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History hunts for Frozen Gold in British Columbia

It has all the makings of a great drama. A prospector reports of finding a fortune in gold but dies before digging it all out, and anyone who has gone looking for the treasure since has gone missing. But this tale is true, and is the focus of History’s latest documentary.

Like The Curse of Oak Island does for the east coast of Canada, Curse of the Frozen Gold does for the west. Debuting Wednesday night, Curse of the Frozen Gold retraces the tale of Slumach, a Native Canadian man who, in 1891, was hanged in New Westminster, B.C, for murdering Louis Bee. A decade after his death, word began to circulate Slumach had discovered a mine of gold in the Pitt Lake area worth billions. The tale—spread word-of-mouth from prospectors, treasure hunters and others—has continued to today without losing steam. The story has fascinated Adam Palmer for years. The mountaineering veteran is a member of B.C.’s alpine search and rescue team, and along with fellow climber and friend Evan Howard, signed on to seek out Slumach’s riches.

“It’s not just the legend of gold, it’s a legend of paranormal activity,” Palmer says. “You’ve got the legend of the curse, UFOs, Sasquatch and prospectors who have gone missing and it’s all wrapped up into one legend. The fact that it’s a legend with historical significance and missing prospectors—like Volcanic Brown—is what keeps me motivated.” (Robert Allan Brown, a.k.a. Volcanic Brown, disappeared in 1930 without a trace while searching for Slumach’s mine.)

Fast-forward to last summer, and the duo had paired with four others for the eight-week expedition. Along for the ride as TV cameras captured it all were Palmer and Howard with Don Waite, who has devoted over 40 years to seeking the gold; Fred Braches, who has separated fact from fiction on his Slumach website; Daryl Friesen, a Slumach enthusiast; and Danny Gerak, a local who knows the area well.

Much of Wednesday’s first episode of six is spent introducing the players and their personalities. Everyone is pumped to be heading into the brush in search of riches, but it doesn’t take long for impatience, frustration and perceived backstabbing to derail the proceedings. Turns out that, unbeknownst to the other guys, Friesen staked a claim in the search area; if Slumach’s gold is there, he owns it.

“Everyone has their own theory of where this gold is and everyone is bringing their own maps and clues,” Palmer explains. “Everyone is a detective working on their own case. I was angry we were stuck in a canyon for two weeks looking for the gold when I thought we should be on a glacier taking advantage of the nice weather. I’m not looking to sit in a creek and pan for gold.”

Curse of the Frozen Gold airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.