I like to consider myself an adventurous soul but there are some things I just prefer not to do. These days, hunting for treasure in a foreign country is one of those things I don’t think I would do unless of course it was Canada!
For those of you that don’t mind getting chased by the banditos or jailed by a government once you find something, you might find this article interesting. I would like to thank our good friend Homer for sending me the initial information for this article.
About thirty-five miles northeast of Bogota, Columbia lies a circular lake thought to have been a crater from a meteor strike. The area surrounding the lake was, and parts still are, the sacred lands of the Muisca. The Muisca of South America are consider to be the source of the legend of El Dorado or “the golden man“.
The lake, Laguna De Guatavita, was considered to be sacred and the Chief of the Muiscas made a ritual offering to the Lake Goddess on an annual basis. “Zipa” as the chief was called, would cover his body with gold dust, get on a ceremonial raft and paddle out to the middle of the lake. Once there Zipa would dive into the water and wash off all of the gold dust. Once he was clean, other worshipers from the tribe would toss in gold trinkets and jewels to make the lake goddess happy. And lets face it, what woman wouldn’t be happy with golden trinkets, jewels and a bunch of gold dust?
Sounds kind of hokey, doesn’t it? Well as hokey as it sounds it is a true story. Back in 1545 the Spaniards decided they would drain the lake and collect the jewels and gold. Lázaro Fonte and Hernán Perez de Quesada set up a bucket brigade to try to drain the lake of it’s water. They spent three months dipping water form the lake and were able to drop the water level about nine feet. This allowed them to recover about forty pounds of golden trinkets but the rest was still unattainable. I don’t know that a bucket brigade would have been the way I would have gone but I guess if nothing else, the Spaniards were tenacious!
In 1580 the Spaniards tried again, this time by cutting a notch into the rim of the lake. This allowed the water levels to drop about 60 feet where the Spaniards recovered even more treasure. Apparently none of these Spaniards had any engineering experience because very shortly after dropping the water level the notch in the rim of the lake collapsed, killing several people and ending this attempt to get the gold.
Jump forward a few hundred years to 1898 when an English company that was formed explicitly for the purpose of recovering the gold in the bottom of the lake decided they would try to drain the lake of all of it‘s water. This company dug a tunnel under the lake and to the center which allowed all of the water to drain out. This turned out to be a mistake back then because once the water was gone they were left with mud and slime more than four feet deep. They couldn’t explore the lake bed until this dried up.
Once the lake bed dried up they were left with another problem. It seems that the mixture of slime and mud was just the right consistency that when it dried, it was as hard as concrete! The company did manage to recover a small amount of gold and jewels but it was valued at only around $800.00. The company filed for bankruptcy and never returned to the lake.
So you see, treasures do exist, they just aren’t easy to find!!
The lake is once more full of water and the Columbian government refuses to let anyone else try to drain the lake. It would seem that if you were a skilled scuba diver with the right equipment a fortune may sit at the bottom of this lake if you don’t mind risking your life to get it. I have never been to Columbia but from what I have read it doesn’t seem like it is too American friendly right now. I can’t imagine what it would be like if you came back to shore with a boat load of gold, you might just join the gold dust at the bottom of the lake!