The Lost Viking Ship of the Desert

Is it true? Could there be a lost viking ship located somewhere out in the great unknown, and if so, how did it happen??


Lewis and Myrtle Botts

There are two stories that come to mind concerning viking and the lost ship of the desert lore. This one involves a well-known librarian from Julian named Myrtle Botts. According to her story, while camping out at Agua Caliente Hot Springs, in what is now Anza Borrego Desert State Park, during the flower season of 1933, she met a prospector who said he had seen just such a ship. In fact, he even had a photograph. Each year,  Myrtle and her husband Lewis, would head out to the springs located off the S-2 near the Vallecitos stage station, in search of the new  flowers. One evening while she and her husband were about to have dinner, an old grisly looking prospector and burro camped nearby. Close enough to be noticed, but far enough to not be a bother.

Myrtle, thought that the old guy looked like he could use a home cooked meal. And as was the custom back in the day, she offered him a nice warm meal. While they shared conversation and their dinner, the prospector relayed a story of a strange sighting. While out on a prospecting trip he noticed an odd sight high on a cliff. It was an intact ship, many centuries old, and it’s bow was in the shape of a dragon.. It was long and yet low on the sides, made of what looked to be overlapping planks. There also was some sort of row of circles where maybe shields were placed at some time in the past.

Of course, Myrtle being a seasoned desert traveller, thought the prospector was pulling her leg. For a bit of fun, the old guys would cook up a doozy of a tale just to see if anyone believed them. It was kinda their way of entertaining themselves at the listeners expense. But when he showed Myrtle an old tattered photo, she was definitely intrigued. This was collaborated with a story from Erik R. Bluhm:

The couple was entertained by the man’s tales of his quest for precious minerals in the area, and soon the fortune seeker produced some dog-eared photographs. The images were of a ”wreck of a ship of some kind” that he had stumbled upon while prospecting down near the Mexican border. Though the photographs were quite worn, Myrtle Botts was surprised to see that the “ship,” half-buried in the bank of a wash, appeared to be of Viking design, a long-boat, complete with a carved serpent on the bow.

vikingship2The following morning when Myrtle and Lewis woke up the prospector was gone, but they decided to check out the location… It was going to be a bit of a long hike so they headed out a bit early, and by sometime in the late afternoon they arrived at the site. Once they arrived they were a dumbfounded, because there it was laying straight up as if it sail tomorrow, incredibly the old guy was telling the truth. But how in the world did a ship get into the desert, let alone that high up? This would take some research, and Myrtle was ready for the task. But time was getting short and they had a long hike back to camp so they decided it was time to head back, but that’s when disaster hit!

Just before 6PM the 6.4 Long Beach earthquake hit, and it was devastating. Causing nearly $50 million (in 1933 value) in damage and killing 120 people, one of the worse eartquakes to ever hit California.  The quake was felt as far north as Owens Valley and as far south as Baja California.

After coming back to Julian and letting things settled down, Myrtle headed back out to the desert only to find that the whole canyon wall had fallen, and the ship was buried under tons of earth. To say she was dishearten would be a understatement, but she did begin her research to see what kind of ship it was. She concluded that it was most likely a viking longship, or Karve. This ship was approximately 60-90 feet long with a slender build, they had only one mast and were usually sailed with a crew of fifty or more.

Dragons Head courtesy of

But did the vikings head out west? We know that they sailed all over the North Atlantic, but is there anything that says they sailed the Pacific? Not really, but there has been a theory floating around for years about vikings coming through the Northwest Passage in Canada. Mike Marinacci, author of Mysterious California writes:

“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.”

There has also been speculation concerning the Mayo Indians of Mexico, as well as the Seri Indians of Tiburon Island, in the Gulf of California. These tribes are known to have some members with blue eyes or blonde hair traits, that they trace back to the ” far away men”.  I could be that a ship containing a viking crew simply settled down and became part of the local inhabitants. I would suspect that a DNA test would settle the question quite easily. However one of the things that strikes me a bit odd is why they would have left their ship high and dry . There are stories about vikings carrying their boats across land from time to time, maybe the sandy conditions were too much??

So let’s presume they were here, and the ship is located in a canyon somewhere within the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Where would one start to look? Myrtle said that they were camped at Agua Caliente Hot Springs, so this would have to be the logical starting point. Considering that they would have to get to the site and back to camp by nightfall, I would assume that it would be within 10-15 miles of camp. But the distance is just a guess really. There are not alot of clues to help anyone out as well. According to the Wanderling website, who had a personal interview with Myrtle, there was nothing special about the site:

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 its 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 attempt, recent or otherwise, to climb up to it.

And as far as what the ship looked like when she saw it:

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.

To me, I would think that one would have to look for a blocked canyon or wash, maybe even a some sort of box canyon. But a true systematic approach would be needed, because there are a ton of canyons to go through. My advice is to start with Google earth…

It may take years or even a lifetime to find the ship, if it was ever there in the first place. But consider this, you would not be hindered behind a desk, you would be raking leaves or doing housework. You would outside enjoying your time exploring the true mysteries and wonders of the desert… And in that alone, you have been truly rewarded…. And yes finding the ship would be awesome as well…

Good Luck and Be Careful!!!!




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