The Italian Almanac

Treasure

Italian News - September 28

A team of Italian divers is preparing to descend into the waters off the island of Elba in search of a massive hoard of gold and silver coins believed to have sunk there in 1841. The coins, along with an unknown quantity of precious jewels, were being carried secretly aboard a Genoese steamship when it was attacked by a Neapolitan vessel for reasons which remain unclear.

The steamship, the Polluce, sank and all its precious cargo was lost. But its wreck was recently located at a depth of 103 metres, about five miles out from Elba's main port. Weather conditions permitting, a team of divers will begin the treasure hunt at the start of October, descending to the sea floor in a pressurised chamber and then venturing out to explore. They will comb the wreck and sift the surrounding sand with equipment similar to that used to recover the black boxes of crashed airliners.

The expedition is being mounted by a private association, the Historical Diving Society of Italy, which has won the sponsorship of regional and national authorities. Whatever is found will remain the property of the Italian state and so cannot be sold. Instead the HDSI, which has stumped up over 500,000 euros for the operation, intends to set up a travelling exhibition and recover its investment from ticket sales.

Although there have been several attempts to find the legendary treasure, past expeditions never knew exactly where to look and all of them failed.