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How COOPER’S TREASURE Will Use a Map from Space to Seek Underwater Treasure

How COOPER’S TREASURE Will Use a Map from Space to Seek Underwater Treasure

The premise of Discovery‘s newest docuseries, Cooper’s Treasure, sounds like a movie: a professional treasure hunter uses a map charted by an astronaut on a space mission in 1963 to find treasure hidden in shipwrecks in the Caribbean. Honestly, it should probably already be in development for a film adaptation starring Matthew McConaughey.

But here’s the thing—it’s all real.

Cooper’s Treasure follows the 2017 journey of actual professional treasure hunter Darrell Miklos (yes, that is his real job) as he takes charts that his family friend Gordon Cooper, an Original 7 astronaut, made while on his Project Mercury flight in the ’60s, and uses them to pinpoint the locations of shipwrecks and hopefully find sunken treasure.

“There’s really nothing about this story that’s not true,” Miklos tells Nerdist of his quest. “The story’s true, the way they’re portraying me is true.”

Miklos first met Cooper when Cooper and Miklos’ father appeared together on an episode of The Merv Griffin Show, and soon grew close to the former astronaut. “I did everything with Gordon. I was like his surrogate son. He had two wives and two daughters, one with each wife, so he never really had a son,” Miklos explains. “My father kind of abandoned us in our youth… My dad was never around… so [Gordon] kind of filled that void.”

When Cooper was on his Mercury mission in 1963, he scoured the globe for nuclear sites—but also found a bunch of shipwrecks, and created a chart with all of his data.

“We proved the fact that the chart had legitimate targets on it by other people’s subsequent discoveries,” Miklos says—like the 1985 discovery of the Atocha wreck, which was on Cooper’s map.

As an adult, Miklos collaborated with Cooper to hunt for shipwrecks in Mexico, but it wasn’t until Cooper’s Parkinson’s got worse that he gifted Miklos his chart. Cooper eventually passed away in 2004, and “getting over the loss of Gordon took me a couple of years,” Miklos explains. “It was emotionally a very hard position for me to get the gumption to just go on a treasure hunt. There’s so many things in the process of getting to the point where you actually start an expedition.”

After finalizing the research and getting the appropriate permits and clearing other red tape, Miklos was finally ready to start—but it was 2008 and the economy tanked. “The last thing anybody was going to invest their money in was a treasure hunt,” Miklos said.

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Once the economy recovered, Miklos then had to convince his family that the quest was worth it. “I’ve been doing this so many years,” he said. “My wife has seen us have more failures than successes. It’s not due to the fact that what we were going after wasn’t right, it’s that government situations didn’t work out, people didn’t keep their word. There’s a lot of dangers involved in this business. I almost died three times in hurricanes.”

Then he and his wife had their first child, heightening the dangers even more. “My wife didn’t want to see me go through that again, so convincing my wife that this was for real, that this one was different than all the others,” he said. “My wife knew Gordon so she understood the relationship and how important it was to me. But then again, she had her doubts. Not in the story so much, but whether it was possible financially, all of these things that come into play.”

It was finally time.

Miklos said, “Some of the material that Gordon identified from space…there is a possibility that, since 1963, somebody has stumbled upon those wreck sites by accident or has done the history and research as this whole business started to become popular in the ’70s and ’80s.” But the risks are worth it. “Yes, it’s, ‘Do it now or somebody else is going to discover it.’ And sooner or later, somebody else will discover these wreck sites. But not all of them—there’s way too many.”

While Miklos won’t reveal exactly where he’s hunting, he does confirm that “the treasure map from space is very accurate, and right now, at this stage of the game, we’re five for five… I can almost guarantee that unless we find a wreck that’s been picked by somebody else, every single target on that chart I believe to be a legitimate target.”

Ultimately, he hopes that his quest will prove that Cooper’s theories are correct. “I’m paying homage to a very dear friend whom I consider to be my surrogate father, and I want to tell the story so that people don’t think I’m sounding crazy or it’s made up or it’s so far-fetched that I ruin Gordon’s reputation by putting the wrong spin on it… My mission is to make it authentic and make it real, so that people realize what a wonderful, incredible person he was—besides an American hero.”

Cooper’s Treasure premieres Tuesday, April 18 at 10 p.m. on Discovery Channel. Do you think Miklos and co. will uncover anything? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Images: Discovery

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