GOLD BEYOND YOUR DREAMS
GOLD BEYOND YOUR DREAMS
A century ago, Mauritius went crazy for one pirate's gold. But might his treasure still be there? It's time to dig deeper and find out…
A century ago, Mauritius went crazy for one pirate's gold. But might his treasure still be there? It's time to dig deeper and find out… Read more
In December 1901, a small group of Mauritians started a treasure hunting company: they named their Société “Klondyke”, in anticipation of a local ‘Gold Rush’. Inspired by a set of cryptic documents naming Bernardin Nagéon de l’Estang, they (and many others) set off to scour the island for his pirate treasure.
This being 2016, we've put the documents online, both in French and in English: they promise "three iron barrels and jars full of doubloons, gold in coins and ingots to the value of thirty million, and a copper box filled with diamonds from the mines of Visapur and Golkonda". Really, it was no wonder the Mauritian backers were so excited!
Given that they found nothing in all their decades of searching, was this whole thing just a curious hoax… or was there some truth to the story?
Either way, it would be fantastic to get to the heart of this strange, wonderful, tangled story. Back our documentary "Gold Beyond Your Dreams", and let's see if we can uncover its secret history!
[Click here to see the press release]
The Project Plan
The core plan is to go to Mauritius with a local film crew to explore the murky secret history behind this long-standing pirate treasure story.
The aim is to structure the roughly 45-minute documentary in nine sections shot across ten days, each part aiming to be edited down to roughly five minutes long. The sections are:
(1) The People
Pirate treasure was a dream that touched countless Mauritian families through the twentieth century: and indeed still does, in the form of modern-day treasure hunters. And so we begin by interviewing Mauritians connected to this quest – what do they think of it all?
(2) The Papers
The idea here is to introduce the viewer to the story told in the Bernardin Nagéon de l’Estang papers, against a Mauritian backdrop that an 18th century pirate would recognize. Ideally, it would be amazing to film whatever versions of the Bernardin Nagéon de l’Estang papers we can get access to – as far as I know, none has ever been shown on TV.
(3) One Pirate… Or Two?
This part builds up the argument that while paper BN1 (the Will) and BN2 (a letter referring to the Will) were written by a single person, BN3 was almost certainly written by someone else. Which means that our search should be for two people: a pirate (who identified himself as Bernardin Nagéon de l’Estang) and a corsair (who ended up with his documents).
(4) Bernardin Nagéon de l’Estang
This section compares the historical details given in BN1 and BN2 with known genealogical data and with other historical evidence. For this, we use a combination of archival search and querying Mauritius’s hi-tech LAVIMS cadastral database. Can we catch a glimpse of a real historical person?
(5) The Unknown Corsair
This part argues that the unknown corsair seems likely to have been on La Vénus when it was captured in September 1810: hence he should be identifiable as a prisoner of war sent back to Brest who had previously been honoured by the First Consul (Napoléon Bonaparte). But is there enough detail in the archives to actually identify him?
(6) The Missing River
This section, we look at the internal evidence in BN1 and BN2 that might direct us to where the treasure was supposedly buried: a creek, a cliff, and an 'underground riverbed' (which sounds like a lava tube) apparently leading away beneath the cliff. From this, we build up a hypothesis about a missing river. But... how can an entire river go missing?
(7) Maps, And More Maps
We now have access to more maps than anyone has ever had in the past (both in the UK National Archives, the Mauritian National Archives, and the LAVIMS database). Hence the idea of this part is to cross-reference them all into a cartographic timeline; to reconstruct what happened; and so try to steer our search in the right direction.
(8) Going Underground?
Historical hypothesis and cartographic evidence in hand, we at last go hunting for pirate treasure, using ground-penetrating radar to look for a lava tube in (hopefully) just the right place. But what will we find?
(9) Wrapping It All Up
This final section wraps up the whole story – will anyone ever find this pirate treasure, or was it all just a tall tale that a nation fell for hook, line, and sinker?
Risks and challenges
The major project risks and challenges:
* If the Mauritius Film Development Corporation delays giving permission to film, this could easily push the filming dates back by one or two months. Our application is already in process, but final approval remains an unknown.
* If the Mauritius Cadastre Unit won't give us direct access to its world-class LAVIMS database (I have already written asking for this), we will have to hire an intermediary (e.g. a local surveying company) to do this for us, at extra cost.
* If the relevant land owners refuse to allow a GPR scan (which is possible, though I believe unlikely), we will have to make the best documentary we can without it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)