Monday, December 15, 2014

Captian Kidd has nothing on pirate Pat Croce.

 
Members of the Committee Films Crew and the ship captain wait for the fog to lift before we set off to find Kidd's treasure.
 


Scott encounters a feisty pirate outside Pat Croce's Pirate Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.   

 
Hundreds of silver coins welded together into one solid chunk due to hundreds of years on the bottom of the ocean.  This treasure was recovered from the shipwreck of the Emperor Aurangzeb, son of the Great Mogul who built the Taj Mahal and was discovered by film writer Arthur C. Clarke.  (Courtesy of Pat Croce and his Pirate Museum) 


Scott and guest Bill Scheller pose for a photo while searching the Maine coastal island for clues to Kidd's lost treasure.

The personalized key guard on the treasure chest of Captain Kidd that was made in Leith, Scotland. (Courtesy of Pat Croce and his Pirate Museum)

The crew prepares to shoot a scene in the Astor Mansion's octagonal-shaped library filled with old books.

 
Scott and Janet at Nina Bouphasavanh and David Scheller's wedding in early November.  Congratulations to the happy couple.  (Photo by Adrian Danciu)
 

Even though I was certain we wouldn't find a chest filled with Captain Kidd's gold and silver, I have to say I was surprised to see so many interesting artifacts directly connected to or that personally belonged to him.  Pat Croce's Pirate Museum was a surprisingly satisfying payoff at the end of the investigation for a couple of reasons.  Besides the artifacts, the Pirate Museum had a lot of amazing gold and silver along with many other real treasure artifacts recovered from shipwrecks dating back to the 1600's.  The other treasure was Pat himself who is a ball of energy, knowledge and passion that was difficult to match.  We hit it off immediately and I think the scene we filmed together was the first and only time the director asked us to turn back the enthusiasm a little bit.  It was great fun and I hope we can find another excuse to work with Pat in the future.

Bill Scheller was another wonderful guest who also happens to be the father of the then fiancĂ© of the "Kidd" episode writer, Nina Bouphasavanh.  In November, we attended David and Nina's wedding and had a fantastic time along with Bill and the rest of the crew.

When it comes to Kidd's "treasure" it's impossible to know if he ever stashed any of it and if the note he passed on to his wife lead to anything tangible.  I suspect it did and only she knows if the numbers in the note made sense, but if it was at that latitude/longitude in Maine there is one other possibility that I doubt people have considered.  Everybody assumes that if it's up in Maine somewhere, why does it have to be on Deer Isle or any other island for that matter?  Maybe Kidd was more clever and "buried" it underwater?  Instead of digging a pit and burying the treasure on one of the small, easily accessible islands, maybe he intentionally sunk a smaller boat or simply threw a treasure chest or secure box full of riches overboard at a location he thought he could later find again?  That could explain why the treasure hasn't been discovered and is still out there somewhere?

  


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Was there really a Custer Treasure?

 

Old friends from their days working together at WCCO television in Minneapolis, former long-time anchorman Don Shelby, and Director of the Custer episode, Raul Cadena, pose for a photo.  Raul also played the cigarette smoking thief in the reenactment at Two Moons monument. 


Two local native actors who played roles in the massacre reenactment pose for a photo with Scott.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't either of these guys who "killed" me during the battle.



In a "period" looking photo, Sargent John Slatton and Scott pose for photo on their horses.



Ross Mitchell and John Slatton led me and my horse "Trinity" across a ridge at the Little Bighorn battlefield in the late afternoon of a gorgeous late June day. 



I'd like to start by saying this episode was the most fun I've had on a shoot to date.  Not only did I get to participate and get "killed" in the exciting Little Bighorn massacre reenactment, but I was also allowed to ride over the entire battlefield on horseback for three hours discussing various tactical maneuvers that likely happened that day with men who served in our nation's military who knew what they were talking about.  In fact, all of the cavalry soldiers who appeared in the show are currently enlisted in various branches of the military or are veterans who served our country.  They were all extremely knowledgeable, skilled soldiers who knew how to ride, as well as helpful and friendly to the host of the show (me) who didn't have a clue what he was doing most of the time.  It's because of people like these guys who served and continue to serve in the military with honor and distinction that allows guys like me to run around playing Indiana Jones.  We all have to keep that in mind and be grateful for the freedom we enjoy.  I certainly am.

One thing became abundantly clear to me during my conversations with the cavalry guys that was not made clear in the show, and that was there was no Custer "treasure" in the form of gold and/or silver.  The pay wagon was with Reno who pulled back and wasn't part of the Little Bighorn battle.  Therefore, the only thing that could have been salvaged from the dead soldiers by the natives was personal items and paper currency.  However, the natives considered currency to be "Picture paper" and thus was meaningless to them.  I spoke to some of the native actors in the reenactment who were direct descendants of those who fought in the battle with Custer and they said the paper money taken from the dead soldiers, "Was given to the children who threw it up into the air and watched it blow away in the wind."  Besides, what would the natives do with paper money?  Walk into a grocery store and spend it?  Hardly.

So that begs the question, if there wasn't a Custer treasure, what was the treasure that Two Moons 'treasure map' reportedly led to?  What makes sense to me is there was a lot of gold miners prospecting in Montana at that time who were frequently moving across the state.  No doubt many of them were robbed of their gold by natives who at some point, realized it had value to the White Man.  I suspect that is what comprises Two Moons treasure since it couldn't realistically be anything tied to Custer.  Unfortunately, since the treasure map was stolen around 1960, we likely will never know what Two Moon's treasure actually was.  As we said in the show, it was either found half a century ago by whoever stole the map, or it is still out there. 

UPDATE: 12-9-14

Today I received a note from one of our guests on the show, David Meyer, that he had received a rash of emails from people chastising him for being involved in a "fake" episode.  It turns out there are non-serious debunkers who consistently take anything they can from our shows, and apparently this blog, and twist it out of proportion to create controversy and drive people to their own blogs.  I've said it many times before that if debunkers were really serious about the subject matter that appears on our show, they'd ask me about it directly instead of creating deliberate fabrications to drive people to their sites.
 

The issue appears to be my statement about a pay wagon, possibly filled with gold and silver, not being at the battle to have been recovered by the natives.  David said people were arguing that a pay wagon wasn't with Reno or anywhere near the battlefield.  I could very well be wrong about Reno having a pay wagon at all since I was going on what I recalled from my conversations.  I don't remember exactly.  In any case, whether Reno had a pay wagon or not is secondary to the point that there was no pay wagon with Custer.  Therefore, there couldn't have been a substantial hoard of gold and silver that could qualify as a "treasure."
 
I came to my own conclusion as we were filming there was no significant treasure beyond personal items, weapons, and paper money which would have been useless to the natives.  There was nothing preconceived about this treasure before filming the episode as apparently has been suggested.  My opinions were reached after talking with the cavalry personnel and the descendants of the Cheyenne who fought in the original battle while I was there.  

Did we play up my involvement in the reenactment to create drama?  Of course, but immersing myself into the action helped me better understand and appreciate what happened that day and put additional context on the questions we were investigating.  Nothing was faked, other than our deaths as member of the ill-fated members of Custer's troops.  My advice to anyone with a question about any of our episodes is to ask me directly on this blog.
 
ADDITIONAL UPDATE 12-10-14 
I received two emails from people who shared very interesting memories that are germane to our "Custer Treasure" episode.  I have no reason to suspect these people are not telling the truth.  While these revelations are not 100% conclusive, as far as I'm concerned all my questions are answered with regard to what the natives did with the personal items and weapons taken by the women after the battle, and as to what happened to two Moons treasure.  My thanks go out both people who contacted me for sharing their stories.
 
"Hello Scott,
 
I watched your episode last night on the "Custer Blood Treasure" with great interest. I knew W. P. Moncure very well !!

W.P. Moncure, Walker Peyton Moncure, was my paternal grandmother's uncle. She raised me from 6 months until I went away to nursing school at 17. "Moncure" as we called him, was married to Anna Otoupalik in 1903 in Butte, MT. Her sister, Venus Otoupalik-Nedved, was my grandmother's mother. They all lived in Butte, MT where my grandmother was born in 1892. She died in 1968 and Moncure died in 1964. He was repairing his roof in Calabasas at age 88, fell of the roof, broke his hip, and died as a result of complications. He was a very "wiry" little man. And boy, could he tell the stories !! He was born in 1877 in Maryland and came from a prominent family in Virginia. In fact, his father was a doctor to General Robert E. Lee.

Moncure lived in Calabasas, CA. We lived in Portland, OR, as I still do. I am a very young 71 years old. Every year he went to the Yellowstone to stay the summer until the year before he died.. On his way he would come to our house and stay 5-7 days with us. Then on his way back to CA he would come to stay with us again for another week. He always brought me a one pound box of See's chocolates from CA every year.

He owned the Indian Trading Post in Busby, MT for many years. My grandfather that raised me worked for him there and was also the Postmaster there for 15 years on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Then my grandparents went over to the Crow Reservation and were there for 2 years before finally coming to Portland in 1928. My grandfather was the Postmaster there, and owned the store there at Crow Agency.

Of course we always knew about the Two Moons Monument that he erected. He would talk about it at times. He said he erected it for the benefit of the Cheyenne and that the "treasure" would one day greatly benefit the future tribe. He and Two Moons WERE good friends. My grandparents knew Two Moons, also, since they were right there, also. My grandmother was a wonderful artist and we had the huge oil painting of Two Moons she had painted before he died. Full headdress and all. We knew what all was contained in the monument. But he would not tell where the "treasure" was buried. So yes, it was not a myth !!!  It was REAL !!!

I have magazine articles and newspaper articles about it. One very long news article you should have known about is this. In 1957 Moncure turned over the care, responsibility, and permanent custody of the monument and all its contents to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe committee. This group consisted of 9 members who Moncure helped pick. And shortly after this, the monument was "broken" into and the manila envelope was gone.

Now, after the tribe had control over the monument, do you really think they were going to leave that map there for some white man to get their hands on?  After this Moncure would always say, "No one has to worry about the wrong people getting possession of what belongs to the Indians."  The opening that was supposed to take place in 1976, 100 years after Custer's Last Stand", NOT 1986, was just done earlier because of the interest that had developed after Kathryn Wright's article. 
Also, Moncure and his wife, Anna, bought 1100 acres of land between 1915 to 1936 in the area and donated all the land to the Cheyenne.

The money paid to the massacred soldiers was not gold and silver coins. It was in the form of gold and silver treasury notes. Paper !  So all those gold coins in the rusty cans buried and found by that couple have nothing to do with the "Custer treasure".

I am going to make copies of the articles and some photos of he and Anna. I am going to send all of it to you at your company, American Petrographic Services in St. Paul, MN. I hope you read all the articles and also take all that I have told you in truth seriously. I have no reasons to lead you on about this matter. There is no "treasure" to be pursued and found. You might want to pass this information on to the man in the coin store and the other young guy on the show before you went to Montana."

Here is the second message that's also listed below:

"I remember years ago, when my grandfather was alive, he spoke about a time when his grandfather's grandfather was in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. After the battle, Sitting Bull and his people went north towards Canada, Crazy Horse and his people went south. This band came to The Stronghold, located in the Badlands of South Dakota - there Crazy Horse told his people to gather together all that they had taken from the battle field. After gathering all the items, he divided the items onto four buffalo hides and told four of his best warriors to ride in each direction (east, south, west and north), a day's ride and bury the items. My grandfather was told that there were numerous items which included coins, rifles, sabers, clothing, buttons and anything the women had found. This is a story that very few people know about. Those that did know have since passed on. I consider myself lucky to hear stories like the ones my grandfather used to tell. I thought this might be of interest to you after I watched the episode of the battle. I also find your shows very interesting. Thank you."


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Montezuma's Treasure Guarded by a Snail...

 
Bonnie and Steve Shaffer pose with Scott after shooting a scene.


It gets pretty crowded sometimes shooting close-ups; especially tight on the ledge of a cliff!


The cave system at this secret location looked like it certainly could have been a repository for Montezuma's treasure at one time.  It was remote, had all the signs of a repository and was dangerous.


This seemingly bottomless shaft was one of at least three bobby-traps in the cave system.  If one fell into this hole, you wouldn't come out of it alive.

 
Everything was thumb's up at the start of the dive.  Unfortunately, things went downhill once we submerged.
 
This episode was perhaps the most interesting "treasure hunt" I've been on so far.  The legendary stories are always interesting, but I started really getting excited when I visited the cave system in the mountains that were definitely man-made and had all the makings of a secret repository.  Since legend had it that Freddie Crystal was in this area, and the workings in the cave system appeared to be over a century old, I thought we were really onto something.  Looking up at the entrance from roughly a mile away, what I originally thought were natural caves at a distance, turned to out to much more interesting up close.  The wind eroded natural caves had definitely been extensively enhanced by man.  The question I kept asking was, "Why would someone put so much effort into a cave system that is so remote?"  Local Natives certainly could have been responsible, but if so, why the need for at least three booby traps pits, including one that went down as far as a flashlight could shine?
 
The cave system also included a large pit that could have been filled and then covered over to conceal its contents.  Those contents could certainly have been a large cache of gold and other valuables.  Since the likely repository was now empty, that meant whatever was in there had been moved.  It seemed that all indicators pointed to Lonn's property and the tunnel system below the pond.  this of course led to one of the most interesting and spooky dives I've ever done.
 
As I said in the show, I'm not big on curses and believe people make things worse for themselves with mind games.  Maybe that's why curses work; if you believe something is true, you're halfway there.  Before the final dive after three hours of being in the water, one of our divers got hypothermia and had to get out.  That left me and two safety divers, one handling the underwater camera.  Once we reached the entrance to the underwater tunnel, the third diver couldn't enter and waited at the entrance.  Keep in mind the entrance at the base of the overhanging cliff was at 35 feet underwater.  Because the rocks were angled outward overhead, I could watch my air bubbles rise along the rock which allowed me to keep my bearings.  As I entered the tunnel the roof angled down to the point I had to crawl on my knees.  Moving in I kept one eye on my bubbles knowing they were rising in the direction of my exit.  The diver carrying the camera and lights stopped just inside the cave as tunnel got too low and narrow for him to enter.  I kept going in and the diver's lights behind me got dimmer in the sediment-filled water and when it was almost pitch black I paused and turned on my own flashlight. 
 
At this point, the tunnel beckoned me to go forward and just as I was about to press on, I glanced at the rock ceiling inches above my head.  My air bubbles were no longer moving up and out.  They were coalescing and then slowly moving outward in BOTH directions.  I then turned around and saw a slight glimmer of the diver's lights and knew this was my only way to get out.  To go any further would have been foolish.  The lure of finding whatever was at the end of this tunnel wasn't worth the risk, so headed back toward that light and followed the rock wall back to the surface.
 
Once back on shore, I truly was cold, tired and a little disappointed in myself that I let the lure of treasure put me in a potentially dangerous situation.  To top it all off, to not be able to do the safest and easiest thing, drain the pond, was especially frustrating.  In a way though, it was fitting.  If Montezuma's treasure really is inside that tunnel in a cave under the pond, how ironic it's being guarded by a snail.       

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Geology, geology, geology in the Superstition Mountains!"


 

Field producers Nina and Michelle relax between takes.

 

Lots of visible gold in this sample Ron Feldman says came from the Lost Dutchman's Mine.

 
 

Ron Feldman with son's Josh and Jessie and Scott.

 

Lost Dutchman, Jacob Waltz, is buried in a lonely part of the cemetery.

 

The photograph sent anonymously after I returned from the shoot shows rich gold ore inside what appears to be the secret location of the Lost Dutchman Mine in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.  

 
The Lost Dutchman Mine mystery was a really fun episode because I had the chance to do several days of hard rock geology in the field.  It brought back memories of my first job out of college as a field geologist looking for gold in Northern Minnesota with Mapco Minerals.  Even though it was fun to be prospecting out in the desert, searching for clue's to Jacob Waltz's "honey hole" of gold ore was tough to do.  It seemed like everyone I talked to thought they had it all figured out when clearly they didn't.  Some thought the gold was a rich ore deposit while others thought it was a cache of gold bars, coins, or placer nuggets mined from a different location altogether.  As you saw in the episode, some are convinced the Peralta Stones are definitely connected to the Lost Dutchman Mine when in fact, there is no clear indication on the stones it even is a map to a gold mine. 
 
I've received a lot of emails from people who think they know where the gold mine is in the Superstition Mountains.  While there definitely is gold in those mountains, I wasn't certain during the search that anybody living today knows where the mother lode is for certain.  If they did, why would they say a word to anyone about it?
 
On the other hand, the photograph sent anonymously to me after we shot the episode clearly shows a spectacular amount of veins of gold inside what appears to be quartz host.  The occurrence of gold in this photo could very well be the source of the sample Ron showed me that he said came from the Lost Dutchman Mine.  One thing I know for sure is this large, gold-rich quartz vein was not from the Mammoth Mine Ron took me to.  Even though Mammoth Mine was a reliable gold producer for several years, based on this photo (if legitimate) and the geology I saw, it can't be the Lost Dutchman. 
 
What I can conclude is if the site in this photo truly is the mine where Jacob Waltz got his gold, the Lost Dutchman was, and apparently still is a gold-rich deposit and someone out there knows where it is.  Maybe one day they'll take me there?  If I had to wear a blind-fold so as to never reveal it's location, I'd be happy to so I could answer the question of it's existence once and for all. 
 
 

Judaculla Rock and the Red Bird Petroglyph


Storyteller Tim Hall, Scott, and Nathan Queen in front of the Coffee Shop.
 
Colin Thrienen shoots overhead footage from a ledge above where the Red Bird petroglyph boulder fell from the wall and rolled onto the highway. 
 

After filming on the final day in Kentucky I was taken to the cave where Chief Red Bird was buried.


The Committee Films crew lights the Judaculla Rock for night time filming.

 
Two of our guests in this episode, Lisa Dawn Frady, and Tim Hall, are veterans who served with distinction in our Nation’s military.  Since we weren’t able to acknowledge and thank them for their service during the broadcast, I’d like to do it here.  Thanks to both of you, and to all of our veterans along with those currently enlisted who serve in our military.  Your sacrifice is greatly appreciated and it’s people like you that allow people like me the freedom to run around playing “Indiana Scott.” 
Both the Red Bird Petroglyph and the Judaculla Rock are sites I’ve known about for several years and was excited to do an episode on.  Leslie Kalen showed me the Judaculla Rock the first time and told me that her people’s ancestors, the ancient Cherokee, had carved the symbols covering the stone over a thousand years ago.  My first impression was that it was probably the most amazing Star Map petroglyph I have ever seen.  The one exception is the Peterborough Petroglyphs site in Ontario, Canada.  I had the pleasure of visiting this site this past summer and was educated about its history by an Ojibwe, Mide’win medicine man.  Geologically, the blue soapstone Judaculla Rock and the coarse-grained, high white marble in Peterborough are highly unusual rock types.  It seems obvious to me that the ancient Native people who carved these amazing glyphs understood that.  Both sites are considered very sacred as well they should be.   These sites were used to teach those deemed worthy knowledge about the heavens and the ancient stories.
The petroglyphs on the Red Bird boulder are different and seem to be more like an important sign post with mostly Native messages dating back to the distant past.  There could also be Old World script there as well, but I think the most of the symbols on the Red Bird petroglyph were carved by the Cherokee.    

Ironically, just as we were about to begin filming the episode, one of the people we contacted to be a guest, Pisgah National Forest Archaeologist Scott Ashcraft, declined to appear on the show and then tried to get our access to film the Judaculla Stone denied.  In what was clearly an attempt to control the public dissemination of information about what the Judaculla Stone is, Mr. Ashcroft called everyone he could, including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, to try and derail our filming.  Fortunately, his attempts at sabotage were unsuccessful, but this is yet another example, that hit very close to home, of an academic being territorial to the point of taking disparate action that only served to undermine his own credibility.
I wonder what he thought of the episode?  I’d love to hear from you Scott.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Davey Crockett and Secrets from the Alamo

At the beginning of this episode I was skeptical of the premise Crockett could have survived the Alamo.  However, things got interesting quickly when the land deed and the newspaper articles began to open my eyes.  The chances are very good that he did survive choosing then to live out his days after the Alamo in a quiet, low-key lifestyle.  This begs many questions and speculation as to why?  If he did survive and went on to live a secret life, why would he sign his real name on the land deed?  Perhaps it was to ensure the property would legally stay in the family.  One thing that impacted me was the land deed was signed by the President, James Buchanan, another Mason, who likely knew Crockett was alive and made sure the land transaction was approved for a “Brother” who had served his country with honor and distinction even then, and deserved a peaceful and quiet retirement.  .

Like many American icons, when you dig deeper into their past to try and understand who they really were, you are often surprised.  I found it interesting to learn that his grandparents were killed by Indians whom he despised as a very young man.  Later, he became very ill at one point and was nursed back to health by Natives he lived with and came to understand.  This led to a better understanding and appreciation of Native culture.  When he eventually became a United States senator, he was an avid supporter of Native American rights which created a rift between he and President Andrew Jackson.  This contentious relationship may have played a role in Crockett’s desire to disappear when the opportunity came after the Alamo.

Our theory that both Crockett and Santa Anna used the Masonic sign of distress to save their lives takes on added significance when you consider that Crockett likely wasn’t the only person whose life was saved at the Alamo through Masonic connections.  Our guest at the Scottish Rite Temple in Minneapolis, Jack Roberts, who also happens to be a Texas native in addition to a Freemason, relayed a legendary story about how two of the three only known survivors walked away from the Alamo.  Those survivors were the wife, Susanna, and infant child, Angelina Elizabeth, of Captain Almaron Dickinson.  According to Jack, the legend within the Craft is before the final assault, Captain Dickinson reportedly gave his Masonic apron to his wife and told her to cover herself with it when the enemy captured them.  There are a couple of versions of this story you can read at these links, but the premise of soldiers and their family members surviving vicious battles throughout history due to Masonic affiliations is nothing new.


http://www.tamu.edu/faculty/ccbn/dewitt/adp/history/bios/dickenson/dickinson_susannah.html

http://issuu.com/momason/docs/gl_proceedings_1978/222

If Crockett did survive and live on, the question becomes why did we never hear about it?  There are all kinds of possibilities, but one idea that makes sense to me is the United States Government propaganda machine didn’t want news to leak out about any survivors. They likely feared the now famous slogan, “Remember the Alamo” might not been the powerful inspiration it came to be had a famous person like Crockett been known to survive.  That all the soldier’s died at the Alamo served to ‘fuel the fire’ of soldiers in subsequent battles that led to important victories.

Part of me that wants to believe this courageous American hero did survive, and at the age 50 after the bloody battle at the Alamo he decided he had had enough.  If anybody out there has any more clues that could shed additional light about Crockett, I’d love to hear about it.



Director Raul Cadena gets serious at the altar in the Scottish Rite Temple in Minneapolis.


Joy Bland's husband, Mike Hartzell, Will Yates, Brandon Boulay, Joy Bland and Scott.


Archaeologist Michael Arbuthnot gets his drone ready for a flight
at the suspected Davey Crockett property.


An interesting AVM keystone at the entrance to the Alamo.  
Which Mary was it supposed to honor?


An arrowhead found by Scott near the homestead of Davey Crockett.


Scott proudly diplays his jasper arrowhead.




Sunday, September 14, 2014

So what about that “Apparently Non-Existent” Honorary Master’s Degree?

Shortly after the premier of our show America Unearthed in December of 2012, an internet “debunker” wrote a blog intimating that I was falsely claiming I had received an Honorary Master’s Degree in Geology in 1987.  The blog was cleverly written so as to not outright assert I was misrepresenting my qualifications, but it certainly did give readers the impression I was somehow claiming to be somebody I wasn’t.

Unfortunately, this misleading post has made its way to the top position on Google when people search for my name looking for information about me.  Even though I responded to the post explaining how and why I received the degree, my response was at first left up on blog, but has since been removed thereby furthering the myth the blogger created.  Because I often receive sometimes nasty criticism generated by this particular blog post, I felt I should re-address the issue head-on in a blog post of my own.  While the debunker’s post falls just short of the bar necessary to initiate legal action, future events could change the current situation.

Another reason I felt compelled to address this subject, is that the person whose idea it was to recognize me way back then recently passed away.  Professor Emeritus, Charles L. “Charlie” Matsch, died suddenly on April 20th of this year at the age of 83.  I owe much of whatever success I’ve had in my career to Charlie who steered me toward geology when I was clueless freshman at the University of Minnesota at Duluth (UMD).




The late Professor Emeritus Dr. Charles L. Matsch and I pose for a photo after my lecture on Lake Superior agates at the University of Minnesota-Duluth in the spring of 1987.  Charlie and my other former professors gave me a “sympathy” Honorary Master’s for my 1986 book, The Lake Superior Agate.

In August of 1983, I completed my 6-week geology field camp classwork and was ready to begin my job search.  Charlie contacted me about interviewing for a position as a field geologist with a Mapco Minerals.  Due in part to Charlie’s recommendation I was hired.  It turned out the first project was in Northern Minnesota where I was hired to traverse and map the glacially scoured bedrock.   The job also required that I slog my way into a seemingly endless number of swamps to hand drill through the floating bogs up 30 feet down to the underlying bedrock to collect basal clay samples looking for gold.  It was a physically demanding job, but I was in good shape after four years of playing college football and I really enjoyed being in the woods.  After three months the Minnesota project ended and I was offered a full-time position that was to begin in January in Nevada.  I was excited to get my professional career going as were my parents, Barbara and Fred.

Upon returning home to the Twin Cities in November, my father, a pilot with Northwest Airlines for the past 25 years said, “You’re no longer a dependent, so you get one more pass to fly anywhere in the world so you better make it good.  Where do you want to go?”  With over a month before I started the next field assignment in Nevada; I was excited to take the trip of a lifetime.  One of my favorite hobbies was scuba diving and decided I wanted to go the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  Being close to my father, I asked if he wanted to go with me.

Our plan was to be gone for three weeks and over the first eight days we were in Hawaii, Japan, and China before arriving in Cairns, Australia.  After hustling our way onto a boat and camping out the night before, we arrived on the dock the next morning for the three-hour trip to the Great Barrier Reef.  This was the moment we were waiting for and after the boat was anchored in a tidal channel on the reef, 25 or so snorkelers jumped into the water for a spear-fishing contest.  Once the snorkelers were clear, my father and I excitedly jumped in with our scuba tanks.  Within minutes of entering the water we became separated in the murky, sediment-filled water flowing out to sea with the tide.  After searching for several minutes, I grew annoyed wondering where he was and headed back to the boat.  As I climbed onto the boat, a few of the snorkelers were just setting him down after pulling him from the water.  I knew instantly that he was gone.  Exactly why my father, who was an experienced diver, died from saltwater drowning that day is still a mystery.

Needless-to-say both my family and my world changed forever.  After my return I was in no condition to take the job with Mapco and over the next two years I struggled trying to find my career and my confidence.  To help work through the grief and guilt, I spend countless hours in local gravel pits collecting agates, and my thoughts, trying to understand what had happened.  I immersed myself in everything agates and at one point was inspired to write a book about agates by my agate mentor, George Flaim of Duluth, Minnesota.  Thanks to George’s prodding I embraced the project and with the input of many people along way, including Charlie and my other UMD professors who reviewed my geological research on the various types, modes of formation, microscopic features, glacial distribution, and history of collecting Lake Superior agates, the book was published in the fall of 1986.



My agate mentor, George Flaim, and I posed for a photo while negotiating a deal in his basement in Duluth, Minnesota, sometime around 1990.

It was a proud and defining moment in my life which helped me move on emotionally from the tragedy with my pride and confidence restored.  The following spring, I was invited by the University to give a lecture at UMD about my agate research.  Janet joined me for the lecture and afterward my former professors peppered me with technical questions that I answered.  After the lecture they invited me to the professor’s lounge where Charlie announced the honorary degree complete with a whipped-cream topped cup of coffee.

The degree was certainly not officially recognized by the University, nor was it ever portrayed to be.  It was simply an acknowledgement that my professors were proud of me for fighting through a tough experience, producing something scholarly, while getting my life back on track.  I have always portrayed it as an honorary “sympathy” degree.  However, it was an honor I was proud of back then and am still proud of today.  The misleading blog post put my now elderly retired professors in an awkward position at being questioned about their kind gesture so many years ago.  To have this important moment portrayed as somehow dishonest to try and discredit me and my research, only serves as further motivation.

In the future I’m sure we will all look back and recall these “Wild West” days of the Internet.  I was prepared for the personal attacks and attempts to marginalize and dismiss my work on the controversial subject matter we investigate on the show and in real life.  People like this aren’t really interested in the truth; they are interested in turning the attention onto themselves so they can espouse their own personal “beliefs.”  In my view, the worst offender of bias and miss-information on the Internet is Wikipedia.  This on-line resource that so many people in the world rely upon simply cannot be trusted; especially when it comes to topics about archaeology and the controversial artifacts I had researched extensively, such as the Kensington Rune Stone, the Tucson Lead Artifacts, and that Bat Creek Stone.  They are portrayed as fakes in spite of the obvious and overwhelming factual evidence consistent with authenticity.  The world is being manipulated by “Wiki” on these topics and it needs to be stopped.

Shortly after the show premiered, bogus references casting my research in an unfounded negative light began to appear on my Wiki bio page.   I tried unsuccessfully to remove it only to have it reappear.  Eventually, I demanded they remove the bogus information or delete my bio completely.   I’d rather people not have a Wiki bio than to have one sentence in it that was false.  An infuriating and condescending week-long debate ensued among the Wiki reviewers and only after threatening legal action did they finally remove my bio completely.

The same situation is currently happening to a brilliant researcher and friend, Charles Pellegrino.  Charlie has also had his academic credentials questioned by Internet hackers who have posted false information on his Wiki bio page.  Charlie lost his cousin on 9-11 and along with other families who lost loved ones that day has endured harassment and threats by 9-11 “Truthers” whose motives are despicable, and who are openly in charge of his Wikipedia biography.   Charlie has also had research on the Titanic and the Talpiot Tomb unjustly criticized by those whose “beliefs” on these subjects are contrary to the factual evidence he and his colleagues have worked hard to document.  He has also reached the point of frustration and disgust that he has demanded to have his Wiki bio page removed permanently.

At the end of day, all this banter about scholarly degrees, peer review, academic journals, and fraudulent Wikipedia articles are nothing more than a smokescreen by skeptics and debunkers who offer no meaningful contributions, and try to control and cloud the discussion with misleading and mean-spirited deception and nonsense.  The bottom line is the soft-science academic “consensus of opinion” approach to history where there is little to no accountability has failed to find the truth.  It’s long past time we put aside the “Myth of Columbus” and defer to the facts.  Instead of the court of academic opinion, the factual evidence concerning our history should be considered in a court of law under oath by professionals who understand proper scientific method, ethical practices, and most importantly, accountability.