BENITO's TREASURE

Benito, the pirate did exist. He was a colourful, ruthless character and there are numerous references to him on the Web.

There is some speculation that his real name was Captain Bennett Grahame, a British Naval Officer, who blinded by greed turned to piracy.

For several years Benito grew rich ruthlessly lootingSpanish Galleons loaded with gold, silver and precious stones from Peru and other South American countries.

He allegedly buried most of his treasure in the Cocos Islands. A treasure that has eluded determined treasure seekers for years.

Given that Australia was only settled by the British in 1788, Melbourne in 1835 and Port Albert in 1841, it is amazing that Benito was actually discovered hiding out in the vast, wilderness of Southern Australia.

He entered Port Phillip Bay in 1821 and allegedly buried the remnants of his treasure in a cave in Swan Bay near Queenscliff. It is here that the story twists and turns.

Legend has it that his vessel was apprehended by a British Man-O-War near the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, put on trial, convicted and hung.

Another version alleges that he was captured, taken to England, put on trial, convicted and hung.

Another version suggests that Benito was murdered by his mutinous crew who sailed their ship through the wild waters of Bass Strait, rounding Wilsons Promontory and finding sanctuary in the calm waters of Nooramunga Inlet. The crew then allegedly explored the Franklin River and buried their ill-gotten gains a long way upstream before fading in to obscurity.

Whatever the truth there have been many treasure hunters who believe the legends and who have mounted major searches of the three main areas, the Cocos Islands, Queenscliff and the Franklin River.

In fact some locals believe that 50 years ago the treasure was actually discovered in the Franklin River area, and wisely kept a secret.

Given the uncertainty that cloaks the fate of the treasure, there are still major incentives for young, willing treasure seekers to search the web for clues and perhaps even locate the treasure.