Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mysterious Ship in the Desert

Perhaps one of the more unusual legends, but persistent, is that of an abandoned ship in the desert. 

Native People, Spanish explorers, prospectors and migrant workers have been among the witnesses over hundreds of years, reporting a ship in the California desert (between the Salton Sea and the delta of the Colorado River).

Trying to explain such an occurrence has been fraught with unusual explanations. One such tale is that there was a Spanish vessel loaded with gold that was in the Gulf of California and there was a tidal bore that moved the ship forward over the land and left it crashed into the sand.

Where is it now and why haven't we seen it? Well, the most ready explanation is that shifting sands in that area have covered it over, and at times exposed it again. Perhaps, some day a Google Earth image might capture it just as it's exposed.

Some explanations in the various versions of the story included; Noah's Ark, Viking ship, Spanish Galleon, and a pirate ship. 

Legends are interesting things. There is usually some event that precipitated it, but on the telling, it changed over time. Might a ship have been abandoned in the desert? It's certainly possible that under certain conditions, a ship did wash into the area, but would have taken a rather exceptional condition that does not seem to exist today, as we do not have ships going aground in the Colorado River delta. 

Source:  Tales of a Spanish galleon lost in the sands of the Colorado Desert keep recurring, from an amazing variety of sources. One of the most persistent made the pages of the Los Angeles Star in 1870. It seems that hundreds of years ago, when the waters of the Gulf of California came up into the desert, a pirate ship sailed up the Gulf. It was caught in some cross currents and went aground on a sand bar. The crew died, and the ship was left stranded there with almost a million doubloons and pieces of eight in her hulk. It's only when the wind blows and the sand clears that you can get a good look at her, and then the same wind comes along and covers her up again. The Star locates the wreck about ten miles from Dos Palmas. The newspaper gives a graphic description of the time when the Gulf occupied the entire valley, and, in fact, connected up with the Pacific Ocean through San Gorgonio Pass and Los Angeles. The Star did a series of articles speculating that the ship might have been one of the units of King Solomon's navy, or the craft that carried the ten lost tribes of Israel to America; and for the latter offered proof that the tribes never reached America but died of diptheria in the Sandwich Islands! Another idea advanced was that a war-like people from the Indian Sea took a tempestuous voyage to the Gulf of California. Here their ship, Bully Boy, sank in treacherous quicksands. Her hull was made of teakwood and did not rot. The Digger Indians of California are descendants of this Shoo-fly tribe.

Is there a ship in the desert? It is entirely possible that, under the right conditions in the past, there was one in the sand, but shifting sands, hundred-year floods and more might have completely destroyed the evidence. One thing I know about wood in the desert - it does not hold up well to time - 

Still, I suspect when I drive through that region on my road treks to abandoned locations, I will be certainly taking my binoculars and giving it a good once-over.

More info:
Ancient Lost Treasures

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