Searching for buried treasure in the Gulf Islands
Looking a Decourcy Islands from Parksville.
Parksville Qualicum Beach News
PARKSVILLE, B.C. (Black Press) - McKenzie pointed. It was there, across the strait. De Courcy Island.
I shade my eyes as I looked at the third island out. Could the rumours be true?
As soon as my paddling pal, John McKenzie from Prince George, had suggested kayaking the chain of small Gulf Islands near Nanaimo my thoughts had turned to gold, the Brother XII gold, rumoured to have been hurriedly buried somewhere on De Courcy Island as the cult leader and his chief acolyte, the cruel and mysterious Madame Zee, scrambled to get away before the cops closed in.
That was in 1932, and Brother XII's utopian Aquarian Foundation had finally crumbled around him. He was being sued again by former and current cult members and the police would be arriving on the tiny Gulf Island any minute to talk about the lawsuits, and maybe about the beatings . . . and the mysterious disappearance of some dissenting cult members.
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Time was short. Brother XII and Madame Zee barely had time to dynamite the cult's fortified compound before they jumped in their boat and fled De Courcy forever.
As I peer across the narrow strait to be paddled to get to the campsite at Pirate's Cove I wonder, were they able to take all the gold with them when they split?
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Ever since the bemused police officers poked around the freshly blasted remains of the compound and its so-called house of mystery, whispers have circulated about a fortune in gold hidden somewhere on De Courcy by the on-the- run cult leader and his whip-wielding mistress.
I change into my wet suit, strap my hatches down tight, grab my paddle and climb into my kayak. As I push off across the almost greasy-calm strait, I know there's no way I can paddle to this island without looking under a few rocks and peering into a few stumps. I soon get into the rhythm of paddling and think about that charismatic one-time sailor, Edward Arthur Wilson who fancied himself a prophet.
It was the 1920s, and Wilson, a son of British wealth and privilege, began telling his moneyed friends of having disturbing visions, nightmarish scenes of a coming apocalypse only a few would survive. Those chosen few, those who would follow him.
Some of his friends bought the tale and pledged their loyalty - and their money - to Wilson's Aquarian Foundation. Word spread and the soon well-funded Aquarian Foundation grew. In 1926 Wilson told his followers to come to Nanaimo, British Columbia, where they would set up an ideal community in which to ride out the coming storm.
It didn't take long for things to go sideways for Wilson, who now went by the title, The Brother XII. The men on the commune didn't much like his rules about marital relations, which they argued seemed to consist of abstinence with their wives by everyone but Brother XII. They didn't like the way he was spending their money, either. Eventually, some of them sued, and, with the Cedar property tied up in the courts, Brother XII left town and established new ideal communities on Valdes and De Courcy Islands.
The water is calm as we make the crossing and ease up the side of Mudge Island. We cross the tiny gap that separates it from Link Island, with its eerie rock formations of oddly sculpted sandstone. We circle De Courcy and set up camp at Pirate's Cove Marine Park, known back in Brother XII's day as The Haven, or Gospel Cove. Even though it's getting late, I don't waste time.
"I'm going for a walk," I say. Do you want any gold or anything?"
McKenzie rolls his eyes
"You have a very active imagination," he says.
Just up from the campsite I find a sign for The Brother XII Trail and begin my search.
Islands made of limestone, as it turns out, have lots of places where treasure can be hidden. Forget about 75-year-old stumps, the rock itself has pockets and fissures and caves everywhere. I get down on my knees to peer into a crack. Then another. And another.
I wonder, as I look into yet another crevice, did Madame Zee ever chase a terrified cult member down this very trail, lashing them with her bullwhip?
Things changed, apparently, when she arrived on the scene. What had before been uncomfortable living conditions for the cult members became brutal and downright dangerous. Degraded and turned into virtual slaves, they finally revolt in 1932 and start a court action to get their money back. Pretty soon it's dark and I head back to camp.
The next morning I get up early and look some more, this time around the darkwoods trail. No gold.
We paddle around nearby Ruxton and Pylades islands and then return.
When we get back to camp the radio has bad news. A strong southeaster is coming, gale force winds and crummy weather for the next five days. Time is short. We have to leave at first light, before the gale picks up, or we could be windbound for a week.
At first light we strike our tents and pack up the kayaks. The wind is already starting to blow and, like The Brother XII and Madame Zee, we must flee De Courcy - fast.[img][/img]