Seven treasures that remain lost as Amelia Earhart mystery may be solved

As US explorer claims to have found famous aviator's missing plane, we look at other fascinating artefacts still undiscovered

The whereabouts of the missing Imperial Faberge Eggs and the Ark of the Covenant remain a mystery, while the location of famed US aviator Amelia Earhart's plane may have been solved. Getty
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One of the world’s most enduring mysteries could be one step closer to being solved.

Former Air Force intelligence officer and real estate investor Tony Romeo claims he may have found Amelia Earhart’s plane 87 years after the aviator and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared mid-flight.

Earhart’s Lockheed Electra 10E disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 during her quest to become the first woman to fly around the world.

Speculation as to what happened has lasted decades, with historians and adventurers looking for Earhart and her Lockheed ever since.

Selling his property business to set up a deep-sea exploration company with the sole intention of finding Earhart’s plane, Romeo claims he has spent more than $11 million on the search.

He told the Wall Street Journal: “This is may be the most exciting thing I’ll ever do in my life. I feel like a 10-year-old going on a treasure hunt.”

Romeo and his crew used an underwater drone to find the wreckage, posting images on Instagram of what looks like a plane on the seabed.

About 100 miles off the coast of Howland Island, the wreckage was found roughly halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

Earhart and Noonan were last seen taking off from Papua New Guinea on July 2, 1937, and were expected to land at Howland Island to refuel.

“There are no other known crashes in the area, and certainly not of that era or that kind of design with the tail that you see in the image,” Romeo told WSJ.

Although it has not yet been confirmed, here's a look at some of the world’s other famous hunts for treasure and ancient artefacts.

1. The Treasure of Lima, Costa Rica

Also known as the Loot of Lima, or the Cocos Island Treasure, more than $300 million (in today’s money) worth of gold and jewels has been hunted by the likes of US actor Errol Flynn, American gangster Bugsy Siegel, New Zealand explorer Frank Worsley and former US president Franklin Roosevelt.

Looted from Lima by Spanish invaders in 1820, the treasure was put aboard the ship Mary Dear for safekeeping. The ship’s captain and his crew killed the Spanish guards and buried the treasure on Cocos Island near Costa Rica, hoping to return for it.

The crew were all captured and killed apart from captain William Thompson and his first mate who agreed to show the Spanish where they had hidden the loot. But when they arrived on Cocos Island, the pair escaped into the jungle never to be seen again – and neither was the treasure.

In 1994, the Costa Rican government banned treasure hunting on the island.

2. On the Trail of the Golden Owl, France

In 1993, Regis Hauser (under his pen name Max Valentin) buried a bronze owl statuette in the French countryside, then wrote the book Sur La Trace de La Chouette d’Or (On the Trail of the Golden Owl) containing 11 clues as to its whereabouts.

Whoever found the owl would win an identical one made from gold, silver, rubies and diamonds that was valued at around €230,000 ($248,000) today.

The book sparked a nationwide treasure hunt, but to date the owl has not been found. Hauser died in 2009, leaving the sealed envelope containing its location to the book’s illustrator, Michel Becker.

3. The Nazi treasure of Lake Toplitz, Austria

The hunt for the rumoured treasure at the bottom of Lake Toplitz in the Austrian Alps has claimed the lives of five divers.

Towards the end of the Second World War, the Nazis – who had used the lake as a naval testing station in the 1940s – began dumping thousands of boxes into the water.

Theories include that they contained looted artefacts, as well as documents pertaining to Swiss bank accounts where money and gold were hidden.

In 1959, investigators found £700 million of counterfeit notes in the lake with which Adolf Hitler had planned to sabotage the UK economy.

A dense layer of sunken logs floating halfway to the bottom of the lake have made further investigations impossible, despite the use of a mini submarine. The last dive was carried out in 2005, and diving in the lake is now illegal.

4. The Crown Jewels of Ireland, Ireland

A diamond, ruby and emerald-encrusted badge and star created in 1831 – also known as the Jewels of the Order of St Patrick – were stolen from Dublin Castle on July 6, 1907.

Though none were convicted, the chief suspects were Sir Arthur Vicars; the Ulster King of Arms; Francis Shackleton – Dublin Herald of Arms, military officer and brother of explorer Ernest Shackleton; and Richard Gorges.

Rumours persisted, but were never confirmed, that the jewels had been sent to Amsterdam or Paris.

Presented with new information in 1983, the Irish government conducted five searches in an undisclosed mountain region but nothing was found.

5. The Amber Room, Russia

Archaeologists and adventurers from Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, the US and more have been searching for the Amber Room, once named the “eighth wonder of the world”, since it disappeared in 1944.

Constructed between 1701 and 1714 for King Frederick I of Prussia in Danzig, the chamber decorated in amber panels backed with gold leaf and mirrors was looted from the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia, by German soldiers and taken to Konigsberg Castle in Germany on October 14, 1941.

It was last seen in 1944, before Allied bombers destroyed the castle.

While many historians believe it was lost in the bombing, the 2020 discovery of the shipwrecked Karlsruhe steamer off the coast of Poland ignited the mystery once more.

The ship had set sail from Konigsberg in 1945 – as part of Operation Hannibal to evacuate troops – with a “large” unknown cargo, but was sunk by Soviet warplanes.

6. The Ark of the Covenant

For millennia, it has been claimed the Ark, which is described in the Bible as the chest containing the tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written, has lain undiscovered in places including Mount Nebo in Jordan, Edfu in Egypt and Chartres Cathedral in France.

The most famous Hollywood film about the artefact, Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark, placed it in a chamber in Tanis, Egypt.

While the New Testament’s Book of Revelation says the Ark is in the heavenly Temple, the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion in Axum, Ethiopia claims to have it – though they have never let any outsiders verify their claims.

7. The lost Imperial Faberge Eggs, Russia

Of the 52 imperial eggs created by the jewellery firm House of Faberge for the Russian emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II, six have gone missing.

Created between 1886 and 1909, the Hen with Sapphire Pendant, Cherub with Chariot, Necessaire, Mauve, Royal Danish and Alexander III Commemorative, which were made as Easter gifts for the Tsar’s wives and children have all been lost.

Hen with Sapphire Pendant and Cherub with Chariot disappeared in 1922 amid the chaos of the Russian Revolution. A description matching the latter was included in a catalogue of possessions belonging to the wealthy US industrialist Armand Hammer – great-grandfather to the actor Armie Hammer – although nothing has been heard of it since.

Necessaire was sold in London in 1952 for £1,250 (£45,000 today) with the buyer listed simply as “a stranger”.

Updated: January 31, 2024, 10:20 AM