And lost again...
FROM THE DESERT TO THE SEA-AND BACK
Long ago a great flood came to the desert and everyone was forced to move up into the hills to await the leaving of the water. Almost every year in the time of the spring there was a flood, but this was the greatest flood of all and it lasted the longest time. One day, after the third dance had been held, there appeared a great bird with white wings that moved slowly across the top of the water. It came to rest on the top of a hill that the water barely covered, and never was it able to free itself. Soon the waters went away and the great bird fell over on its side and died. The wind blew away its white wings and the body of the great bird slowly slid down the hill where soon the wind threw sand over it to bury it. Sometimes the wind blows away the sand and the body of the great bird can be seen again, but the bird is an omen of evil and harm will come to whoever draws near.
—Old Indian Legend
A FEW CENTURIES PAST, the
These countless transitions from sand pit to sea have
left many paradoxes. Grotesque concretion; like giant mushrooms, skeletons,
serpents, and mythical monsters litter vast regions of the desert floor. One
such area is in the
One of the more intriguing versions is the story told
by the Sefiora Petra Tucker who, before she married her prospecting husband,
was the widow of one Santiago Socia. It was
While searching for the treasure, he had entered
several canyons near the floor of the desert and in the bottom of one with high
sheer walls was an ancient ship with round discs on its side. Only a portion of
the ship projected from the sand. On the wall above the ship was some strange
writing carved into the rock, not Indian, not English nor Spanish, not any
other language with recognizable letters. The bow of the ship was curved and
carved like the long neck of a bird.
Myrtle and Louis Botts of
Myrtle Botts was, and still is, the librarian in charge of the Public Library of Julian. She is also a serious amateur botanist and was one of the founders of the famous wildflower show held annually in Julian. Desert wildflowers depend entirely upon the rain that falls during early winter months. If the desert receives heavy rains in January or February, its floor will be wild with color in March. If the rains fail to materialize, the seeds are unable to germinate and must wait another year or more until the seasonal rains do fall. It was to survey the rain situation and to search for possible new specimens that the Bottses came to the remote desert area near Agua Caliente Springs in the spring of 1933.
On their second or third night out, they camped near the entrance to a deep canyon where there was a cold water spring. While preparing their supper, a dusty and semi-illiterate prospector arrived to replenish his water supply. Some days earlier, he told the Bottses, he had been well into the canyon where he had seen an old ship sticking out of some dirt right in the side of the mountain. The Bottses were interested, but the prospector could tell them nothing more, other than that the ship was "yonder up the canyon." When he told them that he also knew where the lost Peg Leg Mine was located, the Bottses dismissed him as a garrulous old man and rejected his tale of the lost ship.
The following morning the Bottses hiked into the canyon in their quest for wildflower specimens for the upcoming show. They followed the floor of the defile, eyes fastened to the ground; then, as the grade became steeper, they paused for a brief rest. Mrs. Botts noticed it first.
Jutting out of the canyon wall, almost immediately overhead, was the forward portion of a large and very ancient vessel. A curved stem head swept up from its prow. Along both sides of the vessel were clearly discernible circular marks in the wood, quite possibly left by shields which at one time had been attached to the vessel. Near the bow, on one side of the ship, were four deep furrows in the wood. The craft was high enough to hide its interior from the Bottses' view and the side of the canyon was so steep that it could be scaled only by an expert mountain climber. Indeed, he might have trouble because the wall was composed of shale and clay, too unstable to support his weight.
For a long tune, the Bottses studied the curious sight, then slowly retraced their steps to their camp, taking careful note of landmarks in order to experience no difficulty in returning to the ship. The earthquake struck at almost the moment they emerged from the canyon. Both were thrown to the ground, and as they clutched the moving earth in terror, they could see their camp shaking itself to pieces in front of them. Mrs. Botts remembers their empty car bouncing across the desert floor as if it were being driven slowly over railroad ties. When the rumble had subsided and the earth once again had become calm, the Bottses retrieved their wandering automobile and gathered up their scattered camp supplies. The spring that had been cold the night before, Mrs. Botts discovered, had now become hot.
The earthquake had been a severe one, causing
extensive damage in
Once again, the couple hiked up the steep canyon, but this time when they came to the spot where they had paused to rest, their passage was blocked. Half the mountainside had fallen into the canyon, the unstable earth shaken loose by the heavy temblor. There was no sign of the ancient ship. If the earthquake had occurred a short time earlier, the Bottses realized uncomfortably, they also would have been buried under the tons of earth shaken from the mountain.
Today, Mrs. Botts is not sure what kind of an ancient ship she and her husband, and an old prospector, saw in the desert canyon. It could have been Phoenician, or it could have been Roman, but she feels that it was Viking. Eventually there will be another earthquake around Agua Caliente Springs and possibly the earth will open to display this ancient vessel.
There are other legends and tales of lost ships in the
No mention is made in the song of how the visitors
escaped with their lives. It was a Viking custom for captains to have their
wives along. Another story in the lost-ship syndrome involves a modern Viking,
one Nels Jacobsen, a rancher in
Borrowed From the book,
The Mysterious West
By Brad Williams and Choral Pepper