Click the video to watch the full Dateline report.
Intended to be the final act of a dying man, Forrest Fenn says he hid a chest full of gold – with nuggets as “big as a chicken egg” – somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe in the United States.
According to the 83-year-old American, the only clues to the prize’s whereabouts is in a poem, which was published in his memoirs, The Thrill of the Chase.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets in that treasure chest,” he told SBS Dateline’s Nick Lazaredes. “Two of them as big as a chicken egg.
“If nobody finds the treasure, I promise you, 1,000 years from now, people will still be looking.”
The art dealer survived his cancer and his hidden loot has captured a nation’s imagination, sparking a hunting craze that’s spread from coast to coast.
As many as 6,000 people are now reported to be searching for the treasure, including Charissa Kreis and her three sisters.
Charissa said she and her sisters drove across five states to Montana’s Rocky Mountains and they believe they’re well-equipped for the dangers they may face during their treasure hunt.
For almost a year, the Kries sisters have been trying to make sense of Fenn’s enigmatic verses.
“We felt like we had a connection with Forrest and the fact that our parents always took us out west during the summertime too,” she told Dateline.
“And we thought well, if we could hide a treasure, if we could be buried somewhere, it’d be in one of our favourite spots that we grew up in as a kid.”
For Dal Neitzel, another treasure hunter, the chest has become somewhat of an obsession. It will be his 37th expedition this year.
After researching Fenn’s poem, Dal believes the clue’s relate to the Aztec Indian tribe that once lived near the mountains.
“So Forrest is tricky and he knows about Indian methods. I think if you find, the blaze, you’re going to spend a lot of time finding his hidey place.”
But while Dal and the Kreiss sisters are certain of their progress, sceptics like archaeologist Ron Maldonado think the Fenn legend is a myth.
“The Templar Knights. The Holy Grail. All of these lost treasures, they don’t exist. They’ve never been found,” he told Dateline.
“And now we have a new treasure. The Forrest Fenn treasure that no-one will ever find. Not in my lifetime, not in the next lifetime. Not in the next three lifetimes.”
Dateline, Nick Lazaredes goes on the hunt with self-declared “Fennatics” determined to hit the jackpot.
What lengths will people go to in order to find the treasure? Or are they being conned in a giant hoax? Catch the full story on Dateline.