WWII Treasure: Hazards of Excavation
Apart from tropical heat and humidity, one of the most preventative aspects of treasure recovery in the
Outlined here are some of the hazards that treasure-hunters have encountered while digging for Yamashita's gold.
Sites were often located near a water source such as a pond or river. The burial site would be dug as deeply as possible. Often, this would entail excavation of soil and rock beneath the water table in dryer seasons. Pipes of terra cotta would then be routed into the site, sealed, and filled with water from the source.
Extreme caution must be observed during recovery. An unsuspecting digger can easily break one of the pipes, flooding the chamber with water. Once a pipe is broken, it is very difficult to reseal due to the weight and velocity of the continual flow which can exceed 500 gallons per minute.
We've all seen the narrow escapes of Indiana Jones in the popular film series. Yes, suspended rock and soil were used by the Japanese as well.
Unfortunately, this type of booby-trap is very difficult to detect in advance. Not only can they result in injury or death, but an excavation can severely be penalized timewise.
SPRINGLOADED BOMB DETONATORS
An unwary digger may also meet his fate with a 1000- or 2000-pound (or smaller yet still deadly) bomb which had been captured from the Allied Forces. Such bombs were often sealed with cosmoline, the thick grease still favored by gun owners for long-term storage and protection from corrosion.
The digger moves an object (sometimes the treasure itself) which activates a spring mechanism. Acid is then leaked onto a copper plate which, when dissolved, triggers a detonator. Or, the digger may not be afforded the luxury of a time delay.
Fortunately, such bombs can be detected a meter or more in advance with the use of modern electronics.
GLASS-ENCASED CYANIDE CAPSULES
Somewhere en route to a treasure, one might encounter a glass cylinder about one liter in volume which is divided into two chambers: one containing liquid sulphuric acid, the other a powder of either potassium cyanide or sodium cyanide. If broken, the resulting mixture yields a very volitile and lightweight yet invisible cloud of hydrogen cyanide gas (HCN) which will quickly interfere with his breathing. The odor is almost imperceptible, but faintly resembles bitter almonds. Within seconds, it becomes difficult to hold one's breath or to breathe normally. Within one minute, respiration stops. Within five minutes, heart failure occurs.