High-Tech Expedition to Search for Doctor’s Buried Treasure
EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ Before he was killed, Milton ″Doc″ Noss claimed he had discovered scores of gold bars in a cave beneath New Mexico’s Victorio Peak. But in the 43 years since, nobody has been able to find them.
On Thursday, Noss’ grandson, Terry Delonas, plans to begin the best- equipped expedition yet, with high-powered metal detectors, a computer- guided camera and a bankroll of nearly $1 million.
″I can’t tell you what we’ll discover,″ Delonas said recently. ″We may discover nothing at all.″
Noss, a foot doctor, claimed to have found gold in the hill about 60 miles north of Las Cruces, N.M., in 1937. He told friends he pulled as many as 110 gold bars from the peak, one at a time, and reburied them on the range.
Noss was killed in a 1949 gunbattle with a partner, Charles Ryan, over Noss’ failure to turn over some of the bars. A jury acquitted Ryan, who claimed self-defense.
Since then, debate has raged over whether Noss was truly a prospector whose luck ran sour or a con man who fooled investors with tales of gold.
Even the source of the gold is unexplained. Some say it was put there by Mexican raider Pancho Villa in 1916. Others say Apaches buried it after stealing it from early Spanish settlers. The state historical society says there is no record of any gold there.
″Personally, I don’t think there is (gold in the peak) and never was,″ said Jim Eckles, spokesman for the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. He has written about the case for the range’s newspaper.
But Delonas believes his grandfather’s stories already have proved true.
″There is already incontrovertible evidence that Doc removed gold bars from Victorio Peak - eyewitness accounts, assays, people who have handled gold bars they say they got from Noss. Several people watched him pull them from the peak,″ Delonas said.
He said Noss even photographed some of the gold, but the photos were lost.
The peak became part of the missile range in the 1940s, putting it off limits to most explorers. The Army searched for the gold in 1961 and let a private company search again in 1977. Neither effort turned up anything.
Delonas and his group plan to use high-powered metal detectors similar to those used to find coins, and a computer-controlled camera with an ultrasonic rangefinder and a digital compass like those used on missiles will be dropped down bore holes to help find the way.
Delonas said the expedition, paid for by Noss’ descendants and other investors, has already spent $800,000 and could easily spend $200,000 more.
Lambert Dolphin, the project’s geophysicist, said radar used for the 1977 search showed a cavern beneath Victorio Peak, and improved ground-penetrating radar used in 1990 showed that the caverns are much more extensive than originally thought. Dolphin said the main cavern Noss talked about is probably about 200 feet down.
″That’s why in the ’50s and ’60s, everyone shook their heads because they said you can’t have caverns at that depth,″ Delonas said.
If an entrance that burrows through the peak cannot be found, tunnels will have to be dug at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, Dolphin said.
After all that, of course, the expedition could turn up nothing. But Delonas said his faith in his grandfather wouldn’t be shaken.
″I’ll always believe that Doc Noss discovered gold bullion at Victorio Peak,″ Delonas said.