The Hunt For Oliver La Vasseur’s Lost Pirate Treasure

By Aaron Short on Tuesday, November 5, 2013
vintage compass with chain on a map
“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire. ” —L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz

In A Nutshell

Three hundred years ago, a pirate named Oliver Le Vasseur who was about to be hanged threw a coded parchment into a crowd and dared those assembled to find his buried treasure. Allegedly, the parchment contained the location of a haul of gems, gold, and relics worth $200 million by today’s standard. For the last 100 years, people have been have been trying to decode the map and locate that treasure.

The Whole Bushel

Olivier Le Vasseur was a French pirate nicknamed “The Buzzard.” In 1730, he boarded a Portuguese vessel that was laden with gems, rubies, gold, and expensive religious relics such as a giant, diamond-encrusted crucifix. The vessel was undergoing repairs at the time and, caught unawares, it was quickly ransacked. The Buzzard’s crew spent their share on rum and women or were quickly captured, but The Buzzard himself escaped for a while, giving him just enough time to hide the bulk of the loot. Eventually, he was tricked, captured, and ended up swinging from a rope like the rest of his crew. However, his treasure, estimated at around $200 million by today’s standard, was never recovered. And just before he was hanged, he threw the only existing clue to its location, a coded parchment, into the crowd and shouted “My treasure for he who understands!” The parchment quickly disappeared and, with the Buzzard dead, it looked like his treasure would never be found.

Then, 200 years later, it surfaced in the hands of a Seychelles resident who traveled to France and had it authenticated by the national library in Paris. It was indeed real. But it was a cryptographic code with 17 lines of characters and no cypher, making it very difficult to decipher. In the 1940s, it was procured by an ex-British-military big-game hunter. Reginald Cruise-Wilkins searched for 27 years and, although he didn’t actually find the treasure, did have some luck. The code was complicated but being an ex–World War II code breaker Reginald was able to decipher enough to realize that it contained complex riddles pertaining to the challenges of Hercules. For example, one phrase when decoded read “Let Jason be your guide and the third circle will be open to you.” From this and other tidbits, he learned that the treasure was most likely in an underwater cavern protected by large stone slabs.

He even managed to find pirate skeletons, one with a gold earring, a coin that may have come from La Vasseur’s haul and other trinkets related to La Vasseur. To this day, John Cruise-Wilkins (Reginald’s son), continues to search Seychelles for the treasure. He even has competition in a retired USAF instructor. Both believe that they’re very close to finding the treasure, and neither has any intention of giving up any time soon . . . 

Show Me The Proof

The Telegraph: Seychellois man tormented by treasure hunt
Smithsonian: Treasure Quest
Seychelles, Paul Tingay