Legend of the Esperanza
One of Palmyra’s oldest and most endearing legends, is that of the pirate ship Esperanza. She supposedly crashed on the western reefs in 1816, and her survivors left behind a fortune in gold and silver bullion. While no treasure has ever been recovered from the atoll, it’s been a point of interest for over a century, and true or not, the legend has endured as a popular point in Palmyra’s history.
Timeline of Events
Where is the Treasure Buried?
No account identifies a clear location for where the Esperanza’s crew buried their gold and silver bulion, but from the newspaper accounts and sailors stories, we can make a fair guess. All accounts agree the Esperanza wrecked in the center of a 3 mile reef, with “hillocks of land” one mile to the east. From that location, the easiest islets to reach on the Western end, would have been Home and Paradise Islands.
Is the Legend Real?
Genuine evidence supporting the legend of the Esperanza is scarce, and most of the story comes from newspaper articles with varying degrees of embellishment. Here’s what we know for certain:
The reality is we’ll never know for sure if the Esperanza was real or not, and if its treasure ever did, or still does, rest in the sands on Palmyra. Despite the myriads of visitors since 1816, and the massive construction projects undertaken by the Navy in the 1940s, the most likely spot where it would have been buried has remained largely untouched and uninhabited. Perhaps someday, some lucky visitor will stumble over some half buried silver, but in the mean time the legend lives on.