Land of Extremes: Pirates and Permits: Legends and Archaeology

A petroglyph found in Imperial Valley (left) may depict a Spanish ship, like the San Salvador at the Maritime Museum of San Diego (right).

There is something attractive in the idea of a lost piece of history, of something out of place with its modern surroundings. The idea of a mystery and its pursuit excites and inspires. For decades, Imperial Valley has carried the story of the “Lost Ship of the Desert” — a Spanish galleon trapped inland when the waters around it dried up. This January 2019, students from McKinley School came to Imperial Valley Desert Museum for a day of pirates and archaeology as they learned the stories and science behind it and searched for this lost ship. Named Deputy Archaeologists for the day and armed with honorary dig permits, more than 150 students set out to literally get their hands dirty, discovering fact from legend and archaeology from treasure hunting.

Lost ship of the desert

Land of Extremes: Pirates and Permits: Legends and Archaeology

300 years ago, Imperial Valley was under the waters of the ancient Lake Cahuilla. PHOTO COURTESY OF IVDM

Land of Extremes: Pirates and Permits: Legends and Archaeology

IVDM Director, David Breeckner, uses a sieve to separate sand from artifact.

Land of Extremes: Pirates and Permits: Legends and Archaeology

Students use brushes to carefully search for lost history.

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