The clock measuring the one year allowed for the treasure trove search at Victorio Peak will begin ticking on May 15.
That is one of the first things spelled out in the Army´s licensing agreement which was signed April 4 by Terry Delonas and Brig. Gen. Ronald Hite. Delonas signed for the Ova Noss Family Partnership and Hite, as commanding general of WSMR, signed for the Department of Army.
In addition to the timeframe, the 16-page document limits the search area to a one mile radius of Victorio Peak, says the exploration will be without cost to the Government and the work will not interfere with other missile range activities. There also are paragraphs and subparagraphs outlining a variety of requirements ranging from a $200,000 deposit to lists of treasure locations and on-site participants.
The agreement goes to some length to make a distinction between what constitutes treasure versus artifacts. Paragraph 12 states, "All archeological resources, antiquities, or items of historical or cultural interest....whenever located on WSMR shall remain the property of the Government."
After this statement there is a long laundry list of what might be considered an artifact. It includes such common items as mortars, baskets, pottery, rock carvings, arrow heads and jewelry. The list was obviously lifted from a generic license because it includes, "all portions of shipwrecks." It seems unlikely a shipwreck will be found within Victorio Peak.
Now for the interesting part. The paragraph goes on to define "treasure" as "coins, gold or silver bullion, precious metals (not including metals with radioactive value), precious cut and uncut gems (not including jewelry or gems set in valuable ornaments), unset and loose jewels, and related valuables."
So, what happens if anything is found? The agreement says the partnership will cease operations immediately. Together, representatives of WSMR and the partnership will make a written and photographic inventory. The two parties will then categorize items as artifacts or treasure or neither with WSMR having the final determination in the matter.
Artifacts will then be dealt with by WSMR according to federal law. Treasure will be removed by the partnership under the direction of WSMR personnel.
At the signing Delonas said they were checking on vault storage with several banks in the area just in case something is discovered.
After removing the treasure, if any is found, the Department of Army will take custody of it. Following another inventory, the Army will, through the Department of Justice, go to the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico and request a determination as to the ownership of the treasure. Any subsequent court proceedings will certainly be fodder for the "entertainment-news" programs.
Another interesting requirement of the license is that "neither the Licensee nor any individual or company shall sell participation interests in the project contemplated by this license or in any manner utilize this license to promote the sale of stock or other securities or effect the financing of such project without first disclosing such transaction(s) to the Secretary of the Army." This portion of the license is intended to prevent anyone from implying that the Army endorses or backs the search.
To control the site and prevent any possible misrepresentation or fraud, all representatives of the partnership must consent "to a thorough search of their persons, vehicles, equipment, and any other personal property by Government security personnel." This includes a search prior to entry to the area or entry into any cavern or tunnel and a search on returning or emerging.
After the signing, Delonas said he could not say when the first activity would start. He did confirm that their first efforts will be directed at drilling small holes into the peak and then lowering cameras down the shafts.
He said they have developed a very sophisticated camera apparatus which contains video and still cameras and lights. They will be able to lower one device and control it from the surface to obtain live television video and 35-millimeter still photos.
He indicated this will probably take a few weeks and they will then withdraw to digest the data they collect. What they find will dictate how they will finally approach the peak for a full blown attempt to gain entry to any particular cavern.
In talking with Delonas after the signing he revealed he has a sense of humor---really a bit of black humor. He said he was happy the end of the search was finally in sight because all of his efforts during the past years had basically ruined his life.
Laughingly, he went on to say one of their financial backers was connected with the movie industry. This backer told Delonas the story would make a better movie if nothing was found. The movie could then portray a man who had wasted his life on nothing. It would be a tragedy and, after all, most of the greatest stories ever written were tragedies.
---Interlaced with the historical information in these articles are statements of personal opinion by the author, Jim Eckles, which are not necessarily the official position of White Sands Missile Range or the U.S. Army---