There’s Gold in Them Mountains, No Seriously, and You’ll Find it Using Text Mining!

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Forrest Fenn, an art collector from Santa Fe, New Mexico, has placed a 40+ pound bronze antique lockbox, filled with gold and other treasures, ‘in the mountains north of Santa Fe’ for you to find. The lockbox, and all its contents, have been estimated to be worth up to $2 million. This treasure hunt has been going on for the past 2+ years, but recently has been given a publicity boost on the Today Show. So, if you are interested in hunting for $2 million, I’d suggest you start now. Where to start?

First, start with the poem (at the end of this blog). Forrest says that this poem provides 9 clues to the location of the treasure. Forrest also wrote a book called The Thrill of the Chase, which is a collection of memoirs that will help in your hunt.

Now, I believe to find the treasure you need to know Forrest well—his past, passions, and hobbies. Forrest has said that he has planted the treasure to get people out into the wilderness, but some believe there is more to this treasure hunt which is directly related to his interests and experiences.

Areas such as Yellowstone, the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, and the mountains around Taos, New Mexico have been mentioned as potential treasure spots. Why? Because they fit Forrest’s interests, which range from American Indian historical artifact sites in northern New Mexico to fly fishing in Yellowstone.

But, what if the treasure spot is directly related to Forrest’s interests, as many believe (he has mentioned that it is a special spot to him)? Then you need to dig further and go to the books that he wrote on history, American Indians, and art as The Thrill of the Chase touches on some of his other books as well.

The key, in my opinion, is finding key events, locations, and associations within all his writings, tying them together properly, then tying them back to the poem. You can read all his books and blogs, which I suggest you do if you are serious about finding the loot, but that may not be enough as Forrest is clever and his clues are hidden, ambiguous, and transparent at best.

This is where I suggest you employ Text Mining techniques to find those hidden associations within Forrest’s documents, and across his documents (as well as other research). Text Mining is the process of deriving valuable insight and associations from text and has been applied successfully in areas such as genomics research, counter-terrorism, fraud detection, and cybercrimes. The difficulty with the puzzle Forrest has laid out is that there are a lot of facts and locations at play, but it is very difficult to tie them together properly. What can Text Mining do?

  • Feature extraction and intelligent auto-tagging within text; for example, tag all proper locations in text, assign a latitude and longitude, and calculate relationships and distances
  • Link documents, or document sections, together based on features extracted
  • Determine tone and sentiment; is this a key story or is this story fiction or fact?
  • Visualize and interpret results

You may think I’m crazy for suggesting analytic Text Mining techniques on a treasure hunt, but if this puzzle was easy then someone would have already found the treasure by now. I believe that the tangible results Text Mining would provide could help put the pieces of the puzzle in place.

So, in case you’re interested in giving the treasure hunt a try, here is the poem with the 9 clues:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

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