Boulder resident Mehgan Heaney-Grier is all about keeping up with the Joneses—the Indiana Joneses that is. She spent her childhood diving with sharks and alligators in and around her native Florida Keys before moving on to more “adult” challenges, like setting the nation’s first constant weight free-diving record. Last year, she faced perhaps her biggest adventure yet when she joined a group of treasure hunters in a search for lost Incan gold on a snake-infested Brazilian island for Discovery Channel’s Treasure Quest: Snake Island. Now, the team is back and venturing deep into the jungles of Paraguay to continue their pursuit of the elusive Treasure of the Trinity on the show’s second season, which premieres November 4 at 11 p.m.
Heaney-Grier is the team’s resident dive master, meaning she is tasked with handling the aquatic aspects of the search and leading all of the dives. Her diving expertise, as well as her knowledge of archaeology and anthropology (she has an anthropology degree from University of Colorado Boulder) made her an ideal fit for the six-member team.
But one needs to know how to do more than dive to spend months in remote jungle confronting constant dangers. That’s why Heaney-Grier says it is essential that she’s skilled at working under pressure in life-threatening environments alongside other strong-headed personalities in an experience that she likens to “surviving a plane crash together.”
The often comic and occasionally explosive interactions between the hunters was a hallmark of the show’s first season and Heaney-Grier says this eccentric sense of team camaraderie continues to play out prominently in season two.
“We are really cutting loose this time,” Heaney-Grier says. “This is our second go-around so we are all relaxed and the genuine personality and quirkiness of everybody on the crew really comes through.”
While those who tuned in for show’s first season might assume Heaney-Grier and the rest of the crew were glad to leave Snake Island behind, she says the danger is only amplified on the South American mainland, as the crew confronted an increasingly varied collection of new threats, including piranhas, stingrays, boundless poisonous insects, potentially lethal microorganisms, and even jaguars.
“When you’re out there looking for treasure, a jaguar is not something you want to run into,” Heaney-Grier says. “Because that means you weren’t looking for him and he found you.”
These risks are taken all in the name of finding the elusive Treasure of the Trinity, a collection of riches that are believed to have originated with an Incan king and passed hands through the hands of Portuguese sailors, pirates, and Jesuit priests before eventually being lost somewhere in South America.
Although the value of the treasure is rumored to be in the hundreds of millions, Heaney-Grier says it’s the historical intrigue attached to the treasure—as opposed to the promise of potential riches—that has drawn her to the expedition. Her childhood in the Keys was steeped in maritime history, and she grew up hearing about the region’s many supposed sunken treasures. These formative experiences instilled in her an appreciation for what such artifacts can tell us about the past. She says she views them as “time capsules of history” with their own tale to tell.
Given the value and nature of the loot, some might wonder how it could remain hidden for so long. Heaney-Grier and the treasure hunters have one theory: It’s cursed. “We have a lot of ups on this expedition, but we also run into our fair share of bad luck and it’s really scary and nerve-racking,” she says. “People have lived and died looking for this treasure and none of us really come out unscathed. It’s no joke.”
So will these risks be rewarded with treasure or just more bad luck? On this point, the normally talkative Heaney-Grier is staying mum, saying only that she recommends audiences tune in to season two to find out.