When we were children, we dreamt of Goonies-like adventures in which we’d stumble upon a map that led us to an ancient treasure. In most of these daydreams, the treasure chest was left behind by some swashbuckling, ruthless pirate king. It was full of emeralds, diamonds, and all manner of gold doubloons. Maybe it was buried under an ‘X’ located on a tattered, faded map or perhaps it was hidden in the belly of a shipwreck.
Of course, those dreams never came true (though they did lead to a few kids’ novels). But there are shipwrecks and treasures to be found in the sea’s briny depths. It’s just that they’re usually uncovered by people with submersibles and sonar at their disposal, then auctioned off to the highest bidder. Also, sometimes instead of jewels, the bounty is 80-year-old bottles of Scotch.
Back in 1941, the SS Politician, sailing through choppy seas, ran aground along the craggy shores of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. One of the most famous shipwrecks in history, among its contents, the cargo ship was carrying 28,000 cases of malt whisky (and a total of 264,000 bottles including Gilbey’s, Ballantine’s, and VAT 69). During the days and weeks after the ship sank, Hebrides islanders showed up and pillaged the boat of most of its cargo, including much of the whisky. Though they broke marine salvage laws, they had honored the universal law of “finders keepers.” (The government didn’t subscribe to this particular law and many were subsequently prosecuted by Custom and Excise for unpaid duty.)
The locals finished off their share of the whisky decades ago, but it turns out they didn’t get all of it. In 1987, divers found eight bottles. In 1990 a different expedition unearthed 24 more. In 1987, Orkney-based diver George Currie was repairing undersea cable when he happened upon the iconic shipwreck. This is when he unearthed another bottle and years later, this one is up for auction.
The bidding for the bottle of 80-plus-year-old whisky, Currie’s diving helmet from the expedition, a poster from the film based on the islander’s pillaging of the ship, and bricks from the ship is expected to fetch upwards of $20,000. While that’s a lot of money, it’s a price many would be willing to pay to finally get their share of buried treasure. Especially if that treasure can get you buzzed.