In 1979 Ova Noss stood on the side of Victorio Peak posing for photos when she told the group, "Like they say, ´there´s gold inthem thar hills´." Ova Noss died later in 1979 but The Ova Noss Family Partnership is back on White Sands Missile Range seeking access to the legendary treasure.
One of the people accompanying Ova Noss in 1979 was Terry Delonas, her grandson. Delonas is the head of the family partnership and has been leading the effort to gain entry into Victorio Peak.
early 1989 the partnership approached the Dept. of Army seeking permission to talk to White Sands about possible entry into Victorio Peak. Taking on much of the effort has been Norman Scott´s Expeditions Unlimited out of Florida. Scott has been in the treasure hunting business for years and organized the hunt which took place at Victorio Peak in 1977.
For those of you unfamiliar with this story Victorio Peak is a small hill, about 400 feet high, in the Hembrillo Basin in the San Andres Mountains. The peak is about five miles east of the missile range´s western boundary and is almost directly west of the White Sands Space Harbor.
A man named Milton Noss, in 1937, supposedly found a treasure trove of Spanish gold and artifacts in a tunnel within the peak. He then claimed he accidentally sealed the tunnel in 1939 while trying to enlarge it---and another fabulous treasure was lost. But more about the history of this legend in next week´s paper. It gets pretty good as it involves skeletons, jewels and gold bars the seekers say are now worth three billion dollars.
The Dept. of Army granted Terry Delonas and Norman Scott permission to talk to Maj. Gen. Thomas Jones, missile range commander. After listening to the presentation, the general told the group he would allow the exploration of Victorio Peak on two conditions. The first was that all the work be done on a noninterference basis. The second was that White Sands be directly reimbursed for any support it would provide.
The first condition was readily agreed to. While Victorio Peak sits in the mountains very near the range´s boundary it is part of the Yonder Area, an Air Force gunnery range. When Air Force training missions as well as some missile firings are scheduled the searchers will have to evacuate the area.
The second condition was a little trickier. Suffice it to say the system did not allow the partnership to pay White Sands directly. The check would be made out to the U.S. Treasury and the money would disappear back East. The partnership approached Congressman Joe Skeen and he attached a rider to the Defense Authorization Act for 1990 which would allow direct reimbursement to the Army and WSMR.
With the signing of the money bill, Norman Scott, acting as Project Director for the partnership, arranged to conduct an environmental and engineering survey of Victorio Peak. He arrived on Jan. 8 to present the missile range with a check for $54,000 and to start the survey. The check was actually presented by Aaron Kin, a financial backer.
The money is to cover costs incurred by the range during the survey period. Some of this support includes security at the peak by the military police, scheduling by National Range, blading the old road by the Directorate for Engineering, Housing and Logistics and Public Affairs support for a press day at the peak.
During the two-week survey period the group was trying to figure out the best place to dig and, also, to conduct the required environmental work. To determine where the supposed treasure room might be Lambert Dolphin was back taking ground radar readings of the peak. Dolphin had a similar function during the gold search of 1977 and is under contract to Expeditions Unlimited. They also made infrared images of the peak and brought in a number of witnesses to try to determine where to dig.
Les Smith, another man with a great deal of experience with Victorio Peak was also present to help. Smith accompanied Ova Noss to the peak in 1979 and was with the Gaddis Mining Company when it searched for the gold for 60 days in 1963.
The environmental work was contracted out by the partnership and is a key point yet. Contrary to what the press has said, the family partnership does not have final permission to dig at the peak. A license has been negotiated with the partnership but it has not been signed. It will not be signed until the required environmental documentation is satisfactorily completed.
Once the environmental work is completed and the license signed, the partnership will be allowed to work at the peak as long as they keep enough money in a White Sands fund to pay for range support. Jones has made it very clear he does not want the taxpayer to foot the bill for this search. The group claims it will have the environmental work complete in April.
During the two-week study period, Scott and Delonas brought in a number of potential contractors to bid on work which will have to be done at the peak.
On the 18th the missile range cooperated with the family partnership to give the press an opportunity to see and photograph Victorio Peak. The press representatives were mostly local except for the Denver Post and the Houston Chronicle.
The day started with a press conference at the Hilton Hotel in Las Cruces where Delonas and Scott introduced their key employees and supporters. In questioning by the press Delonas said the project will probably cost the partnership and its supporters from one to two million dollars.
At the peak, Ova Noss´ two daughters, Letha Guthrie and Dorothy Delonas, and two grandsons, Terry and Jim Delonas, were continuously interviewed by members of the press. Letha and Dorothy told them about handling gold bars and Letha also told them how their stepfather once partially filled a glass jar with uncut rubies from the peak. No one asked where the rubies might have come from since there are no major deposits of rubies in North or South America.
Next, I´ll recount some of the history of Victorio Peak.