Buried Gold: Myth or Legend?Christian Calhoun
Wouldn’t it just be incredible to one day be strolling along the beach and suddenly stumble upon an old wooden chest filled with 16th-century Spanish doubloons? Well, for most treasure hunters, that would be a dream come true! Especially if that particular chest came from an abandoned ship, or perhaps from a legendary place where a famous pirate buried his treasure. But did pirates bury their treasure? Let’s debunk this famous myth!
Logically, let’s think about the concept of burying treasure before we hit the facts. First: Where did this idea come from? There are several historical books contain this idea. The most recognized of all is ‘Treasure Island,’ by Robert Luis Stevenson. But did you know that Washington Irving inspired Stevenson?! In Stevenson’s own words, “It is my debt to Washington Irving that exercises my conscience, and justly so, for I believe plagiarism was rarely carried farther… the whole inner spirit and a good deal of the material detail of my first chapters… were the property of Washington Irving.” So, the idea of buried treasure has been around for centuries. But did it happen with real pirates? (Paine, pg. 28)
If you were a pirate, on the run for your life every second of the day, would you want to bury your gold on a secret island to save it for a better time and place? Reasonably, your answer should be a sound “no.” Nearly every pirate sailing the seven seas knew they were treading dangerous waters (literally and figuratively). Being a pirate meant living to run, assuming you don’t get caught. Most pirates didn’t think about the future, so why would they bury their gold in hopes of saving it for later? Once they obtained the gold, most pirates would spend it on pleasures practically immediately.
Another concept to think about; not every ship the pirates looted carried gold, jewels, and treasure. Pirates also robbed merchants ships, which often carried silks, food, perishable items and especially slaves. Pirates took what they needed, or if they suspected the vessel carried more than meets the eye, they would abuse the crew until they learned of the treasure’s location.
And finally, we arrive at the question, “Did pirates bury their treasure?”. To be straightforward, yes they did. In a more vivid sense, very few pirates buried their treasure because they never really planned for the future. Most pirates knew their future was at the bottom of the ocean, or hanging from the rope. However, some pirates, such as William Kidd or William Thompson did bury their treasure; in fact, some of the wealth remains hidden to this day.
The myth goes that William Kidd buried his treasure to reconcile with the government in hopes they wouldn’t hang him for his crimes. His dreams were futile as he was hung once arrested. But, there are rumors that his legendary treasure was discovered!
William Thompson, on the other hand, had no intentions of settling with the government. Thompson was privateer hired to lead a Spanish ship carrying large quantities and loads of gold. His mutinous crew aided him in killing the few monks and Spanish soldiers aboard. They then sailed to the nearby Cocos Island off the coast of Costa Rica. Their ship was eventually apprehended by a sizeable Spanish vessel, and most of the crew were hanged for their crimes. Thompson and one other fellow pleaded for their lives, agreeing that they would show where they buried the gold. But, as the story goes, once they landed on the island, Thompson and his pirate colleague fled into the forest never to be seen again. The treasure remains undiscovered. Cocos island is now a national park.
So, in conclusion, pirates did bury their treasure, but it not common. Still, there is a possibility of unintentionally stumbling into an old pirates treasure. Who knows? Maybe there a pirate ship full of gold buried in your backyard!