10 Lessons from Return To The Landing

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5 return

One of the most elaborate, organized, and well-thought-out scams ever to air on national television  “Dateline return to the landing” gave a surprising glimpse into what it would have been like if one of the greatest cons in American history had been successful. The show chronicled a modern day return to that fateful day in 1845 when seven men from Boston boarded a ship bound for Texas with merchandise valued at $150,000 and ended up being shipwrecked on what would be called Galveston Island.

Despite nearly all efforts to dig themselves out of financial ruin, these men were only able to salvage some goods worth approximately $2,000.

10 lessons to learn from return to landing of dateline are:

1. Don’t try to pull a fast one on the media

Although the producers of the show had a hand in telling the story (making it easy for some people to dismiss it as an exaggeration), many of the details were accurate. For example, Captain William Lewis Herndon received $1,600 as payment for his services, which was over three times what he was promised.

2.Dealing with insurance companies can be difficult at times

Insurance companies often have not changed much since 1845. Although many have specific clauses regarding maritime claims and their payment schedules, there are still times when insurance companies fail to pay out on time or even at all.

3. You can’t get away with being a bad apple

Although Captain Herndon was not the bad apple that the producers wanted people to believe, he was still a bad apple. His actions in this case included many of the following: cheating on his wife, being abusive to his wife, shooting at someone for no reason, and abusing his underlings. 

4.No one wants to be the last guy standing at the end of an ordeal

Despite trying to get out of their debt to Captain Herndon, none of these men were willing to “go down fighting”. Instead, they decided to take a much cheaper route and pay Herndon what was offered to them. These men lacked the courage and would rather throw their friends under the bus than to stand up for themselves.

5. People will believe what they want to believe

Despite being told repeatedly that the $10,000 bill was a fake by several people, at least one of these men believed it was real. 

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6. You should know how to operate your equipment

Although there were multiple points in the show where you could tell that some things were not going as planned, this one takes the cake for putting people’s lives in danger. The team of men, including the one who was supposed to be the lookout, were forced to walk through water with their heads above water at one point in order to jump over a log. When they made it over the log, they did not pull themselves up in order to try and get their bearings before proceeding. As a result, they became disoriented and subsequently got caught off guard by an incoming wave.

7. Money can’t buy courage

Even though many of these people had been working together for years and made millions during their time as con men, they all lacked the courage required to overcome such a devastating situation in Texas. Instead, they resolved their issues with their money and the people who owed them.

8. Always have a backup plan

Although this was never mentioned in the show, I know for a fact that if these men had done what they were supposed to do at the exact right time, many of them would have met their demise in Texas. As it was, they barely escaped with their lives and ended up having to continue on to New Orleans overland.

9. Proper communication is important

Although many of these men had been together for years and knew each other extremely well, they did not communicate with each other properly prior to making it to Texana. This resulted in a lot of mistrust and nearly all of them getting their hands on the money before Captain Herndon.

10. With great power comes great responsibility

Although this is not specifically mentioned in the show, these men had no power over what happened during the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. They were able to do nothing but hide after they realized that they would be far too late to save anyone if they attempted to make it into town. 


Because of the way that “Return to the Landing” was filmed and told, it is impossible to say whether or not this was a con job or if these men truly did have an encounter with Indians and pirates. But, in the end, this is the story of seven average Americans who made one of the biggest mistakes they could have ever made with their money. Some ended up being shipwrecked on an island, some lost everything they owned (some even lost their lives) and some came out with absolutely nothing. The show reminds us that being greedy can just as easily lead to death as money problems.


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