Discovery tonight premieres its fascinating new series Cooper’s Treasure, which follows the hunt for potentially vast sums of hidden wealth — using drawings and maps made by an astronaut from space.
Gordon Cooper was one of the “Original 7” astronauts back in the 1960s. All were celebrities of their day, with Cooper the youngest and most rock star-esque of the bunch.
He still holds the record for the longest solo space flight in US history, which he claimed when he first took orbit in Mercury-Atlas 9 in May 1963.
But during one of his missions, when he was looking for nuclear sites around the globe, he spotted a series of dark shapes lurking underneath the sea in the South Caribbean.
He believed these to be shipwrecks, including possibly Christoper Columbus’s lost fleet.
If his inclinations were correct, the vessels’ holds could be filled with huge amounts of treasure. Cooper became obsessed with the possibilities.
Over the coming weeks, we will find out just how accurate his space sleuthing was.
Cooper, or Gordo as he was called in his inner circle, held on to his intel and worked secretly on the project for decades.
He used the information he collected while orbiting the Earth to painstakingly notate his treasure maps from notes.
Cooper’s lifelong passion went from space exploration to trying to uncover the whereabouts of earth’s hidden treasure troves.
He died in October 2004 before he could participate in any recovery missions.
But before passing away shared his secret — and his files — with long-time friend Darrell Miklos, with the hope that his exploration would continue and the treasure would ultimately be found.
Darrell met the retired spaceman through his father Roger Miklos, who was also a treasure hunter.
Now, armed with the files, Darrell is funded and ready to realize Cooper’s long-held belief that a large number of shipwrecks lie under the sea yet to be claimed and discovered.
But there will be a really big twist…as you will learn in a moment.
In the premiere, we are flying high above crystalline azure waters as a group of men consult a map, zooming in on a marked spot above a submerged coral bed.
The excitement builds as our narrator, Darrell, tells us: “If Gordon’s files are right, I’m about to find more treasure than you can possibly imagine.”
It was an odd stroke of fate which brought Darrell’s dad Roger together with Cooper.
They both appeared on the Merv Griffin show in the 1970s and struck up a friendship, before Cooper told Roger about the secret mission he had been working on.
Later, Darrell became friendly with Cooper and, in his thirties, he and the former astronaut actually shared an office.
One day before he passed away, Cooper pulled Darrell aside and shared a file, saying: “I need to tell you something.”
During a flight in 1963 right after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Gordon said he was looking for missile silos for the military and, in the course of scanning the oceans, he found anomalies. Lots of them.
Not a nuclear threat. Something else was showing up. Every time he went over an area that pinged, he investigated.
What Cooper found were what he believed to be obvious wreck sites from the seafaring European empires of yore.
He saw outlines of what would have been large wooden sailing vessels, and the metal that would have framed them and been part of the artillery on board.
Not only did Cooper detail the locations, he cross-referenced actual historical records of known ships that perished at sea carrying large holds of precious metals.
Cooper spent the rest of his life painstakingly connecting the information he collected far above the earth with the known recorded details of these treasure ships.
After Gordon’s death, Darrell scoured his research, coordinates, and notations as he set out to see if this blueprint for unclaimed underwater treasure was legitimate.
First off, he had to find out if it was actually possible for Gordon to to have done the kind of observation he said he did from his space capsule.
Darrell dug deep and found the men who made the McDonnell spacecraft Cooper orbited the Earth in after his mission was created in October of 1958.
In the premiere of Cooper’s Treasure, we see Darrell go to St Louis where he meets the expert engineers who made the ship Cooper flew in: Jerry Roberts, Earl Rob, Bob Schepp, Dean Purdy, and Norman Beckel.
Darrell is visibly moved to be in their company.
He tells them the whole crazy story and what Cooper had told him about the shipwrecks. Darrell asked the men if there was any detection equipment and they appear blank, unsure.
The men note they all had different security clearances and were not told of all the things built into the craft.
The bottom line? They cannot confirm or deny anything.
They take a vote and decide there was room for the equipment that Cooper claimed he had used to scan the Earth.
The level of detail on Cooper’s maps is insane. Darrell uses powers of deduction, and knowing where Cooper talked about most, to decide on where the first search should take place.
We head to Mexico, a place Darrell says Cooper loved.
He says: “One of the most difficult things about treasure hunting is getting people to believe in your project….and you.”
We learn the most valuable coins were minted in Mexico from raw materials the Spaniards brought over. There were numerous wrecks never found off the coast of the country.
The map Cooper drew shows cannons and wrecks. The actual reef site is narrowed down based on the drawings, and an aerial search begins.
The specificity of Cooper’s notes has ignited Darrell and his team to dive and explore. They find a “modern wreck” under the waves and explain that the wooden ships they seek are 300-400 years old and all that would be left are the metal bits.
This wreck is too recent.
Metal detectors are brought in, and they comb the floor of the sea.
“Gordon wasn’t a guy who was all about the money, it was the discovery that was important to him,” says Darrell as he embarks on Day 4.
Methodically he marks the areas on the map he is exploring and, so far, nothing. Frustration has set in. By day 6, Darrell heads back home.
We learn from him that there is a missing chart to correlate and connect the physical maps to the correct locations — and that’s what he needs.
Here comes the twist: His dad Roger has it.
Now the toxic family backstory emerges. He and his dad have murky waters between them. Somehow he needs to convince his father to give him this missing link so he wastes no more time and can zero in on a wreck.
Darrell explains to his family he has to go and meet his father, who he has not seen in two years. His wife Yadira counsels him not to see him.
She says: “He’s not a good person, sweetie.” Still, he needs that chart so off to Key West [Florida] he goes. “He’s still my father,” says Darrell.
The premiere flashes back to Roger Miklos, bellbottoms and all, on Merv Griffin’s 1978 TV show.
He is described by Merv as an Errol Flynn doppelganger.
The actual meeting between Darrell and his father is a tense and awkward exchange. Darrell broaches the subject. Roger lays it out, saying: “If I’m gonna do something I’m gonna need a few bucks.”
Darrell is beside himself now. He says: “Dad! I’m here for the chart!”
Roger starts arguing with him. He says: “Don’t link yourself to me to get your credibility, man.”
They argue over Darrell’s recollections of his childhood time spent with his father.
“There’s no f****** way you were ever on the Nomad One or Two [his father’s exploration boats]…I don’t want you to put bulls*** in my head when I know god****** well what was there!”
It goes further south from there as Roger lays into Darrell. He then fumes at the whole camera crew and producers: “Quit asking me a bunch of f****** questions. F*** you, I ain’t talking. Get him the f*** out of here!”
Roger tosses them all out. Ouch.
The episode ends with an emotional Darrell, who is up against it as he has no link but the maps and good hunches on where to look next.
The previews for the next episode once again show his father, so we know for certain that there’s some sort of accord or bridge made.
See you next week!
Cooper’s Treasure premieres tonight, Tuesday, April 18 at 10/9c on Discovery.