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Buried Treasure


Norman Island is the most intriguing of the Virgin Islands and was once also known as Norman’s Retreat, Normand’s Island, Liberty Island, and Robert Louis Stevenson called it Treasure Island.

Also known as Treasure Island

In 1747, the island’s namesake, Norman, was a part owner of Anegada and made his living stripping shipwrecks that blundered onto Horseshoe Reef. The unsavory character of Norman’s protégés in the salvage business made an island retreat advisable as, at any time, the local brigands might attempt to wrest his ill-gotten gains through violence and chicanery.

The story and legend of buried treasure on Norman Island was based on facts that were widely publicized throughout the English-speaking world.

As the story unfolds, in 1750 the treasure galleon, NUESTRA SEÑORA DE GUADALUPE dropped the hook at Okracoke, North Carolina, to seek refuge from a horrific storm. The GUADALUPE had loaded tons of silver in Vera Cruz and at Havana, joined a fleet sailing for mother Spain. Unfortunately, the GUADALUPE was severely damaged by the gale-driven seas so the silver bars and specie were off-loaded into the local Customs House for safe keeping while other shipping arrangements could be made. However, a raid on the customs house by a mob of drunken Englishmen nearly succeeded and the hapless Captain Bonilla moved the treasure back aboard the ill-found GUADALUPE.

Two English bilanders—a kind of doubleended brigantine—sailed into port and Bonilla arranged to hire them to complete the voyage to Spain. The treasure was transferred to the bilanders, but while Bonilla was in Cape Fear settling some trumped up taxation issues, the English crews absconded with the silver and sailed away. One of the bilanders didn’t make it past the barrier reef before grounding but the other escaped and soon disappeared over the horizon. The skipper of the successful escapee, Owen Lloyd, was a competent sailor and navigator. He was familiar with the Virgin Islands and considered Norman Island to be a perfect backwater for splitting the booty. Three weeks later, after a pleasant beam reach, Lloyd arrived at The Bight.

The cargo manifest read as follows:
55 chests silver dollars
3 large chests plate and wrought silver
200 pounds cochineal (the dried body of a Mexican insect that produces a bright red dye).

There also were stores of indigo, tobacco, and hides. Together the take was worth well above $200,000, a fortune of millions at today’s currency values.

After burying more than forty chests of coins, bars and plate on Norman, Owen Lloyd and most of the crew sailed to St. Thomas to clear customs planning to return to reclaim the treasure. Not being particularly bright, he left three crewmembers behind to guard the silver. But the guards, being even less intelligent, were discovered by some Tortolans in flagrante delicto burying treasure. Soon the story of the buried silver was common knowledge on Tortola and the good citizens of the island descended on The Bight and began digging holes in Norman Island.

After the dust had settled and the pirates captured, only $20,000 worth of treasure was accounted for. Owen Lloyd, though jailed on St. Eustatia, surfaced some years later as a successful businessman on St. Thomas. Where he got his investment capital is a subject of conjecture. Over the two-and-a-half centuries since the incident, many efforts have been mounted to recover the remaining treasure. In the 18th Century, the Norman Island Treasure Company was formed and its activities were the basis for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Before the turn of the 20th Century the island was bought to serve as a coaling station at which time the owner renamed the island, Liberty Island. Norman was eventually restored as the island’s name and as late as 1910, a chest of silver coins was uncovered in the southern-most cave on what is now called Treasure Point.

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THere is much more to this story than can be imagined. After nine years of research by a team of international investigators the real story can now be told. Visit www.treasureislandtheuntoldstory.com
(Editor: The link goes to a book promotion that appears to be a legitimate effort by this individual to research Treasure Island.
Here is one review from Mr. Amrhein's site:
Treasure Island: The Untold Story is a well written, thoroughly researched, unbiased tale of intrigue, treachery, passion, love, and real-life decisions. The history is well presented and the accompanying photographs, documents, and prints let the reader go back to the past and relive this great sea adventure. I can truly say that this the best book I have ever read about pirates! Read it and you will relive it!”
—Charles George, Wreck Diving Magazine
)

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