Pilar Project

While sailing around the world on his small boat The Way, Zoltan Istvan stopped in Guam to make some money. He got a minimum wage job filling scuba dive tanks at a local dive shop. Later the owner of the store asked if he wanted to join a storied underwater archaeological salvage team, looking for over a million silver coins on a sunk 16th century Spanish Galleon off the southern coast of Guam. The treasure hunt was called the Pilar Project, and its bounty was worth over $1 billion dollars. But the owner warned Zoltan the job would be dangerous; a diver had drowned the year before on the project and sharks were plentiful in the waters. But it would be a grand adventure, and the pay was double minimum wage.

Of course, Zoltan said yes, and soon joined the team. He did approximately 400 dives in 6 months, despite rupturing an ear drum and having no health insurance. One of the divers, the first mate, had to be airlifted with a helicopter from our diving ship because of decompession sickness. The crew and Zoltan dove an intense schedule, sometimes making 5 dives a day. Sadly, they never found more than a few cannon balls, iron pins and ballast stones, but each diver was given a tiny bit of silver found from seasons before. The Discovery Channel and other media widely covered the project.

Many years later Zoltan wrote about his experience on the project for International Living magazine. A screen shot & link to the article is below, as well as some images.

Here’s a pic below of Zoltan using an underwater metal detector to scan for silver coins.

Below is the diving crew.

Below Zoltan recover a cannon ball, his only significant find in months of diving.

The team of the Pilar Project also used a huge vacum (venturi pump) to move sand from one end of the archaeological site to another.

Here’s a view from the surface.

Here Zoltan is holding a water sled, something that was common to use to cover more territory underwater than just diving.

Read his article on an adventurous season as a treasure hunter on the Pilar Project.