The Long-Lost Treasures of Lima, Benito Bonito and Devonshire

Photo courtesy from Youtube

Now here’s an article that will surely spark your interest in Cocos Island: it’s about a hoard of accumulated treasure that has never been found and believed to be buried somewhere in the 23.85 square kilometer (9.21 square mile) land coverage of this offshore Costa Rican Island.

Jacques Cousteau, during his visit in 1989, described Cocos Island as the most beautiful island in the world where author Michael Crichton had based his box office science fiction movie Jurassic Park. While there may be several recognition Cocos Island has gained, it is actually the work of Robert Louis Stevenson on his classic novel entitled Treasure Island that really hit Cocos Island to international fame.

Historic Accounts of Accumulated Looted Treasure

If you try to do your own research, we are sure enough you will have a headache where its historical profile has been analyzed numerous times leading to several versions of the story but eventually ending up in finding nothing. But as the race to find this massive treasure continues, we are sure you want to know and trace back how this wealth arrived in Cocos Island.

The Famous Treasure of Lima

Estimated Current Value: $200,000,000.00

It all started in 1820 when Peru together with neighboring countries started war against the Spanish Empire colonizing the Americas back then. When the revolutionary Argentine General Jose de San Martin planned to invade the Spanish colony in Lima, the Spanish Viceroy in the name of Jose de la Serna thought that it would be better if all their riches be taken out of the war zone for safekeeping and the news quickly spread throughout the 50 Spanish churches within the vicinity of Lima.

A charcoal sketch showing the loading of Lima’s Treasure in the Mary Dear. Photo courtesy from Look and Learn

The order was to take all the ecclesiastical riches to the port of Callao, where it will be loaded up in a commissioned ship setting sail out to the open seas for several months then coming back to port once the Spaniards have secured the country. With this plan, the Viceroy of Lima ended up talking and commissioning a respected trader and a British Captain in the name of William Thompson.

Thompson’s vessel, named Mary Dear, was loaded up with what is known today as the Treasure of Lima which consist of tons of golden Spanish coins, silver, diamond and a life size image of the Virgen Mary which is made of solid gold believed to bare a total value of $200,000,000 at present time.

When the treasure cargo was all loaded up, the Mary Dear set sail to the Open Seas commanded by the British Captain himself while the treasure on board was being guarded by 6 Spanish Soldiers and 2 Priest.



We’re guessing you know what happened next

If you think Captain Thompson fulfilled the agreement, then you are wrong. What happened to this supposed treasure safe-keeping voyage is the same with the stories from treasure hunters where greed immediately comes in once a treasure is found. When the Mary Dear was far enough from land and the temptation to have an instant wealth sets in, Captain Thompson and his men killed all the Spanish Soldiers and Priests on board while they were sleeping. After throwing the dead bodies in the ocean, the Mary Dear headed towards Cocos Island where Captain Thompson and his men buried the so-called Treasure of Lima.

Anticipating that they will be searched out to recover the treasure, Captain Thompson and his crew decided to leave Cocos Island, split up and agreed to come back when the situation has died-down and divide their loot. But not long after they left Cocos Island, Mary Dear was intercepted by a Spanish Warship. All the crew of Mary Dear was placed on trial and convicted for piracy where they were hung except for Captain Thompson and his first mate who both agreed to cooperate by locating and retrieving the treasure loot.

But as the saying goes “trust anyone except a pirate”, Captain Thompson and his first mate escaped the armed guards when they set foot at Cocos Island once again to supposedly locate and retrieve the Treasure of Lima. Captain Thompson and his first mate run in to the jungle where the armed guards failed to capture them and eventually left Cocos Island out of frustration.

It is said that Captain Thompson and his first mate left Cocos Island and hitched a ride from a whaling vessel heading to what is now known as Puntarenas in Costa Rica. Unfortunate enough, the first mate was not able to claim his share of the treasure loot as he contracted yellow fever and was not able to survive the effects of its ailment.

Whereabouts of Captain Thompson

As of this moment, Captain Thompson is deemed to be the most important person since he is the only survivor left who really knows where the treasure loot is located. But unfortunately, he vanished like thin air as history denies his long-lived existence after his arrival in Puntarenas and no further records showing his coming back to Cocos Island.

But there is another version. In 1841, Captain Thompson met John Keating where the two became close friends. While Captain Thompson was badly ill on his deathbed, he told the whole story about the Treasure of Lima to Keating and gave him a map which showed directions leading to the looted wealth.

A portrait of Keating’s Ship on his voyage to Cocos Island. Photo courtesy from Treasure Stories

Keating arranged an expedition to Cocos Island and anchored in Chatham Bay where he and the Ship Captain alone went ashore to follow the map. It was believed the two found the treasure but only took what can be concealed on their clothes. Back on board, while the crew did not believe their statements that they had found nothing, they insisted to retrieve the treasure and demanded for a share. Fearing for their lives, Keating and the Captain abandoned the ship and went hiding in the jungle. The crew searched for them but failed.

After months of hiding, a ship anchored at Chatham Bay to resupply their freshwater. Keating met the crew and told them their ship was wrecked out and that he is the lone survivor. Keating managed to arrange a ride back to the mainland.

Using the small treasure concealed in his clothes, Keating was able to arrange two more expeditions to Cocos Island but the same fate happened to him as the crew wanted a share of the treasure. During those expeditions, Keating only managed to sneak in small amounts of treasure that can easily be concealed in his personal belongings.

Unable to retrieve the huge treasure hoard out of Cocos Island, Keating ended up broke and badly ill. During his unlucky years, Keating met several persons where he shared the story of Lima’s Treasure.

Contents of Lima’s Treasure

To cut the story short and for you to gain more interest, allow us to share an abstract of the contents of Lima’s Treasure based on Keating’s inventory and manifestation from persons whom Keating talked with before he passed away.

Photo courtesy from World News Daily Report

– 1 chest containing altar trimmings of gold cloth with baldachins, monstrances, chalices all coated with gem stones of up to 1,244 pieces.

– 1 chest containing 2 gold reliquaries weighing 120 pounds (54 kilos) with 624 topozes, cornelians, emeralds and 12 diamonds.

– 1 chest containing 3 reliquaries of cast metal weighing 160 pounds (72.5 kilos) with 860 rubies, 19 diamonds and other gem stones.

Photo courtesy from

– 1 chest containing 4,000 doubloons of Spanish Marked 8, 124 swords, 5,000 crowns of Mexican Gold, 64 dirks, 120 shoulder belts and 28 rondaches.

– 1 chest containing 8 caskets of cedar wood and silver with 3,840 cut stones, rings and patens and another 4,265 uncut stones.



Located on a nearby treasure burial site in Cocos Island which has a description “28 feet to the northeast at a depth of 8 feet in the yellow sand” lies another batch of treasure:

– 7 chest with 22 candelabra in gold and silver weighing 250 pounds (113 kilos) and 164 rubies.

Photo courtesy from World News Daily Report

But the highlight of Lima’s Treasure is buried on a separate site which has a description:


12 armspan to the west at a depth of 10 feet in the red soil


It is the 7-foot Solid Gold Statue of Virgen Mary with the Child Jesus. This treasure alone weighs 780 pounds (354 kilos) that is being rolled on her gold chasuble adorned with 1,684 jewels including 4-inch emeralds, 6-inch topazes and 7 crosses made of diamonds.




Other Treasures Buried in Cocos Island

The Devonshire Treasure

Estimated Current Value: $16,000,000,000.00

The hiding of treasures in Cocos Island started years before the famous Treasure of Lima took place. In 1818, when British Naval Officer in the name of Captain Bennett Grahame commanded the HMS Devonshire for a coastal survey in the South Pacific which he eventually throw up the mission and proceed with life in being a pirate. During his pirate years, Captain Grahame hoarded over 350 tons of gold from Spanish Galleons he raided during his Pacific cruise. Unluckily for him, Captain Grahame along with his Officers did not enjoy the massive and instant wealth for they were arrested and executed.

Photo courtesy from Treasure Stories

Now here is the interesting part: One of the ship’s crew named Mary Welch, who was sent to a penal colony but was later released, said she saw Captain Grahame and his men bury the so-called Devonshire Treasure in Cocos Island. She further described that the Devonshire Treasure was in the form of bullion or gold bars as we call it today. Equipped with a chart sketched out with compass bearings and confident enough that she can recall the exact location, Mary Welch led an expedition to Cocos Island, but she was too late. It’s not that the Devonshire Treasure has been found by someone else but the landmarks she once knew were gone.

Benito Bonito’s Treasure

Estimated Current Value: $300,000,000.00

Commonly known for looting and burning Spanish Galleons in the western coast of the Americas in the year 1818, the story of Benito Bonito has several versions. One version tells us that he participated in the looting of Lima’s Treasure and buried his share in Queenscliff near Philip Bay Port in Victoria, Australia in 1821 which is a year after Captain Thompson first took hold of the treasure. But historians disagree on this fact and all point-out that the treasure is buried in Cocos Island particularly in the vicinity of Wafer Bay.

Another version tells us that Benito Bonito and his men ambushed a troop of Spanish Guards who were transporting gold from the Mexican Cordillera to Acapulco. They retrieve and wore the Spanish Guard’s uniform where they loaded the looted gold to their ship while pretending to be Spanish Guards. This gives them the perfect disguise where they can easily come near to a Spanish Galleon and continue their savaging rage and looting of treasures.

If Benito Bonito was known for his successful looting, he was also known for a single mistake where he allowed 2 Englishmen to join his team of pirates. Several years after this 2 Englishmen were captured and sent to prison, they promised to the British Officials in exchange for freedom that they will pinpoint the West Indian hideout of Benito Bonito which resulted to the end of Bonito’s pirate life.

But here is the real twist on the story of Benito Bonito which can make your eyes pop. Historians believed that Benito Bonito has a shadowy figure to hide a real identity. Based on facts and other data available, Historians believed that the real identity behind Benito Bonito was Captain Bennett Grahame who was in command of HMS Devonshire and primarily responsible for the so-called Devonshire Treasure. No wonder why the accumulated value of the treasure loot from Devonshire estimated to have an 11-digit value.

What could be the reason why Cocos Island was chosen to be the site for buried treasures?

Is it the wind that drove the sails of a pirate ship? Or is it the characteristics of Cocos Island that lured them to bury the treasure?

Let’s forget the first assumption as ships can steer despite of wind direction and focus our attention to the Pirate’s haven-like life in Cocos Island. The 23.85 square kilometer (9.21 square mile) land coverage of Cocos island, which is considered the largest uninhabited island in the world, makes it a perfect spot for hiding treasure in a relatively huge land area making the probability of finding it is next to impossible, except if you have a map. Second, it is the only island in the Eastern Pacific that has a rainforest where pirates can have the option to bury their treasure either near the coast or up in the jungle.

Not just only for burying treasures, Pirates find a safe refuge in Cocos Island where it has a safe anchorage and a huge freshwater supply. There were even stories about Pirates refreshing themselves in a waterfall while indulging in alcoholic beverages brewed from locally grown coconuts.

News on a Treasure Find: A Deception

There have been reports that the alleged Treasure of Lima has been found and recovered. But if you will try to analyze the facts, you will realize that the news is a hoax. Let’s begin with the most logical concept. The news states that it was the Park Rangers of Cocos Island who found the treasure after doing a damage assessment on the natural resources brought about by a hurricane. This alone rises up the red flag. Hundreds of expeditions to actively find the treasure have already been conducted yet ending up in finding nothing as compared to the Park Rangers who are not engaged in treasure hunting. Further, park rangers are the most logical person to find the treasure since they are the only entity allowed to stay in the island.

Second, the park rangers allegedly claimed they found the treasure in a beach where the sand and waves met. They further described that they saw a partly exposed chest in the beach and when they dug and opened it, low and behold Lima’s Treasure. Seriously, their claim seems to be funny where their description perfectly fits the script described in the movie Treasure Island. Maybe, they are fond of watching movies. Further, if they were at the beach after a hurricane and claimed to see a partly exposed treasure chest, in reality what would happen is the complete opposite. Instead of surfacing up, the assumed heavy treasure chest would displace the sand and be buried further deep as hurricane waves can bring more sand to shore.

Why the fake news? We think it’s a form of deception which discourages interested person to find the treasure and stop their pursuit, if not, their passion for treasure hunting.

So, this is good news. The treasure is still out there in Cocos Island.

But for those who want to sneak their presence in Cocos Island looking for this lost treasure, may we warn you in advance that the presence of humans is strictly prohibited in the island. Only park rangers living in ranger stations are authorized by the Costa Rican government to live in the island while performing their duty in protecting this Nature Reserve. With this and aside from the fact that this lost treasure has been searched for many centuries yet never been found, it may seem that finding the treasure is near to impossible.

While this may be true, many have already found the treasure in Cocos Island. Not a real gold treasure but the treasures of nature. Cocos Island has brought in enormous amounts of cash in the diving and tourism industry where divers around world continuously visits this offshore reef blessed with a bounty of marine life. The good thing with sustaining nature’s treasure is many people, including industries, may benefit from it as compared to a few capitalist engaging in actual treasure hunting.

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