Oak Island, Nova Scotia
Oak Island is the location of the infamous Money Pit, a site where more than 200 years of digging for treasure has so far discovered nothing . Despite this people continue to try. In 1795, 16-year-old Daniel McGinnis discovered a circular depression in a clearing on the southeastern end of the island with a tree right next to it which had a block and tackle fastened to one of its overhanging branches. On that day one of the world’s most baffling mysteries was born.
Stories that Captain Kidd buried a treasure hoard on an island “east of Boston” had been circulating since the 1600’s. Could this be the final resting place for this booty? Clearing away some smaller trees, McGinnis and two of his friends started digging in the depression. After about two feet they hit a floor of carefully laid flagstones. This type of slate was not found on the island. Below the stones they saw that they were digging down a shaft that had been filled in. The walls of the shaft were scored with the marks of pick axes. Clearly this was the work of man and not a natural geological formation.
At the ten foot level they hit wood. They thought it could have been a pirate chest, but no. Instead it was a platform of oak logs driven into the sides of the shaft to serve as either a support structure or a cover.
Continuing to dig, they finally reached a depth of twenty-five feet at which they decided to give up and go for more help. They were conviced that something valuable was at the bottom of the pit otherwise they thought, why would anyone perform so much work to excavate such a hole?
It was not until 1802 that someone else arrived on the scene. That year Simeon Lynds visited the money pit and formed a company to support continued excavation being convinced of the reality of hiddend treasure at the bottom of the pit. Work started again on the pit in the summer of 1803. After cleaning out the old pit, the crew dug down. It seems that they struck still another oak platform at 30 feet below the surface. As they continued to dig
they found something new every ten feet: charcoal, clay, stones or more log platforms.v Finally, at the 80 or 90 foot level, a flat stone, three feet long and a foot wide, engraved with strange writing like a code was found.
At 93 feet deep, the floor of the pit began to turn into soft mud. Before nightfall on the first day the crew probed the bottom of the shaft with tools. They hit a barrier as wide and as long as the shaft. They believed that they reached the treasure.
Returning the next day, the work detail was dismayed to find that overnight the pit was flooded with water. As soon as any water was removed from the pit, more flowed in. Workmen tried to dig another shaft next to the pit and funnel over to the treasure, but the new shaft filled with water as soon as they got close. After many unsuccessful attempts they finally gave up.
In 1849 a corporation was formed for the express purpose of financing further excavation. The new group was no more successful at getting to the treasure than the previous party. The same flooding problems that plagued the last water-logged crew blocked our current searchers. They did manage to drill to a level just below the money pit floor. The drill seemed to bore through levels of oak, spruce and putty. One core sample recovered what appeared to be several links of chain made of gold.
While drilling was going on, someone noticed that a) water in the pit was salty, and b) the water rose and fell with the tides! This led them to believe that the original builders of the pit had laid a clever trap designed to flood the pit with water if someone got to close too the treasure! I turns out that the beach of Smith’s Cove, some 500 feet from the pit, was fake, a dummy beach! The clay on the ground of the cove had been dug away and replaced wtih layers of round beach stones. This was covered by five inches of eel grass, and on top of that was placed layers of coconut fiber more than two inches thick. On top of the coconut fiber some fine beach sand was laid disguising the whole array.
At water’s edge five box drains were installed. These acted as sinks that drained water into a channel that apparently ran from the coast back into a single tunnel that went the distance to the money pit. The system was apparently designed so that the filtering action of the coconut fiber and the eel grass would ensure the drains would never be clogged by sand or gravel from the beach. It worked very well. To get around the flooding problem attempts were made to neutralize the flood trap building a dam around the cove to block the flow of water. When that didn’t work, more pits were dug to intersect and plug the tunnel on its route to the money pit. This failed also, and this attempt to reach the treasure was abandoned in 1851 when money ran out.
The next attempt was not until 1861 when things started getting dangerous. The searchers tried to pump out the money pit using engine-powered pumps. A boiler burst and one worker was scalded to death while others were injured. This dig did succeed in discovering where the flood tunnel entered the money pit, but they could still not find a way to block off the water. By 1864 this expedition was too out of money.
The next attempt to get at the treasure was not until 1959, when Robert Restall, a former daredevil motorcyclist, undertook operations wtih the help of his 18-year-old son. By then the flood tunnel had become unblocked and Restall had to seal it off again. To do this he had sunk a steel shaft to the depth of 27 feet near Smith’s Cove when tragedy struck. His son found him laying at the bottom of the pit in muddy water. Climbing down to help his father, the young boy fell off the ladder next to him at the bottom of the pit. Workers climbed down to assist them, but they also collapsed before reaching the bottom. A visiting fireman immediately suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust of a gasoline pump and climbed down the pit with a rope tied around his waist. He was able to rescue one person, but the rest died. Excavation of the money pit ceased again.
Further attempts to get at the treasure at the bottom of the money pit included modern open pit mining methods A 70-ton digging crane was used to dig a hole at the original pit site some 140 feet deep and 100 feet wide much bigger than the original depression. The dirt was carefully sifted for any treasure, but nothing important was found. This expedition too ran out of money, and the pit, and its mystery architect, had won again.
Around 1967, Daniel C. Blankenship and David Tobias formed Triton Alliance, Ltd. an entity formed to find the treasure and purchased most of the island. In 1971 they excavated a 235-foot shaft supported by a steel caisson According to Blankenship and Tobias, cameras lowered down the shaft into a cave below recorded the presence of some chests, human remains, wooden cribbing and tools; however, the images were unclear. None of these claims could be officially confirmed. The shaft once again collapsed, and the excavation was again suspended. This shaft was later successfully re-dug to 181 feet but alas work was subsequently halted when the money ran out.
Finally, in April 2006 a partnership from Michigan had purchased a 50 percent stake in Oak Island Tours Inc. for an undisclosed amount of money. The shares sold to the Michigan partners were previously owned by David Tobias; the remaining shares are owned by Blankenship. The Michigan group, working with Blankenship, has said it will resume operations on Oak Island in the hope of discovering buried treasure and the mystery of Oak Island.
Click here to see a video on how the flood tunnels work: http://archives.cbc.ca/IDCC-1-69-1462-9717/life_society/myths_and_legends/