When you begin to unravel a mystery, you never know where it will lead you. This is very true in the case of the Lost Tapes of Elmer Carver.
At the dawn of the 20th century, Mr. Carver becomes involved in the Lost Ship of the Desert via the Nels Jacobson story. In this yarn, Nels hires a transient, Elmer, to watch over his ranch while he travels to Los Angeles to finalize some business. While at the ranch, Mrs. Jacobson explains to Elmer, that Nels went to LA to sell some of the jewels that he found on a ship half buried in the nearby sand. During one of the seasonal sand storms, called the Santa Ana’s, a small sand dune was uncovered and inside was the hull of a ship. Elmer decided to investigate and after sifting through the sand for days, he found a small strapped box loaded with jewels inside.
On the second evening, after dinner, Mrs. Jacobson showed Elmer a small wooden box with emeralds, diamonds, a small gold cross embedded with blue topaz and a very large vibrant ruby. She said that the ruby was more valuable then all of the other treasure combined. Elmer was astonished at the amount of gems that he saw, so come morning he wanted to see the ship for himself. Just a couple of hundred feet behind the house, there it was, the remains of a ship buried in the sands of the desert.
Over fifty years later, during the early 1960’s, there was a huge interest in lost treasure stories and since Elmer was most likely the last living person who actually saw and touched the ship, his story would become very important, especially to someone researching the Lost Ship saga like myself. But, treasure stories have a tendency to spring up from time to time and it becomes difficult to separate fact from fiction.
“Well, I’d gone out and looked at this wreck of a boat. That was a peculiar looking thing”
“Oh I would say it was in a kind of a mound there it was about 200 foot in back of the house”
However there was something about Elmer’s story that made me keep coming back. I mean if this guy really saw the ship, then as a researcher, I have to dig as far as I can go to prove whether the story is true or false. Leave no stone unturned.. So the first step was to find out who the writer(s) were and if their files were available. This led me to a private collector, which will remain nameless, but it was someone who was very well known in the desert community and also someone I had known for a few years. But even with a familiarity, he wasn’t quite sure if he would allow me to see the files. When I can, I always like to seek out the research the writers used for their stories, their own handwritten personal notes …The writers of this story were very well known back in the 1950’s through the 70’s and apparently the collector had a huge file about the Lost Ship in his possession. And truth be told, as of this writing I still have not seen the file, apparently it has been misplaced.
He did tell me that there was an audio recording of Elmer’s interview and that I could listen to it. To say I was in complete shock would be an understatement! I had to hear these tapes…. A meeting was arraigned and there I sat listening to hours of Elmer Carver telling his tale. Feverishly taking notes, playing certain sections over and over again to make sure I heard correctly. Because I was not allowed to make a copy of the tapes, I would have to rely on all the notes I had taken. Elmer, to some degree, was straight to the point on the location of the boat and what treasure was found.
“I stepped off to see about how long that boat was and there was a bow of the boat, or what I took to be the bow, that stuck up about six foot out of the ground”
“And instead of sticking straight it was stuck on an angle and bent over. And then you step off and what I took to be between 50 and 60 feet from that was the stern post that stuck up maybe four feet above the ground. And those posts were immense big things”
The first time I heard this, I was in shock… It was if someone simply was giving me directions to their home. This is going to be easy, find the house and find the treasure, done! Call the newspapers I have solved an decades old mystery.. Yeah not so quickly, little did I know this would take years, and I am still looking… If one can locate the true original location of the house, then you should be able to find the remains of the boat. But no one knows the exact location and the search for any “proof” has taken years.
Sanborn maps, which are early maps and do show dwellings did not cover this particular spot. Then I visited the archive department of the Imperial Irrigation District thinking that they might have some of the earliest maps of the area, after all they had to map out all the canals and ditches. And although they did have early maps, none of them showed anything significant, since the area was basically barren desert.
It wasn’t until about eight years later that I found a map; or rather someone found it for me. While working on one of the TV shows that I have done in the past, one of the behind the scenes guy sends me a map. I about died, here I have a map from the time period when Jacobson owned his ranch and there were dots signifying dwellings. Nels Jacobson owned over 700 acres of land and it could take a lifetime to search each and every one of his properties, plus there were more properties in his wife’s name as well. One has locate the correct plot that Nels owned at the time that Elmer was there. Then try to locate where the house was, to pinpoint the exact location.
By this time and after asking continuously for years, I was granted a special copy of the recording, for my personal research only, I am not allowed to make copies and I have to ask permission to use particular parts of the tapes for any TV shows. But to have a copy to listen to whenever I like, it’s priceless. The first thing I did was to dive deeply into the tapes, I listened to them every day for nearly 2 weeks. I wanted to know them like the back of my hand.
It was while listening to the tapes, that I caught a couple of more clues. Small things that were hardly noticeable at first, but remains vital information on the exact location of the boat. And sorry, but I won’t share those here, yet…
The writer’s questions, along with Elmer’s clues and a new map has led me to a particular property. The next step is to look it over, see if they will allow me to metal detect on the off planting season. I want to respect their property and I also don’t want to disturb their livelihood. If this ends up being the spot, it had a lot to do with what the writer’s and Elmer Carver talked about one afternoon in 1964…