PAT NEAL: The Olympic Peninsula Treasure Hunt

OVER THE YEARS there have been many stories, legends and fables of lost treasures buried in the Olympic Peninsula.

The most famous of which is the several tons of treasure that Sir Francis Drake stashed somewhere on the coast of North America in 1579.

After plundering the west coast of South America, Drake sailed north to somewhere near the present U.S. and Canadian border where he described the weather as “an unnatural congealed and frozen substance,” with the “most extreme gusts, vile, thicke and stinking fogges.”

Sir Francis was one heck of a sea captain circumnavigating the Earth with his ship, The Golden Hinde, while being hunted by the Spanish fleet, but he would have never made it writing tourist brochures.

Drake named the west coast of North America “New Albion” when he claimed it for England.

Some suspect he was looking for the Northwest Passage that would be a shortcut home to Europe.

Failing that, he stopped to careen his ship and bury several tons of treasure to make the home voyage across the Pacific Ocean easier.

Details of Drake’s voyage were kept secret.

His sailors were pledged not to disclose the route they took on pain of death.

Drake gave his log and a map of his voyage to Queen Elizabeth I but these artifacts were lost when Whitehall Palace burned in 1698.

Many other right-thinking historians and I consider the coast of the Olympic Peninsula a prime candidate for this activity.

In the 1970s, archaeologists were excavating an Ozette village just south of Cape Flattery that had been buried in a mudslide in the 1600s where they found a European bead and some brass tacks.

In all, there are more than 20 other locations between California and Alaska that are in the running for Drake’s treasure trove.

Further financial funding will have to be found to verify this theory.

Additional research will be required by this historian to narrow the field of likely locations.

Still, there is yet another treasure not quite as vast as Drake’s that might still lie hidden almost in plain sight in the Port Angeles Harbor.

The story began with a landslide that happened somewhere up Valley Creek in Port Angeles in 1863.

Valley Creek went dry. No one bothered to investigate.

A lake must have formed.

On the night of Dec. 16, the dam must have burst.

A flood came down Valley Creek and washed the customs house out into the harbor, killing two deputy customs inspectors in a massive mud flow that piled stumps and logs 30 feet high on the beach.

The flood also destroyed a trading post and doctor’s office and flushed The Rough and Ready Saloon out into the bay without injuring the poker players inside.

Legend has it that about $6,000 in gold coins that might or might not have belonged to Victor Smith, one of Port Angeles’s most notorious city fathers, were in a chest that washed out to sea in the flood.

The money was never found.

While the exact physical locations and modern cash values of these and other legendary treasures are unsure, their value to history is beyond price.

We owe it to future generations to preserve the physical remains of our history.

Stanley’s search for Livingston was funded by the New York Herald.

The Press Expedition was financed by the Seattle Press.

This article was written with fervent hope that a responsible news organization, such as the Peninsula Daily News, would finance an expedition led by a deserving historian such as myself to recover these priceless links with our Olympic Peninsula heritage.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild