TWO Southamp-ton-based treasure hunters are gaining support in their hope to find a fortune in buried pirate treasure.

Eastleigh mayor Councillor Roger Smith is backing attempts by treasure seekers Cerris Francis and Sir Paul Hallam to retrieve a mass collection of jewels believed buried under a tiny island off the coast of Canada.

The treasure is thought to be that of pirates Captain Kidd and Henry Avery who had associations with Oak Island, a small privately-owned piece of land near the coast of Nova Scotia.

Mr Francis, 67, has been researching the site for decades and it has long been associated with a haul of buried treasure.

Cllr Smith said he was fascinated with the years of detailed research by Mr Francis whom he has known for 15 years.

"I will be going out with them if they make it over there," he said.

"I wouldn't miss it and I'll take a shovel with me if I have to.

"The level of detail and the theory behind it is undeniable. Cerris really knows what he is talking about," he said.

Cllr Smith, who runs an antique business in Eastleigh said he is clear that his support was as a friend of the treasure hunters and not in his role of the town's mayor.

The 63-year-old from Horton Heath said his grandchildren are just as fascinated by tales of secret treasure as he was.

"It is so popular at the moment with the Pirates of the Caribbean films," he said.

"I hope they get the money to make it over there to try to find the treasure.

"Even if they leave empty-handed they will no doubt have an amazing story to tell and will make a fortune via books or film deals," he said.

Mr Francis and Sir Paul say they are still looking for investors to help them with their quest.

They currently need around £300,000 to finance the mission, which they believe could bring them a fortune of millions of pounds as well as creating an impressive collection for a museum.

"We have had a lot of interest including from some TV programme makers," said Mr Francis.