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£1,564 pledged of £23,000 goal
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By Nick Pelling
£1,564 pledged of £23,000 goal
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About this project

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.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £5 or more About $7

    FOLLOW THE DREAM

    This pledge gets you "Gold Beyond Your Dreams" production news in your inbox, all the way from behind-the-scenes project updates to exclusive sneak-peek video snippets. Nice!

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    Pledge £10 or more About $13

    NAME IN LIGHTS

    Do you want to see your name on the credits to the documentary and on the official website? Of course you do - so this is the reward for you! We'll even include an online link to your personal website, blog, or Instatweetfacegram account.

    (And you get the FOLLOW THE DREAM reward too!)

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    Pledge £15 or more About $20

    HONK IF YE BE A PYRATE

    An exclusive pirate-themed bumper-sticker reward? Why yes! Proudly identify yourself with lawless seafaring historical crims with dubious dress sense: nothing less will do. (We'll throw in the NAME IN LIGHTS and FOLLOW THE DREAM rewards too.)

    Really: find a better Kickstarter reward... and it's probably a hoverboard. ;-)

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    Pledge £25 or more About $33

    PRODUCTION X-RAY SPEX

    If you want the inside track on the filming of the documentary right as it happens in Mauritius, this is the reward for you. You'll get to see the highs and the lows, the unexpected and the problematic, and (hopefully) the magical as it takes shape.

    Also includes the FOLLOW THE DREAM and NAME IN LIGHTS rewards!

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    Pledge £40 or more About $52

    "HOIST THE BLACK FLAG" MUG

    Can there be a better way to start a new day than drinking black coffee from an exclusive artist-designed black pirate mug?

    The phrase comes from H.L.Mencken: "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."

    Not only is this a great reward to receive, you also get the PRODUCTION X-RAY SPEX reward (and all the rewards that go with that)!

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    Pledge £70 or more About $91

    "HOIST THE BLACK FLAG" SWEATSHIRT

    An exclusive artist-designed "Hoist the Black Flag" sweatshirt that's stylish and dark, just like you.

    You also get the PRODUCTION X-RAY SPEX reward (and all the rewards that go with that).

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    Pledge £100 or more About $130

    DIRECTOR'S CUT

    This reward is a special limited-edition DVD of "Gold Beyond Your Dreams": and includes extra footage not included in the final cut.

    This also includes the PRODUCTION X-RAY SPEX reward (and all that goes with that).

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    Pledge £250 or more About $326

    EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

    How cool would it be to be able to put on your CV that you were an "Executive Producer" on this documentary? Very cool indeed, is the answer we think you'll find.

    You'll also get a DIRECTOR'S CUT reward so you can put your DVD on display.

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge £1,000 or more About $1,304

    ONE DAY'S FILMING IN MAURITIUS

    If you want to come along for one day's filming in Mauritius (including lunch), this is the ideal VIP reward for you. (Though please note (1) there's only room for one VIP per day; (2) the exact filming dates won't be finalized until after the Kickstarter end date; and (3) we won't be able to shift those dates to suit you).

    (Your own travel, airfare and expenses would be covered by you, of course.)

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    Pledge £8,000 About $10,436

    YES, I AM JOHNNY DEPP & THIS SOUNDS COOL

    If you happen to be Johnny Depp and like the sound of funding a pirate treasure documentary (where you get to go to Mauritius and do cool real pirate stuff that nobody else has ever done), then this is the perfect backing package for you.

    And unlike the ONE DAY'S FILMING IN MAURITIUS reward, we'll shift our filming dates to suit you. Yes, it suits you, sir, ooh! Have you added it up, sir?

    Speaking of which, it's unfortunately not quite that simple: to bring the balance up to the £23,000 needed, you'd currently need to pledge £21,520 (and Kickstarter doesn't let any individual reward packages exceed £8000). But in fact, you are free to edit your pledge to pretty much any amount you like. :-)

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Funding period

- (30 days)