The Treasure of Lima

In 1820 José de San Martín advanced on Lima and the Spanish Viceroy realized he had better remove the stores of gold and silver under his command. Officials of the more than 50 Spanish churches in the city came to the same conclusion about their ecclesiastical riches, which included a solid-gold, gem-encrusted, life-size image of the Virgin Mary. Figuring that hiding this wealth anywhere near Lima would be foolish, the Viceroy entrusted it to a British sea captain named William Thompson, a known and respected trader in the region. The Viceroy’s plan was to have Thompson sail around for several months, with the treasure stowed aboard the Mary Dear, until the political situation improved. Big mistake. A load of such value proved too great a temptation to Thompson and his men. Once out of sight of land, they cut the throats of the Viceroy’s appointed guard, tossed their bodies overboard, and made haste to Cocos, where they duly buried the treasure. An original inventory showed 113 gold religious statues, one a life-size Virgin Mary, 200 chests of jewels, 273 swords with jewelled hilts, 1,000 diamonds, solid gold crowns, 150 chalices and hundreds of gold and silver bars.

Thompson and his crew decided to split up until things simmered down, then reconnoiter to divvy up the spoils. But not long after leaving Cocos, the Mary Dear was picked up by a Spanish man-of-war. The crew was put on trial for piracy, convicted, and hung—all except for Thompson and his first mate, who agreed to lead their captors to the stolen goods if their lives were spared. Soon after they stepped on Cocos under an armed guard, however, Thompson and the mate suddenly hotfooted it into the jungle. Despite a protracted search, they were never found, and their frustrated captors finally left the island. According to some versions of the story, the pair were later picked up by a whaler and taken to Puntarenas, in Costa Rica, where the mate contracted yellow fever and died. For his part, William Thompson seems to have vanished from the pages of history shortly thereafter, and there is no indication that he ever returned to Cocos Island.

«Me I’m dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. Honestly it’s the honest ones you have to watch out for, you never can predict if they’re going to do something incredibly stupid,» Jack Sparrow.

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