July 7 - Olivier Levasseur Tosses the World a Challenge...a Puzzle...a Code...a Hoax?

Posted on July 7, 2018

He was a quick-witted, action-oriented man...

But he was also a ruthless man who looted and stole almost his whole life.

Olivier Levasseur lived during the very late 1600s and the early 1700s. He was born into a wealthy French family, and for a while he did his stealing in a "legal" way - he was a "privateer" for the French king.

That means he was a pirate - but he didn't steal for himself, for a while there; instead, he stole from ships that were not French, for the benefit of the French crown.

Later he got sick of that, and he became a full-on pirate. He did all his looting and stealing and marooning and killing for personal profit. He earned some pirate names such as La Buse, "The Buzzard."

Levasseur is one of the pirates who started the whole eye-patch thing. Of course, it wasn't a fashion choice; he had been injured across his eye, and the scarring had limited his eyesight. Eventually he became completely blind in one eye and took to wearing the patch.

I mentioned that La Buse was in it for personal profit - and, oh, man! What a lot of profit! His biggest take (and one of the biggest piracy exploits, ever) was capturing the Portuguese galleon Virgem do Cabo and grabbing bars of gold and silver, boxes full of golden Guineas, diamonds and pearls, silks and artworks, and even religious objects like a cross made of gold, inlaid with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, which was so heavy that three men had to carry it onto Levasseur's ship!

That treasure was so big, Levasseur settled down in hiding in the Seychelles. But eventually the pirate was captured (in Madagascar) and taken to Réunion. There, on this date in 1730, he was hung.

All of the islands I mentioned are found in the Indian Ocean,
near the coast of Africa.

But, wait! What about the challenge, puzzle, code, or hoax?

While standing on the scaffold, just before he was killed, Levasseur is supposed to have pulled a necklace off his neck and shouted to the crowd, "Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!" - as he flung the necklace into the crowd!

Whoever grabbed the necklace, whatever fighting may have broken out over the necklace, whatever became of the necklace - all of that seems to be unknown, but what everyone seems to agree on is that the necklace contained a 17-line cryptogram:

This typical code is apparently the
one that La Buse used for his message.

I gather that, once it's decoded, the
message is a bunch of riddles and hints
based on Greek mythology.

As you can imagine, there have been a LOT of treasure seekers who have looked for La Buse's hidden cache. People have dug in the Seychelles, Madagascar, Sainte-Marie Rodrigues, Réunion - but nobody has found it. One rich man dug a giant trench 45 meters wide and 15 meters deep. Another spent thousands of pounds digging for a treasure h never found. Apparently the entire beach of Bel Ombre, on one of the Seychelles' main islands, is pitted with trenches and tunnels and even concrete walls and water pumps to keep sea water out of the excavations!

Many people think that Levasseur may have been hoaxing the crowd with his cryptogram and his challenge - but some people still hold out hope that the treasure still lies buried somewhere.  

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