The value of Joan Howard's collection of artifacts has appreciated beyond $1m. Photo: 7 News
By Joseph Catanzaro
Deep beneath the badlands of Palestine, alone in a darkened tomb, Joan Howard crawled forward on her stomach in search of lost treasures.
It was the late 1960s, a turbulent time in the Middle East, but the thrill of discovery drove Mrs. Howard deeper into the grave.
Sluggish scorpions scattered and clacked amid the bones of the ancient dead as she scooped artefacts and the detritus of ages into a bucket.
Only when it was full did she inch backwards. Ten meters above her, at the top of a vertical shaft hewn out of the desert bedrock, a colleague began to winch her swaying bucket of artefacts to the surface.
Five decades and thousands of kilometers away from that moment, sitting in the tastefully decorated surrounds of her riverside apartment in Perth this week, Mrs. Howard smiles and hefts a mummy mask pulled from the sucking sands of Egypt on one of her many expeditions.
525 years ago, Christopher Columbus first came to the continent that would later be called America aboard three ships: Santa Maria, La Niña and Pinta. In spite of being so important for the history of the humanity, there are no remains of its existence in any museum.
For centuries, archaeologists and treasure hunters have tried to find them without success. Why?
Poor conservation conditions
The travel notes of the Genoese Admiral note that the most important vessel - the Santa Maria - ran aground during its first voyage on the coast of what is now Haiti and Columbus ordered to use its wood to build Fort Christmas, the first Spanish population in the New Continent.
Three years ago, the American marine explorer Barry Clifford believed he had found his remains, but UNESCO denied this information when he concluded that they were from a later period.
What would happen if Columbus had not come to America? "Europe would be plunged into obscurantism"
By Doug Fraser
GORHAM, MAINE — Twenty-seven months after federal agents, with guns drawn, executed a search warrant at his home and removed computers, memory storage devices and other materials, treasure hunter Greg Brooks, 66, has yet to be indicted for any crime.
He said he is living off his Social Security payments in a rented home, with no access to his salvage vessel or to the SS Port Nicholson, a British freighter sunk in 1942 in 641 feet of water about 50 miles off Provincetown. Brooks claims the ship contains a bounty of platinum, gold and perhaps diamonds that is worth billions.
"I think I'm one of the most honest treasure hunters out there and I still intend to pay people their money back," Brooks said, sitting at the kitchen table of his Gorham, Maine, home with two crew members. He said he raised a total of $8 million from investors, and all of it is gone.
Brooks said he wants to tell his side of the story, something he claimed his lawyers prevented him from doing while he was involved in court battles over control of the wreck. He said he is not the criminal people think he is, and the more than two years without an indictment proves that.
"Don't you think that If I'm the biggest crook they say I am that they would have already done something?" he asked.
"Pathological liar would be more like it on the truthful scale," said Tim Shusta, a Miami-based attorney who represented the British government in opposing Brooks' claim to the Port Nicholson, a 481-foot-long refrigerated cargo vessel. There is a five-year statute of limitations on federal fraud cases and time for prosecution may be running out for incidents from 2012. A second investigation from the Maine Office of Securities is still ongoing, according to investors.
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