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Expedition Unknown – The Japanese Atlantis – S02E09

imageWe should all be familiar with the legendary city of Atlantis, with high society and technology that mysteriously disappeared into the ocean. But what if that story was real? It may exist in Japan where Josh investigates what appears to be man made structures including stairs, an altar, grooves for drainage and a carved stone face that have slipped into the ocean.

Many claim this is man made from a defunct civilization while other say they are bizarre, but naturally occurring. Which one is correct?

The city is known as the Yonaguni ruins, huge rock formations, structures and what looks like an obelisk that most likely broke off during earthquakes and plate shifts. There are 118 active volcanoes in Japan, so it’s certainly possible that a settlement was built too close to the shore and met with an unexpected fate.

Josh meets with the man who first discovered the ruins and goes down to have a look. Sure enough, it looks like there are stairs cut at right angles, a terrace and drainage lines. It’s shockingly impressive, then Josh finds what looks like a carved stone face, complete with eyes, nose and mouth. From that alone, this looks to be man made.

Back on the surface, Josh looks for other structures of similar composition and architecture. He finds tombs made in a similar way with the same type of steps. He winds up finding a man who takes him to see another carved stone face. It looks remarkably close to the one under water. The people of the area believe this is a totem and had ceremonial meaning.

To further support the idea that Yonaguni is a lost city, Josh heads to Okinawa to meet professor Kimora who believes the city was built on the shore and then sank due to earthquakes. The angles used and the cutting style were used by later cultures.

But he needs to find out why this isn’t considered a man made heads to Osaka. In the lab he is shown that the angles used for the stairs and other parts of the city can be made by the force of the ocean. Sandstone, can shear off to form steps and other man made looking shapes. The professor shows Josh an example of what he means and believes that volcanic activity, plate shifts and the force of the current have made an incredible, but natural phenomenon.

It’s then time to try a little science. Josh takes the photos he took of the under water carved face and the stone carved face on the island and creates a 3D rendering. With the debris all cleared away it gives a better idea that while the stones have features we want to identify as a face, they do not appear to have been made by tools. And when compared side by side and even overlayed, they do not have many similar characteristics, as in not made by the same group and most likely not man made at all.

So what do we have? At first glance, it looks like a fantastic set of carved structures that have toppled into the ocean with the civilization either scattering or blending into other regions of the area. We have carvings and features that look to be the work of tools. It looks like we even have totems of cultural or religious significance.

On the other hand, we have formations that may have been made through the constant change of the landscape through earthquakes and plate shifts. It’s even pointed out that a whole new island was recently formed through this process. It also possible the constant flow of the current has broken the sandstone creating perfectly normal but deceiving angles. And while we want to see faces carved in stone, this may be erosion.

Do we have an answer? Man made seems more plausible than random works of nature, but then again, nature works in mysterious ways.

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Expedition Unknown – Coumbus Unearthed – S02E08

imageOur previous episode concludes with Josh and a small group of men making an impressive discovery in a field containing a significant number of artifacts from the time period Columbus would have run aground. There are pottery items from the Taino people, the natives Columbus would have met when he landed. But there is quite a mystery about those people. When Columbus lands, he is on good terms and is welcomed. However, that may have soured and Columbus forced them to find gold and other wealth he promised to his benefactors.

The link between the Taino and Columbus can be found in cave paintings. In the beginning of the drawings there are no horses, those were brought over by men like Columbus. And before Columbus arrives, there were over a million Taino people. A couple of decades later only a few hundred survive. Is this merely a coincidence or did Columbus bring disease and oppression with him? Clearly there is no definitive answer.

After his return home, Columbus is given the opportunity for multiple trips to continue looking for China. He ping-pongs around the world, but in reality, doesn’t seem to land in North America. He comes close, but did he set a foot on the continent? A curious thing.

But as we question where Columbus may have gone, there is still the question of where he is buried. It is claimed his Will requested he be buried in Santo Domingo. There is a large memorial to Columbus and those who guard over it are absolutely sure he’s in their sarcophagus, yet they won’t let anyone test the remains for confirmation. They have nothing to prove and won’t allow any more testing. As we see, the grave is guarded with military effort. In fact, Josh and his team are kicked out of the church because filming isn’t allowed and they’re getting too close.

To follow up on the dodgy story, Josh heads to a cathedral where his remains are supposedly kept as well. Josh is given permission to go into the subterranean crypts and discovers the platform where Columbus would have rested. There are no traces of Columbus, but I think it’s incredibly neat there is a crypt under the church.

The other resting place of Columbus is Valladolid. Seville is where he actually died and was interred for a time. Josh meets Javier and Andrea who have a copy of his Will and nothing states he should be buried in Santo Domingo. Since the remains were in Seville for quite some time, the small team puts together an idea of where they would have been stored. In a bit of irony, it appears that site is currently occupied by a casino, restaurant and other businesses. Like the tunnels in Britain, Josh is able to enter the catacombs simply by entering the sub-basement. He finds some old bones, but they are most likely from an animal and have nothing to do with Columbus.

Without much to go on from this angle, Josh goes to a museum that has the actual contract giving Columbus permission to go exploring for China. It gave Columbus rights to all sorts of things including the previously mentioned titles and lands. But even within these records, there is nothing declaring his final resting place.

It is also in Seville, where the University of Granada was previously given the opportunity to test the remains located in Santo Domingo. Despite what we may think, the remains they had access to were meager at best, a mere 150 grams of material most of which was ash, not a complete skeleton. Dr. Miguel and his team didn’t have enough material and it was too degraded to be of use. Interestingly, it is stated that since Columbus never sat for a portrait, the images we see of him are artist renditions and not necessarily pictures of the real man. Is nothing about this guy real?

In the end, Josh is no closer to finding the truth about Columbus than when he started. There is confusion over the sinking of one of his ships, there is confusion about his relationship with the native people, there is confusion about whether or not he reached and set foot on North American soil and there is just as much confusion about where he is buried and if those remains are even his. It seems we may not know a whole about Columbus at all.

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Expedition Unknown – Secrets of Columbus – S02E07

First of all, congratulations to Josh on the news he’s going to be a father!

imageIn 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue

Or so the story goes. Josh is out to discover details about the life of Christopher Columbus. Where did Columbus come from, where is he buried, where is the wreckage of the Santa Maria and did he really discover America?

Not much is known of Columbus and his early life. He appears on the stage as a fully formed man without a past or early childhood. He emerges as a map maker and navigator with the main ambition of finding a new route to China by going West. Of course, neither Columbus or anyone else knew what lay in the way of going such a route. But Columbus sets out on his journey and becomes one of the most celebrated figures in maritime history. He is made an Admiral and becomes governor of the lands he has discovered.

In order to get some background about the ships of the time, Josh is able to get aboard a replica of the Santa Maria and to be honest, it’s surprisingly small. Considering the distance they were to travel and the supplies they would need to carry, these are pretty meager boats. And as we see, even in only slightly choppy water, the boat rocks in a wild fashion. Had the original sailors hit any sort of severe weather, this boat would have been a goner.

Josh then heads to Haiti where the boat supposedly ran aground. The story goes a little something like this. Columbus hands over the helm while he goes to get some rest. The helm is then turned over again, this time to a young boy. With his inexperience, the boat crashes into the reef. But that story seems a little off considering how skilled a navigator and seaman Columbus was. Why would he turn over the boat when so close to a reef?

After the ships runs aground, Columbus strips the wood from the decks and builds fort La Navidad. He leaves a large envoy of men behind while he sails back for reinforcements. Columbus made friends with the native Taino people, but their relationship deteriorated so when Columbus returned, his men were dead and the fort destroyed.

Some believe the Santa Maria was wrecked on purpose to give Columbus a reason to come back to this New World. If everything had gone according to plan, there might not be another voyage or commission. A good theory, so the goal is to find the wrecked ship and learn more. But where is the wreckage?

Josh meets with Jean Claude who has looked for shipwrecks for 40 years and the Santa Maria for 15. He knows of over 200 wrecks in the area. He takes Josh out into the waters and they do indeed discover a wreck, but alas, it’s too new and the wrong type of ship. But wait, there’s more. They find another wreck and while it’s closer to the correct time period, it’s still not the right kind of ship, but it’s worthy of more investigation. This clearly shows plenty of ships have crashed in this area.

He then meets up with Manuel Rose, a researcher who believes the Santa Maria was wrecked on purpose. Josh and Manuel head inward on the shores of where the ship would have run aground and where the Fort of La Navidad would have stood. They meet a local man who almost immediately takes them to a large cannon sticking out of the ground. It’s not the type of cannon they’re looking for, but clearly there was a shipwreck here and possibly a small settlement. Again, there are all sorts of maritime relics in this area, so the chances of them finding something that belonged to Columbus are actually pretty good. Hopefully a research time will be able to catalog this are as well.

From there, Josh meets Alain Norstein who believes he is well on his way to discovering the settlement of La Navidad, however, it’s inland from the coast and is basically a field. We have to admit, the landscape has changed quite a bit in the 500 years since Columbus was at sea, and just because something is land now, doesn’t mean it’s always been that way.

Using basic tools, the men are sifting through the area and make a pretty nice discovery. They unearth pottery from the Taino people which suggests this would have been a significant settlement. Another impressive series of artifacts that hopefully will be cataloged in the future.

So at this juncture, there are quite a few leads about the sunken ship, but it all remains a mystery. Columbus may have wrecked the ship on purpose, may have oppressed the native Taino people who turned against his crew and he may have been a touch on the manipulative side to get what he wanted – further rights at exploration.

While they may be close to discovering the wreckage of the Santa Maria, what about the actual remains of Columbus himself? Where is his final resting place? On that front, it seems he’s buried in two different places.

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Expedition Unknown – Finding Fenn’s Treasure – S02E06

fennOur next outing takes us to New Mexico in search of a treasure chest filled with gold, emeralds, rubies, diamonds and other precious gems. And which pirate ship did this treasure fall overboard from? Well, none actually. In fact, it was buried only a few years ago. Buried deliberately and a map put out there for all to see. Well, a poem actually, but the treasure is available for anyone and everyone who wants to go looking.

What we have is the story of Forrest Fenn, who, having amassed a tidy fortune during his life, decided to leave behind a nice stockpile of wealth for someone else to find. Fenn grew up poor and loved the great outdoors. He became and adventurer and over time amassed his wealth opening celebrated art museums. It was his desire to create an adventure of his own, so when he was diagnosed with kidney trouble, he set about burying treasure and leaving clues in his memoirs. Not a bad way to be remembered I must say.

Turns out, he’s stronger than the doctor’s gave him credit for, and not only is he still alive, he’s still giving out clues to where the treasure is hidden. The real clue is in the first line of his poem, but he has since stated the treasure is in the Rocky Mountains and above 5,000 ft. So what’s in this treasure box? When Josh sits down to talk with him, he states about 20 pounds of gold and around 200 gems including the aforementioned rubies, diamonds and emeralds.

His main goal he says, was to get people into the outdoors, to have them take in the scenery, smell the pine needles, get away from their phones, enjoy the sunshine and have some fun. So far, the treasure remains unfound and after talking with Fenn, Josh is firmly convinced the treasure is real and hooks up with a couple of different treasure hunters to see what they’ve come up with.

His first stop, after visiting the local market of course, is Yellowstone National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He meets with JP and Yasmine who feel the first like of the poem speaks of the hot springs, which Yellowstone has plenty of, and there are plenty of canyons that match the description. But even with these clues and seemingly accurate markers, the treasure could be anywhere. It’s not necessarily buried, but rather “hidden” according to Fenn. So even if you were within a 1,000 feet, how would you know? But Josh makes a couple of good points.

Fenn was in failing health when he hid the treasure. He wasn’t away from home for very long, meaning a day trip to drop the treasure off and return home the same day. It also makes sense that the terrain would need to be fairly uniform and gentle since the treasure would be heavy and was carried.

With that, Josh heads back to Red River which is closer to where Fenn lived. He meets up with the Wright family, a multi-generation group of treasure hunters who gather together and head out into the woods. It’s daughter, mother and grandmother, who scour the hills looking for clues. You have to admit, while the chances of them finding the treasure is slim, the fact this family heads out together is pretty neat.

Another stop is Taos, where Josh meets Katya who moved there just to look for the treasure. She’s been on the hunt for two years and thinks the Rio Grande holds the answer to the loots location. They head down the river looking for an inlet Fenn may have used to drop off the treasure. Katya picks out key words she thinks are relevant and their outing turns into clues from something out of Indiana Jones. Is the light really supposed to shine through a hole in the rocks and point the way to the treasure? Does it point to an outcropping of rocks with a chest full of gold nestled underneath?

While Josh doesn’t unearth anything of consequence, he and all the other fortune hunters seem to be having a great time doing exactly what Fenn wanted – they’re under the blue skies, enjoying the great outdoors, embarking on an adventure. And it appears 35,000 people are out there experiencing the thrill of the hunt. Time will tell if any of them are in the right place.

The Thrill of the Chase

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