Tracing King Solomon's Gold to Lands of the Ancient Incas A Controversial Explorer Claims That Pre-Europeans Sailed to the Americas

By Robin Engel, | The Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 1998 | Go to article overview

Tracing King Solomon's Gold to Lands of the Ancient Incas A Controversial Explorer Claims That Pre-Europeans Sailed to the Americas


Robin Engel,, The Christian Science Monitor


And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon.

And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon..

I Kings 9:27,28 Some call him a maverick. Others, a visionary. Others, the last of the romantic adventurers. Tanned, sinewy, blue eyes blazing under bushy eyebrows, American explorer Gene Savoy looks the part of all three. Former journalist and self-taught anthropologist, his accomplishments uncovering major ruins in the dense wilderness of the Peruvian rain forest are many. Among them: Vilcabamba, the last refuge of the Inca; Gran Pajaten, regarded as one of the most important pre-Columbian ruins; and Gran Vilaya, a complex of more than 20,000 stone buildings buried deep in the jungle. Three decades later he is exploring a new wilderness: the vast, blue Pacific Ocean. He and a crew of six men arrived in Kona, Hawaii, in late January, having sailed 6,000 miles in six weeks from Callao, Peru, in the Feathered Serpent III, a replica of an ancient vessel. "We have found the route that we believe the Incas must have used to arrive in the Hawaiian Islands," Mr. Savoy announced at a press conference held at the Kona Surf Hotel last month. "It's a natural," he said. "It's the river of the seas." Because Hawaii serves as the gateway to the Pacific, Savoy says the ocean crossing provides significant evidence supporting the possibility that ancient ships traveled widely across the globe, exchanging ideas and trading goods. It is the first leg of a seven-year expedition destined for shores the of China. Like his earlier discoveries in the jungle, this most recent adventure elicits deep sighs from a scientific community looking for more than a "proven possibility." "I'm accustomed to controversy," Savoy says. "But I think we have enough scientific proof to verify our findings." Savoy's explorations are serious. The expedition is endorsed by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture and by the prestigious Explorers Club in New York. The trip to Hawaii was the Feathered Serpent III's maiden voyage. While hundreds of naval officers and cadets in crisp, white uniforms stood at attention, and a band played the Peruvian national anthem, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori christened the 68-foot ship on Dec. 17, last year. Vessel built from many cultures Designed from etchings found on Inca pottery, the vessel draws on other ancient cultures as well. From the Polynesians, the double-hulled catamaran. From Egypt, the heavy sail cloth. From China, the rigging. Exotic dragon heads poised at bow and stern add another six feet to the ship's dimensions. Two years in the making at a cost of $500,000, the ship quickly proved herself seaworthy. From Callao - a port in Lima - a warm current swept the dragon boat northwestward. Dolphins frolicked beside the ship, squeaking in greeting, diving between the hulls. The men squeaked their sneakers on the hull in reply. "The ancients used the dolphins to navigate," says navigator Gary Buchanan. "I felt reassured we were on the correct route." Birds also escorted the expedition the entire way. When they landed on board, the men fed them. Whales, the size of the ship, surfaced often. At night, sea water washed across the deck, sparkling like millions of miniature lights. In the morning, flying fish flopped on the netting stretched between the hulls. Cleaned, dipped in corn meal, and fried in olive oil over a propane stove, they provided the crew with their only fresh food. Crackers, tins of tuna, rice, and potatoes were staples. With three cabins for seven men, quarters were tight. Each man had his own bunk area. Water seeped everywhere. Nothing dried. Navigation charts, a sextant, calculator, and global positioning system verified the ship's position; like sailors of old, they followed the stars. At sunset, the constellation Orion appeared on the horizon, then guided the vessel until dawn. …

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