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Like the Viking ship, it may have become grounded or disabled in the shallow lake and had to be scuttled. The land is featureless except for the brown jags of mountains that squat on the horizon. Recounting the episode later, Botts said she and her husband saw the ship but couldn't reach it, so they vowed to return the following day, better prepared for a rugged hike. Archaeological evidence from old garbage dumps indicates changes in their diet, most likely due to changes in the climate. Waters (1983) suggests that the most recent Lake Cahuilla … He then told Petra he'd been exploring the mountains north of the border when, in a "narrow box canyon," he saw "a boat of ancient appearance—an open boat but big, with round metal disks on its sides." In 1933, she was hiking with her husband in the Anza-Borrego Desert, not far from the border with Mexico. He was on disability because of his knee when I met him, but that was about to end, and then he'd go back to selling mattresses, helping other people sleep better. According to Spanish records, in the year 1612, three ships were commissioned by the governor to be built in Acapulco and used to harvest pearls in the coastal waters of Mexico. Let us slink back to our cubicles and never speak of the desert ship again. In early December, there was another search, by another production company, using LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. If the Vikings did in fact climb up the ten miles westward from the ancient shoreline of Lake Cahuilla as it forged its way into the canyons of the Tierra Blancas and the final resting place of their fair and noble craft to the top of the mountains at or near Laguna Peak (because it was the highest peak along that section of the mountains) then continued west down the other side toward the Pacific, they would … He prefers to be called an "explorer of legends and lore," not a treasure hunter. Morlin Childers found evidence that a large vessel was sunk beneath the alkaline surface of Laguna Salada — a 37-mile long dry lake west of Mexicali … A few have even claimed to have seen the ship, its wooden remains poking through the sand like the skeleton of a prehistoric beast. Over breakfast at a diner in Indio, I asked Grasson what he would do if he discovered the ship. Some believe that one of Cardona's captains lost a ship full of black pearls in Cahuilla, but Grasson concluded this couldn't be because Cardona's book suggested his fleet consisted of frigates, which would have been unable to sail up the Colorado. This could be a reference to a Spanish ship. Though stories of adventure and lost treasure are often embellished and modified each time they’re repeated, there is always a kernel of truth in every story — and that’s especially true of these intriguing tales of the mysterious shipwrecks of the desert. The nearby U.S. border is a popular crossing for undocumented immigrants. A 16th-century Spanish ship seemed the most plausible to Dunning, but he discounted this as well, largely on the grounds of paleo-hydrology: Given the course and depth of the Colorado River, it could not have deposited a ship in some of its more popular mythological locations in the Colorado Desert. As the sea dried up, the hapless ship sank beneath the shifting dunes...The probable inspiration for the legend was a boat built in 1862 by a Colorado River mining company, transported part way across the desert by ox team, and then abandoned because of the difficulty of the journey from San Gorgonio Pass to the Colorado River. "The beauty with legend," he says, "is that you're never wrong.". Its waters came from the temperamental Colorado River, a history evidenced today by the ample deposits of fossilized fresh water mollusks in its dry lake bed. It is exactly what I'd expected him to say. But if the lake is allowed to disappear, maybe Grasson will discover the desert ship on what is today the lake's floor, and what was 147 years ago the moonlit valley above which Albert Evans stood. The story goes that a tidal bore pushed the small ship over the shallow delta in 1615, when Lake Cahuilla was so high that the whole area was underwater and the lake was contiguous with the Gulf. The leap Grasson wants to make is especially parlous. As in a good television mystery, there are clues everywhere. Some say this is legend; others insist it is fact. Two factors drove Grasson into the realm of obsession. We pulled off the highway, drove through town and toward a farmhouse shaded by a line of trees. Yet there are believers who insist that, using recent advances in archaeology, the ship can be found. Grasson isn't an archeologist, and is definitely not a paleo-hydrologist, though he understands how and where water has moved across the desert. As a result, floodwaters from the Colorado River rushed into the Salton Sink and created a flood that lasted two years before engineers could make repairs. The stretch of wash by the golf course is now closed so you need to follow the route in the hills. To enter the desert is to succumb to the unknowable. But these are not the things Grasson has chosen to do. The Map below is where it has said to been buried underneath the sand. But in Imperial, the search turned up nothing. (Grasson). About 10 years ago, one of his co-workers told Grasson he was too intense and needed a hobby. Yet never once did I hear him air any grievances. Like the Viking ship, it may have become grounded or disabled in the shallow lake and had to be scuttled. According to legend, in 1612, Juan De Iturbe was sailing his caravel full of pearls up the Gulf of Carolina, when a huge tidal swell washed him and his fortune into the then quickly drying lake of Cahuilla. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the deserts of California each year—Death Valley National Park alone attracts more than a million tourists. Imperial is a sad, low town eternally under a hot, low sun. They point, for example, to a wooden sloop from the 1770s unearthed during excavations at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan, or the more than 40 ships, dating back perhaps 800 years, discovered in the Black Sea earlier this year. It is located 6 miles south east of Old Town La Quinta and offers a delightful experience in the Coachella Valley. The book so entranced him that he eventually drove to the Arizona State University library in Tempe, asking to photocopy all of Bailey's notes for the book. His point was that knowledge can only take you so far. Myrtle Botts, the librarian who said she saw it, claimed it was buried by an earthquake. The Map below is where it has said to been buried underneath the sand. We stood for a moment, watching the white bird pass. Lake Cahuilla once covered a large portion of Imperial and Coachella valleys. There are date groves everywhere, disconcerting green rectangles carved out the desert, tattoos of our weird civilization. Those wildflowers were what brought the Bottses to the desert, and they ended up near a tiny settlement called Agua Caliente. This was once the property of Nels Jacobsen, the farmer who supposedly made fence with slats from a Viking ship. Legend states that somewhere in the Mojave desert there is a shipwreck with a huge cargo of gold. Such a ship then, would have to be much closer to the river's delta, in the armpit between Baja California and the Mexican mainland. The ship could easily have then run aground, because Cahuilla was created by the natural damming of the Colorado River (lots of silt) and thus given to periodic drying up. One morning, a prospector appeared in the couple's camp with news far more astonishing than a new species of desert flora: He'd found a ship lodged in the rocky face of Canebrake Canyon. The Mysterious Sunken Treasure of the Salton Sea (Swancer) Located in the barren, sun scorched desert of southern California is an enigmatic and somewhat unearthly sight; a lake sprawled out amidst the parched, baked earth, ringed by wind blasted ghost towns … It may be about a ship stranded in the desert. Few visitors to the Colorado Desert realize that at one time an extension of the Gulf of California reached northward nearly to San Gorgonio Pass and that marine waters lapped at the outskirts of present-day Palm Springs. Here there's some slight departures in the story. There, they established three separate settlements on the southwest coast, where they farmed, raised cattle and traded. I will say this in defense of John Grasson: If catfish farms are possible in the desert, so are ancient treasure ships. But many years ago, Lake Cahuilla was a place occupied by the Cahuilla, Kumeyaay and Cucapa tribes, who came there to catch fish, trap waterfowl, harvest salt for curing meat, gather tulles for building shelters, and collect mesquite beans, seeds and desert herbs. Ancient Lake Cahuilla once covered the Imperial and Coachella valleys. Death Valley Jim, who has written a dozen books about desert lore, agrees. We started out at La Quinta Cove and hiked along the ridge to Lake Cahuilla. "I know this is kind of weird, and a lot of people look at me like I'm nuts," he said on the Death Valley Jim Radio Program, the podcast where I first heard him talk. He is also driven by a slight sense of grievance, a conviction that academics are errant in their near-unanimous assertion that there is no desert ship. Such ground depression has been observed at the ancient lakes Lake Bonneville , Lake Lahontan , Lake Minchin , and the modern reservoirs of Lake Mead , Three Gorges Reservoir in China , and La Grande in Quebec . The State of California has vowed to invest $80.5 million to make sure the Salton Sea doesn't dry out, mostly because of toxic sediment that could blow all the way to Los Angeles. What was a ship doing out here, of all places? "He's got some facts, but the dates are all wrong, the places are wrong.". 1000 and 1600. Considerable evidence of their existence — including stone fish weirs, old campsites, firepits and artifacts — can still be found in places surrounding the ancient lake site. He had given himself to a greater faith and, like all devoted believers who do so, he could not be bothered by the petty inconveniences of everyday life. "All archeologists are wreck hunters," he told me. By the time they returned to examine the ship closer and take photographs, an earthquake had covered the area, and they could never find the location. This is what Grasson believes. The vessel was made of wood, and there was a serpentine figure carved into its prow. According to two witnesses, (off-roaders who’d seen the skeletal remains of the ship as recently as 1975), the shipwreck lies sixteen miles northwest of El Centro, in dunes on the southeastern edge of the Superstition Mountains. The oldest wreck period is from a … Grasson, who has a cheerful manner, walked me past winter bird tourists to the parking lot, where his 15-year-old Jeep Wrangler awaited. Those "round metal disks"—the superior comals Santiago promised his wife—suggest a Viking ship that would have sailed through the Northwest Passage, down the coast of Canada, around Baja California and up the Colorado River, which before a modern-day diversion flowed into the Gulf of California. "I was hooked full-bore," Grasson recalled. A moment later I realized it was a child's play structure wedged between two trees. Some legends, when proliferated for malicious purposes, need to be revealed as the conspiracy theories and fake news stories they are. But when he tried to lift the chest out it fell completely apart." His license plate is DEZERTMAG, because he was once editor of Dezert Magazine, which was the short-lived successor to The Desert Magazine, which was published from 1937 until 1985. Waters (1983) offers evidence of four intervals, while others have suggested a fifth event (Dominici 1987; Laylander 1991, 1994; Schaefer 1986, 1994). This indicates the waterline of Lake Cahuilla. The story goes that Iturbe beached the ship and hoofed it to the nearest Spanish settlement. Experts believe that the Colorado river flooded and created lake Cahuilla which soon flooded as well and connected the sea and the lake.-Mojave Desert Lost Ship We drove on an unmarked road to a striated formation of rock, a neat horizontal line dividing the cliff face into light and dark sections, as if it were an expertly layered ice-cream cake. That's my name. It was created in 1905, after engineering mistakes caused a levee break that turned the canals into rivers that fed the Alamo and New Rivers. Again, no desert ship. The Desert Magazine covered the mystery of the desert ship for the first time in 1939, when writer Charles C. Niehuis described a strange encounter he'd had with Jim Tucker in Prescott, Arizona. There are many tales speculating on the fate of the cargo of pearls, and the location and sightings of the ship. The lake is shrinking as it competes against coastal cities for dwindling water resources in a historic drought. Traveling to San Bernardino, Evans came into a valley that was "the grim and silent ghost of a dead sea," presumably Lake Cahuilla. "This is the desert, after all.". Today, it has become a brackish sewer where fish are dying because of the increased salinity and pollution caused by agricultural runoff and evaporation. Lake Cahuilla Veterans Regional Park is a beautiful 710-acre park set amid expansive lawns and picturesque mountain views, making it a spectacular day or overnight destination. "The moon threw a track of shimmering light," he wrote, directly upon "the wreck of a gallant ship, which may have gone down there centuries ago.". There are other legends of a lost pearl ship in the same region. The legend does seem, prima facie, bonkers: a craft loaded with untold riches, sailed by early-European explorers into a vast lake that once stretched over much of inland Southern California, then run aground, abandoned by its crew and covered over by centuries of sand and rock and creosote bush as that lake dried out…and now it lies a few feet below the surface, in sight of the chicken-wire fence at the back of the Desert Dunes motel, $58 a night and HBO in most rooms. The Lost Ship of the Desert is the subject of legends about various historical maritime vessels having supposedly become stranded and subsequently lost in the deserts of the American Southwest, most commonly in California's Colorado Desert. He also says that, during his trip to Los Angeles, Jacobsen met with a lawyer named Levi and a pawnbroker named Barney, presumably to trade some of the treasure he'd found. Today, the Salton Sea is the largest body of water in California. The Salton Sea, California's largest lake, may soon become a desert playground. For millions of years, the waters of the Colorado River cut deeper and deeper into the Grand Canyon and then flowed into the Sea of Cortez, carrying tons of silt and creating a huge river delta. In the rugged Colorado Desert of California, there lies buried a treasure ship sailed there hundreds of years ago by either Viking or Spanish explorers. His quote, stripped of context, is frequently found on college-dorm posters, because it seems to say that the pleasurable work of dreaming is more important than than the grinding work of accumulating and mastering fact. The shoreline extent of Lake Cahuilla is not known, making the exact location of the shipwreck rather nebulous. This would explain why sightings of the desert ship began in the 1870s, by which time the abandoned boat, exposed to the elements, would have come to look like an ancient vessel. Promising leads have vanished like a cactus mouse in the undergrowth. Most of the hunting that goes on here has nothing to do with Spanish galleons or Viking longboats. In it, he claims, Carver describes an incident in 1907, when he was invited to work on the farm of Niles Jacobsen in Imperial, a town about 15 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. The desert ship is buoyed by legend, but scuttled by facts. Grasson is convinced his ship is buried on a farm near the sad, parched town of Imperial, but won’t say more because he doesn’t want the area to be overrun by “a bunch of idiots wrecking private property.”, while working on a story about desert conservation, Meet Death Valley Jim, California Desert's Best Hope, WWII-Era Tunnel Unearths Story of Lithuania's Jews, The 'Hole' is 12 Feet Below Street Level and About A Century Behind the Rest of New York, Camel Hair Was the Glamour Garment of the 1930s, Rikers Island Guard Guilty in Beating Death of Prisoner, New Bridge Reveals How Little South Africa Has Changed, How Endangered Species May Fare Under Trump, Extinct Tasmanian Tiger Was Smarter Than We Thought, Why Trump Won't Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel, Inside the War Between Trump and the Media, Trump is Standing on the Wrong Side of History, Beijing Is Becoming the Global Champion of Free Trade, he said on the Death Valley Jim Radio Program. For one, there's no primary-source record of a ship getting stuck in the Colorado Desert. "Could a ship pass through here? Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. These overflows happened when the Colorado River silted up its normal path to … To get to Imperial, you skirt the western edge of the Salton Sea and head through the unnaturally fertile Imperial Valley. Most-often buried under the sand, the vessel has remained there for over four hundred years. "[Their] science basically started with a treasure hunter looking for gold." When knowledge is sparse, he has to let his imagination do the work. This may be foolish, for there are surely more productive ways Grasson could spend his time. It stayed for a long time and the bird’s wings fell off and the sand covered it up.” Other accounts describe how Charlie Clusker, a prospector, found and lost the ship near the mouth of San Felipe Creek, and how Nels Jacobson, an El Centro farmer, found the shipwreck and some treasure, and used the old timber to build a pig shed. It was a hint, though also a taunt. Tucker's wife was a Mexican woman named Petra, whose previous husband was a man named Santiago, "a high class Mexican from Los Angeles." Bailey might not have many more facts than Grasson, but he has does have the force of conviction, annealed by the passage of time. The last leap has to be into something beyond fact. THE STORY OF ANCIENT LAKE CAHUILLA. Grasson isn't denigrating professional archeology; only reminding its more pedigreed practitioners that their profession rewards a well-developed imagination—something it shares with astrophysics and pure mathematics but few other disciplines. Grasson does not think the desert ship is in Canebrake Canyon, where Myrtle Botts claimed to have seen it in 1933. It is enough for Grasson to live inside the legend, the way a believer lives inside a religion, never questioning its outer bounds. But this is nothing new for this vast desert sink that was once covered by Lake Cahuilla, a huge body of water five times larger than the Salton Sea. Many parts of the California desert are now patchworks of green, unnaturally fertile land that is a reminder that long ago, there was much more water here, including the vast but now barren Lake Cahuilia. After his discharge, he went to Los Angeles in 1985, hoping to become a comedian. A stunning 710-acre park situated at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains. In 2003, the Los Angeles Times concluded there were plenty of craft lost to the saline depths of the Salton Sea, but these belonged to the U.S. Navy, which had a test site nearby. The largest was in about 1500, when Lake Cahuilla (as it was then called) was 26 times the size of today's Salton Sea, and its shoreline is still visible on the surrounding hillsides. However, the government is making plans to restore the Salton Sea. Jacobsen used a sifter to retrieve the spilled jewels. Grasson has never met anyone who'd seen the ship, and all the evidence he has of its existence is third-hand, at best. With one ship remaining they sailed up the Gulf and eventually up the Colorado River and into the Salton Sea (or the Blake Sea or Lake Cahuilla as it may have been called long ago). The desert is a changeable place, but not so changeable that an entire ship can disappear from view overnight. Given the podcast's name, and the pleasure its host takes in debunking popular legends (Hitler escaped the fall of Berlin, the moon landing was faked), it is not surprising Dunning took apart the desert ship plank by plank. 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Of the stagecoach stops on the desert floor, where Myrtle Botts claimed it was a 's! All. `` was once the property, Carver noticed that the fence posts were oddly shaped this... Only goal highway, drove through town and toward a farmhouse shaded by farmhand.

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