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Captain Olivier Levasseur

    French by nationality, Olivier Levasseur went by the nicknames La Buse ("The Buzzard") or La Bouche ("The Mouth"). He allegedly hide one of the biggest treasures in pirate history, estimated at over 1 billion, leaving a cryptogram behind with its whereabouts. The first reference to him is in company with Samuel Bellamy in 1716, cruising off the Virgin Islands. Bellamy seems to have been the leader. The partnership seems to have been fruitful as the pair captured several vessels through the fall and winter of 1716-17. The two became separated by a storm in early 1717. The next mention of Levasseur is in conjunction with the arrival of Woodes Rogers at New Providence in 1718. Levasseur is mentioned among the pirates that surrendered upon Rogers arrival and accepted the King's pardon. It seems that at some point after this he departed the island and took up his old profession again.

    In 1719 Levasseur seeing a ship anchored off Gambia Castle, bore down upon it only to find that it was captained by Howell Davis, another pirate. The two formed a partnership and sailing down the coast to Sierra Leone where they came upon another pirate Cocklyn. The three crews took the fort, and spent the next seven weeks refitting their ships. During this time they took an English slave ship the Bird Galley that came into the port. Levasseur was given the galley in place of the brigantine he had previously commanded. Having refitted the pirates went to sea, but an argument soon forced the three to part company.

    From 1720 onwards he launched his raids from a base on the island of Sainte-Marie, just off the Madagascar coast, together with pirates John Taylor, Jasper Seagar, and Edward England. They first plundered the Laccadives, and sold the loot to Dutch traders for 75,000. Levasseur and Taylor eventually got tired of England's humanity and marooned him on the island of Mauritius. They then perpetrated one of piracy's greatest exploits: the capture of the Portuguese great galleon Nossa Senhora do Cabo (Our Lady of the Cape) or Virgem Do Cabo (The Virgin of the Cape), loaded full of treasures belonging to the Bishop of Goa, and the Viceroy of Portugal, who were both on board returning home to Lisbon. The pirates were able to board the vessel without firing a single broadside because the Cabo had been damaged in a storm and to avoid capsizing the crew had dumped all of its 72 cannon overboard, then anchored off Reunion island to undergo repairs.

    The booty consisted of bars of gold and silver, dozens of boxes full of golden Guineas, diamonds, pearls, silk, art and religious objects from the Se Cathedral in Goa, including the Flaming Cross of Goa made of pure gold, inlaid with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. It was so heavy, that it required 3 men to carry it over to Levasseur's ship. In fact, the treasure was so huge that the pirates did not bother to rob the people on board, something they normally would have done. When the loot was divided, each pirate received at least 50,000 golden Guineas, as well as 42 diamonds each. Seagar died when they sailed to Madagascar to divide their take; Levasseur and Taylor split the remaining gold, silver, and other objects, with Levasseur taking the golden cross.

    At this point some of the crew settled on the Ile Sainte Marie. Taylor and Levasseur sailed on, taking the Duchesse de Noaelles and in 1722 plundered the Dutch garrison at Fort Lagoa. After returning to Madagascar, the two pirate crews parted ways and Taylor later accepted a Spanish pardon and commision. In 1724, Levasseur sent a negotiator to the governor on the island of Bourbon, to discuss an amnesty that had been offered to all pirates in the Indian Ocean who would give up their practice. However, the French government wanted a large part of the stolen loot back, so Levasseur decided to avoid the amnesty.He continued his piracies, off and on until 1730 when he was captured by the French warship Meduse off Fort Dauphin. He was hung later that year on July 7th. He has been described as slight of build and as having had a limp.

    It seems that Levasseur ran with some of the best of the pirates. The only thing left unsaid above is the speculation as to what he did with his share of the plunder. Legend tells that when he stood on the scaffold he had a necklace around his neck, containing a cryptogram of 17 lines, and threw this in the crowd while exclaiming: "Find my treasure, the one who may understand it!" What became of this necklace is unknown to this day. Many treasure hunters have since tried to decode the cryptogram hoping its solution will lead to this treasure. Perhaps he just spent it in living well. The fiery cross of the archbishop of Goa would have been stripped of gems and melted down, the gold and silver spent of wine and women. However, there is speculation that he buried the wealth on the island of Mahe near the Seychelles where he is said to have hid for some of the years between 1722 and 1730. There have been maps, strange texts and markings on rocks that treasure hunters claim as proof of the treasure, yet the treasure if it exists remains unfound.




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