December 31, 2008

Treasure hunter says he has located boat

A would-be treasure hunter believes he has found a sunken boat carrying a fortune in gold on a ranch in South Texas and argues it is in a navigable waterway.

Nathan Smith testified this week at a hearing in Houston to determine whether he should be given permission to dig, the Houston Chronicle reported. Smith, an admittedly unsuccessful musician from Los Angeles, said that he was inspired by the movie National Treasure.

Is there a vessel there? I'd like to find out. Mr. Smith, as you can see, fervently believes he's found it, Smith's lawyer, Richard Schwartz, told U.S. District Judge David Hittner in his final argument Tuesday.

Smith said that he identified the site where he believes the boat lies by looking on Google Earth. Local stories say that the boat headed up the Mission River, 160 miles southwest of Houston, to get away from a hurricane in 1822.

Schwartz said that if the judge rules the site is a waterway Smith can get permission to dig from the Army Corps of Engineers. A lawyer for Morgan Dunn O'Connor, who inherited the property from her mother, argued that there is no boat there and that it would belong to O'Connor if it does exist.

If Smith digs and does find a treasure, that would almost certainly set off another round of litigation.