Josh Gates

Expedition Unknown – The African Gold Hoard – S02E12

imageFor our next exciting adventure we’re off to Africa in search of gold. Josh is on the trail of gold coins that were buried at the behest of Paul Kruger when he fears the loot will fall into the hands of the invading British. To secure the wealth of his fledgling republic, Kruger stashes the coins on a train wherein the gold and all records of it are lost. But there are a few new leads and several new groups out looking for the gold which could be worth nearly a billion dollars in today’s money.

Paul Kruger was the president of a small republic in the very early 1900s. His group had found a wealth of gold in Africa and had been using it to mint coins. Trouble erupted in the area which ultimately lead to the Boer’s War. Sensing trouble and not wanting to lose his newly minted wealth, the coins are loaded on a train so that Kruger and the lootcan exit the country. They leave Pretoria by train and head for Machadodorp. That was the last time the gold was scene. Kruger leaves the country, but he never meets up with his gold reserves.

The first order of business is to follow the money. Josh follows the route to the last place the gold was scene. The landscape and the train station have changed to the point where Josh heads to the old track and tunnel to have a look around. Pretty much a den of junk with no significant signs the gold would be hidden inside. A vagrant, yes, gold, no.

With the end of the line being the real end of the line, Josh heads to the mint to see how the coin would have been made as well as get some insight about a recently authenticated coin. Turns out Kruger stamped his own money with his own image and it had some exacting details. The coin will have a specific weight and gold content. Any coin they find will have to match in order to be authentic.

Josh then heads out to meet another treasure who has chosen to investigate a cave system where he’s found Kruger era artifacts and weapons. There is some evidence to suggest the gold was hidden within the caves, so Josh suits up to get down and dirty. Dirty indeed as he slugs his way through all sorts of much and narrow spaces. With nothing more than a face full of mud, and perhaps an old coin, Josh makes a layover in an impressive safari hotel.

After a cold beverage and a good night’s sleep, Josh meets up with some hunters who found an authentic Kruger gold coin. They are searching across the plains of the Kruger National Park, a nearly 8000 square mile reserve. But you can’t just go walking in and digging holes, you need to ask permission. With that, he’s off to meet the tribal chief. After a brief talk and Josh getting a tribal spear to protect himself with, he’s back on the road and heading deeper into the park.

Not only does Josh meet the treasure hunters, but their armed and military trained entourage. This is no joke, these guys have a heavily armed anti-poaching force coming along for the ride and they armed with enough weapons to make you pucker. Their goal is to stop poachers who still slaughter rhinos for their horns. Not to mention protecting the team from wandering animals. Although, I’m quite convinced they won’t shoot the animals.

During the evening, the hunters launch an aerial drone with sensitive cameras to locate metal objects heated by the sun. The military team is also at the ready as this is a prime time for poaching. While there are some noises to be heard under the cover of darkness, everything goes without incident, which is good, because Josh will spending the night out there.

In the morning, the team goes to each GPS marked location to see what the drone spotted. They pull out a horseshoe, part of a bridle and even an old pistol. They collect quite a few relics from what they believe to be a British used during the Boer War. Not quite the pot of gold they’re looking for, but great museum pieces and proof they’re looking in the right place.

Is the gold going to be found on plains of the Kruger National Park? Or is it hidden in a cave? Did it still exist at all? It certainly did at one point, there is no doubt about that, but considering the lack of details and the area they need to look in, it seems an almost impossile task to find it. But the lure is millions, possibly billions, so you know they are going to keep at it. And perhaps, if it keeps people out in the plains and thwarts the efforts of poachers, then the hunt won’t be in vain.

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Expedition Unknown – The Sultan’s Heart – S02E11

imageWell, this is a strange story indeed. It involves Suleiman the Magnificent, who died in 1566. That unto itself isn’t all that noteworthy. Nor is it all that noteworthy he died while his troops were attempting to besiege the fortress of Szigetvar. What is noteworthy is that he was considered such a beloved leader, that his heart was removed, placed in a sacred box and buried on the site where he died. That’s one way to express love I suppose.

Suleiman was the longest ruling sultan of the Ottoman Empire and expanded it’s reach and influence during his time. The taking of Szigetvar was the last piece of the puzzle, but alas, his troops were held back. While not killed in battle, he died while the battle was underway. His death was kept from the troops, but his body was prepared for burial; which included removing his organs most notably the heart. His body was then embalmed and prepared for burial in another location. The heart was buried in Turbek, but through additional warfare, Turbek has been erased off the map. And with the city gone, so is the heart. Thus begins the hunt for the sacred treasure box containing the heart of Suleiman the Magnificent.

The first stop on the hunt is Istanbul where Suleiman, minus his heart, is buried in a massive mosque. Josh gains some background on Suleiman and learns the heart is considered a holy relic. It is even said, once the heart is found, it can resurrect and live on.

Josh then heads to Budapest where Suleiman actually died. Like many other cities, there is a network of tunnels beneath the streets where the heart could be hidden. Down into the tunnels they go where they find some interesting artifacts like the tooth of a mammoth as well as dozens of human remains. It actually looks like they’re wandering around in an over populated crypt. It’s also said these tunnels were used by German soldiers as a communications outpost. While extremely interesting, there are no signs of relics related to Suleiman. But you never know, there could be paintings and other tidbits the Germans stashed away. They were kind of known for hiding away treasures.

Josh makes a side trip to the National Archives of Hungary, where they have a drawing of the city from 1664 that may show where the original gravesite in Turbek used to be. With that, it’s off to visit the fortress of Szigetvar where Suleiman made his last stand.

Suleiman thought Szigetvar would be an easy target as he marched on it with 100, 000 troops. To his surprise, he was thwarted by an army of a mere 2300 soldiers, bringing the expansion of his empire to a shocking end. There is currently an excavation going on at the site and Josh is able to unearth a battle axe from that very encounter. Lots of neat weapons, but still, no heart in a box.

While the Szigetvar fortress is easily identifiable, Suleiman’s battle HQ isn’t. It is believed to be 4.2 miles away which is now occupied by private vineyards. Just like Szigetvar, there is a team investigating the site who have found plenty of fragments most likely from walls of the former city.

When not enjoying grapes picked from the vine, Josh makes an observation about an exhaust vent a few feet away from where they get a large hit on the ground penetrating radar. It’s right in the spot they need to dug, perhaps it will give a better clue about what might be buried there. The owner gives permission to enter the wine cellar where they unearth a large piece of sandstone. This could be part of the tomb, part of a wall, or part of a building relating to the lost city of Turbek.

Even though they haven’t found anything that pinpoints the city let alone the heart, this team seems right on the cusp of discovering something interesting. Clearly something is buried there, they just need permission to start digging.
In fact, their find is shown as part of the closing credits and if you search for Suleiman the Magnificent, you’ll see reports all but confirming the location. Looks like this sacred relic will be unearthed any day now.

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Expedition Unknown – The True Cross of Christ – S02E10

imageFor this episode, Josh takes on a intriguing quest, to find wooden fragments from the cross of the Crucifixion. In simple terms, after the Crucifixion, the cross lost until Helene, mother of Constantine rediscovered it, cut it into sections and sent the fragments to different locations. The cross as a single object is gone, and there is some question as to whether it was a cross at all, but either way, where did these iconic pieces end up?

Josh heads to the city of Jerusalem, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is built on the site where the crucifixion took place. Josh gets permissions to go down into the caverns to where the event may have taken place. He is also shown pieces of a holy cross, said to be made from the crucifixion cross. He even receives a blessing from those very pieces. While no testing has been done, they are on a holy site and hold significant importance to the church. And of course, their power is in that belief.

To search for other pieces of the cross, Josh heads to Tel Aviv to meet with Professor Hershkovitz who says there are many misconceptions about the crucifixion. For example, the bodies would not have been nailed to a cross as we see depicted and it would not have been a cross, but rather an X shape. The process was to cause pain and suffering so this would have been the method. And as a bit more background, the wood used most likely would have been olive wood. So if Josh is going to test something, that’s the wood he should look for.

The next stop is over to Bethlehem where Josh goes to the Church of the Nativity. It’s under renovation with several interesting discoveries. Frescoes have been discovered under the plaster and one shows three different styles of crosses carved into the stone. This may be a marker as to where the cross fragments are buried, but they will have to scan the wall to see what might be hiding behind it. You can’t just take a hammer to a church. Interesting to note that one symbol depicts the X crucifix.

From there, Josh heads to Istanbul, which was the second capital for Christian Rome. It is said pieces of the cross were hidden in the Eye of Sophia. There is a massive network of tunnels and chambers. These tunnels may have been used by Emperors to move between buildings without dealing with crowds. They could also be used for storage of precious items. Josh is able to spelunk down into the tunnels and after working through the mud and unsavory air, they discover a portion that no one has been able to enter. It will take another effort to see what lies beyond. But at this point, nothing to indicate a hidden location for the cross.

For the final stop, Josh meets with a dig team at the city of Sinop where they previously discovered a stone chest and fragments they believe are part of the cross. They have also uncovered hundreds of bodies and Josh is on hand to help with unearthing what appears to be a family of four. Another stone box is found, but without any contents. The team believes such a box would have been used to hold something very important. There may be more wooden fragments in similar boxes yet to be discovered.

While there is conjecture over what a crucifixion "cross" really looks like, the pieces have been scattered all over the world. Without testing who knows which are real, and that will be a problem since those responsible for the pieces will most likely never let them out of their sight. But the search will go on and perhaps in a hidden alcove of a church or buried in a tomb, a piece will emerge that can be tested and verified as the true cross.

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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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