It's known as the Holy Grail of pirate treasure—a haul of gold, silver, and jewels worth an estimated $130 million—and John Cruise-Wilkins says he knows where it is. So why is the man not yet swimming in diamonds and rubies? Well, getting to the treasure is not so easy, Cruise-Wilkins tells the BBC's Helen Soteriou, who visited the "Treasure Man" on Mahe's northern coast in the Seychelles. Here, according to Cruise-Wilkins, the French pirate Olivier Levasseur stowed the treasure he'd stolen from a Portuguese ship in the port of Bourbon Island, now La Reunion, in 1721. Afterwards, according to legend, he executed the crew members who'd helped him hide it.
But after Levasseur was captured in 1730, he is said to have given up a sort of treasure map: 17 lines of symbols written on a piece of parchment that he thrust into the air moments before he was hanged. Cruise-Wilkins, who inherited the quest for the treasure from his father, says his years studying the parchment (reportedly verified by the British Museum as from the 1700s) have led him to a cavern, only accessible by an underwater tunnel, on government land. To dig there, Cruise-Wilkins needs to pay $18,000 for a permit. Even then, any treasure he finds must be split with the government. Financing is an issue but the price is worth it, "not just to prove my father right but … to beat the pirate at his own game," he told the Seychelles News Agency last year. "I have found the mental treasure," he adds. "It is only the physical that now remains."