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The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:07 pm
by Jim_b
Of all the legends about lost and found and lost again treasures in the Southwest, there is none more mystifying than the enduring tale of a large sailing vessel which lies, full of riches, somewhere in the restless sands of California’s Salton Sea basin, toward the southern end of the Mojave Desert.


Implausible as it sounds that there might be the wreck of an ocean-going ship 100 miles or more inland from either the Pacific or the Gulf of California, the story has persisted for centuries in reports from Indian peoples, Spanish explorers, prospectors, migrants and treasure hunters.

Link to story

Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Sun Jul 12, 2009 1:54 pm
by Desert Cruiser
You know Jim B. that one interested me also. I had heard it was Southeast of Yuma in the sand dunes down there and I kinda believed it because over the centuries the Colorado River changed it course so many times. It could have run through that area easily on the way to find a shortcut back to Spain. Of course now people look at the river (that doesn't even flow in the Sea of Cortez anymore) and wonder how that could be possible, not thinking of the change in location of the channel with storms and such. Back then the river ran wild, no dams to control the water flow. Maybe someday the wind will uncover it again. Thanks.


Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 6:07 am
by Jim Hatt
I read a story years ago about a sailing vessel of some kind, that was outfitted with wheels so it could ride the desert winds across the desert. If I come across it, I will post it. I think the old Death Valley Days show even did an episode on it. Those episodes were supposed to have been based on true stories.

Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:05 pm
by trebblekidd
Thats actually very interesting. But I don't think I coulad make it over there, trying to find it. I was in Barstow yesterday and I was dying. I like the weather but my body can't take it. :(

Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:12 pm
by Desert Cruiser
trebblekidd: You should live down here where Jim Hatt and I live! Jim's East of Phoenix, and I'm in Yuma, AZ. We know what the heat is like. Either you love it or hate it here. Barstow can get pretty hot too!


Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 5:18 pm
by Goldseeker
Falls a coming; days already getting shorter

Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 5:41 pm
by lara
Desert Cruiser wrote:trebblekidd: You should live down here where Jim Hatt and I live! Jim's East of Phoenix, and I'm in Yuma, AZ. We know what the heat is like. Either you love it or hate it here. Barstow can get pretty hot too!

oh, but it's a dry heat. like a blast furnace a couple of weeks ago. rather amazing it was so hot.

lara in barstow

Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 7:52 pm
by Desert Cruiser
Lara: Now you know what we put up with all summer, can't wait for winter.


Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:06 pm
by Jim Hatt

But I know before it gets here, by the time the dead of winter arrives, I will be wishing that summer would hurry up! :lol:

Re: The Lost Ship of The Mojave

Posted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:30 pm
by oroblanco
HOLA amigos,

This story of the "ship in the desert" is one of the most fascinating and one of the most far-fetched stories ever to come out of the desert southwest, that said, it just might be TRUE.

The academics will tell you that the Salton Sea was NOT connected to the gulf of California, certainly not in the time since Columbus discovered America. The Salton Sea was a dry desert basin below sea level, they will tell you - not an inland sea connected to the saltwater. Therefore, they say, it is IMPOSSIBLE that any ship could have ever been stranded in the Colorado desert.
However, historically the whole basin has been connected to the gulf, repeatedly. The Colorado river has also repeatedly "jumped" out of its current bed and flowed not into the gulf but into this vast basin, creating a huge lake called Lake Coahuilla. Whether it actually did this in the Colonial period is really an open question, no one knows for certain. Each time this lake has been created, the river has again returned to its usual course and the lake dried up; just how long it takes for this to go "dry" is not known, but it may be surprisingly fast. The Salton Sea even today is drying up, as we sit here.

There are several ships which are candidates for being that "ship in the desert", and there may even be more than one. The best known candidate is one of the ships of Captain Juan de Iturbe, a Spaniard who outfitted several small ships in 1615 for the purpose of pearl fishing in the gulf of California. He was pursued by pirates, so the story goes, and fled up the Colorado river with his single surviving ship; as he proceeded further up the river he found it led to a vast "sea" so he explored further north, looking for the legendary "strait of Anian" which was believed to be at the north end of the "island" of California; on reaching 40 or 41 degrees North latitude, or so he reported, he found no strait leading to the Pacific so turned his ship and tried to return the way he came. Unfortunately, the river Colorado no longer was flowing into this "sea" and after searching the shorelines for any way back to the open sea, deliberately ran the ship aground and took his crew out on foot, marching all the way back to Mexico where he made his astonishing report.

To support this wild story, during the Anza expedition from Sonora to California blazing an overland trail in the 1770s, one of the members of the expedition supposedly was out scouting the route ahead or searching for fresh water when he spotted an old wooden hulk of a Spanish galleon; on searching the interior, he found chests full of pearls! He loaded himself with as many pearls as he could carry, and went AWOL from the Anza party, making his way to CA and "disappearing" as a wealthy man.

This ship of Iturbe's would not have been one of those huge Spanish Galleons, but a smaller ship known as a "sloop" or perhaps as large as a frigate; from the description it sounds quite like one of the small caravels similar to those used by Columbus; it is most commonly reported as being seen sticking out of the sand hills west of El Centro, and may have been found by a farmer in 1917 who exploited his discovery.

Then there is the English ship Content; a 60-ton Barkentine captained by one of the great English privateers Thomas Cavendish; leaving merry olde England in summer of 1586 in a mini-fleet of three ships (the Desire and Hugh Gallant being the other two, the Hugh Gallant being scuttled off Ecuador as Cavendish did not have enough men left to crew all three ships) the Content was loaded with part of over 200 tons of Spanish plunder captured from the Manila galleon Santa Ana in August 1587 and there was mutiny in the air caused by dissension over how the spoils had been divided. Cavendish thought he had smoothed things over by the time the pair of ships set off to return to England in November, and from the deck of the Desire, the Content was seen to fall behind, then suddenly turned off to the North and disappeared. It was surmised by the men on the Desire that the mutinous crew of the Content had decided to try to sail up the "straits of Anian" around California and beat them in the race back to England, but when the Desire reached home port - the Content was nowhere to be seen. If the Content sailed up the Colorado river when it happened to be emptying into the Salton Sink, thinking this to be the way to the supposed strait of Anian, it would very likely have become trapped - the ship would eventually be grounded and the crew forced to walk out; and it was a LONG way from there to any English controlled, friendly lands.

There is an old Papago legend that some of their ancestors found this ship, and brought out some artifacts from it; strange to say but they turned out to be relics from the Spanish Manila galleon Santa Ana. Some nautical relics have been found in a cave near where this ship is thought to lie, some 12 miles or so North of the gulf.

Then there is the "Viking ship"; seen by several people over the years, it was described as a long, narrow ship with a "snake" prow and round metal discs along the sides, like Viking shields. This ship was even photographed! Mr. and Mrs Louis Botts, camped out at Agua Caliente springs and had a visitor, an old grizzled prospector who shared tall tales with the couple, until he got round to the story of having found an ancient ship in the desert. At this point he pulled some faded photos out of a pocket and showed the astonished couple that he was not just building castles in the clouds. The Botts were convinced this must be an ancient Viking ship, dating to the time of Leif Eriksson when the Norse were exploring across the Atlantic, and there are some interesting legends to support the idea. The Mayo Indians, living on the coast of Mexico, for instance, tell a story of a boat that became stranded, the people on the boat came and lived with them and intermarried. Is it pure coincidence that among Mayo Indians, there are often found members of the tribe with blond hair and blue eyes?

The "Viking" ship may be even older. The ancient Phoenicians were exploring the oceans and trading at every port in the centuries before Christ, and were expert mariners. It is a known fact they were trading for spices in the islands of the South Pacific, and sent expeditions to explore the Atlantic. The round metal "discs" on the sides of the "Viking" ship may be one clue - for Viking shields were made of wood rather than metal, while Phoenician marines carried metal shields, often round as shown depicted on some of their coins. Then there is that "Serpent" prow; most Vikings had a carved dragon head for the prow, hence their nickname the 'Dragon ships'; Phoenicians also used carved figures for the prows of their ships too - the figure corresponding with the city the sailors called home. For Phoenicians of Carthage, this usually meant a carved horse-head, for Sidonians they carved a figure of the strange dwarf-god Bes; but Phoenicians from Tyre, the most powerful and richest city state of Phoenicia during the time of king Solomon, the carved figure they preferred was the long-necked SWAN, with the neck curved - this could very much be taken to be "serpent" by a casual observer.

There are a number of other candidates too, including a ship that was hauled out onto the desert in fairly modern times and abandoned. Perhaps one day we will read here on DUSA that someone has FOUND one of these lost ships of the desert?

The story has been portrayed in books and even Hollywood got into the act; the old radio show Death Valley Days ran an episode in 1940, an episode of the television series Bat Masterson titled "The Desert Ship" ran in 1959, CBS radio ran one on "Suspense" titled "The Lost Ship" in 1962 and I wouldn't be surprised to see a motion picture based on this idea one day. <Isn't the 2005 movie "SAHARA" starring Matthew McConaughey kind of loosely based on this idea? After all, it has the CSS Texas ship, loaded with gold, stranded in the Sahara desert where it is found by the movie heros? I suspect they got the idea from our basic legend. >

Good luck and good hunting amigos, I hope you find that Lost Ship in the Desert!