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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Gold fever grips Chilean island
The treasure is said to have been found with a metal detecting robot
An epidemic of modern day gold fever has hit a Chilean island after the claimed discovery of an 18th Century treasure trove worth $10 billion.

The gold rush began on Monday after salvage firm Wagner announced the discovery on Robinson Crusoe island, using a specially designed robot.

"Its the greatest treasure in history" said Wagner lawyer Fernando Echeverria.

According to legend a Spanish navigator hid the 800-tonne pirates' booty on the island in 1715.

Disputed ownership

Although the find is yet to be confirmed and excavated, an argument is already raging in Chile about the ownership of the treasure.

Wagner salvage insist they will not reveal the exact location of the treasure until they are guaranteed half of the find.

The exact location is not yet known and for the moment it's better that we don't know, otherwise everyone would be digging holes with picks and shovels
Mark Gonzalez, Mayor of Robinson Crusoe Island
Education Minister Sergio Bitar has stated publicly that the government should get the treasure.

The Mayor of Robinson Crusoe, Mark Gonzalez, has recommended that the island's 600 inhabitants should receive half of the value of the booty.

Gold fever already grips the island, 372 miles (600km) west of the Chilean coast, where residents talk of little else.

"The exact location is not yet known and for the moment it's better that we don't know, otherwise everyone would be digging holes with picks and shovels," said Mr Gonzalez.

Legend

Treasure hunters have been seeking the golden hoard for many years with a 1998 expedition the last to fail.

But Wagner's discovery claims have been given credibility by the reputation of their sophisticated ground scanning robot which has already solved crime mysteries in Chile.

Treasure
The treasure is reputed to include gold bars and coins
The TX spider robot is known as Arturito and is named after the R2D2 robot from the Star Wars films.

It has been credited with finding the buried weapons arsenal of a right-wing sect and the bones of a missing businessman.

Legend has it that Spanish Navigator Juan Echeverria hid the fortune on the island after it had been amassed over centuries by pirates.

It was then found and moved to another area of the island by a British sailor Cornelius Webb.

It is said to contain coins, jewels, gold bars and at least one papal ring.

The island is already famous as the place Scottish Sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned for five years in 1704.

His survival provided the inspiration for the Daniel Defoe novel Robinson Crusoe.


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