Expedition Unknown

Expedition Unknown – World’s 8th Wonder – S01E03

image For this episode, Josh is off to find treasure of a different kind. He’s not merely looking for an idol, a cup or even a treasure chest. For this excursion, he’s looking for an entire room. Yes, there was a room called, "The Amber Room" that was part of the castle for Catherine I. It was an awe inspiring, albeit a little gaudy, room covered in Amber, precious stones and gold. And not just some little closet sized thing either, but a massive banquet room. Clearly there are no small rooms in a castle.

Rumor has it, the Nazi’s invaded the Soviet Union and took over the Amber Room. They showed it off to high level officials and used it flaunt the wealth of their empire. When the Allies came to get them in the 1940’s the Nazi’s completely dismantled the room and the contents disappears. Rumor has it the amber and jewels were peeled off the walls, stored in crates, shipped out by train and stored underground in a secret location. Josh is out to see sort of leads he can discover about this missing treasure.

There are several possible locations the treasure could have been taken to. The first is the old German palace itself, which now lies in ruins. Josh heads to Kaliningrad Castle which still has a series of unexplored tunnels underneath where the castle once stood. The castle was leveled during 1945, but it might be possible the treasure is locked underground. After a bit of negotiation, Josh heads down there and has a bit of a look around. There is a lot of area to cover and he’s not even close to being equipped for the job. But while there, he talks to a man in charge of excavating the site and they have already found numerous relics. Nothing along the lines of the Amber Room, but it does show there are artifacts down there.

Next up, Josh is off to Berlin to check into the theory of the crates being shipped off in the middle of the night by train. It appears there were 6 extra railroad cars, but when these cars reached their destination, they were empty. So where did their contents go? Well, that is the question and one theory is they ended up in some bunkers hidden away in a nearby forest. Oh, this sound good, and sinister, and scary.

Josh heads out to the forest and indeed finds some of the very bunkers he was told about. They are overgrown, filled with junk and water, but they could easily hide that which people don’t want to be found. After a bit of a trudge in the murky water, Josh realizes he’s nowhere near equipped to go looking around this unstable area and moves onto the next location.

A CIA informant tells Josh about a letter he found which details four trucks worth of crates that were only transported by night, but have no official description. These unknown items may have been carted off to the tunnels of Deutschneudorf. Without delay, Josh is once again hot on the trail and who do you reckon he meets up with? Why the mayor of Deutschneudorf of course. And not only is he willing to discuss this Amber Room with Josh, he’s hot on the trail of it himself! They mayor has a full blown excavation going on.

The mayor explains that he has documents and tips the crates that contain the contents of the Amber Room are hidden down in the tunnels of an old factory. The factory in question was built on top of some silver mines and it was known to take in shipments by rail. It is believed the crates were taken down a secret entrance and buried deep in the old mine tunnels so it couldn’t be bombed or stolen. Josh heads on down and discovers some amazing chambers and intricate stone work. Clearly this is not your average silver mine. These rooms had some other purpose while under the control of the Nazi’s.

But as Josh, the mayor and the translator push ever forward, they discover the going to be flooded and unstable. They get to a point where perhaps the beams aren’t quite up to the challenge of supporting the weight of the world on their rotting shoulders. It’s a hasty retreat by all back to the surface.

Josh doesn’t come away with the treasure, but it seems like there are at least three plausible locations for where the treasure of the Amber Room may have gone. More work needs to be done in each one to make it safe to explore. But it goes to show that there are plenty of secret locations under ground and that when it comes to treasure and the Nazi’s, those items could be hiding anywhere and until they’re discovered, it’s well worth looking and following up on each clue. Rare artifacts and paintings are showing up all the time, it may just be a matter of time until the crates containing the Amber Room surface in the most unusual of locations.

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Expedition Unknown – Temple of Doom – S01E02

image So the story of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is just a story right? No bearing on any sort of real life events? Well, that may not be entirely true as Josh heads to Cambodia to investigate the lost city of the Khmer Empire and search for a mystical relic that turned King Jayavarman into an unstoppable force. It is believed that King Jayavarman was able to call down the powers of Kali and use those powers to conquer and incinerate those who stood in his way. Sounds pretty impressive! The source of his power? The Linga, similar to the mystical stones we saw in the movie. You basically take the Linga (male) and combine it with the Yoni (female) and then all hell breaks loose.

Like all good adventures, this one starts off with a trip to the market. Josh indulges in some fresh vegetables, fresh fish that won’t stay in the basket and takes a sample of some mutant bugs. Josh also pays a visit to the Cambodia War Museum and has a look back at some of the darker times of the area. It’s quite shocking to see pictures of children, held in chains, posing for their last photograph. Power does strange things to people.

And if that weren’t enough, there is still the grim reality that the land is covered in million of active land mines. Josh pays a visit to a man who personally laid thousands of mines in the area, but is now trying to make amends by going out and defusing as many as he possible can. And just because the mines are small doesn’t mean they aren’t deadly as we see when Josh heads out with the team, discovers a mine and detonates it in a safe clearing. But pay attention to their technique. These guys have the most flimsy bomb suits I’ve ever seen, they handle the mine with their bare hands and just explode it in an open field. That just a bit on the nutty side.

To get an idea of what he’s up against, Josh meets with a few locals and realizes he’s in for a multi-hour 4×4 adventure and then a trek up a mountain that is most likely littered with live land mines. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, what happens when you run out of road? You jump on a make shift train of course. Seems there is plenty of railway lines left behind and the good citizens have built their own transportation using rotting wood, rubber bands and repurposed lawn mower engines. And these vehicles are easy to take apart too, as we see when there is a minor traffic jam on the rails and the villagers simply pick the tram up, move it out of the way of oncoming traffic, reassemble it and go about their journey. To be honest, riding along on that motorized cart looked like wickedly good fun!

Once he reaches his destination it’s time to check one of the natural features of the area which is a cave with a rather indecent looking opening that is home to millions of bats that make a food migration each night as the sun sets. And as if on cue, the bats stream out and darken the sky. While amazing to see from the comfort of distance, that would have been both creepy and skin crawling to be under.

Josh then speaks with one of the locals who is familiar with the lost village and with the suppose power of King Jayavarman. They would prefer to keep the location of the dig and the site a secret since people have been known to steal relics from the site and sell them on the black market. It seems the idea of tomb raiding is very much real and happens all the time.

Going by helicopter and by less than impressive motorcycle, Josh makes his way to the dig where he gets a quick tour of the excavation in progress. While the conditions don’t look ideal, the work and the discovery they’ve made look amazing. At the dig, Josh talks with Pich who takes him to a brand new site they’re working on and shows him a massive Yoni where it is believed rituals took place. Is this the one used by King Jayavarman? Most likely not, but it does prove rituals took place and the power of magic was very real to the people in this area. Amidst the massive thunderstorm that bears down on them while they investigate some caves by torchlight, Pich and Josh make a getaway through the darkness and hold up in Pich’s house for the night. It seems a nice little place powered by a small generator that turns off at 9:15. Lights out Josh, good night!

While Josh didn’t find the Linga and Yoni that could give him ultimate power, he did give us a grand tour of a beautiful country and a wonderful people that live out a simple life. There is plenty evidence out there being uncovered as we speak. Perhaps in another couple of years, when the dig is further along, we will get more chapters of this wild and interesting story. Does this Linga exist? Can it really bring about destruction? Who knows, but people have looked for stranger things haven’t they?

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Expedition Unknown – Amelia Earhart – S01E01

image Josh Gates is finally back with Expedition Unknown and for the inaugural episode he’s looking for clues in the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

We last saw Josh on Destination Truth, where he spent his days and nights scouring the countryside in broken down cars and trucks, looking for explanations to some strange paranormal events and even some urban myths. For Expedition Unknown, he’s focusing on gathering information and evidence about some of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries out there.

As mentioned, for the first episode, Josh is trying to piece together clues regarding the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. As we all know, Amelia left on the final leg of her around the world journey, never to be seen again. There is no trace of the plane, the navigator or Amelia herself. Did she crash at sea? Did she land at the wrong island? Did she run out of fuel and circle back? Did she disappear on purpose? Regardless of what happened, there simply isn’t any tangible evidence.

For this 2 hour special, Josh heads out to Papua New Guinea, the last place anyone saw Amelia Earhart alive, to see what evidence he can gather. He goes right to the source, the very airfield Amelia took off from. Sadly, the place has been turned into a storage area and the only reminder of her adventures is a small plague that is showing some signs of distress.

But all is not lost as Josh does some investigation based on the idea that Earhart may have had enough fuel to actually return to Papua New Guinea. After meeting with several natives tribes wherein he thinks he might get eaten, he heads out into the jungle to look for wreckage. Josh is able to find some plane pieces both in the jungle as well as in the sea. After going through the specs of the Earhart plane, they determine the planes they’ve discovered are in fact the Japanese Zero, the legendary fighter plane.

There is plenty of debris to go around, but Josh hears about more tangible evidence that might be of value. It’s claimed that some remains were actually recovered off an island that would have been in the flight path of Amelia. Strangely, those remains were sent to the Fiji archives and were subsequently lost. Since it’s not too far out of the way, Josh heads over to see if perhaps he can get a clue of what happened to them. We are teased with a box that might be of value, but after the commercial break it’s revealed to be empty. But wait, there are more remains.

It is believed that some remains purported to be from the legendary crash were actually put into a box and stored under a house. When 13, John Gray, said he found those bones and turned them in. While investigating this angle, it appears the bones may have been handed down to other members of the family and Josh sets out to try and locate them. This of course means another hazardous trip to a remote tribe that might give him permission to look around or they might turn him into stew. Just kidding, nobody gets turned into stew.

He comes to find out that all the family members associated with the discovery are indeed deceased. With not much else to go on, heads to the childhood home of John Gray and heads under the house to sift around where the box of remains was stored. Oh my, he discovers some bones. Clearly some are from a box of chicken, but not all.

Josh believes the best course of action is to call the police and have them continue the work so he doesn’t disturb the crime scene. After filling out reports, Josh learns that the CSI team is sifting through the dirt and that some of the bones were human. In short order the investigation is over with Josh adding a lot of theory to the legend, but alas, no more tangible evidence than when he started.

But that doesn’t mean this episode wasn’t exciting and fun. I’m so glad Josh is back with a new show. His travel adventures are so full of mishaps and unusual events, like the earthquake in the tribal village and the volcano that looks like it’s going to blow any second. It has the same feel that made Destination Truth so much fun to watch. You knew Josh wasn’t going to find anything, but it was all about the journey, the people, the culture, the food, the drinks and the broken down vehicles.

And let’s not forget, Josh did uncover two different wrecks, with the plane in the ocean having human remains still in the cockpit. Perhaps, they will be able to identify the pilots and give them a proper burial. That made the trip worthwhile didn’t it?

The mystery of Amelia Earhart is alive and well. She may be gone, but clearly not forgotten. Her adventurous spirit lives on and until her remains are found, she will just be considered missing. As Josh says, she didn’t crash, or fail, or go off course, nor did the trip end in disaster – Amelia simply disappeared.

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