The Lost Viking Ship
The person most responsible for bringing the Lost Viking Ship to the public eye was a woman by the name of Myrtle Botts. There are versions of her original story all over the net, but in my case, unlike most of the stories that have been simply parroted over and over ad infinitum, I had the good fortune of interviewing her myself personally in order to get the story as she viewed it first hand.
It all started when my Uncle and I were on one of our extended expeditions in the desert headed toward his home in New Mexico from the High Sierras. We had cut through Death Valley, Baker, Nipton and into Searchlight, Nevada when he decided rather than crossing the Colorado River over Hoover Dam by turning north, we would instead, vere south and parallel the river toward Yuma. His decision to go south along the west side of the river was because of a conversation we had as we traveled. It seems the construction of the dam had stopped torrential floods downstream that had transpired since time immemorial. In a general chit-chat sort of way about the Colorado River floods, citing my major source of information in my early days, comic books, I told my uncle that I had once read a great story in a Gene Autry comic called "The Ship in the Desert" (issue #52, June 1951) and later an even better one in an Uncle Scrooge comic called The Seven Cities of Cibola (issue #7, September 1954) wherein a wrecked Spanish galleon had been found in the desert and that both stories, as near as I could remember, were associated with an old Colorado River channel covered and uncovered by flash floods or some such thing leading to the Salton Sea.
He said he had heard stories of such ships, especially the one of the Spanish galleons being lost in the desert many times. He said that in 1933, however, it had been reported that an ancient Viking ship had been found in the desert on the other side of the Salton Sea, and, although he had not seen the ship himself, he had talked personally to the woman who did. He then went on to explain how just such a thing could happen. So off we we went in search of some of the ancient river channels that flooded the Salton Sea over the centuries to see how a ship, Viking or otherwise, could end up stranded in the desert so many miles inland.
UNCLE SCROOGE SEVEN CITIES OF CIBOLA SEPTEMBER 1954 ISSUE #7
(please click image)
GENE AUTRY COMICS THE SHIP IN THE DESERT JUNE 1951 ISSUE #52
(please click image)
MY UNCLE MEETS MYRTLE BOTTS:
Any of you who are familiar with my works knows that my uncle was what I call a biosearcher, even to the point of having several plant species named after him. Matter of fact, in a large part it was because of his intimate knowledge of southwest indigenous plants that I, starting as not much more than a mere ten-year old boy, but mostly less, ended up exploring much of the desert with him.
It was because of my uncle's role and expertise as a biosearcher, and well before I entered the picture, that somewhere along the way he met Myrtle Botts, she herself being a highly regarded amateur botanist, who in an odd sort of way, mostly because of the Viking ship, became infamous in the lore of the desert southwest. Although much has been written about Botts, years before I interviewed her on the subject, she discussed personally the following at length with my uncle who inturn related it to me:
On the morning of March 9, 1933 Botts, a biosearcher herself on a search for new species of desert wildflowers, together with her husband Louis, were camped in California's Anza-Borrego Desert near Agua Caliente Springs in the mountains just west of the Salton Sea when an old prospector wandered into their camp. He told them that a few days before he had seen what looked like a wooden ship with a snake or dragon's head carved on the bow poking out of the canyon wall nearby. After getting directions, the next day the couple hiked to the canyon and sure enough, just as the old prospector said, the bow of a wooden ship was sticking out of the cliff. By the time they reached the site it was getting late and in that the ship was so high up on the cliffside to see firsthand without special equipment of some kind they made a notation of where it was located and went back to camp, planning to return the next day with ropes and such.
That evening at 5:55 PM the 1933 Long Beach earthquake hit, destroying a great deal around them including their campsite. They felt they had no choice but to return home, resolving to come back the next weekend and take photographs of the craft. When they returned the following weekend the canyon trail they hiked the week before was completely blocked. So too, after searching most of the day climbing over rocks, boulders, and landscapes they no longer recognized they were unable to find the canyon wall or the ship, the earthquake apparently covering all traces.
During the week between the time of the earthquake and they returned, Myrtle Botts, who worked in a library, researched what type ship the vessel they saw might be. In that it had a curved prow with a carved dragons head, circular marks along its sides that looked like where shields had once been, and deep furrows of overlapping Lapstrake Construction of the bow, the Botts considered it could be nothing else than a Viking longship. Mike Marinacci in his book MYSTERIOUS CALIFORNIA (1988) in a section called "Lost Viking Ship" offers a scenario on just how such a ship could have found its way into California's Anza-Borrego Desert:
"The idea of a Viking ship stranded in the Borrego Desert may not be quite as preposterous as it sounds. During the great Norse expeditionary period from 900-1100 AD, high temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere melted away much of the Arctic ice north of Canada. At least one Viking ship may have sailed through the Northwest Passage there and down through the Bering Strait, though the prevailing east winds in the Arctic guaranteed that the adventurers would never make it back to Scandinavia.
"A curious Indian legend implies that Vikings may have strayed as far south as Mexico. The Seri Indians of the Gulf of California's Tiburon Island still tell of the 'Come-From-Afar-Men' who landed on the island in a 'long boat with a head like a snake.' They say the strange men had yellow hair and beards, and a woman with red hair was among them. Their chief stayed on the island with the redheaded woman while his men hunted whales in the Gulf. When they had finished hunting, the strangers went back on their ship and sailed away.
"One version of the legend says their ship sank in the Gulf, and the survivors swam ashore and were taken in by the Mayo Indians. Even today, the Mayos sometimes produce children with blond hair and blue eyes, and say that they are descendants of the strangers that married into the tribe in ancient times.
"Others say that the fair-haired foreigners sailed farther up the Gulf and were never seen again. If, as some revisionist geographers insist, the Imperial Valley was once an extension of the Gulf of California, then the ship could have run aground on what are now the Tierra Blanca Mountains. So it may lie today buried under tons of earthquake-loosened rock and soil in the canyon above Agua Caliente Springs."(source)
How it was related to me by my uncle and pretty much backed up by facts, the Salton Sea depression has been flooded many times throughout the centuries by the Colorado River changing course --- sometimes it flowed south to the Sea of Cortez, other times it turned northwest and flooded the area where the Salton Sea is now. In historical times the area occupied by the Salton Sea had been a huge inland fresh water lake given the name Lake Cahuilla, with a water level sometimes as high as 42 feet above sea level, lapping up against the Anza-Borrego area. Native American fish traps can still be found high up in the rocks around the shoreline of the ancient lake (the current surface level of the Salton Sea is 226 feet below sea level).
The chart below shows the historical highs and lows of the ancient lake from 700 AD to the present. It is stated in the above quote by Marinacci that the great Norse expeditionary period was from 900 to 1100 AD. Notice on the chart, except for a short precipitous 50 year drop between 900-950 AD that the lake, during the Viking expeditionary period, was at it's highest levels, meaning the lake's reach was at the maximum in length and width, pushing deep into all of the canyons around its periphery.
(click either image for large map)
CLICK TRIANGLE TO SEE THE FORMATION OF LAKE CAHUILLA
The Native American petroglyph below shows quite clearly a single-mast ship with a striped square-rigged sail and oars not unlike how Viking ships of old are typically depicted. The petroglyph is located in California, several hundred miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in a place called Pinto Canyon. Pinto Canyon is south of the Anza-Borrego Desert near the U.S. Mexican border just west of the city of El Centro (between the small towns of Jacumba and Ocotillo. Jacumba is clearly marked on the click-through larger map mentioned above). The drawing is most certainly not a multi-sail Spanish galleon and no known Native American culture, at least in the desert southwest area, used any sort of sailing vessel with oars. How or why the petroglyph artist would be inspired to draw a square-rigged sailing ship --- with oars yet and striped sails --- so many miles inland UNLESS he saw one is a mystery. It should be noted however, that the Pinto Canyon area lays not far from the historical southern boundaries of the ancient Lake Cahuilla as depicted in the above animated graphic.
(for additional images please click)
In any case, as the story goes and I love to speculate on this, more than likely the Vikings heard there was a vast expanse of water just north of them and thinking it must be the ocean decided rather than go clear back down the 1000 mile length of the Baja peninsula they would just go north. Their ships were shallow draft vessels, so no matter how low the Colorado got they figured they could still navigate. As far upstream as they traveled the river still didn't connect with a huge body of water. Being told the water was just north of the river they either portaged their ship overland, discovered, or were shown a still semi-connnected or partial waterway or a bay-like inlet on the lake that inched southward much closer toward the Colorado. However, when they reached the water it was fresh, not salty, so they knew it wasn't the ocean. Thinking the lake was high enough that it must drain toward the ocean someplace they decided to circumnavigate the shoreline looking for an outlet rather than backtracking the route they came in on. Some sort of an upheaval occured and the ship was intombed or possibly stuck in the mud so bad in some low laying swamp area the crew had to abandon it.
The aforementioned extended expedition with my uncle cited at the top of the page in which I learned for the first time about Myrtle Botts and Viking ships lost in the desert southwest was in 1970. The trip came about because my 65 year-old-plus father had been caught in a fire while on the job, ending up with a collapsed lung and all. Because his outlook didn't look all that favorable, my uncle drove out from his home in Santa Fe to see him. After learning my father's health was OK at the time of his visit, considering his age and what had happened to him --- as well as spending several days talking over old times together, my uncle decided to head back home. As it was, my dad held on, albeit dying of complications from the fire two years later.
Prior to the trip, the last time I had seen my uncle was in Taos a couple of years before. Since that time the events I describe in Dark Luminosity had transpired and because of that he wanted to see what I called my High Mountain Zendo plus catch up, if possible, with an old friend he had introduced me to when I was a young boy, Franklin Merrell-Wolff --- as told in The Tree --- hence our trip to the High Sierras. I continued to tag along on his return trip home to Santa Fe. However, after visiting my dad but just before leaving to see Merrell-Wolff, my uncle, with me going along as well, squeezed in whole day with another good friend of his, cowboy western author Louis L'Amour.
MY PERSONAL INTERVIEW WITH MYRTLE BOTTS:
When I got back from Santa Fe, super-eager to learn the exact story about a Viking ship lost in the desert southwest firsthand myself, I made arrangements to meet up with Myrtle Botts personally --- which turned out to be an extraordinarily revealing personal interview, and most likely not only Botts' last interview prior to passing, but probably her last related to the Lost Viking Ship.
Botts was born in 1898 and retired in 1968. She died in 1973 at age 75. When we met it was 1970 and she was edging toward the cusp of age 72, indicating she would be turning so around Thanksgiving of that year. My uncle had somehow met Botts years before through a mutual friend named Marshal South who he met via a series of monthly columns and articles South wrote during the years 1939 to 1948 for a publication called Desert Magazine. Although considered more of a naturalist, South was one of those desert rat, prospector types like Walt Bickel that seem to inhabit isolated far corners of the desert eeking out livings off the land and their own wits. I never met South but he and Botts were very close. In that my uncle knew both, our meeting was eased and unfolded smoothly in an open, positive, unhindered manner. After the usual get acquainted small talk and getting caught up about my uncle I moved to what I really wanted to know about: The Viking Ship!
Most of what has been reported seems to be fairly accurate as Botts related it to me. I am convinced that she saw a ship, that it was in an upright "floating" position and not damaged, that it was made of plank-type wood and that it had a finely carved dragon's head just like ancient Viking longships. Some reports indicate that it still had shields mounted in place, but she made it clear that on the side of the ship she was on there were no signs of any shields visible, only markings, four deep, where they were once attached. The rest of the ship, beyond the fourth shield mark, was firmly encased backward within the cliff's wall of shale or onetime clay. How long the portion of the ship she saw was exposed to the elements or how it was exposed in the firstplace without damaging the ship is not known. She said she was so completely overwhelmed about finding it she simply didn't take in any tailings or rockfall at the base that might have given clues as to it's exposure, her primary concern being how to get up to it. She said it was true, she just wasn't "geological-minded," but did not recall seeing or standing on anything that appeared to be newly fallen loose dirt, talus slides, or rocks at the base below the ship. She did say she saw no evidence that would indicate it had been "dug" out by hand or that anybody had made any sort of an attempt, recent or otherwise, to climb up to it.
In that the ship had circular marks along its sides that looked as though shields may had been there, it could indicate the crew simply abandoned the vessel taking their shields with them. Viking shields were made of wood with a few metal parts. If any could have survived intact in the open desert environment still to be found is questionable, but not totally beyond the realm of possibility. Please click the following graphic or link which takes you to Footnote :
VIKING SHIELDS: SURVIVAL, A 1000 YEARS ON THE DESERT FLOOR
(please click image)
SAN JACINTO PEAK, DEEP CANYON TRAIL, AND A VIEW OF THE SEA
THE LONG WAY:
Although it appears that the Vikings had a fairly good working relationship with the Native Americans they came in contact with, without their help, it is highly unlikely that any of the crew members would make it very far across the desert on foot on their own. Initially, with or without their boat, they would probably stick together in a group, maybe even making a small settlement along the lake's edge. Because of the lay of the land, plus their own travels into it, the Vikings would have known any water exit would most likely be toward the southern edge of the lake. They also knew the upper reaches of the Sea of Cortez where an exit would dump into, if not the ocean, was more of a desert than where they were, not to mention another 1000 mile journey south to the open sea.
However, if they had circumnavigated the lake, at the northern end, near present day Palm Springs, they would have seen very-close-by mountains to the west with an abundance of pine trees at reachable elevations and possibly even snow if it was the right time of the year, indicating a potential habitable transition zone --- at least a less harsh environment than the desert floor as well as closer to what they were used to in their own homeland. Even wood to construct a raft if not a new ship, which to do so would mean metal tools and possibly a small foundry or forge.
CITY OF PALM SPRINGS 6,000 FEET BELOW THRU THE TREES. RIBBON OF
SAND DUNES BEYOND MARK NORTHEAST SHORELINE OF ANCIENT LAKE
Such a place would have been as good as as any if not better to hole up to figure things out --- and where remnant remains of what happened to them could possibly be found. The problem is that the typical archaeologist surveying the general area would not be prepared to attribute any human-based findings or artifacts to other than Native Americans unless something so blatent came to life it could not be ignored --- say an ancient iron Viking broadsword, axe, or metal shield handle for example --- and even then the archaeologist's reputation would come under such scrutiny it might not be worth it.
Another highly viable option would be, in that Vikings were sea people through-and-through and driven by the sea, plus a seemingly never ending craving to constantly see or learn what was on the otherside, I just don't think they would have given up. Because of the facts reported in the story of the shield-find along Deep Canyon Trail near Palm Springs as reported in Footnote , even though the location of the shield was many, many miles north from the actual location of the ship find as seen by Myrtle Botts, there is a chance it got there because the Vikings may have sent an exploration party higher up into the mountains, say for example, to present day San Jacinto Peak. Even now on a clear day from the summit you can see the Coachella Valley, Salton Sea, Santa Rosa Mountains, San Gabriel Mountains, San Bernardino Mountains, Palomar Mountain, the Los Angeles Basin, Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean glaring in the sunlight along the western horizon as well as Santa Catalina Island sitting off the coast of Orange County. One peek at the Pacific Ocean shining in the distance and the exploration party would have gone running back trying to convince their fellow Viking travelers to start packing their shields and heading west.
However, other things, much bigger things, were in the works.
WEST TO THE PACIFIC OCEAN FROM THE TOP OF SAN JACINTO PEAK
LAGUNA PEAK, THE SWEETWATER RIVER, AND THE PACIFIC OCEAN
THE SHORT WAY:
Myrtle Botts spent the night before she sighted the Viking ship camping out in Agua Caliente Springs, located in the mountains just west of present day Salton Sea. In distance, Agua Caliente Springs is around 60 air miles southeast from San Jacinto Peak. In relation to the lost ship and it's potential location, Botts narrows it down to Canebrake Canyon. Marinacci and others mention the Tierra Blanca Mountains. Botts is generalizing, Marinacci is being a little more specific. However, using the term "mountains" in the plural, means as well all of the associated canyons thereof whose lower levels rise up from the desert floor to form the mountains. The north-south Tierra Blanca range with it's east facing canyons running down into the flat desert basically defines where Agua Caliente Springs (and where Botts camped out) is located. The ancient shoreline of the lake at the time of the Viking expedition is less specific, but would not be totally removed from the picture depending on where or what Tierra Blanca canyon the ship was actually located, as the lake waters could very well have, and did, finger their way up into any number of the canyons.
What is now called Laguna Peak rises up nearly 6,000 feet not much more than eight miles away from where Myrtle Botts camped the night before she found the Viking ship. On a clear day Laguna Peak has a full and totally unobstructed view to the Pacific Ocean westward from the summit, the ocean being only about 60 miles further west (i.e., San Diego on the above graphics). That 60 mile distance on the ground to the Pacific from the peak is mostly rough mountainous terrain all the way to just before reaching the ocean. It is however, closer by half in distance to the ocean than from San Jacinto Peak. I don't recall specifically if Botts knew about or was privy to information regarding the find of the wooden shield or if it was ever mentioned. I am fairly certain I didn't know about it at the time nor did it come up. As she related it to me and only to me personally during our interview, in her research the possibility of Sweetwater River did come up as she was a strong believer in the fact that the Viking ship's resting place, in that she saw it herself, was in one of the canyons of the Tierra Blanca Mountains not far from Agua Caliente Springs.
If you leave the Viking shield found on the trail to San Jacinto Peak out of the story, the same scenario of climbing then Laguna Peak instead, and seeing the ocean would apply just as much as mentioned previously, albeit, and tactically so, the alleged location of the found lost ship being much, much closer to Laguna Peak and the ocean than is San Jacinto Peak.
Rough terrain or not, hiking due west on foot from the peak of Laguna Peak, as fate, karma, or luck would have it, the Vikings would just happen to have one of the most major pieces of incredible geological luck on their side that anybody could ever have. Although on the east side of the mountains, the desert side, is extremely steep and rough, on the west side, less than 12 miles west from the peak is a nice flowing-south section of water called Sweetwater River. Sweetwater River is the main collector for most of the tributaries on that side of the mountains as they flow toward the Pacific, albeit nowhere along the course of the river is it anywhere near large enough to be considered boat-size usable until the very end --- Viking ship or otherwise.
Even though Sweetwater's general flow direction is west away from Laguna Peak and toward the Pacific, there is a rather long section of the river right in front of the peak, after a short, hardly hazardous 12 mile hike, when you come across a portion of Sweetwater River that just so happens to be flowing from the north-northwest, almost south in some areas. Hiking due west from Laguna Peak you can't get by it without crossing it. The river doesn't turn closer to directly west until just past the present day town of Descanso. Although Laguna Peak is located just off the graphic toward the right as seen on the map below, in real life it is not even 12 miles distance in a direct straight line due east from Descanso. Once you reach the river, no matter where, it is all downhill riverbed travel clear to the Pacific as Sweetwater River, called Sweetwater Creek in San Diego, flows right out into San Diego Bay. 
(for larger size click image then click again)
(portage graphics courtesy Discovery Channel)
Even if the waters of the ancient lake didn't actually finger their way very far up into the canyons for any distance, the Vikings, after sailing or floating or rowing their way as far as they could, may have thought they could portage their ship the rest of the way over the mountains to the Pacific after having seen the ocean from Laguna Peak (and determining it was much closer by far than from San Jacinto Peak). If that is what they actually did, after getting so far into the canyons before reaching the top or the crest of the mountains they may have seen how futile their endeavors were and simply abandoned the craft where it was and headed the rest of the way toward the ocean via the Sweetwater for example, with only their personal belongings. Somehow the ship became entombed where she lay not to be exposed again to the open elements until centuries later.
If the Vikings didn't head west, or in any other direction, and not absorbed into local Indian tribes --- and there are no legends with area Indians that they did --- and began dying off one by one, typically Viking deaths were officiated over in a funeral pryre. Any personal effects, including wooden shields would more than likely be placed with them on the pryre, making artifact finds for future archaeologists that much more difficult.
THE COLORADO RIVER: WAS IT NAVIGABLE?
EARLY COLORADO RIVER STEAMBOAT LANDINGS
FROM THE DELTA TO THE VIRGIN RIVER
THE CASE FOR NORSEMEN IN AMERICA
Lost Vikings of the Pacific
Grave Robbers and the Viking Shield
VIKINGS: Northwest Passage, Bering Straight, Alaska and South
WITH A VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO:
HARRY OLIVER FANDOM CENTER: Lost Ships
LAGUNA DAM COLORADO RIVER
LAGUNA DIVERSION DAM
THE SNOWS OF YESTERYEAR
THE SHIPWRECKED SAILOR
GERMAN SUBMARINE ATTACK ON HOOVER DAM
THE STRANGE ODYSSEY OF THE GERMAN U-BOAT U-196
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
First, among other things, for example, the famed astronomer, meteorite hunter and scientist Dr. Linclon La Paz selected him to work with him. La Paz's idea, as explored more thoroughly in the article on Frank Edwards, was to have my uncle determine if and where any of the plant growth on the suspected debris field related to the Roswell Incident may have been moved, removed or replanted.
Secondly, in another example, as found in the source so cited. It too as the above, relates to my uncle and thus then in a roundabout way back to me --- the bio-searcher he was and identified in some circles as the informant:
"Deep in the desert southwest, before Carlos Castaneda met the Shaman-sorcerer that became famous in his series of Don Juan books, Castaneda had a chance encounter with a somewhat mysterious hallucinogenic bio-searcher and mushroom hunter from the Taos, Santa Fe, New Mexico area. It has been chronicled that the bio-searcher, known only as the informant in various Castaneda writings, some written by Castaneda himself, some by others, and some even written by those not always sympathetic toward Castaneda, agree for the most part --- unsympathetic or not --- that the informant was the actual person that FIRST introduced Castaneda to the rituals and use of medicinal plants."(source)
THE BEST OF
<<< PREV ---- LIST ---- NEXT >>>
It had been a few months after the trip with my uncle that I personally contacted and interviewed Myrtle Botts, having done so in order for me to become more knowledgeable about the Viking ship and events surrounding it. I was driven to do so because, as it should be noted for the reader, my uncle and I never did make it as far as the Salton Sea to search for stranded Spanish Galleons or lost Viking ships during our sojourn through the desert. Instead, the following, as found in the source so cited, happened:
"Then, out of the blue suddenly things changed. Only a short distance south of the little speedtrap town of Searchlight, Nevada he began slowing down looking off to the east. His eyes glazed over and out of nowhere he no longer wanted to chase down ancient river channels and desert marooned Spanish galleons, but instead, he wanted to go to the east side of the river. Rather than doubling back to Hoover Dam we continued south to Davis Dam.
"After crossing the Colorado over Davis Dam we went north on Highway 93 --- located some distance east of the river --- all the time my uncle continuing to glance off to the left as though he was looking for something."(source)
Some miles south of Searchlight before we reached Davis Dam my uncle turned left off the paved highway onto a dirt road called Christmas Tree Pass. After driving about ten rather bumpy and rock strewn miles generally curved toward the southeast he turned right on an even lesser dirt road. A short distance later we stopped, then hiked a mile or so to a place located about six miles west in the mountains above the Colorado River basin. There we came upon an ancient watering hole in a location he called Grapevine Canyon. Most of the boulders and huge rocks surrounding and those nearby the watering hole were covered with petroglyphs.
My uncle, because of his rather extensive travels in the desert southwest had, over time, developed a strong working knowledge and familiarity with most aspects of Native American rock art. Amongst the petroglyphs were many he pointed out as being decidedly different, and of which he said were not of Native American origin, but were instead ancient Chinese ideographs.
The question I asked my uncle was he in effect telling me that not only Vikings came up the Colorado River, but so too did the Chinese? His answer was: not necessarily. He said most likely they had come overland from the Pacific following established trails and routes used by the Native Americans for trade, probably led by guides or trailing a group of traders returning to the Colorado River area. From there he said they headed up river toward the Grand Canyon. See:
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
HUI SHEN: BHIKSHU
VIKING SHIELDS: SURVIVAL, A 1000 YEARS ON THE DESERT FLOOR
"If any shields could have survived intact in the open desert environment still to be found is questionable, but not totally beyond the realm of possibility."
In many areas of the desert southwest cut wood as well as naturally fallen wood can and does last, even in an unattended state, hundreds if not thousands of years remaining in a basically unchanged or unaltered state. For example, not the oldest by far, but the largest cliff dwelling in North America, Cliff Palace, located in Mesa Verde National Park and said to be built by the ancient ancestors of the present day Puebloans, using tree-ring dating on in-place wood used in it's construction, indicates that construction and refurbishing was continuous approximately from 1190 AD through 1260 AD --- the wood still doing its job in most places nearly as well as the day it was installed. A handmade wooden shield being pushed across a series of rocks and boulders of a steep downhill desert canyon dry-wash from a continuous onslaught of summer monsoon rains over the centuries is of course, another thing.
As to shields being attached to the side of the ship or not, in my interview with Botts she told me personally that on the side of the ship she was on there were no signs of any shields visible, only markings, four deep, where they were once attached. Then I go on to say a few sentences later that if the ship had circular marks along its sides that looked like shields may have been there at one time as Botts has said, it could indicate the crew abandoned the vessel taking their shields with them. However, that is not the only option.
How Viking shields are affixed to the side of a ship in the first place is something I am truly not knowledgeable about. In that Vikings encountered all kinds of weather, some of it really rough no doubt, if shields were mounted on the side of their ships while in transit as a normal operating procedure, then for nothing more than a mere practical basis they would have to have been secured in such a fashion that they would not just happen to fall off every time a wave hit them. Otherwise, unless there was a reserve of extra shields laying around somewhere a lot of the Vikings would end up with no shields once they got to wherever they were going. So too, in contrast, a shield could not be so attached that if need be they couldn't be removed instantly if the need arose. As you will see below there are a number of reports, including one of my own involving who I call "grave robbers," of Viking-like shields being found in and around the larger general area where the lost Viking ship was reportedly located.
VIKING SHIELD RACKS
Since the above paragraph was written regarding me not having specific knowledge about how Viking shields were attached, in as effort to clear up how they were held on and all that for myself and my readers, in that I was in Stockholm and going to stop in Copenhagen this past summer, I figured I would just triangulate the cities and cut across the country to Oslo as well in an effort to view personally as many Viking ships and museums as I could. As it turns out the following photo from Don's Maps pretty much clarifies most of what I found out regarding how Viking shields were held into place on the side of their ships, followed by a paragraph from the source so cited that clarifies it even more:
SHIELD RACK SECURING SHIELDS ALONG THE SIDE OF THE SHIP
SHIELDS STORED OR PLACED IN INSIDE THE HULL TYPE FASHION
Below the gunnel there is an independent batten with rectangular openings (11 openings for each space between the ribs). Towards the ends of the ship, where the strakes curve sharply upwards, corresponding openings are cut in the gunnel itself. This is the shield rack, which in the old days was also the name for the entire upper strake. As implied by the name, this is where the shields were hung to adorn the side of the ship, a custom which is frequently mentioned in the sagas. When the Gokstad ship was found in the grave-mound it had 32 shields on each side, two for each oar-hole. The shields were hung externally along the gunnel, tied to the shield rack with thin last cords drawn through the handles of the shields. The shields were hung so that each one tall-way overlapped the one aft of it. They were painted yellow and black alternately, forming a continuous row from stem to stern.
GOKSTAD VIKING SHIP CONSTRUCTION METHODS
As clearly as it is seen in the above photo, the metal center shield boss rests just above or along the top edge of the shield rack. Unless there was a loosening, breakage, or springing of the rack away from the hull to such a point that it was wide enough for a shield to slip down, it wasn't going to happen.
My take on it is, if the Vikings did not just haul their shields with them and the ship was found to have no shields mounted on the sides, if it wasn't indigenous people removing them, taking them, or trading for them, then in some possible weather related happenstance, regardless how they were secured initially by the Vikings, over the years the method could have weakened to such a point the shields simply fell off only to be washed down the canyons over the centuries --- or like I state a few paragraphs back --- pushed across a series of rocks and boulders of a steep downhill desert canyon dry-wash from a continuous onslaught of summer monsoon rains. If such was the case, an intact shield not protected from the elements in some fashion would rather quickly, at least archaeologically speaking in that Viking shields were made of interlocking planks, start disassembling, leaving only basically unidentifiable pieces of wood and a few metal pieces scattered around. However, that is not to say they couldn't have been covered and re-covered several times over the years and not remain intact.
If you think about it, the ship was said to be high up on the canyon wall, higher it would seem than Myrtle Botts or her husband could reach. In that a good portion of the ship was exposed Botts was able to see the bottom of the ship protruding beyond the cliff wall as far as the tip of the carved bow to a spot as far back at least beyond the length of four shields. Any dirt or soil that originally had been above the ship or covering it "fell down" onto the canyon floor as flash floods or monsoon rains washed through the canyon taking the dirt beneath the ship with it. With the dirt underneath the ship eroding away, and with the above dirt having nothing to support it, as it fell, it possibly pulled or knocked the shields down with it as well.
So too, they could have been carried off by crew members going about their everyday normal course of events, ending up somewhere where the elements were not nearly as harsh as in the depths of the canyons, and simply covered over enough to preserve them. Again, we are talking about the desert here.
There is a site on the internet related to a place called the Tango Squadron Air Museum, an air museum located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. On the surface, and to most readers of this page or anybody else, it would appear that such an article would not or could not have any sort of a connection back to lost Viking ships in the desert, or anywhere else for that fact --- and for the most part that's true --- EXCEPT for one slightly major caveat that relates back through to me.
The Tango Squardon Air Museum has as one of it's exhibits the wreckage of a World War Two American fighter plane called a P-40 Tomahawk that had been found on the jungle floor 50 years after having been shot out of the sky by Japanese fighters during a raging battle over Thailand in 1942. Many years after that air battle I personally met the man who was flying that P-40, a former Flying Tigers pilot named William McGarry. I was returning one day from an excursion in the the Anza-Borrego Desert related to the Viking ship, or at least reputed shields of the Viking ship, re the following:
"As for my meeting with McGarry, the two of us met during a sand storm one day at a gas station while holing up inside a quickie mart in Coachella Valley sometime in the early 1980s. I was returning from a trip exploring around the Anza-Borrego Desert near Agua Caliente Springs in California. I had become privy to what I thought was some possibly relevant information regarding a round wooden shield-like object that had been found in the desert near the thought to be location of the so-called Lost Viking Ship, that at the time I felt was information well worth pursuing. Although the information turned out to be a false lead and quite bogus, the fact that I went to the Anza-Borrego in the first place ended up being quite a little goldmine for me personally in that I happened across McGarry. Except for the sandstorm what could be better, lost Viking ships in the desert and P-40s."
THE GRAVE ROBBERS:
For the Tango Squadron readers, although I say in the above quote that the information "turned out to be a false lead and quite bogus," it isn't totally accurate. I really just didn't want to take the readers of the "Tango" site into an undo or lengthy explanation about Viking shields in the desert to people whose primary interest was wrecked P-40s.
Actually, acting as an intermediary for another person, I was led by still a another person to meet up with what turned out to be two more-or-less rather scary "grave robber types" or pothunters in a somewhat desolated part of the Anza-Borrego Desert some distance into one of the canyons near Agua Caliente Springs, a situation as it unfolded I continually became more-and-more uncomfortable with. I saw a shield alright after which I was taken to the location where it was said to have been found, and while the shield itself seemed genuine, something about the location seemed bogus. So too, there was a solid feeling in my gut telling me there was something just not quite right with the two men and the man who led me to them.
The same gut feeling that made me feel the way I did about the men, also gave me a feeling that what I was holding was a genuine Viking shield. Seeing how the planking was assembled and how the wood had been hand worked to do so. The aged wood with slightly visible remains of chipped residue from possible onetime decorative paint or markings on the forward side. The corrosion of metal attachments pitted and eroded by time. Small pieces of possible ancient leather still clamped beneath what was left of their holding devices. All to me, without tree ring confirmation and carbon dating of course, taken together, pretty convincing. It was just that I couldn't get over it may have been appropriated in a somehow nefarious fashion, possibly even stolen, or that in the process of that stealing someone may have been hurt, possibly killed.
I may have been reading way too much into the situation, but wanting to get the heck out of there and get away from the men, I told them in that I was just acting as an intermediary I would report back with my assessment. They wanted me to write my assessment, one of the men would deliver it, get any money that had been arranged previously, bring it back, then give me the shield to deliver to the buyer. The buyer by the way, for the reader's own edification, being a highly regarded anonymous stay-in-the-background collector of artifacts and antiquities whose primary interest in the shield was, if genuine, to keep it safe and make it readily available for study to qualified scholars and historians.
When I hedged on the idea of a written assessment they started to get rough. As it was, at about the same time a sand storm was beginning to brew, so the four of us took refuge in one of the vehicles, heading back down toward the main road. When the driver lost a clear view of the road on a turn because of diminishing visibility the van ran over a berm crashing part way down into a deep gully. With a couple of the men seemingly hurt or at least stunned the instant I got the chance I bolted out of the van taking the shield with me. When one of them started shooting, and after trying to use the shield as a shield and falling a few times I simply dropped it and disappeared into the sandstorm and rocks. What happened to the men and the shield is a good question. As far as I know, as deep as the gully was, the sandstorm and the desert simply swallowed them and the shield up.
The desert has a way of doing things like that you know.
The question is forever coming up about how could I, a purported man of Zen, as found in Dark Luminosity, so linked below and elsewhere, be hobnobbing or gallivanting all over the desert southwest investigating the possibility of ancient Viking shields with a bunch of grave robbers or worse in the first place?
Well, in this specific case, although it ended up with a bunch of grave robbers or worse, it primarily had to do with my uncle. As you may recall from the main text above my uncle knew and had known Myrtle Botts for a very long time. After her death, when word filtered down to potential interested parties that an actual Viking shield may have been found in situ, a buyer of antiquities that was interested in the shield, it's safe keeping, and the potential proof that it could provide substantiating Vikings in the desert southwest, contacted my uncle of which of whom both were knowledgeable of and respected each others expertise.
Years before when my uncle and I were on our way back from the Sierra Nevadas going to his place in New Mexico, and he decided to investigate something he remembered about the 1953 Kingman UFO incident it was in 1970. It was during that trip that Myrtle Botts and the Viking ship came up, which in turn instilled in me the idea of interviewing her myself. At the time the above aforementioned shield event occurred it was 10 years later, 1980, and my uncle was just a couple of years short of being 80 years old. When the buyer contacted him to look into the shield situation he told the buyer he wanted me to join him, which I did.
When we reached the van the shield was no longer in situ having been removed from the original location where it was found and my uncle was livid. When the suggestion came up that we go up to the site, which had to be done on foot, my uncle felt he wasn't up to it, so rather than stay he took it upon himself to returned to our campground in Agua Caliente. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the buyer had showed up at the campground concerned about his interests and when it began to look as though the brunt of the sandstorm would be reaching the campground area at anytime, the trained desert rat my uncle was, he and the buyer took off searching for more secure surroundings.
As soon as I was able to make my escape from out of under the clutches of the grave robbers I showed up back at the campground. Although our car was still there I found no sign of my uncle. Even though I was unable to locate him, with the storm strengthening, I thought I best make myself scarce before I had to stay and the men showed up looking for me. For all I knew they could very well be holding the belief I had the shield with me and doing so with no compensation for it on their part. Since they were also holding guns to remedy the situation --- in their favor and my possible demise --- I began gathering up what gear I could that hadn't blown away to get out of there. In the process I discovered a number of things missing that indicated my uncle may have packed up a few survival necessities then taken to higher ground himself. Feeling relieved of such a possibility I took off as well.
In the end, except for no shield, it all ended up OK. My uncle was safe and because of the timing with the sand storm and all I met up with William McGarry.
The editor of Desert Magazine during the 1960's, one Choral Pepper, in her book Desert Lore of Southern California (1994), Chapter 3: Anza-Borrego Desert in a section called "Legend of the Lost Viking Ship" writes about a reported find of a single shield-like artifact somewhere close to or in Deep Canyon, near Palm Springs. Deep Canyon is known by archaeologists as carrying the trail that Cahuilla Indians used from the desert floor up the Santa Rosa mountains and to present day San Jacinto Peak --- most likely the same route they would have shown Vikings to reach the summit.
Extrapolating both from Pepper's works and desert lore surrounding the story of the shield-find, it was orginally reported by a woman whose husband had a regular habit of hiking in the desert and canyons surrounding the Anza-Borrego desert. One day, after being gone several days or more, he came home and told her he had been wandering in some canyons some distance off and in one of them he came across what appeared to be an ancient ship of some kind that had round discs on its side (like a Viking ship). Part of the ship was sticking out of the sand. There was some kind of strange markings, posssibly writing, on the wall above the ship he did not recognize. He also said it had a curved bow. The wife did not find his story credible so over the months that followed he went out looking for it over and over but was never able to locate it. However, one day he did return with a weathered round wooden shield the wife said was twice the size of a large tortilla that the husband said he had found secreted along a canyon trail in the mountains quite some distance north of where he thought the ship was located.
This from Great God Pan: The Mysterious Lost Ship of the Desert:
"Perhaps the most stunning unearthing is that of a Mexican gentleman by the name of Santiago Socia. Socia was residing in Tecate, Mexico when he happened upon a map describing the location of some buried gold in the mountains just north of the border. Sure of his impending fortune, Socia traveled north, exploring several canyons before happening upon an ancient ship buried in the sand. Along its length were metal shields, and the ship�s bow was 'curved and carved like the long neck of a bird.' Above the ship, carved into a sheer rock wall was an inscription in a language that the Mexican was not familiar with. But alas, there was no gold to be found and Socia returned to Mexico, dying soon thereafter and taking the location of the ship with him to the grave."(source)
According to the book Lost Gold and Silver Mines of the West (1963), by Eugene L. Conrotto, from the January, 1939, issue of Desert Magazine, in an article by Charles C. Niehuis, Niehuis had interviewed the widow of Santiago Socia, Petra Socia Tucker. She was visiting her second husband Jim Tucker at the Arizona Pioneer's Home in Prescott and told Niehuis it was her first husband, Santiago Socia, that saw and knew the ship's location. Socia had told her it was in a narrow box canyon with sheer high walls and a sandy bottom. He said, "partially buried there was a boat of ancient appearance --- an open boat but big, with round metal disks on its sides."
There is some discrepancy regarding the shields. Botts told me that on the side of the ship she was on there were no signs of any shields visible, only markings, four deep, where they were once attached. In his initial reports to his wife, Socia told her there were metal disks on the side of the ship he saw. However, what he had with him when he returned home after long day of searching was a weathered round wooden shield his wife said was twice the size of a large tortilla.
Vikings were known to use wooden shields not metal ones. If Socia saw "disks" on the side of the ship, even though Botts said there were none, they may have appeared to be metal, but most likely would have to had been wood if the vessel he found was indeed of Viking origin.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY PLEASE RETURN TO THE ORIGINAL TEXT AND THE SECTION
SAN JACINTO PEAK, DEEP CANYON TRAIL, AND A VIEW OF THE SEA
LAGUNA PEAK, THE SWEETWATER RIVER, AND THE PACIFIC OCEAN
If the Vikings did in fact climb up the ten miles westward from the ancient shoreline of Lake Cahuilla as it forged its way into the canyons of the Tierra Blancas and the final resting place of their fair and noble craft to the top of the mountains at or near Laguna Peak (because it was the highest peak along that section of the mountains) then continued west down the other side toward the Pacific, they would have easily come across the Sweetwater River within a few miles of the peak. Guided by the river's downstream flow they would have had a less than 45 mile mountainous yet mostly gentle slope directly to the ocean.
If the tribal people of the day knew and used the same route or if the Vikings discovered and carved it out themselves, it was still a miracle of nature and an incredible twist of fate that put all of it altogether. The only other miracle-like nature-made natural route anywhere like it that leads from the Pacific into the deep interior of the desert southwest is the so-called Fu Sang Trail, a coming together or use of a number of pre-existing ancient Native American trails that takes advantage of already in place geological phenomenon. To wit the following:
If you begin where the Santa Clara River enters the Pacific as seen on the above map just above the word "Chumash" in the lower left hand corner then follow the stream eastward to the mountains you can easily continue right on up to the high desert floor picking up and following basically the same route as the Southern Pacific Railway tracks use today through Soledad Canyon, coming out just south of Palmdale. From there it is possible to cross the desert heading directly east hugging the base of the east-west transverse San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains until reaching the Mojave River where it exits onto the desert plain. Following the Mojave River north it eventually starts making a huge sweep toward the northeast. About 40 miles from your first contact with the river you reach a point near Yermo where it and an ancient trail used by Native Americans to traverse from the Colorado River to the sea, now called the Mojave Road, run side-by-side. Roughly 20 miles farther northeast and the trail turns more eastwards away from the Mojave River, eventually, after somewhat over a 100 miles across open desert, reaching the Colorado near present day Laughlin, Nevada.
"It is known that several major trails were developed at various points in the past for the shell trade and other trafficing between the Pacific Coast and the interior, and then continuing on across the Colorado River into the Southwest. Although some suggest that they may date back 5,000 or more years, there is clear evidence that some date at least pre-900 A.D. In the contact period (1770s), several of these major routes were still in use by the Mohave, River Yumans and Chemehuevi to furnish trade goods such as shells, food stuffs, rabbit-skin blankets, salt, pottery and basketry to each other as well as the Cahuilla, Pai groups, Southern Paiute, Navajo, and reciprocally to various groups along the Pacific Coast. Stories of small groups of Mohave men running across these desert trails, often traveling at night to avoid the desert heat, and guided by reflective white stones as markers, are among the most impressive of southern desert travel narratives. They often ran 100 miles a day, reaching coastal destinations in three to four days."
SOUTHERN PAIUTE: Chemehuevi Trails Across the Mojave Desert
The Fu Sang Trail is the same route that the Chinese Monk Hui Shen, who lived during the latter half of the 5th Century AD to the early part of the 6th Century, used to go to the Grand Canyon when he and several other monks visited North America on the way to Mesoamerica.
HUI SHEN: BHIKSHU
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
Although the Vikings would have no way of knowing it, if their path to the Pacific took them down Sweetwater Creek to the Pacific Ocean they would have gone right by what has turned out to be one of the most major geological sites ever discovered in North America. The site not only preserves the 131,000 year-old bones, tusks and molars of a mastodon, but also right along with them, and equally as old, hammerstones and stone anvils that show evidence of having been used in modification of the bones as if in a slaughter or kill by early humans.
The following, as found in The Curandero and the Magic of the Mojave Desert Creosote Ring, is highly related to the San Diego mastodon site and that of the first humans in North America:
"The curandero, with forbearers springing from the pre-history of Mesoamerica constructing and building temples for a series of unknown Olmec, Mayan and Aztec kings, had as well, a centuries old unwavering blood-line on both the Spanish and Native American side, leading straight back into the past to ancestors who worked directly for the Franciscan Father, Junipero Serra, during the period Serra was establishing and building the Alta California mission system. Most of his ancestor's efforts circulated around the first of the missions, Mission Basilica San Diego Alcala, and in doing so, as peons, they were not much more than lower level worker bees, doing a lot of the early grunt work digging, cutting, gathering, transporting, moving, and making materials needed in the actual construction and building of the mission."
In the process of that worker-bee beeness, he was on a work crew well away from the mission one day when the crew stumbled upon human skeletal remains composed of at least two people, including two skulls, one close to being fully intact, the other with enough pieces it could be reassembled into one. The military officer in charge was seemingly astute enough to recognize the skulls as being quite ancient and inherently different enough from the typical human skulls, and especially so Indian skulls he was familiar with, to bring the difference to the attention of mission authorities and did so by presenting said authorities with the intact skull. Rather than being commended, the leader of the crew, apparently a learned man of letters, after a heated argument with mission hierarchy, was said to have been put to death and the rest of the men beaten, being told what they saw and spoke of was blaspheme or worse. Not long after that the skull disappeared. That is, until 178 years later when the following happened as found at the source so cited:
"In a remote section of the desert southwest, bordering along the upper reaches of the northern mountains, an artifact of deep concern and value to certain segments of the long established indigenous population had been stumbled upon by a ragtag group of grave-robbers and, in turn, stolen from a heretofore unknown to outsiders sacred site. The artifact, although nondescript under almost any layperson's observation, was said to be a potential mind-changer in Native American lore if it surfaced among the general public."(source)
CERUTTI MASTODON SITE
HUMANS IN NORTH AMERICA 130,000 YEARS AGO
Sometime in the late 1990s I ran into an article titled "Early Man at San Diego: A Geomorphic-Archaeological View" by George F. Carter, now deceased (2004), who at the time was a retired professor of geography from Texas A&M, still living in Texas albeit born and raised in San Diego. Carter was a big time early man in the Americas and pre-Columbian discovery type guy. Figuring he just might be sympathetic to what I was looking for I sought him out. My question was twofold. One, what did he think of my Sweetwater River idea, something he didn't really comment on about a whole lot one way or the other. And two, as to the second part of my question, although his answer was not conclusive, it did elicit a response that was well within my liking.
In the second part what I wanted to know was, in all of his archaeology work and in-depth research in and around San Diego and the reaches from the Pacific toward the Colorado River, did he ever run into anything, no matter how small in nature, that might lead him to believe that Vikings may have visited or been in the San Diego or surrounding area in pre-Columbian days? He said possibly, but he had not seen anything definitive himself personally. What he knew, he said, came from the Spanish and the days of the missions.
Giving me some background on the Spanish, Carter told me they suddenly began expanding aggressively northward into Alta California because of the threat from the Russians who had already established forts and communities almost as far south as the San Francisco bay. To counter any further expansion in California the Spanish developed a plan to build a series of missions about a days march apart all along the coast, with the first of the missions being in San Diego.
What most people don't realize is that the present location of the San Diego mission is actually it's second location, the first being where what is now called Presidio Hill. When the Spanish first arrived in the New World and started spreading out into the hinterlands exploring what they dubbed New Spain they began running into small smatterings that the Chinese, more specifically Buddhists, had been to many places before them. Carter told me when the Spanish began building a fort and mission on present day Presidio Hill they found what appeared to be earlier habitation or occupation they attributed to members of the indigenous population, and most records reflect that. However, in his research he came across mention that the habitation was actually more than what the local population was capable of. In at least one source, possibly two if his memory served him correctly, he said there was evidence of metal or iron working and even the remains of a small forge or foundry. There were also remains of worked or hewn logs with all signs of the hewing having been done with or by metal edged tools. Carter said the Spanish gave credit to what they found as possibly being of Chinese origin as the artifacts appeared quite ancient. Not taking any chances, even though there had never been any hints of armed aggression from the sea, they mounted two bronze cannons on fort property, one facing toward the ocean.
In Footnote  I write that Hui Shen (Hoei Shin), on his travels to Mesoamerica around 470 AD, using the Santa Clara River, turned inland toward the Grand Canyon. He departed the Grand Canyon area heading overland through Mexico reconnecting with his fleet moored in the bay either as far north as Puerto Vallarta or as far south as Acapulco, in the process bypassing San Diego. However, his fleet, composed of one to three ships, maybe more, after leaving the Santa Clara River, some 160 miles north of San Diego, went right by San Diego, so in essence they could have stopped for a few hours to any number of days.
However, I am of the opinion the find was not Chinese but Viking in nature. Having come down Sweetwater they discovered the San Diego River just to the north trying to get out of the bay and used it to float logs down to the point they could construct a ship, making a sail from reeds and animal skins. Or, because sails were so important --- and portable --- having transported it with them from their original boat, if not rolled, cut into squares and folded with each crew member carrying a square, then reassembled when the time came.
As for the Spaniards continually running into evidence of the Chinese having been in New Spain years before can be backed up by more recent evidence. An example, one of many that show up from time to time, albeit not always followed up on, is an article that brought the existence of a possible ancient Chinese temple in northern Mexico east of Hermosillo to public attention, appeared in the New York Times July 10, 1897.
That 1897 New York Times article can still be found in it's entirety by going to the Times archives. Accessing the link below will take you to the PDF page where the article appears. When the page comes up scroll down the left-side column to the title TOPIC OF THE TIMES. The second article-paragraph in that column is what you are looking for. The first sentence of the complete 1897 article leads off with:
"Long sought and eagerly awaited light on the ancient civilization of Mexico and Central America may dawn from the recent discovery in the State of Sonora of stones bearing Chinese inscriptions of great age."
TOPIC OF THE TIMES
EARLY MAN IN SAN DIEGO: A GEMORPHIC-ARCHAEOLOGICAL VIEW
As depicted on the map below, the light blue shape inside the larger dark blue indicates the size and shape of the lake as it is today. The darker blue shows the outline of ancient Lake Cahuilla. At the very top of the darker blue there is a small circle that marks the location of the present-day city of Indio (Indio being, by the way, 13 feet below sea level). Where the darker blue ends just above Indio is the farthest northern reach of the ancient lake IF the lake rose no further than sea level. However, it is known the lake rose as high as 42 feet above sea level on occasion adding hundreds and hundreds of miles of additional shoreline --- meaning the lake waters pushed much farther into the canyons than shown on the map or most maps.
A direct line from Indio to the upper left hand corner of the map would point toward the northwest. In that direction, from Indio to the city of Palm Springs, it is just about 15 miles. San Jacinto Peak is about 10 miles further on in the same direction rising to an elevation of 10,834 feet above sea level, making the peak a distance of around 25 miles from the northern-most edge of the lake.
The Viking ship petroglyph is located in California, several hundred miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in a place called Pinto Canyon. Pinto Canyon is south of the Anza-Borrego Desert near the U.S. Mexican border just west of the city of El Centro between the small towns of Jacumba and Ocotillo. Both El Centro and Jacumba is clearly marked on the map.
The two small desert border communities of Jacumba and Ocotillo that have major roles in helping to pinpoint the location of the Viking petroglyph for so many of us, also have for me specifically, played major roles in my life long before I ever heard of the lost Viking ship.
My stepmother, who was quite wealthy in my early days, owned a huge big ranch in the northern reaches of the high desert of the Mojave not far from Muroc Dry Lake. The ranch foreman, Leo, was ex-Navy, a World War II rough and rugged sailor whose claim to fame was being a Pacific Fleet boxing champion. On the weekends it wasn't unusual for a bunch of Leo's old Navy buddies from nearby China Lake to show up at the ranch. Invariably on Sunday mornings a number of those Navy guys would be sobering up over coffee and having a little breakfast.
On one of those Sunday mornings, a number of those sailors that had been stationed in San Diego at one time or the other brought up the fact that a weird and little-known railroad sometimes called the Southern Pacific's San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway and sometimes called by other names that used to run passengers into Mexico from San Diego and clear over to the desert near El Centro and back that all of them had used going into and out of Mexico from San Diego had shut down passenger service after years and years of running the service. They came up with this big idea that turned out to be probably my biggest jeep adventure of all time. One of the sailors said he had seen where a jeep could be adapted to run on railroad tracks so we should take the ranch jeep down there, fix it to ride on the rails, and drive it into Mexico and the U.S. One of the other guys piped in saying that during the war, at least during the early part of the war, 1942 or so, when he was stationed in San Diego, the Army had regular patrols along the railway looking for saboteurs and that he had met a soldier that said that's exactly what they did, fixed up jeeps so they could run on the rails. Everybody figured, what the heck, if the Army could do, so could the Navy and most likely, even better.
"So there we were heading down the tracks, a two-car jeep train with Leo and me in the lead jeep with the headlights on, the other jeep taking up the rear with no headlights on so in the dark they wouldn't shine all over us. Traveling in good sections at over 40 miles per hour we went through Jacumba, crossed over the Goat Canyon Trestle Bridge and got off the tracks near Ocotillo. A short time after that the guys had all the ride on railroad tracks stuff off the jeeps with both of them back in good order. After breakfast in El Centro we went our separate ways, with Leo, me, and the sailors we came down with headed north through Cochella Valley back toward the ranch. As far as I know nobody knew we did it nor nobody saw us. At least it has never been reported as such."
THE BOY AND HIS JEEP: ADVENTURES IN THE DESERT