Adventures in Peru, Chapter 4

Sea Serpents and Sea Treasures

Part 1

Many people say the Sea Serpent is all bunkum, and they are welcome to their opinion. On land, in the Temperate Zones, creeping things are small, and, speaking generally, of no account; but in the Torrid Zone they attain a tremendous size. Snakes are to be found in the Narrow Seas; hence I cannot, for the life of me, see why monster serpents should not exist in Equatorial waters. I got my first glimpse of the Great Sea Serpent in 1901, when voyaging off the Island of Fernando de Noronha. Fernando de Noronha, so called after its discoverer, is about five miles long and three miles broad, and is situated east of Brazil. It is a convict settlement, and is infested with rats.

Four years later, at practically the same spot, it was my good fortune to be favoured with another sight of this wonderful creature. I was then taking a trip in a P.S.N.C. boat which called at Fernando de Noronha. We left the island about midday. Lunch was served, as usual, at one o’clock, but I didn’t attend, as I was getting fit for crossing the High Andes yet again, to revisit the Sacambaja River and the Caballo Cunco Hill. So I contented myself with a few cold beef sandwiches and half a bottle of beer. Soon after I had finished my frugal repast, I distinctly saw the Wonder of the Seas. It appeared about fifty yards ahead of the steamer, on the port side. It had a head as big as a cow’s head, and its body looked as large round as a flour barrel. I only saw one coil of the latter, and that was a matter of eight to ten yards away from the head, and raised above the water a foot or so.

When the captain—a Liverpool man—and the other passengers came up, I told them what I had seen. The captain said to me: “Prodgers, if I didn’t know you very well indeed, and were not quite certain you had taken no extra cocktails before lunch, I should think you had seen double. Man and boy, I have sailed the seas these many years, but I have never yet cast eye on any sea serpent.” He was, however, fain to admit that he had often heard of the monster, and that my description of it tallied with what he had been told.

It will be remembered that the late Earl of Crawford, when on his fine auxiliary yacht the Valhalla, fourteen miles from the coast near Para, had an experience on December 7th, 1905, similar to that recorded above. It was also on this trip that I heard, from a passenger named Campbell, there was an island called Trinidad, south of Bahia, where treasure is supposed to be buried. Campbell told me that during 1903 he formed one of a party who visited the island to which I have referred. The captain of the schooner they went in, claimed to know the exact spot where the treasure was buried. They reached Trinidad all right, and spent three days in getting their stores ashore, and putting up a rough hut as a shelter. Unfortunately, whilst they were thus engaged, their leader had an attack of yellow fever; so they decided to get back to Bahia as soon as possible in order that he might receive proper medical attention. But all was in vain, and the poor fellow died without revealing the treasure’s hiding-place. Strange to say, about ten or twelve years ago I came across an old document that seemed to confirm Campbell’s tale. It was given me by a man whom I had befriended when he was down and out—when he had nothing to do, and nothing to live on. His fair-weather friends had all forsaken him. Some even said they didn’t know him. He applied to me as a last resort, and I told him he could go to a small house I owned on the isle of Juan Fernandez, and live there rent-free till something turned up. This house, as already related, I had taken in part-payment of my fee for superintending the breaking-up of the three-masted schooner Adriatic, of which more anon.

I used to keep several boats at this place, and have enjoyed many a pleasant hour, standing in a flat-bottomed punt to shoot Blue Rock pigeons. This man, by the way, also claimed to know of treasure buried at Itaperica; but the data that old Waldimar Fisher, who lives at my place in Juan Fernandez, supplied me with, refers to the one buried in the Isle of Trinidad, south of Bahia.