The SS Islander…


3e

November 2020
by dal

 

The SS Islander Treasure Hunt

In 1996 Crayton Fenn (Forrest’s nephew and Skippy’s son) and his then business partner, Bob Mester were planning a trip to find the gold laden bow of the SS Islander off the southern tip of Douglas Island in Alaska. The search team consisted of five folks. I was lucky to be one of them.

But let’s start at the beginning-

5

The S.S. Islander

In August of 1901 the Islander was making its last run for the year between the entrance to the Yukon Gold fields at Skagway and points south down to Canada and the mainland USA.

1

Skagway Alaska

At the beginning of the 20th century the Yukon Gold rush was in its prime and Skagway was the portal from which all gold prospectors started toward the goldfields.

2

Prospectors heading to the Yukon Gold Fields during the “rush”.

By mid August many of the men wanted to take their findings and head to a secure bank and good hotel. No one wanted to spend the winter trying to stay unfrozen and fed in the Yukon. Prospectors would typically abandon their claims for the winter and head down to Victoria, Seattle or San Francisco til they could return the following spring.The inland passage along Alaska’s coast was the only exit route from Skagway and the Islander was the best of the fleet of passenger vessels plying those waters. Even though it was mid August it would not be long before the passage was thick with ice and everyone would be stuck in Alaska til spring.

8e

Many of those boarding the islander had been successful in the goldfields and were traveling with heavy bags and suitcases weighed down with freshly unearthed gold nuggets and sparkly panned dust. Additionally, the ship was transporting two shipments of gold ingots, one for the Bank of Canada in Victoria and another shipment bound for the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. Mounties were on the vessel to guard the gold and keep the peace. The atmosphere on board was said to be celebratory and joyful…but that mood would not last for very long.

4

In the early dark morning of August 15th the 240ft ship was plying the deep, cold waters between Admiralty Island and Douglas Island, a few miles out of Juneau. A route it had sailed dozens of times before, under the watchful command of Captain Foote. But that particular morning an uncharted, deadly iceberg from Taku Inlet was about to silently cross the Islander’s dark path. There was no avoiding a deadly meeting. The resulting jolt was staggering, waking everyone on board. The damage severe. Their boat was taking on water and sinking fast.

Immediately after the ramming Captain Foote turned the Islander toward Douglas Island and gave the engines full forward steam in a futile attempt to get his sinking ship as close as possible to land. But the distance was too far, the breach from the ramming too large and the islander sank in a matter of minutes about a quarter of a mile off shore. Sixty or more passengers lost their lives. Some went down with the ship. Others were sucked under while trying to swim away. It was later repeated that some passengers, unwilling to leave their gold behind, jumped from the ship, suitcases in hand, never to be seen again. Gold fever does horrible things to people. 

11

Based on the ships manifest it was determined that millions and millions of dollars in gold went to the dark bottom along with more than 60 passengers and crew.

A small contingent of about 20 made it to shore on makeshift rafts and walked all night to Juneau to report the terrible disaster and recover from their ordeal. Everyone on board lost all their gold and belongings inside the sunken hull of the Islander.

The exact location of  the ill-fated Islander and her gold was not known. It was dark. Navigation was by the stars. Currents were strong. The crew could only guess the approximate location of where she sank.

But with millions of dollars in gold known to be inside the Islander, interest in recovery was keen. Many tried. Many failed. After a few years the shipwreck’s position on the bottom was discovered. But the depth, the swift currents, the significant tides and the lack of technology stopped every salvage attempt. The Islander rested…untouched…taunting and luring would be salvers… for over three decades before someone finally came up with a workable plan on how to salvage the Islander and get the gold.

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In 1934 a house moving company out of Seattle planned on using barges, cables and Alaska’s dramatic tides to move the islander to the beach where the gold could be easily and comfortably removed. Their plan was brilliant in its simplicity.

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Two barges were positioned over the top of the Islanders hull. Cables attached to powerful winches would be dragged under the shipwreck to form a cradle. They would wait for low tide and cinch the cables tight. Then, wait for high tide to lift the barges and the Islander off the seafloor. They would then make a run toward Admiralty Island. Stopping only when the Islander again grounded in shallower water. Wait for low tide…again cinch the cables tight and await high tide when they would again run toward shore…repeat, repeat, repeat…twice every day with the rhythm of the giant tides until they could set the islander flat on the beach. Execution of their plan took over two years to accomplish. Sometimes they were only able to move the Islander a few feet before grounding…sometimes hundreds of feet…

In 1936 the Islander hull finally rested on the beach of Admiralty Island….fully exposed…open for inspection and salvage…

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You can see that the Islander’s bow has broken completely off in the photo

But there was a problem. The bow was missing from the hull. It had evidently fallen off when weakened by the cables while lifting…and guess where the gold had been stored…

The moving company claimed only one leather pouch of gold dust found in a restroom…gross gain $50,000. Not even enough to cover food expenses for their crew for two years.

In 1996, sixty years after the hull had been dragged to the beach, the precise location of the bow was still unknown…It was presumed to be resting on the bottom in over 350 ft of water, somewhere between Douglas and Admiralty Island…Further, the story of the Islander, it’s tragic wreck and the millions of dollars in gold had all but been forgotten. There had been wars and Statehood, earthquakes and Soviet threats…distractions from the Islander treasure. Search and salvage technology had advanced significantly. But no one had located the Islander’s bow.

That’s when Crayton and crew decided to gear up…

Crayton’s plan involved advanced side-scan sonar to search the bottom for the bow and once located, using an ROV around the bow to photograph it for our claim that would be sent to the Maritime Courts. Treasure hunting involves guts, skill, luck, research, financing and a few lawyers.

munson

We hired a shallow draft workboat not unlike this Munson Boat out of Petersburg, AK. And moved it up to our worksite. Our gear was shipped up from Seattle.

sss

I can’t remember how many days we were out surveying that bottom but it was more than a few. Side-scan sonar is rather tedious work. You plug along at just a few knots per hour towing gear behind you trying to keep the gear at a constant speed, direction and elevation off the bottom. These days electronics do all the computation and keep the gear in place but in ’96 it was all manually operated from a winch operator on board the boat who was informed by the side-scan operator whether to go up or down on the gear. The gear consists of a towfish that emits sound signals toward the bottom and that signal then returns to the gear and is measured, That “echo” signal is used to draw a picture of what’s on the bottom. Hard things reflect the sound differently than soft things…tall things send back a different signal than things that are short…

On board the vessel the operator is looking at the read-out from the sonar and interpreting what he sees. If you’ve ever had to look at a pregnancy sonogram and try to figure out what the heck you were looking at…it’s kinda like that…to most of us, a side-scan read-out is just a weird picture…but to an expert…it’s clear and easy to see a baby…or in our case an anchor, a cable, a fish, a shipwreck…a bow.

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Side Scan Sonar image showing the bow of the Islander resting on the sea bottom.

Soon after finding the disconnected bow and anchoring over it we deployed the ROV to take pictures. 

In order to claim a found wreck you have to prove that you found it, typically with photos or video. You have to identify it, provide it’s precise location and you have to demonstrate that you are capable of salvaging it.

So after we had photos, the claim was filed in Alaska Maritime Courts and then we went home and waited…

Of course the problem with all this is that your claim is a public record…so anyone can see it. Your claim not only has photos of the wreck but also it’s precise geographic location…so anyone who wants too can now head over to your wreck.You’ve done all the work to find it but any thief or pirate not concerned about a few trespassing laws can head over there under cover of darkness and grab whatever they want…

In the case of the bow of the Islander we were not terribly concerned about pirates stealing anything because the bow was too deep to easily poach…On the other hand it’s not exactly a populated place and a lot of work can be done under cover of darkness in a remote location…We fretted. But as it turned out…piracy would not be our issue…

The courts were a much more substantial problem for us…

Soon after our claim was filed another salvage outfit challenged our claim. They purported to represent the company that insured the Islander in 1901. The insurance company had paid out…I have no idea how much…nor do I know if it was just hull insurance or if they also made good on the gold that was lost…They also claimed that they had never “abandoned” the Islander…or its bow and it was rightfully theirs. The courts upheld their claim…denied ours.

deniedIt took years to get through the legal system but eventually we lost the battle…and the Islander. I don’t even think we got a thank you for finding it.

A few years ago the folks that won finally got round to salvaging the bow…and this little snippet will explain the rest…

fgy

Well….not “all the rest”…because I cannot help but note that the Islander was supposed to be transporting some $63 million in gold that day in 1901…yet the salvage company…only reported $1million…

What happened to the rest?

Crayton’s projects were full of interesting mysteries…and interesting characters…

Treasure hunting is always an iffy financial proposition but the fun is never iffy…

-dal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boy Scouts Face Widespread Accusations of Child Molestation…

boy scout giving sign th anniversary scouts serie circa moscow russia february stamp printed united states shows 144560910
November 15, 2020
by dal

 

I am terribly disheartened and even confused by the mountain of abuse claims filed against the BSA in recent months.

The Scout organization that I became intimate with was an organization whose adult management I witnessed at the very basic troop level… The Scoutmasters and adult assistants who coached and guided neighborhood kids through our troublesome adolescent years and propelled us toward adulthood. They were the adults that I connected with on a weekly basis at Scout meetings and through merit badge quests, camporees and fund raising events.

I was in Scouting from age 12 through 18. From Boy Scouts to Explorers to Order of the Arrow to camp counselor. I was surrounded by male adults who taught me basic skills from camp craft to first aid, and introduced me to concepts like social responsibility, fellowship and leadership. Scouts allowed me to grow socially and glow in the rewards of personal achievement. In hind site I suspect I was involved in Scouting during its final period of widespread acceptance and popularity in Detroit…from 1960 through 1966. By the time the 70s rolled into view “Scouting” and it’s quasi-military structure was facing widespread popular disinterest.

For me though, Scouting was a way of life that I adored and that I flourished within. My deep appreciation for Scouting now rests firmly on the broad shoulders of the men who guided me through some precarious adolescent times. Let me recite the names that I can still remember…all prefaced by the title, Mr..
Davis
Moger
Shippling
Ketchman
Rusczyk
Sleath
Near

Unfortunately…and to my own shortcomings…I cannot remember the names of others. But their faces, laughter, encouragement and most important, fellowship, linger in my dysfunctional memory and conjure up a warm sense of gratitude. There was never a hint of sexual innuendo, nefarious behavior or questionable conduct by any of them or any other Scouting adults that I came in contact with…never!

These men were all WWII veterans. Every one…Born in the 1920’s, they were circling 40 when I came under their influence. Their knowledge, experience and interests were vast compared to my own. They could certainly be task masters when required but always accompanied by empathy and flexibility. They were also role models, influencers, instructors and most important…leaders. There were no “bad seeds” among them. That I am aware of, none were drunks or criminals. Their code of conduct was guided by their own moral compass and encouraged by the Scouting organization. They were exemplary.

I think you can see from my experience why all of the recent allegations against Scouting’s adult leaders is so disheartening to me. My own experience was far from loathsome. My Scouting years were lively, safe and adventurous and what I am today, some 60 years after my first Scouting adventure is certainly owed to the leadership and integrity of those terrific scoutmasters who I hold in the highest regard. Bless them all…and thank you Scouting for six years of fun and guidance that opened hidden doors into a life of adventure and exploration.

-dal

 

 

 

 

The Last Roundup…

fishingbSeptember 5, 2020
by Cynthia

 

Cynthia reported from Yellowstone today:
Each event has been awesome. 31 people on FB for the photo and 80 + people at today’s Picnic in the park. I’m so tired!!!!!!
-Cynthia

 

First was the Picnic in the Park held at West Yellowstone’s Pioneer Park.

09 05 2020 Party in the Park forthe Forrest Fenn Finale 1 of 1

Party in the Park forthe Forrest Fenn Finale!

 

Then came the Fishing Bridge photo

09 05 2020 Fishing Bridge Group Photo 1 of 1

Group Photo on Fishing Bridge for Forrest Fenn Finale!

 

Finally a round of drinks at Bullwinkles in West Yellowstone for the gang…Forrest bought the round!

09 04 2020 Forrest Fenn Finale 1 of 1

Forrest Fenn Finale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CHEST HAS BEEN FOUND!!!!…part eighteen

chestbb

SUBMITTED June 6th, 2020
by Forrest

 

The treasure has been found

It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.

I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. 

So the search is over. Look for more information and photos in the coming days. f

 


UPDATED June 16th, 2020
by Forrest

 

The treasure chest was found by a man I did not know and had not communicated with since 2018.

image003

Photo of the chest taken not long after it was discovered.

image004


The bracelet on my arm was wet when found. The silver tarnished black.

Treasure Photo

Removing objects from the chest. It is darker than it was ten years ago when I left it on the ground and walked away.

The finder wants me to remain silent and I always said the finder gets to make those two calls. Who and where. f


Updated July 22nd, 2020
by Forrest

 

Many of the searchers for my treasure had solves that seemed to neatly fit the clues in my poem. Then when the finder found and retrieved the treasure, other searchers wondered how close they had been to the right spot. Because I promised the finder I would not reveal who found it or where, I have remained mostly silent.

However, the finder understands how important some closure is for many searchers, so today he agreed that we should reveal that the treasure was found in Wyoming. Until he found the treasure, the treasure had not moved in the 10 years since I left it there on the ground, and walked away.

Perhaps today’s announcement will bring some closure to those whose solves were in New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana.

To all of those who did not find the treasure, we hope that you got some enjoyment from the chase. f


 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy 90th Forrest……


Forrest Fenn will be celebrating his 90th birthday on Saturday August 22…

Thanks for being here Forrest. I am in awe of your accomplishments and sincerely appreciate your treasure hunt…it provoked friendships and has provided adventure and joy for hundreds of thousands of searchers…including me!!

Birthday wishes from your friends below:

 

 

 

 

THE CHEST HAS BEEN FOUND!!!!…part seventeen

chestbb

SUBMITTED June 6th, 2020
by Forrest

 

The treasure has been found

It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.

I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. 

So the search is over. Look for more information and photos in the coming days. f

 


UPDATED June 16th, 2020
by Forrest

 

The treasure chest was found by a man I did not know and had not communicated with since 2018.

image003

Photo of the chest taken not long after it was discovered.

image004


The bracelet on my arm was wet when found. The silver tarnished black.

Treasure Photo

Removing objects from the chest. It is darker than it was ten years ago when I left it on the ground and walked away.

The finder wants me to remain silent and I always said the finder gets to make those two calls. Who and where. f


Updated July 22nd, 2020
by Forrest

 

Many of the searchers for my treasure had solves that seemed to neatly fit the clues in my poem. Then when the finder found and retrieved the treasure, other searchers wondered how close they had been to the right spot. Because I promised the finder I would not reveal who found it or where, I have remained mostly silent.

However, the finder understands how important some closure is for many searchers, so today he agreed that we should reveal that the treasure was found in Wyoming. Until he found the treasure, the treasure had not moved in the 10 years since I left it there on the ground, and walked away.

Perhaps today’s announcement will bring some closure to those whose solves were in New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana.

To all of those who did not find the treasure, we hope that you got some enjoyment from the chase. f


 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Page XXI…

green

The chase certainly has inspired some great poetry…

Here is page xx for poetry about the chase, Forrest or any other Thrill of the Chase related topic.

If you would like to peruse the  verse on the first page of poetry click HERE.

Second page is HERE

Third page is HERE

Fourth page is HERE

Fifth Page is HERE

Sixth Page is HERE

Seventh Page is HERE

Eighth Page is HERE

Ninth Page is HERE

Tenth Page is HERE

Eleventh Page is HERE

Twelfth Page is HERE

Thirteenth Page is HERE

Fourteenth Page is HERE

Fifteenth Page is HERE

Sixteenth Page is HERE

Seventeenth Page is HERE

Eighteenth Page is HERE

Nineteenth Page is HERE

Twentieth Page is HERE

Thanks

dal…

Where in WY?…


JULY 2020
by dal

 

Where in Wyoming do you think the chest was hidden?

WY

Click on map to see it larger

Don’t get into the weeds here. Keep your response simple. The goal is to determine which part of WY is the most popular guess for where the chest was located…

Simple answers on this page are best…no solutions…no details…just a simple geographic description of the neighborhood…

For instance, you might say:

Near the Madison River in Yellowstone Nat’l Park
or
Along the Green River south of Rock Springs
or
Near Moose outside of Teton Nat’l Park

 

Please don’t use locations outside WY.

-dal

 

 

 

 

THE CHEST HAS BEEN FOUND!!!!…part sixteen

chestbb

SUBMITTED June 6th, 2020
by Forrest

 

The treasure has been found

It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.

I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. 

So the search is over. Look for more information and photos in the coming days. f

 


UPDATED June 16th, 2020
by Forrest

 

The treasure chest was found by a man I did not know and had not communicated with since 2018.

image003

Photo of the chest taken not long after it was discovered.

image004


The bracelet on my arm was wet when found. The silver tarnished black.

Treasure Photo

Removing objects from the chest. It is darker than it was ten years ago when I left it on the ground and walked away.

The finder wants me to remain silent and I always said the finder gets to make those two calls. Who and where. f


Updated July 22nd, 2020
by Forrest

 

Many of the searchers for my treasure had solves that seemed to neatly fit the clues in my poem. Then when the finder found and retrieved the treasure, other searchers wondered how close they had been to the right spot. Because I promised the finder I would not reveal who found it or where, I have remained mostly silent.

However, the finder understands how important some closure is for many searchers, so today he agreed that we should reveal that the treasure was found in Wyoming. Until he found the treasure, the treasure had not moved in the 10 years since I left it there on the ground, and walked away.

Perhaps today’s announcement will bring some closure to those whose solves were in New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana.

To all of those who did not find the treasure, we hope that you got some enjoyment from the chase. f