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Forbes Treasure Hunt

 

Following is the text of an article about the Forbes Treasure Hunt which ran in the Panama City, FL News Herald June 17, 1999. It is no longer directly accessible via a link on the web, but it's findable, if you go to:

http://www.newsherald.com/archives

then search on the words "Begos" and "Dixon" together.

 

KEVIN BEGOS
The News Herald
ST. GEORGE ISLAND - Gold coins. Fortunetellers. Satellites bouncing data down from space to an abandoned campfire on a windswept barrier island.

Those were some - only some - of the forces at work.

This journey started on a laptop computer, on a swing under a tree in San Francisco. Along the road, giving cryptic encouragement that made sense only in retrospect, were the I Ching, a mullet fisherman with a mischievous smile, and a mysterious, solitary tombstone with nobody below it.

Tales of buried treasure on St. George Island?

Many were skeptical, to say the least. But not Alexandra Dixon. The San Francisco native had a hunch, and from a few thousand miles away, figured out a way to play it.

The bounty? $5000 in gold coins for Dixon, and $5000 for her helper.

On May 27, Dixon solved the Forbes FYI Magazine treasure hunt, a month-long Internet contest that had the whole nation as a game board. Of all possible places, the treasure chest was buried on St. George Island.

The clues, when solved, gave bits and pieces of longitude and latitude, in degrees, minutes, and seconds.

A series of six clues posted on the Internet led the bounty hunters on, but Dixon was a step ahead. She figured out the exact location after four clues.

Dixon is a computer consultant and a lover of navigation, games of skill, and number crunching.

"I'm sitting in front a computer knowing there's a treasure chest somewhere," she said. "But I was thinking, buried treasure,' well, that would make sense if it was on the coast."

From there, her techno-instincts kicked in.

"For $39.99 I bought a CD called "StreetAtlas USA," she said.

"You put in precise latitude and longitude and it takes you there."

Using her laptop, sitting under the tree in San Francisco, Dixon was able to punch in possible coordinates and call up a map of each location.

"I figured out from the clues I had and the CD that there were only about 900 possible locations (for the treasure) in the whole country."

Most were in the interior, and she decided not to pursue those. After a few hours, two choices remained.

One was in Massachusetts, and one was St. George Island. A vacation let her check Cape Cod herself - no luck. Deep down, she wasn't surprised.

"I immediately thought it was in Florida," she said. "Realistically, that's the only location that sang to me."

But all she had was a virtual treasure location - hardly legal tender, even these days. Dixon was thousands of miles away, the coordinates and topography glowing on her computer screen.

Had she heard of St. George Island? Had she visited, perhaps, or had friends nearby?

"Are you kidding?" she replied. "I'm a city girl. From the map, I thought it was a peninsula - I didn't even know it was an island."

Her intuition told her she was right, but she needed proof to claim the prize.

"I really wanted to win, and I had this feeling I was going to," she said.

"I had the feeling all month.

And I threw the I Ching. I got hexagram 5. Which among other things says in order for you to succeed you will need the help of three people."

Dixon called the local Chamber of Commerce and explained she needed to find someone with a four-wheel drive vehicle and a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit.

The woman at the chamber was helpful, and suggested Jeanni's Journeys, an island ecotourist company.

Jeanni McMillan answered the phone on May 27. The offer? If McMillan would go search out the coordinates Dixon thought were right, they would split the money 50/50.

"I was desperate," Dixon said. "Because in about six hours the final clues were going to come out on the Forbes web site, and I knew other people would figure the whole thing out. Then it would be just who gets there first."

"I got this call out of the blue," McMillan said, "and my captain, Dave Armentrout, happened to be around. 'Come on, I've got a 6 pack of beer,' I said."

A long shot, to be sure. But something was sticking in McMillan's mind.

"I had gone to the Jazz Festival in New Orleans," she said. "And I went to a fortuneteller. 'OHHH,' she said. 'Oh my goodness, you're going to come into a lot of money this year.'

"And I thought to myself, 'Sure.' I couldn't figure out where this money was going to come from."

The GPS unit bounces a signal off a satellite and lets people on the ground find an exact location.

"It was in the state park," McMillan said, "pretty much exactly where she said. She'd given us GPS coordinates to the thousandths of a second."

Two logs were formed into an X, and buried two feet below was the Forbes treasure chest.

Dixon, McMillan, and Armentrout will be flown to New York next month to receive their actual gold - the chest was just proof they'd solved the riddle.

One of the lost treasures on St. George Island had been found.

ONE?

As Dixon was using technology to home in on St. George Island like a satellite guided missile launched from half a continent away, local fisherman Steve Davis - as if in a parallel universe - was searching, too.

Just as Dixon was starting her quest, a May 7 newspaper article told of Davis' search for "The Lost Bounty of St. George Island."

"They's bound to be sunk ships out here that got gold, and pirates or other people that buried it," Davis told the article's writer.

His clue? An old, solitary grave from 1841 on St. George Island.

His observation? The dates inscribed on the tombstone just happen to coincide exactly with the minutes in longitude and latitude of a certain spot on the narrow barrier island.

"Now, what are the odds on that?" Davis said. "That this fellow died on the year and the month and the day of this longitude and latitude."

Dixon was told about Davis' parallel treasure hunt and his theories on longitude and latitude.

"That's so eerie," she said. "He thinks just like I do."

And McMillan? Had she heard anything about the remote, mysterious grave on the island?

"I go out there all the time," she replied.

Dixon, in a phone interview, seemed to sniffle, then coughed. "Yeah, I've had the cold from Hell," she said.

She's been fighting it for weeks.

"I finally took antibiotics," she said. Her mother scolded her, saying antibiotics were no good for her immune system.

Two weeks ago, a visitor to Davis' tiny fish house in Apalachicola would have found his wife present, but not Steve.

He was home in bed.

"Like to killed me," Davis said a few days ago. "I'm still fightin' that cold. I finally did take antibiotics."

Coincidences?

A fortuneteller, longitude and latitude coordinates on a barrier island, the common cold, and the Forbes treasure hunt.

Dixon, scanning her virtual maps of the area, asked about "Forbes Island" upriver from Apalachicola.

A little digging through history books tells that tale.

All of Franklin County, including St. George Island, was part of the Forbes Purchase, an 1804 deal between Spain and a certain John Forbes, who had acquired control of about 1.5 million acres from local Indians.

Just a coincidence.

Dixon recalled the I Ching prophecy of three strangers in Hexagram Five.

"The lady at the Chamber of Commerce, Jeanni, and Captain Dave," Dixon said. "Without them, I wouldn't have got the treasure."

What about Davis?

In early May, as Dixon was perusing cyber maps, Davis poked around St. George Island looking for treasure.

To get to the island, he traveled across the water in the fog, and told of cryptic marks on trees. He spun theories on pirates, longitude and latitude, and gold.

Davis said he wasn't familiar with the I Ching, an ancient Chinese book.

Dixon mentioned the three strangers part of the I Ching, among other things.

And those "other things" in Hexagram Five?

Perseverance brings good fortune.

It furthers one to cross the great water.

Three people?

Actually, there were four: One falls into the pit. Three uninvited guests arrive. Honor them, and in the end there will be good fortune.

"I don't remember if I stepped into that hole by the grave or not," Davis reflected.

He paused. "I might have, I might not have.

"But I'll tell you this. A lot of things go on in this world that people don't believe. And I'll maintain from now on there's treasure buried all along this coast."

Any questions, look up a woman named Dixon who lives on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. Not to be confused with old Chestnut Street in Apalachicola, of course.

History books don't mention much about that Chestnut Street, except that the Apalachicola Land Company was located there around 1841.

It was, by the way, the successor to the Forbes Land Co.