Sunday, January 31, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 17

Bob Alcumbrack's big dig site was underway, but it took only days of digging for him to realize that he wasn't going to be able to find the cannon as planned. He surely didn't plan on the competition from another cannon hunting group near Cannonsburg, Michigan. Still he had a goal, a lofty goal at best that would make him the envy of the Texas group. Finding gold wasn't the prize he sought.

A cannon is the ultimate treasure trophy on American soil. It is a rare to find buried ancient cannons in the United States. Finding the Cannonsburg cannon with the engraving plates would be a miracle. Without engraving plates on carriages all cannons are rendered worthless. Bob didn't have any clue to whether or not the cannon itself was engraved since no pictures or photos of the cannon were ever found. The picture he formed in his mind of the cannon's size was the admission of old residents that it let out an "awesome blast," but what cannon explosion doesn't and since the smallest cannon in the US military was a 6-pound cannon that is the picture he saw in his mind when using his two brass dowsing rods.

When I learned of Bob's cannon dimensions I immediately thought he had rocks in his heads when I learned where Walter Tompsett was struck with the ramrod. My heart said it had to be smaller. Surely the men firing the cannon wouldn't bury the wheels in soil so deep the ramrod would strike the 27 year old farm laborers knee. If the cannon were smaller it'd probably be engraved with royal warrants. Since the cannon had been in use for nearly forty years (1847-1885) it couldn't have been made of iron, because these cannons rust and were dangerous to fire within twenty-five years. Cannons that were dredged up onto American soil before two World wars were recycled, the royal warrants lost. Without royal warrants or engraved plaques the cannons lose authenticity and are used in landscaped areas of parks and marinas. Reproduction cannons made of iron rust away in historical sites like on Mackinaw Island in Michigan. Many ancient cannons still lie in the ruins of wrecks worldwide.

Billions of dollars of unclaimed treasures rest with them. Some wrecks rest in the shallows or are buried in shifting sands on beaches, some occasionally unearthed by hurricanes and storms. Those in shallow waters are beaten consistently by underwater currents so strong it literally dashes them to ruin. The depth of wrecks keeps them within reach and today's scientific advancements in underwater robotics puts all within reach, but that's only if you have the investment capital to have the best underwater technology. Modern technology makes it easier for trusted men to be tempted by greed, power and fame. When Odyssey Marine found the HMS Victory off the English coast in 2008 using advanced electromagnetic towed sonar they showed no sunken vessel is safe when treasure hunters have the best equipment -- some times far better than government research vessels. But just because Odyssey found the vessel didn't mean what they found was safe from other explorers. Sure they mapped it with GPS coordinates, but they couldn't hover over the wreck because their position over the wreck could be given away because of AIS.

In accordance with the International Maritime Organization's regulations (IMO) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAIS) regulations AIS is supposed to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with a gross tonnage of more than 300 tons and all passenger ships regardless of size. That means that 40,000 ships worldwide carry AIS class A equipment. Treasure hunters with heavy vessels expose themselves to the watchful eyes of anyone.

AIS is primarily used as a navigation tool so ships can avoid collision at sea, in rivers or the Great Lakes. AIS purpose is to allow authorities to track and monitor vessel movements with Loran-C and GPS transceivers. AIS can be turned off if security is threatened by terrorist or pirate activity in any given area. Ships outside of AIS radio range are tracked with Long Range Identification and Tracking Systems ((LRITS). No more can bigger ships of 300 tons or more escaped the watchful eye of AIS, with the exception of military vessels. This prevents ships with large underwater ROV's like the Odyssey groups vessel from hovering over sunken wrecks too long. Position too long and GPS coordinates by other treasure seekers can find where bigger treasure or research vessels are anchored. Bigger is no longer better and the size of a treasure hunting vessel can be monitored by others very easily.

The use of AIS expanded in November 2009 when the STS-129 space shuttle mission attached a Norwegian-built "NORAIS" VHF antenna to the Columbus module on the International Space Station (ISS). NORAIS's purpose is an advanced test and technology demonstration for space-based ship monitoring. It's a leap towards satellite-based AIS monitoring systems. As you can see, the days of using big ships to find treasure in ocean depths is over. Small vessels operating in giant seas whether salt or fresh is a dangerous pursuit or hobby, but since the days of the earliest explorers the site of treasure tempts men of greed, power and fame.

No different was Hernan Cortes called Ferdinand or Hernan' Cortez by American educators. This Spaniard was sent to Central America in 1519 by Diego de Velazquez to conquer the Aztec Empire in Honduras and to discover the Spanish gateway to the Pacific and eventually California. When Cortes' conquistadors made contact with Chief Montezuma, Cortes' impressed him with his adornment of feathers he convinced Montezuma that he was the god Quetzcoatl, meaning the "plumed serpent" god of wind, water and air. The chief was ignorant and became Cortes' servant. When Montezuma opened his treasury to Cortes' he saw the vaults filled with gold, silver and sparkling precious stones and jewelry and knew they'd fascinate Europeans, but Cortes' was so tempted by the fortunes in treasure before his eyes that his heart hardened by greed, this forced him to break his Spanish allegiance to Cuba and Spain. Cortes' mind kept repeating 'why should I do all the work returning the treasure to Spain and earn a little reward when I can have it all?' He sifted the treasure thru his fingers for he now had treasures beyond his wildest dream and now he had the power. He wasn't going to share it with Cuba or Spain's rulers. It was his treasure now!

Gov. Velasquez sent a Spanish force to capture Cortes' and return his renegade Conquistadors in chains to Cuba, but Cortes' treasure hardened fighters force the Spanish troops to retreat back to Cuba empty handed. Cortes and men were well motivated by greed not to return. Cortes' became the dominating ruler of the Aztec empire, but within two years Montezuma was reduced to disillusionment with the white man's god and rebelled. Montezuma was killed in battle in the Aztec capital or Tenochitlan in 1521.

Cortes' and his Conquistadors became privateers and pillaged the Aztec vaults and completely destroyed and annihilated the Aztec Empire in Honduras before 1526. Cortes' and followers had laid claim to countless billions in gold, silver, diamonds, emeralds and pearl treasures that he sent to Europe or that was lost at sea to storms, shipwrecks and pirates. Treasure left Central America at the rate of 20 million per year with an estimated $100 million after Montezuma's death. The first two years more than a billion in treasure left. It was greed that led to Cortes' downfall.

You might be wondering why this history lesson. Well, not many know the facts above as it relates to greed of treasure. Treasure leads treasure hunters to make unfortunate mistakes in judgment and create the destruction of whole civilizations. Ten years later (1536-38) another Spanish conquistador named Francisco Pizarro discovered the Inca's treasure trove in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. The Incas, too, were impressed with Pizarro and opend their treasury vaults and Pizarro's eyes betrayed his mind seeing the Incas mountain of sparkling treasures. Pizarro and his men became soldiers of fortune, tortured and killed many Indians for their most precious treasures. During this time another Spanish conquistador named Jimenez de Quesada and his men fought their way into Colombia's Andes mountains killing and torturing the Chibcha Indians for information that would lead them to the legendary "Golden One: The Lost El Dorado" mines. Legends say its golden treasures reside between the Amazon, the Orinoco River and the Atlantic Ocean, a place of fabulous wealth situated in the country or city ruled by the "gilded man."

Central and South American soil was being stained with innocent red blood from the Natives. White men and explorerss killed, stole and plundered the Indians rich culture and stripped their heritage for their own selfish gree, power and fame.

Sir Walter Raleigh, an Englisheman, who never set foot in Virginia (Raleigh, VA) launched an expediton in 1595 to South America and captured the Spanish town of St. Joseph, Trinadad, and explored the famed Orinoco River in search of the legendary gold. He must have found something that caught his eyes or the "City of Gold," because he mentions it in a poem he wrote while incarcerated by James I of England shortly after Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603. Raleigh at this time was imprisoned in the Tower of London for 13 years because he was involved in a plot to dethrone James I. To amuse himself Raleigh conducted scientific experiments and wrote poetry about his previous travels and wrote the History of the World as he knew it and never did place one foot on American soil. In 1617 he was released and sailed to Guiana, South America, broke his ties to England and searched for the fabled gold-rich region of El Dorado. He had to find the "Lost City of Gold" in southeast Venezuela and north Brazil. That was Sir Raleighs' dream - a goal never realized. It's still an unexplored region of South America today.

In the end Sir Walter Raleigh, along with his young son named Walter, and his band of treasure seeking hunters attacted a Spanish town on the Orinoco River, but young Walter was killed. Sir Walter returned to England, but was arrested and charged on the old warrant with "treason" and put to death by beheading. It took only 139 years (1650) to strip Central and South American Indians of their amassed treasures. Renegade explorers used the vast wealth for their own selfish desires and much was shipped worldwide to hungry jewelers and not royal coffers. Pirates on the open seas raided merchant vessels sailing to Europe. Customers were waiting impatiently for the sparkling stones, gold and silver bullion, but they didn't care how many Indians died trying to protect their own wealth of treasures.

The most trusted explorers were hardened by the glitter of treasure. That's exactly how Cortes', Pizzaro, Quesada and England's Sir Walter Raleigh got into trouble. Country's of origin they didn't serve. Only themselves for their own selfish pleasures. So why tell you these little stories about what greed does to trusted men. Well its to show you the hard lessons of what not to do when treasure hunting -- don't antagonize the countries of treasure origin simply because you've tried to stake claim to sunken treasure wrecks, whether salt or fresh water. Most countries view them as graveyards to be respected, the treasure not yours even though you found it. Be careful what you dream for. You just might find it, but be wary of outsiders. A secret I'm willing to share with you at this moment is that the Cannonsburg cannon originates within the time period of the treasure hunters listed above. Remember no picture or description of the cannon was ever found, but something was found after Bob's big dig concluded in 1986, but now is not the time to divulge the artifact found. This isn't the end. On the contrary, it is the beginning enticement for you to ponder what is next.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 16

Michele Oka Doner is a renowned artist and sculpturist who has devoted her life to the beauty and mysteries of art and nature, which parallels the mission of the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her new exhibition opened at FMG on January 20, 2010. The natural world has always held her spellbound and the love of nature has given rise to a repertoire of beautiful art that includes sculpture, functional objects, prints and installations in America, Europe and Japan. Nature has made her one of America's best artist. From the Atlantic Oceans shores to inland forests she has found a truly amazing rich palette of natural subjects.

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, she spent her youthful days frollicking on the warm, sandy beaches collecting what washed up from the ocean's floor. That started her lifelong interest in discovering and collecting nature's fragments. She poured her soul into her work which pushed her faster and farther. Her creativity and productivity shows her deep personal relationship with nature. She never quits pushing to create great works of art we can all appreciate. Oka Doner said, "I set out to explore the world around me."

Like Oka Doner to be the best in the world means you pour your physical, mental and spiritual soul and into the projects of life you desire. That's exactly what all treasure hunters and inventors must do. They must set out to explore areas of the world that may be frought with unexplained mysteries.

That's exactly what Bob Alcumbrack's philosphy had to be, too. He poured his heart and soul into finding the cannon. He dug day and night and explored his corner of the world. He was the ultimate treasure hunter - the cannon hunter. In fact we had to use scuba diving equipment in our search, too, something Bob thought he'd never have to use at his first big dig site. He was serious about his mission -- find that cannon and secrecy is a pre-requisite of treasure hunters.

The most serious treasure hunter to shine in the historical spotlight in the 1970's was Melvin A. Fisher. This chicken farmer from Indiana spent his winter's in Florida. The sun's warmth felt good, but he had to have something to do and his love for treasure hunting for fun and profit was better than slaughtering chickens for a living. Treasure hunting was more profitable and rewarding than battling the icy winds of Mother Nature's northern agricultural pursuits. Not everything was rewarding, the job of treasure hunting was a risky adventure, but worth the effort.

Fisher became president of Treasure Salvors, Inc. out of Key West, Florida in the 70's and he had a definite flare for discovering secret shipwrcks loaded with wealthy cargos. He couldn't have done it without wealthy friends and business associates. He needed a steady diet of venture capital to cover his debts and subsistence living. Treasure hunting isn't a cheap hobby, but Bob Alcumbrack found cannon hunting rewarding without the need for greed.

In 1971, the Fisher group used some investor capital to find one of the richest Spanish treasure wrecks, the 1622 escort fleet galleon, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha. Several years later Fisher's group discovered the Atocha's sister ship, the Santa Margarita, which produced a treasure trove worth millions. This was a paltry find next to the discovery of the 1744 HMS Victory wreck off England, by a Tampa, Florida, treasure hunting group known as Odyssey Marine Excavators, Inc. in 2008. The Victory find was worth billions. Gold in 1971 was worth $35.00 an ounce, then $945.00 an ounce in 2009 and $1142 an ounce approximately in 2010. The Alcumbrack group found flecks of real gold in the black sand deposits at his first big dig site, but it was so miniscule we opted not to mine the gold and kept searching for the cannon. The glacial streams of the Grand River contain gold and have been actively mined since the 1870's, but I shall not reveal the secret locations.

Fisher's group retreived thousands of gold and silver coins, silver bars in excess of 70 pounds, gold bullion, an emerald cross, gold chains, jewelry and a rich assortment of other collectibles. Both wrecks were estimated to be worth $20 million. Believe it or not, this was considered a paltry sum in comparison to the amount of treasure streaming out of Mexico's Aztec Empire between 1519-1526. Compared to the Odyssey group this was a minisule treasure find, too.

Fisher used underwater sonar and lost map coordinates to locate wrecks. The Odyssey group used 21st century towed electromagnetic sonar, satellite imagery and map coordinates to find many shipwrecks in 2008 worth many billions, but despite efforts to claim title to the wrecks they found themselves sucked into admiralty court proceedings. Country after country is claiming the salvage treasure belongs to them - not the treasure hunters.

Forty years of advancement technology have increased profits, but so far the treasure groups have expended much time fighting for salvage rights in courts. Sure increased computer enhanced technology means higher costs, but so too, discovery of the wrecks and where they rest makes it easier for pirates to locate with GPS and they plunder it before the salvors and military vessels return to guard it. That's why treasure hunting is a secret society. One loose anonymous tongue can cost treasure hunters billions of dollars.

Countless billions of treasure beyond Fisher's wildest dream still rest undiscovered beneath many feet of current shifting sand in the Gulf of Mexico's Marquesas Keys and westward from Key West, Florida. The fair market value of Fisher's treasure troves today would yeild $100 million. That's still a mere drop in the bucket to the vast Indian treasures stolen from the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of South America in the early 1520's.

National archaeologists deemed Fisher's group as destructive salvors and deemed his salvage operations as piratical of national treasures. Archaeologists claimed that Fisher's group was tearing the wrecks apart to find the treasure trove and failed to map the sites before doing so.
Government officials alleged that Fisher's divers didn't care about the historical shipwrecks architecture and were only interested in the precious cargo. The treasure was needed to repay investors back with interest in profits and enlarge Fisher's own personal wealth. Fisher was harshly criticized in court. Fisher had filed claim to both vessels in admiralty court. The government argued the treasure found on the Outer Counter Shelf belonged to the Department of Interior. The government's piratical nature tried seizing control of the booty, but Fisher countersued, but lost and the treasure was put into custodianship of the admiralty court. According to the admiralty he could harvest the treasure, but as "finders keepers' he couldn't sell them. This is exactly what is happening with the Odyssey groups 2008 find of the shipwreck HMS Victory. England and Spain have counter claimed salvage rights.

Fisher's court battles made him a legend -- an American folk hero who had the gumption to fight big government. He was small potatos battling big government. He tried to be finders keepers, but the Federal government using information provided by national archaeologists claimed ownership of the national treasure. Piracy comes in many forms.

Years later Fisher once said he didn't know if discovery of the coral and barnacle encrusted treasure galleons were a blessing or curse. He was quite wealthy in 1978 and he felt his wealth may not have outweighed a personal family tragedy in 1975.

Mel's son Dirk, his daughter-in-law Angel and treasure diver Rick Gage drowned at the Atocha site when their tugboat sank. The unexplained mystery to date is whether they radioed for help or whether they sacrificed themselves so that only Mel knew the secret location of the Atocha that prevented other treasure hunters from finding the wreck. Treasure hunters don't tell secrets. They hide treasure wrecks at practically any cost. It has long been known that when different groups of treasure hunters meet they will fight to the death of each other for control of the rich booty. The same holds true to treasure hunters on dry land. Bob Alcumbrack's group was aware of another cannon hunting group in the Cannonsburg area in 1986 -- that's why we kept silent and made sure nobody could read our lips when we talked. Real treasure hunters today are as dangerous as their exploring predessors during the first 600 years of roaming the high seas. Somali pirates are just as ruthless and bad seizing crews and ships and holding them for millions in ransom.

Federal agents seized Fisher's two found vessels and claimed they were protected by Federal jurisdiction on the OCS. However, Fisher took his claim to both vessels to the U.S. Supreme Court and they ruled in his favor, but the Justices weren't impressed by his salvage techniques. Some claimed that Fisher and his salvage group were simply legal pirates and not interested in preserving history. Pots of gold and silver treasure was worth fighting for and Fisher gained fame and fortune finding shipwrecks in shallow water, which is why Michigan protects sunken shipwrecks and aircraft from diving outlaws who seek treasure for profits and not historical value.

Shipwrecks found in shallow water less than sixty-five feet in oceans or inland seas are being easily torn apart by fishing trawler nets and strong underwater currents. Decaying vessels are being strewn across large areas and covered with shifting sand and silt. Deep ocean wrecks are succumbing to fishing nets pulled by large cargo vessels. Another man named George R. Fischer, a research archaeologist for the National Park Service during Mel Fisher's day was an adamant supporter for saving wrecks from treasure hunters. He felt that treasure hunters need to obey the "archaeology code of ethics that said "Thou shalt not sell the goodies."

You could say that Mel Fisher and George Fischer met each other by collision fighting over treasure. Destiny brought them together, just as Bob Alcumbrack and I found our destiny. Anyone who hunts for treasure off the Florida coast are known as "Hunters of The Wild Frontier" similar to Davey Crockett's "King of The Wild Frontier" on dry land.

Fisher was never accused of any running sea battles with other treasure hunters on the high seas. However, some historical records state that when different groups meet over spoils of wrecks or archaeological sites fierce gun battles do erupt out of sight of law enforcement officials. Big time treasure hunting is dangerous to one's continued health. Being wary of other cannon hunters was our motto, too. Warring treasure hunters will claim each found the booty by suctioning off silt or displacing sand to expose coinage and precious stones. Displacing sediments often destroys the integrity of remnant remains where vessel or human remains can be found. Would you like someone disturbing the graveyard? Who really owns lost and found treasures?

The Alcumbrack group felt had word gotten out that we found real mining gold at Bob's first big dig site area streams we'd be encountering too many disturbed areas should the first dig site not pan out. We couldn't chance the competition digging for gold or cannon. The cannon was our primary goal -- not gold for profit. Greed is the beast that satisfies a treasure hunter's hunger for selling artifacts from sunken wrecks. On land the ultimate treasure trophy is a cannon with engraved brass plates. That's the authenticity of the piece. This is what Bob Alcumbrack had to find to authenticate the Cannonsburg cannon. That's all for today.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 15

'I don't quit' said President Obama during last nights State of The Union message on Jan.20, 2010, but he doesn't walk the talk. He blames Bush, the news media and descenting people for everything that's wrong during his first year in Office, but what did Obama ever do as Congressmen? I've never heard the fill in the blank answer. He hasn't learned the value of being a team player, because he never did anything as the team player. His mantra has been charismatic with 'change we can believe in.' He promised transparency between the dems and repubs and Americans, but he 'quit' on his campaign promises. You don't win brownie points with uneasy Americans by trying to cram health care down their throats to rationalize what they consider a bad plan. Saying 'I don't quit' is never a realistic goal if he 'hasn't started keeping his promises that got him elected' since 2008. He failed to follow his own mantra causing widespread descension and distrust of big government with skull duggery hands within the democratic party. Inflating numbers with fuzzy math and demo Congressmen meeting behind closed doors promising (buying) vote favors were glowing misjudgements of the public trust. Sniping at those who don't agree is not what America needs -- it already has too many terrorists trying to destroy us. They aren't combatants or criminals. Failing to call them terrorists emboldens the murderous thugs. Silent pandering to their whims shows weakness. Failure to call them what they are is arrogance. They are killers of innocents - terrorist radical Muslims who hate freedom borne Americans. He 'quit' on Americans before he 'started his speech' and didn't apologize to angry Americans for his first year shortcomings.

That's all I'll say. I said I wouldn't talk politics, but sometimes I must vent frustrated thoughts, like you, to a President and his party members that seemingly turned a deaf ear to people who don't agree, but ' I'll do better' would have been much better than 'I don't quit' to smoothe the ruffled feathers of angry People. Can we trust the President and Congress to work together for all the People instead of special interests or is it more of the status quo democratic politics with more hide n' seek games? Italics are my personal thoughts. Let's return to Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon.

When I think back about Robert Alcumbrack's quest to find the missing Cannonsburg cannon I can truthfully say that whatever Bob encountered he didn't 'quit' even when problems were insurmountable or stopped progress. Many strange twists of fate puzzled him. Mysteries surrounded him he couldn't explain. He always sought resolutions to problems outside his sphere of knowledge, but we couldn't keep our appointment with destiny if we quit as non-team players. We kept Bob going forward with his wildest dream. Got a dream? What's stopping you? Probably not enough extra income -- that was Bob's problem, too!

Mysteries of unknown sequences made him push harder, but all the while he had my help to unravel and educate the cannon crew about how not to become bad treasure hunters. When stumped with problems we had to search and educate ourselves the best we could knowing all too well we might get into something that was over our heads. For two years after the first big dig we practically drowned in mysteries we never knew existed, but Bob posted a letter to his crew that said, 'I won't quit' no matter how long it takes to understand and resolve unforeseen problems as the ultimate treasure hunter. He wouldn't quit on his wildest dream.

What was Bob's first big dig problem? I'll divulge a little secret and show you how Bob's destiny and mine were on a collision course to make our friendship solid. Our pre-destination to meet each other at a precise time in history was orchestrated by our Creator when we were born. There is a purpose to life and He will make sure we arrive at our destiny with others unless we do something foolish by accident and change our arrival destination with eternity. Have you ever felt you were at the right spot at the right time to meet that someone special in your life? Was it design or accidental? Or, was it the fault of two different atoms colliding with each other?

I believe God or higher spirits of belief can pre-destine people to interact in the lives of others at precise times to help them overcome problems they couldn't otherwise solve. I didn't have all the answers to help overcome Bob's expeditionary problems, but I and the 1986 recovery team did possess enough knowledge to solve his problems beyond his own comprehension and vice versa.

Bob and I met the second day of operations. I became the ninth member of his cannon recovery crew. It's ironic that nine men in 1885 were involved in the cannon's disappearance and nine men in 1986 were trying to resurrect the lost cannon after a 101-year absence? Now that's uncanny predestination!

Common interests and goals brought cannon and ultimate treasure hunters together. Interesting to note is that nearly 85% of all treasure hunters are searching for saleable artifacts. Depending on localities worldwide, the prospects of finding hidden treasures increases to 95% for self-serving bad treasure hunters. The last 5% can be divided into three groups, but most belong to historical organizations, institutions or museums. Of the 5% some 4% have good intentions to restore and donate their finds back to many fine institutions, but most fall short. The last one percent do it for pride of community spirit and the benefit of humanity. This was Bob's lofty goal. Do the right thing the first time, return and preserve our rich historical heritage.

This doesn't mean that everything that treasure hunters find is donated to a special institution. Some artifacts might be housed in personal collections or for lifelong case studies until a manuscript or book is published, but many are lost when the individuals creating them die. It becomes very important to "will" away an individuals prized historical artifacts lest they end up on auction blocks to the highest bidder, lost or discarded as unsaleable junk.

Among treasure hunting circles 'serious treasure hunters tend to be flamboyant and entrepreneurial by nature.' They either use their own capital or with investors fund to further their own goals. Some become public-trading entities selling shares to raise the necessary investment capital. They hire well paid professionals with the best equipment and extra money.

Bob didn't want investors or sponsors with capital. It was his turn to dig up the lost Cannonsburg cannon and realize his wildest dream. His team would share in the glory when the cannon was found. His team and researcher were highly trusted friends who could keep their mouths shut until the object of Bob's affection was found. We had become an ultimate secret society, too. That's a pre-requisite for treasure hunting.

Next time we'll start delving into treasure hunters versus preservationists. We'll be traveling around the world searching for treasure and cannons. Some names you'll remember and I might uncover secrets you never knew existed. History is only 'as dry as dust' if you are disinterested in the first place and don't have an open mind to see the sights from a different perspective. Only thru reading past historical passages can you appreciate the lengths treasure hunters must go to find treasures.

One final comment: Remember I'm a storyteller like Mark Twain and like him I sometimes slaughter the English language. Both his and my early years - we both suffered much illness and when we turned about 12 years old we ran wild with imagination and enjoyed hands-on life experiences. As always I welcome your comments to my written posts.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 14

It's amazing to what lengths marijuana growers will go to hide their pot growing gardens. In Kinston, NC an undercover drug sting led detectives to a pot garden. They knew it must be nearby. Finding it was about to yield several pounds of pot. What they didn't know is where the druggies were getting it so several officers for the Lenoir County Sheriff officers brought in a pot sniffing dog that led them to a rural residence. The search dog sniffed all over until it disappeared when it fell down the camouflaged trap door dropping it into a full-length school bus that was buried 8 feet deep under a backyard tool shed. Now wouldn't you think someone would spot the disturbed earth excavated for the hole. Better yet, how could the druggies keep it so secret. What an underground operation?

Marijuana has been the scurge of America for hundreds of years. To keep this drug secret takes growers lots of man hours, too, and lots of law enforcement officer hours to find them, but this little story above rekindles an old memory of my own from forty years ago shortly after I graduated from high school. One of the best deer hunting areas of my college years is today where Thousand Oaks Country Club is in Eastern Plainfield Township near the east end of Five Mile Road. To the south the large expanse of woods ended at Braman's apple orchard and the Four Mile Road landfill. To the west was Dutleman Lake and the East Beltline landfill. Plenty of two track roads led out towards Grand River Drive a mile away. Braman's had the best apples in the area. When hunting and thirsty we'd pluck them off the trees and put quarters on one tree with tape where we removed apples. Mr. Braman commented fall that he had a "money tree" near the woods and picked his change before the snow flew. His tree sparkled in sunlight. He wished he had more money trees.

One day me and a friend were coming up this two track road where several dead end spur roads connected where hunters could park their cars. When we went hunting in the morning, the slots were empty, but now two cars were parked back in the brush. "Ood." It's as if someone was trying to conceal them with broken tree branches. We continued past the roads and suddenly five men in camouflage and two with DEA burst out of the bushes and asked us if we'd been tending the pot garden. I confessed we weren't, but one officer said, "Then what's this?" The jagged leaf was caught on the bow string where it connects to the bow. He identified the plant. "Honest, sirs, we don't know anything about pot plants being growin' in these woods and these aren't our cars. They marched us up to our vehicles, read us our rights and asked if they could use the dogs to sniff our vehicles." The dogs found nothing of interest, but they continued to interrogate us and figured out we were innocent and were about to release us when several officers watching the road saw someone duck back into the brush.

The officer asked, "Since you know this country is there any where the owners of these cars could go where we could miss them." One officer pointed at the green pot on our bow and asked "Do you know where you got this?" We do, but honest officer we didn't know of the pot growing operation, but we did see some unusually high plants last week in a peat bog down this trail, bear right, bear left, go up and over the flat hill and when it dips there's a bog off to the right. "It's about forty by 90 feet long and the deer love it because they've been bedding down or someone has in the middle. We hunt along the ridge along the backside." We saw slashings this morning, but we bypassed it this morning. Too easy to spook the deer. Nothing but slashings. Before the officers got to the swale they heard a truck or something rumbling further down the trail, but they never saw anyone until they returned and the two extra vehicles had left. Nobody saw the druggies leave the area, but the cops had the license numbers and VIN numbers and important data on the cars. The next morning we learned that Sheriff and DEA personnel had found and confiscated all the pot plants and several senior high school football students were arrested for growing and harvesting the marijuana. Strange how the school bus marijaua sting could rekindle such a fond memory of my early bow hunting days.

Strange as it may seem six months after Bob Alcumbrack's first big dig failed a security guard in Disney World caught me on camera wading in the landscape gardens looking at cannon's. "Uh, hmm! What you doing in those plants?" I replied, "Well I'm not squashing flowers, but I'm interested in the cannons." He knew who I was the minute I raised my head because he recognized me from a CNN documentary, the same documentary that was pitting the Cannonsburg cannon hunters against the Twin Sister Texas group. We were the two groups of elite cannon hunters in the United States in 1986. He thought he knew my mug shot from the closed circuit TV surveillance cameras. Disney was excited about the prospects of having two different cannon hunters inspecting their cannons, since the previous week one member of the Texas group had done what I was doing inspecting cannons. It had been many years since anyone had been interested in trying to find lost cannons on America soil.

Discovery of the Twin Sisters would correspond to their latest achievement "The Legend of Davey Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier" starring Fess Parker as "Crockett" and Buddy Ebsen as "Georgie Russell. Ebsen starred as tramp in an Andy Griffith show and Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies. The security guard shook my hand so hard I thought he was going to tear it off. Since I hadn't trodden a single bloom he let me inspect any cannons wherever I found them. I was asked by tourists if I was the gardener for Disney World. I was one of the few historian's in Cannonsburg who wasn't camera shy like Bob. As this cannon story progresses you'll get sneak peaks into my memoirs as to who I am - not quite an angel since my halo continues to flicker, but as time passes you'll get a sharper picture of the Tompsett tragedy. This entire story takes on the characteristics of that movie called "Groundhogs Day," starring Bill Murray. Each time the story line repeats itself it gets better and the true age of the cannon will expose itself. All I ask is that you have an open mind. This story is about people, the history of our lives and secrets hidden for 125 years of so. Each of us have different talents and expertise, but blend the two together and you get team players dedicated to secrecy, too.

Bad treasure hunters give us all black eyes, but good treasure hunters happen so infrequently. Bad treasure hunters prey upon private property owners and strip them of archaeological treasures rather than preserving local history. Not all professional archaeologists are pure preservationists. Some fall from grace when they feel they aren't amply rewarded, that's monetarily speaking, and succumb to piracy themselves and pilfer from storage facilities. Items are given to museums for protection, to be shared with the public, but many end up stolen from within and sold to the highest bidder.

This wasn't what Bob had in mind when he launched his expeditionary mission to recover the lost Cannonsburg cannon. He was doing it out of community pride and spirit. We rallied around his efforts to find the cannon and rallied to make Bob's dream reality. Finding that cannon was a wild dream, the wildest dream of his life.

It was Maggie McCarthy's who desired for me to help Bob realize his dream, but she wasn't sure Bob knew what cannon he was supposed to find buried deep in Luther Augustine's mosquito infested woods. She thought I had I could find the right sized cannon before Bob spent too many brain cells, time and money looking for his lost ghost cannon of imaginary size. After watching Bob's facial expressions for two days I sensed his positive attitude and saw the size of his energy field as he walked the planks carefully atop the coffer box. Bob was tense on several occasions and it rattled his psyche when Luther Augustine began putting the liability seed in his mind when so many spectators were crawling all over his property to get a closer look at the operation. Bob's voice trembled and the tension between Bob and Luther was being strained.

All my life I've been an observer, the people watcher. Study, listen and talk little. I'm a loner, but God gave man two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and one mouth. HE didn't mean for us to talk more than we see or hear. People talk incessantly on cell phones. They base what they know on phone conversations and faulty web info, but don't check the hard copy (books and newspaper) for documentation. Drivel entertainment is why America's school children do so poorly in school. The average student is online an average of six hours each day.

Did Bob find the Cannonsburg cannon... uh, read on! I'm smilin', but the halo flickers, too. What Bob shunned were investors and sponsors with capital. He didn't need the aggravation nor stress to produce it fast. Most treasure hunters are described as being flambouyant and entreprenurial by nature, but that wasn't Bob. He was humble and shy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 13

Strange how I lose track of time. Haven't written anything for 8 days. Not for lack of trying because I've been busy with some other historical research running in the Rockford Independent newspaper about its founding father Smith Lapham. His descendants suddenly appeared mysteriously all seeking my info on lost family members. Little distractions can elevate one's perspective of pioneer days. I reveled in the fact they weren't just seeking the genealogy, but rather info about their lives. This is the most rewarding aspect of history - the stories of their lives, the trials and tribulations. Haiti suffered a disastrous earthquake Jan.12. 2010. It's bad - authorities believe up to 500,000 people from the poorest nation on earth may have been killed. Millions of dreams extinguished this day. Don't dwell on this fact!

Bob Alcumbrack dared to dig up his wildest dream. He acted upon his dream. Once he started he didn't quit no matter what the roadblock. He did stumble around blind on several occasions, but only because he got engrossed in problems for which he didn't have answers. It took his crew and I to overcome his shortcomings and we all worked collectively as team players. Would you let a surgeon operate on you without a help? A surgeon is only as good as his team of skilled professionals. Treasure hunters need the expertise of their group.

Bob Alcumbrack wasn't a treasure hunter, but rather a cannon hunter, but many treasure hunters still lump him inside their world, for cannon hunting is considered by most archaeologists to be the ultimate treasure. Cannon with engravements intact is a rare find on American soil - the Cannonsburg cannon vs. Texas' Twin Sister cannons. Three mystery cannons of American heritage that disappeared because of man's ignorance to preserve historical artifacts in their own time period.

The world has a wide assortment of mysteries. Some were created by mortal man, but perhaps millions of others were created by God and it'll be a long time before man unravels all the complexities and mysteries that surround us. The bad and ugly treasure hunters unfortunately will be with us to eternity. Historical significance means nothing. Case in point is Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Many seaside marinas have many cannons littering - I mean loosely - their flower gardens. Most are reproductions of the originals minus the coat-of-arms, crests and decorations of the original makers. The original ancient cannons were recycled into larger cannons for two world wars. None were sketched or photographed as to shape, size, date and under which flag the cannon was manufactured. The cannons heritage was lost. The only exception were brass plaques on carriages.

Gone are many cannons of English Wars of Britian and Ireland from 1373-1885, the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783, the War of 1812 from 1812-1818 between America and England, and the American Civil War 1861-1865. Cannons from all these wars were ancient and many were made of recycled cannons themselves, but the legends were engraved upon them. This what two world wars erased. After the Civil War there existed a time period when many four to six pound cannons were made of iron. These were the deadly cannons killing so many Americans at Fourth of July celebrations. The ancients were made of iron, too, but many were made of brass - cannons less likely to prematurely explode.

All the cannons at Disney World or Mackinaw Island, in Michigan, are predominantly reproduction cannons - smooth cannons, without ancient engravements. They lack all authenticity, the engravings of past history. The 32-pound cannon at rest in the park below the fort, the gateway entrance to the majestic Grand Hotel complex is Admiral Perry's only real cannon. After the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1818 was signed between America and Canada, the remainder of Admiral Perry's fleet was sunk into the depths of Lake Huron.

It is this treaty which prohibits warships from America or Canada from operating on the Great Lakes, but with the exception of Coast Guard vessels. Live war-like-simulation excercises are prohibited, but warship building is excluded. Once all vessels are launched they must leave the Great Lakes for sea trials. This is why you'll never see missile boats, battleships or submarines sailing beneath the Mighty Mac bridge. After 911 Coast Guard officials entertained the thought of mounting guns on vessels to protect us from terrorists by conducting live-fire exercises, but without the concensus of both countries, the plan was dropped. They may from time to time be forced to employ such weapons to protect shipping or prohibit illegal entry and counter drug smugglers.

Well I'm nearing my cutoff time on posting. Both countries have produced some fine warships on the Great Lakes. In fact, the first aircraft carriers were built out of old Great Lakes steamers and river boats. In 1942, the Naval Corp. taught inexperienced navy pilots in wouthern Lake Michigan to take off from small carriers, but they had to land at the Naval Air Station in Chicago. They couldn't return for fear of doing a nose dive off the bow.

Lake Michigan did present itself with a problem for navigators. This fresh water sea has a triangle of mystery and superstition just like the Bermuda Triangle has off Florida. Small squadrons of planes flew into it and disappeared off radar. Boats sail into both, the compasses go crazy and zip they disappear. Did Atlantis swallow them? Are these demon places on earth?
Eels from American and Europe all migrate to spawn in the Bermuda Triangles - City of Atlantis. Some scientists don't believe Atlantis exists despite underwater archaeology photography that shows ruins of a lost civilization in hundreds of feet of sea water.

Was it a sea monster as Christoper Columbus wrote in his diaries that pulls boats down or are there underwater aliens from outer space living on the bottom, then reaching up to pull or zap them down with electromagnetic ray technology? Why the yellow sky? Why the calm waters for months? Why so much sea weed? Why do sea grapes collect in the triangle of death? What's your explanation for these strange disappearances? Are these manfestations from our own subconcious minds that recorded too much sci-fi movie data? Is watching Captain Jack's ghost and "Pirate's of the Carribean" bad for our psyche? Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon does rival unexplained mysteries.

"Oops, see how easy it is to go off course with mysteries of earth."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 12

I witnessed a love affair today between two crows. Interesting is how the male sorts the best table scraps I threw out beneath a suit feeder. The big male sorts the best scraps, then stacks em' and flies up to a branch in the tree. He sits opposite her and scoots down sideways towards her, flips around and presents her food. She takes the food into her beak and then both rub their beaks together like knights in jousting match. Crows are pairing up and c0urtship rituals are beginning in snow country. Love is a strange thing among naturals as well as humans. Being divorced Bob Alcumbrack's true love was trying to find the cannon and he spent a small portion of his meager earnings on machinery and so it is now time to put treasure hunting in the proper perspective. As a treasure hunter Bob had to deal daily with 'what if another treasure group was watching.' He desired to do the right thing.

In Michigan, it is Public Act No. 184 of 1980, that prohibits plundering of underwater shipwrecks by outlaw divers and treasure hunters. Plundering, such as destroying timbers, rigging and booty treasures is an illegal practice, but some treasure hunters feel it worth the excitement to try to perfect that perfect crime. If they don't tip their hands and file with the state for salvage permit it is a 'felony'. The unscrupulous may try to escape paying taxes to the IRS, but any wind of impropieties and its a double wammy and its still a stiffer felony.

Bad and ugly treasure scuba divers can be charged with a felony rap if they recover bottomland artifacts within specific Great Lakes bottomland preserves, but may escape this if its for historical and scientific preservation. If recovering and destroying bottom property (treasure) that at fair market value exceeds $100.00 you receive the bad felony rap if convicted. The excitement of trying to outwit the state carries a conviction fine, a mere pittance of $5000.00, a two-year imprisonment, or both, and confiscation of all equipment associated with the illegal act. Some love the intrigue of trying to get away with the perfect crime of robbing from Caesar.

Other state laws and EPA regulation protect public inland bottomlands like streams, lakes and rivers. Remote and wilderness parks prohibit the use of electronic metal detectors to find lost coin caches and jewelry on government property, but it doesn't prohibit the use of such electronics on private property. The people as a whole own public property rights, but not individuals. Little do you know that a good compass can find buried treasures. The magnetic north hand will not point north when passing over precious metals buried in the ground. Dowsing rod, willow rods and hickory sticks are not considered metal detectors.

Legal permit holders are prohibited from damaging, injuring, harming or polluting any underwater archaeological site or property and are not authorised as such to remove any artifacts during or after salvage operations. All treasure or artifacts found, the finders must record and document items with detailed drawings. All must create underwater grids showing disposition of vessel and artifacts removed.

In a nutshell, the government wants to make sure everything found is accounted for prior to removal. The slipshod days of treasure salvaging for booty in Michigan is over. Just because you found the wreck and filed all the paperwork doesn't guarantee you'll ever see a dime from what you recovered. The vessels owners and the countries they hail from can challenge the treasure hunters and state's rights in court. They own all salvage rights whether found in the Great Lakes or the world's vast oceans. Case in point, the HMS Victory.

But wait there's more bad news. Sport scuba diving on wrecks is dangerous - so dangerous that Michigan law prohibits divers from suing Michigan for injuries being entangled in fishing nets, whether state or federal or any injuries associated with diving on sunken aircraft or water craft. That's old wooden vessels or big ships made of heavy steel. Diving on inland lakes, the fresh water seas and oceans is a dangerous sport. Michigan makes it illegal to remove any historical artifacts or cannons from any inland public bodies of water.

Absolutely nothing prohibits treasure hunters from attempting to discover something of value, but if the intent is to remove artifacts all must file a detailed plan of reclamation with the MDNR or Secretary of State. Items removed for personal gain or garnishing monetary gain is prohibited. But, if deemed historical preservation, the treasure groups or hunters should prepare themselves for years of paperwork for engineering studies, environmental impact statements and mountains of legal mumbo-jumbo that is sure to make them blow a gasket.

Bob Alcumbrack and his crew had to keep all this in their minds, because yes, we had to use scuba divers, too, but it wasn't in public property. However, he was sinking a coffer box in what was considered to be a protected wetland off streams. It was a historical and archaeological dig on private property. Spring water flooded the coffer boxes so deep scuba divers had to be incorporated in the removal of sediment and stones and to probe the bottom below for the missing cannon. Bob always felt that MDNR fleas were watching, but didn't interfere in the historical dig most thought was a local phenomena. It went far beyond local control. I felt the eyes of the DNR is probably what started Bob's big bear paranoia. He gave the DNR no reason to question his operation and how digging was handled, but Bob did worry about the liability for his crew and divers.

Today 25 years after Bob's big dig started treasure seekers now find cannons using GPS, ground penetrating radar tomography and behind vessels water towed electromagnetic sonar. Commercial fishermen dragging nets sometimes ensnare cannons from old wooden shipwrecks causing immense destruction of decaying ruins of vessels. Case in point in 2009, the discovery of the English vessel the HMS Victory that sank about 1744. The invested finders out of Miami, Florida, USA found the ship, but England and Spain have laid claim to the vessel and nothing can be harvested.

Shallow water divers once they find wrecks within reach have been known to rip them from naval carriages and they don't care about the architecture of what the ordinance was cradled upon. They sometimes discard engraving placques on the carriages that document the cannon's historical legend. These are the bad and ugly treasure divers who discard the historical significance. When I found Bob he didn't have a clue that in order for him to claim the cannon was authentic he had to find the brass placque, because it was extremely difficult to engrave a cannon. Those who engraved old metal caused miniature fractures in the metal, which can fatigue and caused so many premature explosions that were killing so many innocent civilians at Fourth of July celebrations between 1866-1894. The federal government wanted these destroyed, recycled or rendered useless.

Bob was glad he wasn't digging for the ultimate treasure on public property, because the mountainwork of paper legalities would be insurmountable. He just made sure he didn't environmentally damage a wetland. Have a good day!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 11

Treasure hunters come in all sizes, but more important is their classification as treasure hunters. The bad and ugly ones tend to spoil the whole bunch of treasure hunters. The bad and ugly think riches to behold and to devil with preservation. Their passion replaces heritage with money. Bob's ultimate passion was searching for the lost Cannonsburg cannon. Nothing else mattered. He just knew in his heart he was going to be the best preservationists of an archaeological artifact. It wasn't going to be resurrected and sold to the highest bidder. Nobody was going to see the flash of cash in his eyes.

This was the immense difference between Bob Alcumbrack and treasure hunters. Any artillery ordnance found on American soil is the ultimate of treasure hunting. They are still the hottest treasure if found buried or sunken. It is rare to find real cannons, because so many of the cannons were recycled during two world wars. Most cannons replaced after the wars are reproductions that lack engravements on the piece.

Trouble is 90% of treasure hunters are hunting for the richest treasures, the mother lodes seeking fame and fortune as opposed to the other 10% who want to preserve historical artifacts for humanity. Even in the 21st century treasure hunters will kill to protect what they found while others like Somali pirates seize ships and hold shippers and cargos for ransom. Safe return is not guaranteed. Pirates today are paid huge ransom money to support terrorist activity.

Rewards of $50,000 are offered for good information that leads prospecting cannon hunters to treasured ordnances that lead to recovery. Pirate treasures from hundreds of years ago can fetch prices up to 1 billion dollars, but what they find doesn't necessarily mean they get to keep it - it still belongs to the countries that lost it who consider the find on the bottom of the sea as graveyards. Lots of haggling between finders and losers exists and it can get downright ugly and court challenges take years to settle. Usually the bad and ugly treasure hunters use their new found booty to pay off bills and reward themselves with extra profits to pay off investors who sank funds in the dreams of others. Cannons found by unscrupulous hunters are cash cows or crops often sold to the highest bidder. Bad and ugly treasure pirates become secret entities outwit the IRS. In some ways you can understand how divers feel. They found the treasure, expended money to find it, but are denied any reward for finding it. Why didn't the countries try to recover what they lost? All circle like vultures scavenging for the bulk of treasure. Not right either - everyone loses. Everyone feels ripped off!

Our group wasn't safe from other cannon hunters. Quite the contrary, we kept our silence for fear of tipping them off to clues we found. We had to deal effectively with other undisciplined and greedy treasure hunters living in our midst. Treasure and cannon hunting is an elite society of silent secrets. Most want the mother lode that puts the long green in the wallet. Treasure hunting is the sport of secrets and silence. Spill your guts to eavesdroppers and you won't find a dime. You never tell friends and you work beside trusted friends within your group. Be wary of those who profess to be working members of local treasure hunting clubs. They disguise themselves as research and recovery, but this is squat to preservationists, archaeologists, historians, scholars and unique individuals like Bob Alcumbrack.

Often research clubs lack credibility. Preservation of history isn't their niche. Artifacts are sold and never see the light of day until the buyer dies and its thrown in a landfill or sold again. Some claim that treasure hunting is an exercise hobby to find lost coins, jewelry, precious metals such as, river diamonds, emeralds, gold, silver, uranium and copper. Such great wealth litters the bottoms of the Great Lakes and the worlds oceans. Bootleg and outlaws literally tear apart shallow water wrecks to find the spoils and care little about ship architecture. Forget the underwater grids to sketch vessel disposition of wreckage or photographing all at rest on the silty bottom. Finders keepers is not possible in the Great Lakes and its not even possible on the high seas because of GPS technology and towed sonar tomagraphy.

These vessels aren't for the pleasure of finding treasure that is saleable. The bottomland ruins are graveyards. I wonder how'd they feel if someone else desecrated the graves of their loved ones to find something of wealth. No matter how long its been resting on bottom it is still a grave. Put yourself in the shoes of a surviving Titanic or Edmund Fitzgerald family member. Would you want someone disturbing your departed family members?

I posed a similar question to Bob Alcumbrack on the second day of digging. I asked him, "What gives you the right to dig up the cannon others buried out of grief for Walter Tompsett?" He answered, 'because the cannon belonged to the people of the township and not government officials.' With a little beligerent tone in his voice he quipped it wasn't a graveyard burial. The original five men buried it to dispose of it, but it was still a killer cannon. It was the spur of the moment tragedy. Tompsett died as a result of township official negligence - it was their fault because they failed to keep the first burial secret. Burying the cannon preserved it and he was going to resurrect the township namesake.

Years ago some shipwreck divers found the decaying remains of a French vessel called the "Griffin, or Griffen," but no mater its sank in northwest Lake Michigan in 1679. The finders sought exclusive salvage rights to harvest any and all found artifacts to the vessel. However, the vessels owners have staked their claim and its now tied up in litigation. Just because the divers found the wreck doesn't mean squat. Governments can bankrupt the finders keepers. Find a treasure assume the worst, because in Michigan they'll try to stop underwater excavations from happening - not finders or losers. Would you have given up trying to fight city hall, as they say, to get money out of your treasure find of a lifetime?

It's important for you to understand how treasure hunters think and what separates the good, from the bad and ugly treasure hunters. Until tomorrow - keep warm for its cold outside.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 10

"CRASH, WHOMP, THUD." Something hit the floor inside a closet in 2009. Glass, plaster, wood littered the interior floor. It came from someplace outside, but nobody was injured in the house. What a mess? The two-pound cannonball did lots of structural damage. Who could be the moron that fired a cannon? Well, it was none other than William Maser, 54, a Pennsylvania history buff who made a reproduction cannon. It was his longtime hobby and he fired off a shot from his 19th century cannon from his Georges Township property near Pittsburgh. Simply put he miscalculated the old naval cannon's elevation and the two pound iron cannonball hit a neighbors house nearly 400 yards away. That's nearly a quarter mile downrange. Not a smart thing. State police charged him with disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief. He apologized, said he was sorry and promised everyone he wouldn't shoot it on his property again. These small cannons are as dangerous today as they were four hundred years ago.

Patience was our guide when searching for secrets of a sunken cannon. It became an obssession. Treasure hunters must have all the patience in the world, but we were curious enough to stay the distance.

Oh my, I'm starting to mimic Walter Cronkite, the documentary host. We all thrived on PBS-WGVU-35 program motto of "Be curious..." of your world. That was our mission statement. Be not afraid of the unknown, but know what you like or dislike. Searching for cannons is the same as hunting for treasure, but cannon hunting is the ultimate treasure. Find a cannon with historical documentation and it could fetch upwards of a quarter million dollars. That's why Bob Alcumbrack and crew kept silent. The world didn't need to know the secrets before the treasure cannon was found.

The first few days of watching Bob Alcumbrack using his dowsing rods at the big dig site made me skeptical. I couldn't believe my eyeballs. Surely two metal rods couldn't find the cannon, but each time he walked the planks above the coffer box, the rods framed the dimensions of the cannon. What made me skeptical was the cannon's overall size. My mind kept repeating "How could five men unearth, remove the cannon from its burial spot and after the accident how could five men haul it secretly out of town and be seen by one person, who was only 8 years old?

The cannon Bob had located was 11-14 feet long - a six-pound military field cannon. That's the smallest cannon in the US Army prior to the Civil War. How could he raise a 3000+pound cannon from a watery grave? How was he going to document the carriage, because he was witching cannon plus carriage? In his mind he thought all he had to do was find the cannon, but I threw a monkey wrench into his gears the third when I announced he had to grid sketch the carriage, because being sunk in water for 101 years the carriage architecture would be mush. Disturbed soil and water currents would dissolve the carriage rendering the find void. He'd be no better than archaeological theives who tear shipwrecks apart or plunder Egyptian Temples for extra cash rather than historical preservation.

Bob had no idea how he was going to sketch carriage and cannon. These things he didn't investigate and he made no provisions for them. On top of that he had to find the engravement plaques to authenticate the cannon -- name and date given to Cannon Township. The placque was reportedly made of brass, but the cannon could have been engraved, but not if it were made of iron. Without cannon authentication it would be worthless, but Bob didn't care about monetary value. It was to find, restore, preserve and protect for future generations, but without authentification how do you prove it is the correct cannon. Without proof positive its another worthless marina or landscape cannon without a pedigree. No proof of its historical heritage.

Bob, the crew and I used the 'best' of our time and technology searching for his dream cannon, but Bob found out he didn't have all the answers to problems encountered. We learned things we never knew existed. We found out we are young once and foolish until we die. We don't have all the answers, but Bob and friends waited 55 years to play in ice-cold water and experience Sandbox 101 engineering activites that challenged and taxed our brains. Bob felt old at 55. He knew his health was changing. His physical body was racked with muscle pain, but he overcame them with medication that worked when excavating tons of sand. His mind convinced him he was still young, but it was time to dig up his wildest dream - the Cannonsburg cannon.

All of us, that includes you reading this post facto, will never know everything, except for teenageers who hit ages 13-16 who magically swallowed an imaginary "wisdom pill" in know it all class and believe anyone older than themselves know nothing. Adults suddenly are disfunctional. Trouble is, those with all book knowledge don't have time to stop and play mindless video games. Know it alls must keep reading forever and never stop. Book knowledge without life experiences makes one stupid. Know it alls are never afraid to admit they don't know the answer. They make up false answers to make themselves look smarter than they really are. In life journey, wherever it takes you, never be afraid to admit you don't know an answer to perplexing problems.

Ask for professional help, but beware of those with schooling degrees who lack hands-on experience and give unproven answers just to fill in the blanks to sound more intelligent than you. Know in your heart and mind what's right or wrong for many will lead you astray and cost you money better spend elsewhere. Sure we met a few loud-mouthed dunderheads in our journey. We needed skilled individuals, but not if they drank booze. Booze was their folly to blab secrets and we couldn't trust them to keep silent or use their talents. The core group had to trust each other. We were a tight knit team players who spoke softly.

Whether cannon or treasure hunting those doing the physical work must have confidence in each other's abilities and limitations. Trust is the key to successful endings. Bob was finally digging up his wildest dream, but the TV cameras and news media personnel made Bob and his friend Alan Janose, his air injector and compression specialist, the shy guys. Whenever possible they hid behind trees as did Luther Augustine whose red hat and lower cheeks were wider than trees. Cameramen were always yelling questions at Bob that broke his concentration when dowsing. They challenged his leadership. Bob wasn't happy and hadn't planned on TV cameras documenting his progress. They were always yelling questions to Bob with "Are you ahead of the Texas group in digging?"

Low and behold on July 1, 1986 it had become a race to uncover three historical cannons. The Cannonsburg cannon was being pitted against the recovery operations for the two cannons of Texas known as the "Twin Sisters." Both groups were vying for top honors - the discovery and return of two different cannons from two different geographical regions on American soil. Both were expeditions of America's most important historical on American soil. The closeup TV camera shots made Bob paranoid. He didn't like the feeling that someone was always looking over his shoulder whether cameramen or spectator. It unnerved him.

We always joked with him that the Michigan DNR might have planted spies in the spectator's who might be just waiting to pounce on his operation for excavating in a wetland. Michigan's environmental personnel frown upon such operations, but Bob and crew made sure we made minimal disturbances of wetland streams. Mother Nature did more damage. Bob and crew didn't give the DNR any reason to squawk and stop his historical dig. We were wetland protectors.

Bob's step-father-in-law was Luther Augustine, who owned the big dig property upon which Bob was digging. Luther pondered his insurance liability limits when so many spectators arrived to watch Bob dig up the cannon. Luther's basic concern was someone other than Bob's crew might fall and get hurt as they walked around scanning Bob's dig from different angles. Luther was going to share in the limelight of cameras when the cannon was found. Every day the crowd got larger, more talking. Hundreds of people gathered to watch Bob make Michigan history when the cannon was rescued. Hourly updates were given. Excess chattering interrupted Bob's concentration. The crowd pitch grew louder and Bob's psyche and progress were challenged. Often he turned a cold shoulder to cameramen. Bob grew uncomfortable and his facial expressions showed extreme pressure and more solemn.

Walking journalists with powerful macro-lenses could count the number of whiskers on startled chipmunks a half-mile distant. Lip readers could tell what Bob was saying to his crew and that's why Bob hid behind trees, his lips to the ground as if talking to ants. Secrets we weren't willing to share. We hung our heads so nobody could read our lips. Our core group lips were hidden from view. The public realm wasn't to be privy to our conversations.

Freelance paparizzo's dogged our dark late night investigations at Moffit and Prospect Hills areas in Cannon Township. The camera flashes interrupted our dark night infrared photo ops. It was another reason Bob got paranoid. He felt bad vibes and they interrupted our mission. Too many probing eyes had shattered Bob's concentrations.

You now see what cannon and treasure hunters must avoid during searches for missing artifacts and treasure objects. It's too easy to tip our lips to other prying eyes. Secrets we didn't want to share with the public lest someone in another treasure group find the cannon first.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 9

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you had a safe New Year's Eve. Were you the party animals I saw on TV as the lighted BALLS dropped? Interesting how so many people went to free concerts, but you know the cold night time air sure had people hopping to stay warm in Grand Rapids. Some celebrate all night, but most watch the festivities in warm locals, while others sleep. I've got to say that people hopping isn't as interesting to watch as Cottontail Rabbits performing courtship rituals under a full moon. I had five rabbits facing off at 12:01 (cute). Four males performing in front of one female. After the ball dropped I turned off the light and saw the rabbits hop - who could jump the highest to show off. The males one by one tried to impress the female rabbit. Face to face only separated by one foot, the males do the hop ritual while other males watch and one after the other tried to impress the female. The courtship ritual lasts until mid February, then its mating season and by the first of May the babies are sampling new flowers and garden plants. I put up a fence, but they squeeze through (pests). From now on my opening comments come first in italics, except for questions I might ask in the history journal.

Bob Alcumbracks wildest dream and destiny took off on July 1, 1986. Bob's friends say I'm the legend that made Bob's legend reality. Seek and ye shall find was his motto and treasure hunters Bob didn't want to know. That's why he kept silent. He had no use for them polecats. They were vile snakes against humanity who had eyes with flipping dollar profit signs. They didn't care about historical preservation only money that could fill their pockets. Bob's goal was cannon hunting for historical preservation and not the monetary value. He was a man of pride using what little funds he accumulated for community service, but if a neighbor or friend got in trouble and needed help he dipped from his funds, stop what his was digging for and help them. He was always helping those less fortunate.

Bob spent more than fifty years researching for the day he started digging for the Cannonsburg cannon. He thought he'd found the secret burial spot. I've got twenty-five years invested in this story. Snow blindness from reading fuzzy microfilm readers. Old musty papers helped uncover more than 500 years of the cannon's heritage. Clue to clue is about secrets. We didn't own any crystal balls to understand and see the tragic events that remained hidden from public viewing. No time travel machines or spirits to whisk us back in time so we could witness the cannon accident. In the absence of time travel Bob based his opinions on circumstancial evidence and I was suspicious.

In essence we had to imagined the 19th century history (reading the invisible text) between the black text and form the grief scene as to what really happened to the cannon. We acted out the tragic story in present day (1986) circumstances trying to envision scenes from the past. God and those who witnessed the accident are the only ones who understand the correct sequence of past secrets.

Tompsett's tragedy will be repeated many times, but as time passes you'll get a better picture image - sharper and focused. You may feel like Bill Murray, the obnoxious TV weather meteorologist in "Groundhogs Day. As more information surfaces the better the story outcome. Bob's mission was to find, restore, preserve and protect the cannon for community pride. It was a lofty goal and he tried with all his heart and mind to find it. That doesn't mean he didn't find the cannon, but at this date it doesn't mean he found it and kept it secret. We hit roadblocks to discovery. Was it recycled, buried or sunk on private property where he couldn't get permission to dig it up? Bob desired only success to find the cannon. He wouldn't accept defeat. Pessimisum and negative thoughts lead to failure. Doubt alters the minds ability to function properly when dowsing. Open minds and positive thoughts result in easier roads to success.

At times I will play you like a fine-tuned fiddle or tease you with cat and mouse games. As lemmings I'll lead you to the precipice of a cliff, but I won't let you fall off. We'll change course leading you to discover another secret or something of interest. The special trail may or may not have a bearing on the story, but secrets will be exposed. This mystery of secrets will tax your brain cells - things you never knew existed - that worldwide secrets and not just local happenings.

I'm instilling hope, that yes, we did uncover important secrets, but what you must know is that whether treasure or cannon hunting, the journey is about silent secrets. We kept our mouths closed. We became 20th century secret society cannon busters. Not even treasure hunters will spill information until something of interest is found. Trophy fishermen, thems' with brains keep silent how and with what they caught the monster.

Fact is in Michigan fishing annals, you never give locations to monster fishing until you are hauled before a personified judge like the Upper Peninsula's John Voelker who wrote "Trout Madness." The judge banned poachers from trespassing and fishing spots where a CO (conservation officer) arrested them for fishing without a license or poaching fish. He simply banished the disgraced offenders, then made the best fishing places his favorite secret spots.

Treasure and cannon hunters must remain silent when searching otherwise what artifacts they seek will be gone and in the hands of pirates before the artifacts or treasure can be protected. Kiss and tell means failure. Bob and cannon crew discovered mysteries that kept us spellbound. After the death of Walter Tompsett in 1885, the area residents and township officials swore themselves to blood pacts and threats of death if the final resting spot was uncovered. Those who drank spirits moved away, while other checked their tongues, lived with reminders of the accident and took the gruesome secrets to the grave. They'd put Americans to shame today when secrets are exposed so that terrorists can more effectively plan terrorist targets.

In Bob's world each new discovery created more problems and the mysterious circumstances seized our eyes and ears and it did pull us off track in different directions, but we arrived at our conclusion just the same.

Our cannon hunt did rival that of fictional archaeologist Indiana Jones in the "Temple of Doom" or the "Lost Crusades." Yes, we dealt with hordes of leeches, legions of bloodsucking black, deer and blow flies and squadrons of mosquitos. Welt on itching welts, oh my! The July sun blistered our skin as salty sweat stung our eyes. The coldness of night infiltrated our arthritic bones. Biting spiders and water snakes we didn't love, but they added spice to our adventures in sandbox 101 excavations and freezing ice cold water mishaps. We were vile smelling by nightfall and stunk so bad the mosquitos didn't want to party. Treasure, err, cannon hunting takes passion.

The crew who worked inside the Bob's steel coffer box felt as if working in a coffin. The tomblike feelings were bad enough. We didn't need rats, but the water was disgustingly filthy and scuba divers couldn't see their hands placed against their masks. Wives and mothers didn't need to know this, if they did, they probably wouldn't let their husband and son play with Bob. It was dangerous work. Patience was our guide.