Captain Kidd Treasure Hunters Nabbed off Gardiners Island

Gardiners Island treasure hunters aboard their skiff
Gardiners Island treasure hunters aboard their skiff, Photo: Mykhaylo Palinchak/123RF

The Hamptons Police Department Submarine Unit, Jaws VIII, thwarted what appears to have been an illegal, unsanctioned effort to find and abscond with Captain Kidd’s lost treasure on Gardiners Island in East Hampton early Sunday morning.

According to reports, the Virginia-class nuclear submarine—which is still painted pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and will remain pink until it’s dry docked for the season next month)—surfaced alongside a small skiff in waters just off the island at about 2 a.m. “About an hour before the arrest, we caught a glimpse of the craft through our periscope and found it incredibly suspect, so we quietly gave chase,” Captain Curly McGruff explains, pointing out that the skiff was painted black and covered with a camouflage tarp. “They cut their engine, pulled up the prop and began stealthily rowing to shore,” he continues. “So we surfaced to get a closer look.”

Aboard the vessel, McGruff says he and his crew found three men dressed head-to-toe in black with black face masks, and a cache of shovels, crowbars and other excavation gear, as well as flashlights and large, empty duffel bags capable of holding a “substantial volume of material.” Further investigation revealed a detailed map and schematics of Gardiners Island, and a journal detailing what McGruff describes as years of notes, historic research, theories and calculations about where Captain Kidd’s treasure would likely be found.

“These fellas definitely weren’t playing around. They’re not hobbyists or kids having a laugh,” McGruff says. “This is a well-funded, well-organized team with a very real mission following years, perhaps even decades, of planning, but you can’t just go digging up treasure, even when it isn’t on private property, as it is here.”

New HPD spokesman Rex Gallant says all three men are being held and questioned to determine whether a benefactor sent them or if the plan was their own. “Our investigators are pouring over seized materials, especially the journal, and comparing their findings, such as handwriting samples, against testimony and samples from the men in the boat,” Gallant continues. “Whoever is behind this, it looks like they were onto something. That journal has some Da Vinci Code–level stuff in there, and we’re pretty convinced we just stopped what would have been the biggest theft in Hamptons history,” he adds. “And that’s saying a lot, considering $42 million was stolen from a parked car in January.”

For now, McGruff and Gallant say the department will not share suspects’ names or the treasure’s alleged location with anyone, including the owners of the property where it’s buried. Both men say such a priceless find will only attract danger, violence and intrigue to local shores, and no one wants that.

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