Treasure Hunt part 1…

Forrest Fenn hid a chest containing gold, jewels and antiquities somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. His aim? To get people back into the wilderness…

Before then…
It was in March 1991, right after Scott Conway returned from the Gulf War, that he noticed the first symptoms. Extreme mood swings, anxiety, lapses of concentration and memory. The division of the United States Army with which he served, the 24th Infantry – Delta Company, First Platoon, 3rd of the 15th Battalion, motto “Can do” – had spent the last few months of the war preparing to leave, nothing too arduous, so it was only when he returned to Howard, Pennsylvania, and attempted to resume his duties as a reserve soldier that his physical ailments became clear. Road marches and exercises that should have been easy were almost impossible. He was tired all the time and suffering bouts of debilitating diarrhoea. His muscles were on over-drive some days; other days he couldn’t walk, only crawl. He experienced phantom pains all over his body. He was 20 years old.

Doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong with Conway, which meant they couldn’t give him the right medication to control his condition. But he didn’t need their diagnosis: he already knew. In early 1991, as the 24th Infantry had followed the retreating Iraqi Republican Guard towards Kuwait, it was tasked with guarding the Khamisiyah Ammunition Storage Facility in southern Iraq ahead of its planned demolition. On 4 March, the US Army blew up the 25sq km site, sending an impressive column of smoke into the sky. Among the substances released were nerve gases, most likely sarin and cyclosarin, as confirmed by the Department of Defense in 1996. The cloud from the explosion may well have drifted over Allied troops stationed several kilometres away.

A considerable number of Gulf War veterans – American, but also British, Canadian and Australian – have experienced what is now known as Gulf War Illness. Nerve agent exposure is a strongly suspected cause, though there are other possible factors, including proximity to pesticides and burning oil wells. The symptoms of the illness vary, though fatigue, memory loss and joint pain are frequently reported. To Conway, it all made perfect sense.
Meanwhile, normal life was becoming impossible. He tried factory work, but it brought him to the point of exhaustion. Around 2010, he started his own construction company, but the stress exacerbated his symptoms. In early 2013, he and his wife, Traci, predicting the trajectory of his condition and wanting to travel while they still could, decided to take a Caribbean cruise. On the flight to the departure port in Florida, Scott picked up a copy of the airline’s in-flight magazine and read an article about Forrest Fenn, an eccentric millionaire art dealer who, after discovering he had cancer, filled a treasure chest with gold nuggets, jewels and ancient artefacts said to be worth between $2m and $3m and hid it somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fenn offered nine clues to its specific whereabouts in a cryptic poem which he included in his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase. “As I have gone alone in there, And with my treasures bold,” began the six-stanza poem, which the in-flight magazine had printed in full, “I can keep my secrets where, And hint of riches new and old”. Conway was intrigued.



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