Professional treasure hunter Darrell Miklos is currently organizing a series of treasure hunts, searching for sunken Spanish ships that may have been carrying gold plundered from the Americas. Filming the expeditions for a docu-series that will be shown on the Discovery Channel, called Cooper’s Treasure, Miklos has a list of very promising candidate sites, provided by an unlikely source: a treasure map made by astronaut Gordon Cooper while he orbited the Earth in his Mercury capsule in 1963.

One of Cooper’s duties while piloting the Faith 7 capsule was to map out potential nuclear threats, but some of the magnetic anomalies that he detected were too faint to be from atomic sources, and were far from land in the Caribbean Sea.

"He deduced right away that they were shipwrecks because they were smaller, yet they were out in the middle of nowhere — very isolated locations throughout the Caribbean, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and South America and off the coast of Florida," explains Miklos. While still in orbit, Cooper copied the coordinates of the anomalies in his notebook, and plotted them out on a map after he returned to Earth.

Cooper and Miklos became friends while they were sharing an office in California, where they discovered that they shared a passion for treasure hunting. While Cooper originally planned to make use of his high-altitude treasure maps, he handed them over to Miklos when his health began to fail. Cooper died from heart failure in 2004, aged 77.

As for the veracity of Cooper’s treasure maps? Miklos’s preliminary surveys show that the famous astronaut’s readings were spot-on: "We cherry-picked five anomaly readings, did a search and identify mission, and we are five for five for positively identified shipwrecked material — and there are hundreds. So the first five, he was exactly right on the money. He had it right from the beginning." Cooper’s Treasure premiers on the Discovery Channel on April 25.