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August Gissler (9 September 1857 in Remscheid – 8 August 1935 in New York City) was a German adventurer and treasure hunter, who lived with short interruptions on Cocos Island (Costa Rica) from 1889 until 1908.
Gissler's quest was to find the Golden Madonna of the Treasure of Lima, a solid-gold, gem-encrusted, life-size image of the Virgin Mary, allegedly buried there by the mutineer, Captain William Thompson, in 1820. Over the years Gissler dug a complex system of underground tunnels, some of which can still be entered even today. Gissler was absolutely certain that he would find the treasure, since he had two maps from independent sources that pointed to the same place where the treasure was supposed to have been buried. In parallel, Gissler was also on the search for the treasure of the pirate Benito Bonito.
Impressed with his organization, the Costa Rican government in 1897 allowed him to formally establish a colony of several German farmers and named him the first (and up to now only) Governor of Cocos Island. The treasure hunt was mainly funded by financiers who had invested in the specially created Cocos Plantation Company. Several settler families who grew tobacco also lived with Gissler on the island. However, because of the island's harsh conditions and remote location from the Costa Rican mainland, Gissler's colony turned out to be short-lived, for during the following ten years all the settler families went away; August and his wife were the last to abandon the island..
Gissler's quest for treasure was also unsuccessful: in over twenty years he never found more than six gold coins despite diligent searching. Dispirited, he eventually left the island for New York in 1908. In all, of the over 300 treasure expeditions that have come to Cocos Island over the years, none are known to have ever found any treasure.