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Wednesday, 19 April 2017 00:25

Hunting for treasure with help from a NASA astronaut

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Discovery’s newest series comes with a far-out premise: A hunt to uncover shipwrecks following a so-called “treasure map from space” made by the late astronaut Gordon Cooper.

In “Cooper’s Treasure” (premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m.), we learn that when he was orbiting the Earth on spaceflights in the 1960s, Cooper also took note of anomalies he noticed along the sea floor — which he thought could indicate sunken ships.

In 2002, two years before he died (at age 77), Cooper shared hundreds of documents containing those coordinates with Darrell Miklos, a fellow treasure-hunting enthusiast with whom he shared office space.

“He said if anything ever happens to me, make sure you take these and finish whatever we haven’t been able to finish together — and that’s what I’m doing now,” Miklos, 54, says of his mentor.

The logistics of exactly how Cooper was able to gather such data from space remains debateable. Miklos says Cooper told him that, while in space, he was tasked with experimenting with long-range detection equipment to locate nuclear threats. Jerry Roberts, who worked as an engineer at McDonnell Aircraft — designing the Mercury and Gemini capsules in which Cooper flew in 1963 and ’65 — says such magnetic detection equipment didn’t exist at the time. He does, however, believe that Cooper could have spotted such anomalies in another way.

“I am firmly convinced that [he did it] using this Hasselblad camera — it was the state-of-the-art best camera that you could get at the time — and [with] his extraordinary eyesight,” Roberts says. “If you read his post-flight reports, he talks about seeing buildings, smoke coming out of factories, trucks. These sightings were then investigated and proven to be correct.

“So there’s no question about it that he had something in the order of 20/10 eyesight.”

Miklos, a married father of two daughters, got into chasing shipwrecks from his father, the professional treasure hunter Roger Miklos, and has worked on recovery missions on and off in between other gigs, like serving as CEO of the now-defunct boat manufacturing company Swift Oceanics. “Cooper’s Treasure” (six episodes and two follow-up specials) trails him as he gets back in the game, first by decoding Cooper’s documents — a process that took nearly nine months due to the volume of Cooper’s notes and messy handwriting. He also assembled a team — archaeologist Jim Sinclair, survey specialist Mike Perna, business partner Johnny Bell and lead diver Eric Schmitt — to investigate potential shipwreck sites in the Caribbean.

“We’re in the search and identify phase of the investigation,” Miklos says. “We extracted five anomaly readings. And we are five for five — we’ve found shipwreck material in all five anomalies. So Gordon’s treasure map from space is extremely accurate. The detailed files he gave me match exactly what we’re finding underwater. That leads me to believe that the entire chart is probably accurate.”

Because Miklos’ team is still actively engaged in recovery missions at the shipwreck sites, he can’t be more specific about what he’s found or where he’s found it. But he says the wealth potential is substantial. One of the anomalies Cooper noted in the ’60s eventually turned out to be the 17th-century Spanish ship Atocha, which was discovered in 1985 by treasure hunter Mel Fisher and yielded $450 million in salvaged gold, silver and jewelry.

“We expect to find the same material on a lot of these anomalies,” Miklos says.

“Cooper’s Treasure” 10 p.m. Tuesday on Discovery

Source : nypost.com

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