The Lost Ship of the Desert - Major Horace Bells Account
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    Dec 2008
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    The Lost Ship of the Desert - Major Horace Bell's Account

    Is "The Pearl Ship" the same treasure story as "The Lost Ship of the Desert?" I don't know. If not, they appear to be at least cousins.

    Major Horace Bell was a "rawhide Californian," who wrote a stirring book about his life and times in the early days of the Golden State. Here's what he had to write about The Lost Ship of the Desert:

    Reminiscences of a Ranger; Or, Early Times in Southern California, by Major Horace Bell (Los Angeles: 1881)

    About the time of the excitement about the "Widney Sea," Captain Joshua A. Talbot (a veteran explorer, whose fame as such has not been confined to the Pacific slope, but has crossed the Andes of South America, and descended into the valley of the mighty Amazon, and gone over the sea to Australia), in one of his many explorations, journeying on the desert, came upon the hulk of a ship half buried in the sand. The Captain and his followers were speechless in the intensity of their amazement. They looked at each other, then looked at the ship. They gazed at the ship, and then looked inquiringly into each other's eyes; and then they commenced to walk around and clamber to her long-deserted deck, and examine this wonderful discovery. The rigging, of course, was gone. The masts were worn down to short and rounded stumps, as were the bulwarks, almost even with the deck (so said the discoverers), all caused evidently by the raspings of time and drifting sand. The depleted water vessels of the Captain and his comrades admonished them that further delay would be at the risk of their lives, and they reluctantly abandoned their prize, and pushed on to the next watering-place, and thence to the angel city [Los Angeles], and reported the discovery, and filed their claim to all the treasure therein contained. Uncle Josh (so called) and his fellow-explorers at once became heroes, each the centre of a circle of anxious inquirers. Uncle Josh was of the opinion that the vessel was a Spanish galleon, and was undoubtedly laden with doubloons, and that at the lowest possible calculation there were millions in it.

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    This opinion was dissented to by some of the more nautical of the discoverers, who maintained that the build of the ship resembled a Chinese junk, while an Italian insisted that it was in his opinion an ancient Roman war galley. These various opinions gave rise to a learned newspaper controversy as to the origin of the ship, and how she came to her present place of repose. One more practical reasoned that "the vessel was one lost from the first, expedition of the Conquistador to explore the Sea of Cortez; that a strait connecting the 'Widney Sea' and the Sea of Cortez had been closed by a violent storm, that the vessel was abandoned by her crew; that by evaporation the cut off sea had dried up and left the ship dry on the sand."

    Another produced abundant authority to prove that the ship was one of a Tartar fleet driven to our coast; that in the year 1280 Genghis Khan, the Great Mogul, after having subjugated China, fitted out an expedition of 240,000 men in 4,000 ships under his son Kublai Khan for the purpose of conquering Japan. While this expedition was on its voyage to that country a violent storm arose and destroyed a great part of the fleet and drove many of the vessels to the coast of California, and Uncle Josh's prize was surely one of that fleet. A very wise angel waited until all of the others had their say, and then he settled the question and produced such unimpeachable authority that all save Uncle Josh gave it up. This sabe lo todo argued "that the strange ship was without the shadow of doubt one of the ships that carried a part of one of the lost tribes of Israel that found their way to and peopled California. As authority he referred to the Book of Mormon, the revelations of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others of the Latter Day Saints of holy inspiration, and as further evidence he pointed to the singular physiognomical resemblance between our Jewish population and the aboriginal inhabitants."

    This elaborate fulmination of the learned man was deemed conclusive, and we all gave it up except the gallant Talbot, who stood by his former opinion and put his faith and his money in a train of jackasses laden with water casks, shovels, axes, crowbars, cold chisels and canvas bags wherein to carry away the doubloons, and followed by his fellow discoverers set out for the desert to loot his prize.

    For once in his life the sapient veteran was mistaken, but what of that? He paid for his mistake. The ship of the desert turned out not to be a Spanish galleon; neither was she a Roman war galley; not a Chinese Junk or one of the lost fleet of Genghis Khan; nor the luckless craft that brought the lucky Hebrews to this Happy land; but the ship of the desert turned out to be a craft formerly built by Messrs. Perry and Woodworth, of Los Angeles, to be used in explorations on the Colorado river; that her motive (mule) power gave out on the desert and she was abandoned to become a theme of discussion, for men of learning and of Science.

    Good luck to all,

    The Old Bookaroo, CM
    Last edited by Old Bookaroo; Jan 03, 2017 at 02:52 PM.
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