The Hunt for Sunken Treasure

Copyright (C) 1993, Javilk

Copyright (C) 1993 - 2004


The Hunt

It was dark when the annunciator went off again. The "fish" had already bumped the paddle at the end of the cage as I turned my damp head from some idle reveries about cool dry offices. The mini-crane was beginning to lift it out of the water and into the boat. As soon as the boom had the cage on the table, I slapped on the datacomm link on the fish's head and popped it's latches. In a moment I had tugged the heavy battery out, and was already wrestling it's 80 lb. replacement into position. Beyond the head of the slick wet table, the computer beeped twice, indicating approval from within its protective plastic bag. Three minutes and forty seconds later, the fish was back in the water, resuming its computerized search pattern as I clamped the charger cables onto the old battery, wiped more sweat from my brow, and with a grumble about my sore back and sunburnt shoulders, went back to my dreams.

The scene repeated an hour later with another fish. Three minutes and fifty six seconds this time. I'd have to take sixteen seconds more on the other one to keep the two balanced. I moved the boat another hundred and twenty feet south south east before I going back to sleep.

Morning came as it had every other day that week. A short picture of colors, then all too soon, endless blue above blue. The satellites said I'd moved the boat four hundred eighty feet, mostly in my sleep. The fish had searched another half square mile, had found and surveyed the wreaks of two small motor boats, and found nothing of interest. The computer showed my bank balance down another three hundred forty dollars, and the stock market still sluggish. Four miles away, I saw boat number three. It looked like it was lowering another of our fish back into the water.

I didn't know if I could take another day of this, the broiling heat, the 100% humidity, the absolute brain deadening boredom of -Beep- Ah... tending another one of that friggin genius's fish! I got up, slapped on the datacomm link, changed the battery... and heard the computer beep the maintenance alert tone. Routine motor change. I'd gotten that procedure down to twelve minutes, but now the fish would be running unevenly again, wreaking the cycle of my brain dead daydreams. I looked at the sky and shuddered; then reached for the power screwdriver, wishing it were something else.

The Dream

How different it had seemed three short years ago, we'd be hunting sunken treasure! Billions of dollars worth! For nights, Months, I dreamt myself scuba diving, swimming around huge cannon, pulling up pieces of eight, bars of gold, emeralds, rubies... The dream always ended when I saw the smiling skull of the captain by the wheel, that master pirate, whoever he had been. As often as not, he laughed, I think, at me.

Three weeks on this tiny rowboat of a ship, a prison fifteen paces up, fifteen paces back, two paces across, and -Beep!- another blasted fish to feed!

This one had some data. I heard the computer dial the cellular phone, the high speed modem link up with San Francisco a third of a world away; and once again, I learned nothing of what was down here beneath my feet.

A Dive

Then it was Sunday morning. Near midnight in San Francisco, when their computers faxed us another diving schedule, complete with the amount of time worth spending at each location. The three of us teamed up, Saul and I went into the water. Fred, not qualified as a diver, stood the watch.

Ten minutes later I emerged with a native anchor, a lump of concreta, cemented sand and shells carved with a crude notch to hold a rope around it. A whack with the back of the ax... As the encrusted sand shattered, as the black scale scratched off a bit, we saw the gleam of silver shining in the noonday sun. We looked at each other... then shook our heads in frustrated dismay. There was a lot more down there somewhere, but it wasn't here. Several other "finds" had also been at the heart of concreta rocks once used to weigh down lost fishing nets. Three had once been part of ballast stones. Where all this sand and shell encrusted silver had originally come from, we still hadn't a clue.

Soon, our third month long "vacation" was over. For me, this insanity was at an end. We tossed out four more $10,000 drift cans at sites two miles apart along the shore, and started to make our way back to civilization. We were told the third one went off, spewing data to San Francisco just as we were checking in our rental boats; but quite frankly, none of us could afford the cash to go back and take a look. Or wanted to. By then, all we wanted was that huge treasure we called civilization, and the sanity we called our own jobs.

The Treasure

I saw that pirate again last night, striding into dreams all dressed up, the sheen of his blue silken blouse, the flash of his jeweled scabbard, the color of his ruddy sunburnt flesh. He was admiring my car, grew whistfull at the sight of my home all lit up at night. "What has value, is who we are, and what we do," he said, straitening up tall as he began a flourish, casting dubloons from his silk sleaved hand. "Not this... Damned Junk METAL!" I heard him scream as my eyes, riveted on his swinging hand, watched flesh shrivel to bone. Nor, echoed my own startled thoughts, some "high yield" junk bonds I had once coveted. I looked up, shocked, to see his hollow eye sockets glaring at me. He began to turn away, shaking his porcelain white skull as he swayed, then staggered away into the darkness.

Now covered in sweat, I understood at last. We are who needs us, a part of the organic web of our genteel civilization, the very web I sought to cut away. The real fun I'd had in life, was in doing my diverse jobs well, using a little imagination now and then to add sparkle to my work, and my life; not the endless back breaking drudgery of my treasure hunting. Nor for him, had it been the swashbuckling terror of the piratery he'd come to regret all those years beneath the sea.

For now, I knew I was whom I really wanted to be, and had far more treasure than lay under the sea, for I knew I had me.

This little adventure was inspired by some evaluation work I did for a potential client interested in searching for sunken treasure. Research into current technologies and the lives of successful treasure hunters suggest it is still a tedious, chance ridden occupation. In contrast, the real treasures in our society sit open for all to see and use.


Copyright (C) 2003, JVV

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Copyright (C) 1996 and prior years, Javilk
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