A royal safe and $5k in jewellery: global treasure hunter’s big haul
Known on social media as ‘Bondi Treasure Hunter’, Leigh Webber found a safe while fishing with a giant magnet overseas – and inside was something incredible
READING LEVEL: ORANGE
Twenty years ago, Sydney surfer Leigh Webber was snorkelling* at Bondi Beach when he noticed a number of coins lying on the bottom of the sea floor.
“I thought, ‘Wow, what are these coins doing here?’ I dusted some sand away and saw there were more coins. I thought, ‘Gosh, I’ve got to get a metal detector* or something’. Famous last words,” Mr Webber said.
Instantly hooked, he has since spent the last 15 years searching the world’s canals and fields for treasure, adding to his bounty* of jewellery, money, motorbikes and more.
“I used to be a surfer chasing perfect waves around the world. Now I chase treasure around the world,” said Mr Webber, who shares his finds on social media under the moniker* the Bondi Treasure Hunter.
Two weeks ago, the solar panel salesman-turned treasure hunter struck big when he found a safe belonging to a member of a royal family*.
Mr Webber was out with friends magnet fishing – when a magnet attached to a rope is thrown into water to retrieve items – at an undisclosed* location overseas when he made the discovery.
“It was definitely a shock,” the 42-year-old said.
After hurling up the safe and busting it open, he found a collection of foreign passports*, documents*, keys, empty jewellery boxes and other personal items.
“We Googled the name on the passport and found out it belonged to a royal family,” he said.
Mr Webber, who can’t disclose which royal family the safe belonged to due to an ongoing police investigation*, said he ended up tracking down the owner on social media to return the personal items.
“I called him on Facebook … and asked, ‘Are you a member of the royal family?’ and they said, ‘Yes’. So that was a big shock.
“I think I said, ‘So I found the Crown Jewels.’ And we both had a laugh.”
Thousands of dollars worth of treasures
It was just one of hundreds of safes Mr Webber has found in canals around the world, some of which had been looted* and dumped by criminals.
What lies inside is always a mystery; some contain credit cards, car keys, coins, while others are simply empty.
“In one safe we found a coin collection with a big silver coin from the 1700s,” he said.
Another time, he came across a safe so large he had to hire a crane* to pull it out of a canal in Amsterdam*, where he currently lives.
Inside was a collection of memorial coins* which Mr Webber handed over to police.
“After a year they weren’t collected, so we got to keep them,” he said.
His most valuable find so far has been a total of $5,000 worth of jewellery, collected from Croatia, France, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands. His entire haul – which consists of thousands of items, including guns from the 1800s, knives from the 1600s and cannon balls, as well as modern items including motorbikes, phones and GoPros*, is worth tens of thousands of dollars.
However, Mr Webber doesn’t sell his treasure, his favourite item being a Rose Noble gold coin* from the 1600s.
Instead, he earns his money through social media and keeps his finds for his own collection, gives them away, or holds onto them in the hopes he’ll be able to return items to their rightful owner.
During his 15 years as a treasure hunter, Mr Webber has helped locate items suspected of being used in criminal activity.
“If we find (something suspicious), we pull it out and we keep it in the same water that we found it (in) and the police will come and they can do DNA testing* on it … They’re really happy to hear from us when these things happen,” he said.
While Mr Webber did not know whether or not his finds had helped to solve any crimes, he said that “criminals* (would) be thinking twice these days about where they dump their evidence*”.
Having found his dream job, the underwater adventurer had a clear message for anyone looking to get involved.
“There is treasure waiting, just go out there and search,” he said.
“You’re probably going to be surprised at what you find. You’ll have lots of adventures, you can clean the canals and learn a bit of history. Definitely give it a go, treasure hunting is awesome.”
- snorkelling: swimming underwater while breathing through a tube that sticks out of the water
- metal detector: a device that helps find metal objects hidden in the ground or underwater
- bounty: a large collection of valuable things
- moniker: a nickname or alias
- royal family: a group of people related to a king or queen who hold special status in a country
- undisclosed: not revealed or made known
- passports: official documents that allow people to travel to other countries
- documents: written or printed materials, like papers or certificates
- investigation: the process of examining something carefully to gather information
- looted: stolen or taken by force
- crane: a large machine used to lift heavy objects
- memorial coins: coins created to remember or honour a person or event
- GoPros: small cameras often used for action and adventure recording
- Rose Noble gold coin: a specific type of valuable gold coin
- fingerprinting: the process of taking and analysing fingerprints
- DNA testing: analysing genetic material to identify individuals
- evidence: proof or information used to solve a problem or crime
- criminals: people who commit illegal activities
- ammunition: bullets and other materials used in firearms
- Switzerland: a country in Europe known for its mountains and landscapes
- trail cameras: cameras used for monitoring wildlife or remote areas
- How did Mr Webber’s treasure hunting journey start?
- What is his favourite item from his treasure collection?
- How does Mr Webber earn money from his treasure hunting adventures?
- What did he find inside the safe he discovered recently?
- From which countries has his jewellery collection been sourced?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Treasure Hunter board game
Work with a partner and design your own Treasure Hunter board game. Your game should incorporate aspects of the Bondi Treasure Hunters adventures, including using a string and magnet type device to reach for the hidden treasure.
Design your board, the rules and how the game works, and what treasure is available and when.
Make your game fun, interactive and full of surprises as the players get to find or win their own treasure haul.
Construct your game and see if you can share with a junior grade at your school.
Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Design and Technologies, Visual Arts, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking
If you were a treasure hunter like Leigh, finding all sorts of interesting and valuable things, do you think you would hand the treasure into the police or keep it to sell or to make a profit?
Think about the pros and cons of both, including the ethical consideration and list them below.
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social, Ethical, Critical and Creative Thinking
To sum it up
After reading the article, use your comprehension skills to summarise in a maximum of three sentences what the article is about.
What is the main topic or idea?
What is an important or interesting fact?
Who was involved (people or places)?
Use your VCOP skills to re-read your summary to make sure it is clear, specific and well punctuated.