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The Lost Treasure of the Gilt Dragon: Part II

The sun rose over the dunes at North Head as I packed camp. The mystery still remained... What happened to the lost crew of the Gilt Dragon and their legendary treasure?

When rescue arrived to recover the Gilt Dragon's crew and its treasure neither were anywhere to be found. Three expeditions were launched in 1656, 1657, and 1658 and although wreckage and relics were found, all three expeditions failed to find what became of the lost crew but there are some clues to their fate.


The Circle of Stones

The Circle of Stones which mark the location of the buried treasure left behind by the Dragon’s crew does exist. Over the years people have reported finding it.


It was first found by Alfred Burt in 1875. This is what he wrote:


"I was attached to the Admiralty Marine Survey as Draftsman under Capt. Archdeacon RN in 1875 and was camped at a Well on the old coast road from Geraldton to Perth called ‘Woodada’. One day I had occasion to visit the coast about nine miles distant in order to take provisions to Capt. Archdeacon who was camped there, and also to receive instructions. I started with Mr Harry Ogbourne and a pack horse. When nearing the ocean we struck a dense thicket and when cutting our way through we found a cleared part of about 14 feet square with thicket all around, and in the centre was a complete circle of stones."


Alfred tried finding the stones again in 1931 but was unsuccessful. Then in 1932 a farmer, Fred King while out searching for lost sheep found a line of stones running east to west. He wrote:


"The stones were placed in a straight line running east and west... at paces about 150 yards apart pointing to a large Sandhill on the Coast and Woodada Well on the East. At present these stones are hidden by thick scrub."


And finally in 1938, two men, Jack Hayes and Gabriel Penney set off on an expedition to find the circle of stones which they did. They photographed the stones, proving their existence but the exact location was unknown and the circle of stones were lost to history. From all accounts though it looks like they are somewhere between the coast and Woodada Well.


In the 1930s, an Indigenous man known as Mailman Charlie recalled finding skeletons of “white men” in a cave near Moore River, south of the wreck which he believed were crew from the Gilt Dragon. It’s possible that after the wreck, the crew separated. Some went south ending up in that cave while others ventured north, leaving behind the stones.


There are several caves between North Head and Woodada Well. It’s possible that there are clues left behind by the crew in these caves just as there was at Moore River.


I finished packing the Jeep and left North Head, going inland in search of these caves, hoping to find some clue as to the final fate of the crew and their treasure.


Caves


After taking several tracks inland I came across a cave between North Head and Woodada. The terrain constantly changed from soft sand to hard rock but the Jeep handled the bushland well. Before long I came to the end of the track.


I hopped out of the Jeep to be greeted by thousands of wild bees and below them the cave entrance.

The cave was bigger than I thought it would be. As I entered I passed by some left over relics from those who had been here before me: some rusted barrels, old burlap sacks, and the skeleton of an animal. I'm not sure from what but most likely a kangaroo.


The cave was pitch dark. I was guided only by my torch. As I walked deeper in, the air became warmer. I passed by another bone, probably from the same animal and not far behind was another chamber. It was a steep climb to get to the next chamber but luckily for me a previous adventurer had left behind a makeshift ladder. I climbed down into the chamber and walked further into the cave. This chamber wasn't as large as the last and it looked like I had made it to the end. I searched around but there were no signs that anyone other than stockmen and adventurers had come to this cave.


I existed the cave, making sure to slowly creep by the beehives hanging over the cave entrance, hopped back in the Jeep and continued north to Woodada Well passing the well known Stockyard Gully Caves on the way. It's possible the Gilt Dragon crew used these caves but the oldest evidence to their discovery is from the 1800s when stockmen would use the caves as holding pens for their livestock as they travelled between Geraldton and Perth. I wasn't able to find any clues that the Gilt Dragon crew passed through here.


Woodada Well

I arrived at Woodada Well and explored the area. It's from here, heading west that Alfred Burt found his circle of stones. Burt recalled that the circle of stones were about "1/2 a mile from the coast" and Jack Hayes mentioned that his circle of stones were about "two miles from the coast". These early explorers would have been estimating the location of the stones as the exact spot was never recorded.


I headed towards the coast searching for the circle of stones.


Sandhill on the Coast

As I followed the tracks from Woodada Well to the sea, I was reminded of Fred King's discovery. The line of stones he found pointed to a "large Sandhill on the Coast".


Those same strong winds that helped the early sailors travel across the Indian Ocean also rip apart the West Coast and push those drifting sand dunes across the land.

I arrived at the coast unable to find the legendary circle of stones. It's possible that that the stones marking the location of the Gilt Dragon's lost treasure was buried by mountains of sand long ago.

Maybe the Gilt Dragon's lost treasure is just a legend... or maybe it's still out there just waiting to be found. The only way to know is to just keep exploring.

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