Legend of Lost Treasure Ship Thrives in California Desert

Believers say it's out there, buried amid the rocks and sand
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2017 5:56 PM CST
Updated Feb 12, 2017 4:30 PM CST
The Plausible Implausibility of California's Lost Treasure Ship
Stock image   (Getty Images/roclwyr)

Alexander Nazaryan calls it "fake news for the romantic soul." Tales of a treasure-laden ship lost in the sands of California's Colorado desert that—though the details change—have persisted for at least 140 years. The Newsweek reporter takes a journey into the desert with a former carpet salesperson turned treasure hunter—though he prefers "explorer of legends and lore"—to discover how believers in the lost treasure ship persist in the face of skeptics and, frankly, facts—and how they're aided by the many implausibilities and minor miracles of the desert itself.

California was thought to be an island into the 1700s. It's possible a Viking or Spanish ship—those who claim to have seen it can't seem to agree on which—sailed up the Colorado River, which once emptied into the Gulf of California, believing it to be a strait before running aground. Or so the theory goes. A librarian claimed she saw the lost ship in 1933 while hiking with her husband, but it was buried by an earthquake the next day. There are also stories of a desert farmer using slats from a ship to make his fence or a Mexican husband promising his wife a Viking shield to help her make better tortillas. Read the full piece here to draw your own conclusions. Like Blake, you may find yourself being swayed by an oasis of catfish amid the desert's rocks and sand. (More Longform stories.)

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