And another thing Tommy pondered: How did Fisher know the Atocha had not been salvaged shortly after it sank 350 years ago? The water wasn't that deep: Dozens of people had free dived to see the Atocha's cannons. If the wreck's in twelve feet of water or even forty feet, the technology was there centuries ago to salvage it. What were the odds?
As Tommy watched Fisher's operation and listened to stories about other treasure hunters, he began to see a pattern: They operated from day to day, with no long-term plan; they all were underfunded; no one kept accurate records; the turnover rate of workers was high; they raised money primarily through the media; investors were unhappy and filing lawsuits; the state claimed all treasure belonged to it; the storms scattered a ship's remains sometimes for miles across the shallow sea; they had no way of telling whether an artifact came from their target ship or from some other ship that had landed on top of it in another storm; they could never be sure that no one else had already salvaged the ship they were after.
Tommy's thoughts and observations about shipwrecks in the Caribbean began to fill notebooks.
"That summer was a very fertilizing experience for me," said Tommy, "just thinking about historic shipwrecks, where they were, and how they could be found, and what kind of technologies could be used to find them. Part of how to turn ideas into a project is being able to examine lots of different situations. The more you understand about the world, the better your perceptions are and the better decisions you can make. I was looking at wealth in terms of growth and knowledge and education as opposed to money, so it was a great experience. I didn't get paid much and there may have been all kinds of hazards, but I was the only engineer in the whole operation."
The Gold Rush is On
Every newspaper in the East ran articles about the ease of finding gold in California. How-to books, like the Emigrant's Guide to the Gold Mines, described vast riverbeds "paved with gold to the thickness of a hand," and claimed that "twenty to fifty thousand dollars of gold" could be "picked out almost instantly." Lectures on gold mining drew enormous crowds, and the lecturers added their own hyperbole: that miners in California were finding up to four pounds of gold, or a thousand dollars a day, that one man had found thirty-six pounds in one day, that not even a hundred thousand men could exhaust all of the gold in California if they worked hard at it for ten years.
"In a moment, as it were," wrote the editor of the Hartford Daily Courant, "a desert country that never deserved much notice from the world has become the centre of universal attraction. Fifteen millions have already come into the possession of somebody and all creation is going out there to fill their pockets."
But all creation had only two ways to get to the new territory: They could walk or they could sail. Those choosing to walk would have to wait until April, for between them and California stood the Rocky Mountains, and winter in those mountains first killed the grass, then buried it under feet of snow. Without feed, the pack animals would die.
The impatient ones sailed, but now they had to decide: around Cape Horn or across Panama. The route via Cape Horn was a four- to eight-month journey of thirteen thousand nautical miles that promised the most terrifying storms a landlubber could conjure. In 1833, Charles Darwin described the Horn in his diary: "The sight," he wrote, "is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about death, peril, and shipwreck." Waves eighty to ninety feet tall, the Horn's infamous "greybeards," swept across the ocean at thirty knots and battered ships already encrusted in ice. Spars snapped, sails shredded, and men washed overboard to freeze and drown in an icy sea.
Use of this excerpt from Ship and Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright © 1998 by Gary Kinder. All rights reserved.
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