From coins under the foundation to treasure in Bolivia

  • Shawn Cowles at the People's Pint in Greenfield. August 9, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Shawn Cowles and friends catch up at the People's Pint in Greenfield. August 9, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Shawn Cowles and his wife Adele Williams at the People's Pint in Greenfield, Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2018 8:59:39 AM
Modified: 8/11/2018 9:00:07 AM

When his father was going to make repairs to their 250-year-old home, Shawn Cowles went with him under the house. He found a coin from 1798 and that was the turning point — he become excited to learn more and more about the coin.

“That coin was a window into the past,” Cowles said. “You can learn a lot about history through currency. It had been sitting there for 300 years.”

Now, he is a treasure hunter, avid adventurer and subject of the new season of Discovery Channel’s “Treasure Quest.”

Cowles’ Greenfield roots

“The Greenfield YMCA was where I really got hooked, when I got certified in open-water scuba diving,” Cowles said. “We did our pool work there.”

Cowles is an alumni of Frontier Regional High School. Following graduation, he went into the music industry for a few years and at 22, began diving in Key West, Fla.

“I went from Shelburne Falls to Key West with $100 in my pocket,” Cowles said.

In Key West, he met Mel Fisher, whom Cowles calls the world’s greatest treasure hunter.

Cowles said he knew of Fisher and even wrote an essay about him while he attended Greenfield Community College.

After spending a day drinking with the veteran treasure hunter, Cowles said Fisher asked him to be a diver on his team. During his tenure with Fisher, Cowles learned how to dive as deep at 400 feet in Venezuela.

Cowles said he worked with Fisher for years, then resigned to pursue his own treasure hunting and independent contracting.

He circled back to Greenfield on Thursday, Aug. 9, during a cross country motorbike expedition with his wife, Adele Williams. Both stopped at the People’s Pint to have fun, promote the show and promote Cowles’ travel business.

Williams said the two are starting a travel business to give people an opportunity to travel while keeping people’s heritage in tact along the way.

“We want to do travel trips involving treasure,” Williams said. “While being aware we can’t just pick over sites and take it home.”

Treasure Quest and the Sacambaya Treasure

For this season of “Treasure Quest,” Cowles, Technology Specialist Jeremy Whalen and Demolition Expert Jack Peters went to Bolivia in search of the Sacambaya Treasure, which has an estimated worth of $2 billion.

Cowles said the treasure is from a group of Jesuits, who were sent to Bolivia to convert people to Christianity.

“They were so successful that the new King of Spain became so jealous of them, he wanted to oust them,” Cowles said. “So before they were expelled from South America, the story goes, the group stashed away silver and gold. That’s what we’re pursuing.”

During the expedition, the group had to travel through Yungas Road also known as “Death Road.”

One of the reasons why Cowles decided to go on the expedition was because of the technology available to search for the treasure, such as ground penetrating radar or drones.

Executive Producer Joseph Boyle said the season of the show is “the best one season ever.”

“Shawn stands above because of his credibility of finding treasures, it’s a huge draw,” Boyle said. “This treasure in particular has had a lot of failed attempts, but because of that, each failed attempted yields information that the team used to their benefit.”

Cowles was used as a contractor for Discovery, when he began to plan the trip to Bolivia.

“He began to get ready to take an a new expedition to find the Treasure of Sacambaya and we were interested,” Boyle said. “This show has everything — thrilling location, interesting artifacts, there’s great pay off in each episode. Another exciting challenge was that he had the challenge of being on land versus diving.”

The season premiere of “Treasure Quest” is Friday, Aug. 24, at 9 p.m. on Discovery.

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