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The Fisherman's Secret


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Mar 31, 2010


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A third-generation fisherman working the Northern California coast made a discovery five years ago via a GoPro camera he attached to a trawling net: a rectangular bar that looked like a gold ingot. He took his story to the San Francisco Chronicle, and today they published it in a VERY LONG read that has the most unsatisfying of endings.

Giuseppe "Joe" Pennisi learned the hard way that "treasure is trouble" after catching sight of that object that looked an awful lot like a gold ingot on the bottom of the ocean more than 1,000 feet down, in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in September 2014. Pennisi, like his father and grandfather before him, is a trawler who fishes for small fish that tend to hover around the ocean floor, like rockfish, black cod, and sand dabs. And he had dreams of launching a treasure hunt for what might be dozens of gold ingots, dropped there in an undocumented shipwreck over a century ago.

But the task turned out to be more complicated and expensive than Pennisi imagined, after he'd sought the help of a couple of maritime law firms and sought a permit for an expedition from the federal government.

So, you can feel free to read about his frustrating adventure, and the various people who both agreed and disagreed that there was likely a major trove of gold down there. But at the end of a dozen "chapters" divided into three parts, with a whole lot of background tangents and color, [SPOILER ALERT] you neither learn a) whether there's an actual shipwreck where Joe was trawling that can be historically verified, or b) that Joe eventually won the day and found some treasure. Whatever it is, treasure or not, it's still out there, and Joe just decided to take his tale and his documentation to the SF Chronicle so that maybe somebody might fund a real expedition — and meanwhile he's still working two jobs to make ends meet.

And yes, getting your hands on sunken treasure once you've maybe found it is not as simple as they would make you believe in the movies. The end.


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Apr 15, 2018
https://www.maritimeheritage.org/ships/wrecks.html Plenty of shipwrecks to choose from...
SHIPWRECKS: 1850-1898 (Partial List)
  • Belle, February 5, 1856, Sacramento River, California
  • Bostonian, October 1, 1850, Umpqua Bar, Oregon
  • Captain Lincoln, January 2, 1852, (Date is January 3, 1852 per H. Ex. Doc 1, 32nd Cong., 2nd Sess., Serial 674, 109)
  • Carrier Pigeon, June 6, 1853, near Pigeon Pt., California
  • SS North America, which sank off the Coast of Mexico February, 1852. This loss was the inspiration for The Maritime Heritage Project, because Captain James H. Blethen, great great grandfather of the Project's Founder sank the North America.
  • Comanche, January 3, 1853, Suisun Bay, California
  • Arctic, November 1854
  • Contra Costa, April 3, 1859, San Francisco Bay, California
  • El Dorado, 1853, Pt. Reyes, Marin County, California
  • Exact, March 21, 1859, Crescent Bay, California
  • Flagstaff, Spring, 1850, Rogue, River, Oregon
  • Forest Monarch, 1859, off the Northern California Coast
  • Georgiana, November 23, 1855, near San Francisco, California
  • Helen Hensley, January 19, 1854, San Francisco Bay, California
  • Lawrence, 1851, Off Golden Gate, California
  • SS Lewis, April 9, 1853, Duxbury Reef, Marin County, California
  • SS San Francisco, December 25, 1853
  • Loo Choo, July 15, 1855, Umpqua River Bar, Oregon
  • Lucas, November 1858, Farallones Islands (off of Golden Gate), California
  • Mariposa, October 1850, San Joaquin River, California
  • Major Tompkins, January 23, 1851, Sacramento River, California
  • Mary F. Slade, September 6, 1859, near Cape Mendocino, California
  • SS Newbern, 1893, Point Firmin
  • Orbit, March 1850, Sand Island, Oregon
  • Oregon, 1858, Pt. Reyes, Marin County, California
  • Oxford, January 1852, Tomales Bay, Marin County, California
  • R.K. Page, March 23, 1853, Sacramento, California
  • Pearl, January 27, 1855, American River, California (This is interesting in that the American River is not a year-round deep-water river, with, perhaps the exception of the lower section near Sacramento. In early Spring, from snow melt and runoff, the river runs fast and dangerous, and floods when the volume is high. She is now damned and used extensively by river runners on the South and Middle Forks.)
  • Plumas, 1854, Sacramento River, California
  • Robert Bruce, December 16, 1851, Willapa Bay, Washington
  • Sagamore, October 29, 1850, Sacramento River, California
  • Samoset, December 1, 1852, Fort Point, San Francisco, California
  • San Francisco, Clipper Ship, Near Point Bonita, February 8, 1854
  • Santa Clara, 1851, San Joaquin River, California
  • Sea Gull, January 26, 1852, Humboldt Bar, California
  • Sea Witch, 1855, Arch Rock, Golden Gate, California
  • Tennessee, March 6, 1853, near Pt. Bonita, California
  • Una, December 26, 1851, near Cape Flattery, Washington
  • SS Yankee Blade struck a rock at Point Pedernales, California, 3:30 p.m., October 1, 1854
  • Underwriter, 1857, Sacramento River, California
  • SS Golden Gate, July 27, 1862 (Passengers List)
  • SS Pacific, wrecked 1875 with 230 aboard, most of whom were lost when she rammed the square-rigged ship Orpheus north-bound for Puget Sound.
  • Clara Nevada, 1898, Lynn Canal, near Seyward City, Alaska
  • SS City of Rio de Janeiro, February 22, 1901
  • SS Ohio, 1909, Wrecked in British Columbia waters
The eighty years spanning the California gold rush to the start of the Great Depression saw thousands of passengers and crews perish in Pacific steamship wrecks.

And more.


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