FLORIDA, USA, Thursday April 20, 2017 – Professional marine explorer Darrell Miklos is hunting for sunken treasure in the Caribbean, using a secret map created from outer space by one of NASA’s seven original astronauts.
Miklos, who is documenting the adventure as part of a new Discovery Channel series, told ABC News that he obtained the treasure map from his long-time friend Colonel Gordon Cooper, who piloted the last and longest of the Mercury missions.
The decorated astronaut logged 222 hours in space, according to NASA, and became the first American to sleep in space among several other distinctions.
In May 1963, Cooper undertook a solo mission, ostensibly to study the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the human body.
He nevertheless had another, more secret task to perform, one that required him to take thousands of photographs of the Earth’s surface.
“Man, all I do is take pictures, pictures, pictures. I’m up to 5,245 now,” Cooper was recorded saying in one message to ground control from space.
The NASA mission took place just months after the Cuban missile crisis pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. Cooper’s real mission was said to have been to look for possible Soviet nuclear missile sites off the coast of the United States.
He was essentially conducting a clandestine spy mission in orbit, according to Miklos.
“I think he had a special D.O.D. mission (Department of Defence) whereby not only was he checking how long a man could survive in space, but they had some sort of long-range detection equipment … he was utilizing that to try and identify nuclear threats that may have been placed in the Caribbean,” Miklos said.
But it wasn’t long before something else caught Cooper’s attention.
According to Miklos, Cooper spotted hundreds of unidentified objects of interest in the Caribbean waters.
“They were in shallow waters and shallow reefs, so he deduced that, ‘I know what that is, those are shipwrecks,'” Miklos said.
Cooper was pretty sure that the dark patches of water he observed could hold sunken treasure. So he started making a map, later cross-referencing it with research he conducted on Earth.
“He made the treasure map from space,” Miklos said, going on to reveal that Cooper’s research led him to believe some of the shipwrecks may have been a part of the lost fleet of Christopher Columbus, which could be of priceless historical value.
Cooper never got to explore any of the shipwrecks he believed he found before he died. He nevertheless shared his research with Miklos, who comes from a family of treasure hunters who were involved in several underwater shipwreck recoveries in the 1960s and 1970s, according to a report from news.com.au.
In 2014, Miklos founded Gemini Marine Exploration “to locate, identify, and recover cargo and artefacts from sunken ships,” according to the company’s website.
“We are actively pursuing several promising projects in the Caribbean,” the website says.
Fox news reports that Miklos and a crew of professionals explored parts of the Caribbean searching for wrecks. The team used a magnetometer to identify shipwreck areas, and then dived down for a closer inspection using a metal detector.
“We cherry-picked five anomaly readings, did a search and identity mission, and we are five for five for positively identified shipwreck material – and there are hundreds,” Miklos said.
So the first five, he (Cooper) was exactly right on the money. He had it right from the beginning.”
Miklos is now making it his mission to follow Cooper’s treasure map and see where it leads, with Discovery Channel cameras along to document the entire journey.
“Cooper’s Treasure” premiered on Tuesday on the Discovery Channel.