It’s been more than 50 years since Dieter Mueller first learned about a possible “sunken treasure” in the waters near his old family cottage and this week he's setting out on an adventure to find it.
The Barrie resident loved spending time at the family cottage on Otter Lake near Parry Sound and has many fond memories of his childhood spent at the lake — but one memory in particular still stands out after all these years of a “cantankerous, abusive, foul-mouthed German drunkard” who loved his whisky and played his music on a battery-powered radio so loud that even people across the lake could hear it, he recalled.
One summer in the mid-1960s, Mueller recalls the neighbour being on a particularly bad bender and in need of more spirits.
“As the sun was going down, he drove his white fibreglass boat with blue trim, a plexiglass windscreen and a transom-mounted motor across the lake to the Otter Lake Marina,” said Mueller, adding the man didn’t return until after dark. “Returning deep into the night, totally drunk and at high speed, he rammed the boat straight into his dock.”
That crash, said Mueller, caused the boat to tip to one side and the neighbour’s new wooden crate containing two dozen 26-ounce bottles of whisky to sink to the bottom of the lake.
Over the years, Mueller says a few curious lake dwellers tried to search for the missing case of whisky, but to no avail.
Now, as the last person alive who knows the exact location of the “sunken treasure,” Mueller decided to try again and has enlisted some experts to help.
“I took my son and granddaughters to the lake last year for the first time in 30 years and it brought back memories. I suddenly began to wonder if that case of whisky was down there. As I contemplated it, I realized yes, it is,” he told BarrieToday.
Mueller began to search for a diver and discovered local expert diver Dave Davison, owner of Barrie Scuba House.
“When I relayed the story to him and asked what he thought, he came out with the words 'You son of a bitch, I’m in'.”
“Dieter reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in exploring and seeing what we could find," Davison said. "I loved that aspect and I love just exploring the bottom and seeing what’s out there, because you never know what you’re going to come across.
"You go to different areas and then all of a sudden you run into something that’s been there forever because nobody knew it was out there. It would be kind of neat to find," he added.
Mueller has vowed that if the crate of whisky is discovered, it will go to Davison for his efforts.
“I am not a whisky drinker and I am doing this for the adventure and the joy. I have met new people and I am just tickled pink that, at my age with my infirmities, I can still do this,” said Mueller.
If the treasure is found, Davison says he’s unsure what he will do with it.
“That’s the funny part. I did a beer commercial about two months ago and now this — and I don’t drink alcohol at all,” he said. “I have no clue if there’s any value to it at all. I assume with age the corks... have deteriorated and the lake water’s gotten in and it’d just be ruined.
"Unless it’s in that pristine condition… then maybe auction it off to whoever wants 60-year-old whisky," Davison added.
The plan is to use sonar on the boat to try to detect any anomalies on the lake bottom, he said.
“Once we have some spots to dive and some curious things to look at, then I will jump in and investigate what they are. If they happen to be the case of whisky, then great," Davison said. "He is pretty confident he knows where it is within 50 feet and that’s not a large area, so it’s pretty easy to search.”
Mueller is confident the search will end successfully.
“What makes me think this way is, number one, I do know where it went down, and two, there were two divers in about 1968 that went looking for it and divers don’t look for something that isn’t there,” he said. “They couldn’t find it, but at that time the technology was lacking.
"This time we are coming with a sonar device and with high-intensity lights that can scan out 30 feet. Between those two things, we should be able to find it," Mueller added.
The search for the lost case of whisky is slated to begin at 10 a.m., Thursday, July 15, at Otter Lake Marina.