you for saying it. Then, should you find what you seek, they will try and take it from you or have the government take it from you. So, detector in hand (call it a sword or a wand, if you'd care to), go about your search when and where you can. Keep your research and plans to yourself. For goodness sake, and yours, keep your finds to yourself. Thieves, legal or illegal, won't steal from you if they don't know: #1, you're a treasure hunter; #2, you're seeking treasure; #3, you've found treasure. Most of the rascals don't even believe in treasure.

If you are quiet about what you do and what you achieve, you will undoubtedly be amazed at how few dragons fly over or how few wraiths sigh up out of the ground… even if your searched do lead you into dark places now and then.

H. GLENN CARSON continues to try to write about core interests and issues pertinent to the treasure hunting field.