How many of you used to love stories about buried treasure when you were kids? Well, those stories got started for a reason: There is lost treasure all over the place. Entire fortunes lost, the only people who knew their locations long dead.
Seriously, you could go out and find some of this stuff today, and be rolling in gold coins by the end of the week. The problem is finding it...
5The Gold at the Bottom of Lake Guatavita
Lake Guatavita was a holy site for the native people of Colombia a few centuries ago. Every year, the chief of the ruling tribe would cover himself in gold dust, get on a boat, and throw gold and gems into the lake as a sacrifice to his god, presumably because no one else could find anything better to do with their national budget.
"What do you mean 'put it in a bank,' Terry? Banks get robbed. Lakes never do."
Evidently disheartened by the low annual percentage yield earned by storing their money in a body of water, the natives had ended this practice long before the Spanish invaders arrived. But when the disease-carrying Europeans heard about the legend of the golden man (El Dorado in Spanish), they busted a 16th century nut all over Central America. After years of searching for the source of the legend, the conquistadors finally arrived at Lake Guatavita and learned its history.
Its sexy, sexy history.
The problem was, all the gold that had been thrown overboard over the years was now sitting beneath a shitload of water, and submarines were still a good 300 years from being perfected. So the Spanish graciously admitted defeat and moved forward with their conquering, a phrase which here means "they decided to drain the fucking lake." The first attempt occurred in 1545 when Hernan Perez de Quesada put a chain of slave laborers to work for three months, emptying out the water a bucket at a time.
"While you're at it, try to fill this with gold and/or blood."
They managed to lower the water level by 10-feet and recover 40-pounds of gold. Forty years later, a rich Spanish merchant decided to pull out the big guns and cut a fucking hole in the high cliff surrounding the lake, draining it 66-feet and drowning hundreds of people living in a nearby village in the process.
"Did you guys hear the news? I'm totally rich!"
Finally, in 1911, an American company managed to drain the entire lake, because if there's one thing America is good at, it is the total destruction of a natural resource. Sadly, the mud on the bottom of the lake proceeded to immediately harden, trapping any gold that might be left under its thick, impenetrable crust.
"Awesome! So how do I get it?"
It's full of water again these days, the gold presumably still glittering away in the mud. But before you go heading off to Colombia with your rowboat, some rope and a bucket, know that no one has ever been able to find the bulk of treasure and the Colombian government has disallowed any more draining attempts.
Question: Would, say, dumping several million pounds of Jell-O powder into the lake, thus solidifying it and allowing us to eat our way down to the gold constitute "draining"? If you're an attorney, let us know in the comments.