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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2013) Headlines (08/2013) Headlines (12/2013)   Vol. 47 October 2013 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the October 2013 edition of W&ET Magazine

TREASURE HUNTERS DISCOVER GOLD COINS WORTH THOUSANDS BURIED OFF FLORIDA COAST

A group of treasure hunters say they have found 48 gold coins likely worth thousands of dollars buried in the sand in Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” where eleven Spanish ships laden with gold sank in 1715.

WPTV reports Captain Greg Bounds and his crew on the “Capitana” spend most Saturdays looking for sunken treasure in the area about 200 miles off Florida, but usually just find garbage.

However, recently Bounds discovered the 48 coins buried in the sand, thought to be valued at approximately a quarter of a million dollars.

“You go out every day, hoping that it’s gonna happen, and a lot of times it doesn’t,” Bounds told WPTV. “But when it does, it’s just amazing, the feeling that you get.”

Brent Bisbane, whose company owns the salvage rights to the shipwrecks, says he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw Bounds’ discovery.

“To see (Bounds) come up out of the water, and over the rail, I’ll never forget, he waves us in,” Bisbane told WPTV. “He says, ‘I think I got one more,’ and he drops about fifteen in my hand.”

From FN, submitted by Martin Maher, Langlois, OR.



ONE EXPENSIVE APPLE

An original Apple computer from 1976 has sold at auction for nearly $388,000.

Known as the Apple 1, it was one of the first Apple computers ever built.

It sold recently for $387,750 at a Christie’s online-only auction. The auction house did not disclose the name of the buyer. The seller was a retired school psychologist from Sacramento, California.

Vintage Apple products have become a hot item since Steve Jobs’ death in October 2011. Jobs joined forces with Steve Wozniak to build computer prototypes in a California garage, and Wozniak built the Apple1.

Another Apple 1 was sold in May for a record $671,400 by a German auction house. It broke a record of $640,000 set in November.

From the AP, submitted by Keith Harrell, Faison, NC.



RUSH TO FIND GOLD RUSH-ERA DISCARDS THAT COULD FUEL CELLPHONES, TVs

Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something else very valuable would be buried in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside.

There’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, and old mine tailings piles just might be the answer. They may contain a group of versatile minerals the periodic table called a rare earth elements.

“Uncle Sam could be sitting on a gold mine,” said Larry Meinert, director of the mineral resource program for the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, VA.

The USGS and Department of Energy are on a nationwide scramble for deposits of the elements that make magnets lighter, bring balanced hues to fluorescent lighting and color to the touch screens of smartphones in order to break the Chinese stranglehold on those supplies.

They were surprised to find that the critical elements could be in plain sight in piles of rubble otherwise considered eyesores and toxic waste. One era’s junk could turn out to be this era’s treasure.

“Those were almost never analyzed for anything other than what they were mining for,” Meinert said. “If they turn out to be valuable that is a win-win on several fronts- getting us off our dependence on China and having a resource we didn’t know about.”

The 15 rare earth elements were discovered long after the gold rush began to wane, but demand for them only took off over the past 10 years as electronics became smaller and more sophisticated. They begin with number 57 Lanthanum and end with 71 Lutetium, a group of metallic chemical elements that are not rare as much as they are just difficult to mine because they occur in tiny amounts and are often stuck to each other.

Unlike metals higher up on the table such as silver and gold, there’s no good agent for dissolving elements so closely linked in atomic structure without destroying the target. It makes mining for them tedious and expensive.

“The reason they haven’t been explored for in the U.S. was because as long as China was prepared to export enough rare earths to fill the demand, everything was find- like with the oil cartels. When China began to use them as a political tool, people began to see the vulnerability to the U.S. economy to having one source of rare earth elements,” said Ian Ridley, director of the USGS Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center in Colorado.

Two years ago, China raised prices- in the case of Neodymium, used to make Prius electric motors stronger and lighter, from $15 a kilogram in 2009 to $500 in 2011, while Dysprosium oxide used in lasers and halide lamps went from $114 a kilogram in 2010 to $2,830 in 2011. It’s also about the time China cut off supplies to Japan, maker of the Prius, in a dispute over international fishing territory.

That’s when the U.S. government went into emergency mode and sent geologists to hunt for new domestic sources.

“What we have is a clash of supply and demand. It’s a global problem. A growing middle class around the world means more and more people want things like cellphones,” said Alex King, director of the Critical Materials Institute of the Department of Energy’s Ames Research Lab in Iowa. “Our job is to solve the problem any way we can.”

At the University of Nevada-Reno and the Colorado School of Mines, USGS scientists used lasers to examine extensive samples of rocks and ore collected across the West during the gold rush days by geologists from Stanford University and Cal Tech.

“If we could recycle some of this waste and get something out of it that was waste years ago that isn’t waste today, that certainly is a goal,” said Alan Koenig, the USGS scientist in charge of the tailings project.

One sample collected in 1870 from an area near Sparks, Nevada, where miners had searched for a viable copper vein, has shown promise and has given researchers clues in the search for more. They have found that some rare earths exist with minerals they had not previously known occur together.

“The copper mine never went into production, but now after all of this time we’ve analyzed it and it came back high with Indium, which is used in photovoltaic panels. It never economically produced copper, but it gives us insights into some associations we didn’t previously recognize,” Koenig said.

Indium also has been found in the defunct copper mine that dominates the artsy southern Arizona town of Bisbee.

Koenig and his colleagues are working to understand the composition of all of the nation’s major deposits sampled over the past 150 years. In some cases, the mines were depleted of gold or copper, but the rocks left piled alongside mines and pits could hold a modern mother lode.

“We’re revisiting history,” he said.

They are compiling data from 2,500 samples to better understand whether it’s possible to predict where rare earths might be hiding based on the presence of other elements there, too.

“If I had to venture a number, I’d say we have found several dozen new locations that are elevated in one or more critical metals,” Koenig said. “With this project the goal would be to have this large data base available that would allow us to predict and to form new associations.”

Currently there is only one U.S. mine producing rare earths- at Mountain Pass in the Southern California desert. Molycorp Inc.’s goal in reopening the defunct mine is 20,000 metric tons of rare earth elements by this summer, including cerium oxide used to polish telescope lenses and other glass.

The USGS is counting on companies like Molycorp to use the information they’ve gleaned to uncover other easy-to-reach deposits sitting on federal land and elsewhere.

“Without rare earths we’d be back to having black-and-white cellphones again,” said the USGS’s Ridley.

From the AP, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.



UNTOUCHED TREASURE, REMAINS FROM ANCIENT SOUTH AMERICAN EMPIRE DISCOVERED

Archaeologists uncovered a 1,200-year-old “temple of the dead” burial chamber filled with precious gold and silver artifacts and the remains of 63 individuals in Peru.

The discovery is the first unlooted tomb of the ancient South American Wari civilization from 700 to 1,000 A.D.

“We are talking about the first unearthed royal imperial tomb,” University of Warsaw archaeologist Milosz Giersz told National Geographic.

Gold and silver jewelry, bronze axes and gold tools occupied the impressive tomb which consisted of an ancient ceremonial room with a stone throne and a mysterious chamber sealed with 30 tons of stone fill.

Intrigued, Giersz and his team continued to dig and found a large carved wooden mace.

“It was a tomb marker,” Giersz said. “And we knew then that we had the main mausoleum.”

As the archaeologists searched deeper, they found 60 human bodies buried in a seated position which were possibly victims of human sacrifice.

Nearby three bodies of Wari queens were also found along with inlaid gold and silver-ear ornaments, silver bowls, a rare alabaster drinking cup, cocoa leaf containers and brightly painted ceramics.

Gierzs and his team were stunned at their discovery, telling National Geographic they had never seen anything like it.

The Wari’s vast empire was built in the 8th and 9th centuries A.D., and spanned across most of Peru. Huari, their Andean capital was once one of the world’s greatest cities, populated with 40,000 people compared to Paris’ mere 25,000 at the time.

Wari artifacts have long been subject to looters who seek out their rich imperial palaces and shrines. Gierzs and his project co-director Roberto Pimentel Nita managed to keep their dig a secret for many months in order to protect the previously untouched burial chamber.

The temple of the dead project scientific advisor Krzysztof Makowski Hanula told National Geographic the temple of the dead “is like a pantheon, like a mausoleum of all the Wari nobility in the region.”

From FN, submitted by Marty Maher, Langlois, OR.



FRONTIER FORT FROM REVOLUTIONARY WAR FOUND IN GEORGIA

Less than two months after British forces captured Savannah in December 1778, patriot militia-men scored a rare Revolutionary War victory in Georgia after a short but violent gunbattle forced British loyalists to abandon a small fort built on a frontiersman’s cattle farm.

More than 234 years later, archaeologists say they’ve pinpointed the location of Carr’s Fort in northeastern Georgia after a search with metal detectors covering more than 4 square miles turned up musket balls and rifle parts as well as horse shoes and old frying pans.

The February 1779 shootout at Carr’s Fort turned back men sent to Wilkes County to recruit colonists loyal to the British army. It was also a prelude to the more prominent battle of Kettle Creek, where the same patriot fighters who attacked the fort went on to ambush and decimate an advancing British force of roughly 800 men.

The battles were a blow to British plans to make gains in Georgia, the last of the original 13 colonies, and other Southern settlements by bolstering their ranks with colonists sympathetic to the crown.

The war was going badly up north for the British, so they decided to have a southern campaign and shipped a huge amount of troops down here and started recruiting loyal followers,” said Dan Elliott, the Georgia-based archaeologist who found the fort with a team from the nonprofit research group, the LAMAR Institute. “Kettle Creek was probably the best victory that the Georgians ever had in the Revolutionary War. Most battles were failures like the capture of Savannah.”

Carr’s Fort, midway between Athens and Augusta, was one of numerous small outposts on the colonial frontier built for American settlers to defend themselves against enemy soldiers and hostile Indians.

Robert Carr was a cattle farmer who settled with his wife and children in Wilkes County after colonists started arriving there in 1773. Carr also served as captain of a militia company of roughly 100 men. Responsible for leading his militiamen and looking out for their families, Carr built a stockade wall to protect his farmhouse and surrounding property, which included shacks and crude shelters.

Though probably no larger in area than a tennis court, Carr’s Fort would have needed to hold 300 or more people, said Robert Scott Davis, a history professor at Wallace State Community College in Alabama who has studied and written about Wilkes County’s role in the American Revolution since the 1970s.

In February 1779, about 80 British loyalists marched into Carr’s Fort and took control, presumably while Carr and other patriot militiamen were away. Patriots responded quickly by sending 200 men from Georgia and South Carolina to retake the fort. Davis said the Feb. 10 gunbattle was short, with most of the shooting likely over within 20 minutes, but it left more than a dozen fighters dead or wounded on each side. Patriots gained the top floor of a nearby building and fired down into the fort. Innocent bystanders had to huddle under cover during the firefight.

From The Gaston Gazette, submitted by Warren Kimsey, Gastonia, NC.



MESSAGE FOUND IN BOTTLE AFTER 97 YEARS UNDERWATER GOES ON DISPLAY



A scuba diver looking for treasure in the St. Clair River near Detroit stumbled upon a different type of prize at the bottom of the river: a message in a bottle.

Dave Leander of the Great Lakes Dive Center told Detroit’s WJBK that the note had been buried for 97 years until he found it in the silt.

“I happened to see a piece of paper in there, and I could actually read the writing underwater,” Leander told WJBK.

This was last June. Now, the bottle is heading for a local museum on Harshens Island, MI, where it (and the note inside) will be on display.

So, what was on the note? A simple message from two young women who were at the Tashmoo amusement park on Harsens. The message read, “Having a great time at Tashmoo,” and was written by Stella Pramstaller and Tillie Esper.

Eric Schiebold, one of Esper’s 32 grandchildren, spoke to WJBK about the note and his memories of his grandmother.

“Here’s something that’s 100 years old in the bottom of the river, and how can that be related to me?” Schiebold said. “I remember her from the time I was a kid, but what about her life before? This is a fascinating story.”

While Leander’s find makes for an amazing story, it’s hardly the first time someone has discovered a message in a bottle. In 2010, for instance, a 10-year-old boy put a bottle with a message in it into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon. A year later, a girl in Hawaii found it washed up on the beach.

In 2010, a Florida teen named Corey Sweating tossed a message in a bottle into the Atlantic Ocean. Fast forward a year and a half, and the teen got a response from a boy and his father in Ireland, where his message had come ashore.

And then there’s the story of Dorothy and John Henry Peckham. In 1979, the couple threw a message into the Pacific while on a cruise. That message was found six years later by a Vietnamese man, Hoa Van Nguyen, while he was on a refugee boat off Thailand. They began writing to each other (via regular mail, which is much more efficient) and a friendship blossomed. Eventually, the Peckhams helped to sponsor Nguyen and his family’s immigration to the United States.

From FN, submitted by Lisa Lommasson, Pebble Beach, CA.















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