What does Wikipedia say about Oak Island?

Oak Island, Nova Scotia.Oak Island (4431′00″N, 6417′57″W) is a 140 acre (570,000 m) island in Lunenberg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of about 360 small islands in Mahone Bay, and rises to a maximum of 35 feet (11 m) above sea level.

The Money Pit

Oak Island is noted as the location of the so-called Money Pit, a site of numerous excavations to recover treasure believed by many to be buried there. The island is privately owned and advance permission is required for any visit.

Early history

Mid-19th century newspaper stories recount that, in 1795, young Donald Daniel McGinnis discovered a circular depression on the south eastern end of the island with an adjacent tree which had a tackle block on one of its overhanging branches. McGinnis, with the help of friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan, excavated the depression and discovered a layer of flagstones a few feet below. On the pit walls there were visible markings from a pick. As they dug down they discovered layers of logs at about every ten feet (3 m). They abandoned the excavation at 30 feet (10 m).

About eight years later, according to the original nineteenth century article, another company examined what was to become known as the Money Pit. The Onslow Company sailed 300 nautical miles from central Nova Scotia near Truro to Oak Island with the goal of recovering what they believed to be secret treasure. They continued the excavation down to approximately 90 feet (27.43 m), and found layers of logs or "marks" about every ten feet (3 m) and layers of charcoal, putty and coconut fibre at 40, 50 and 60 feet (12, 15 and 18 m).

According to one of the earliest written accounts, a newspaper article called "The Oak Island Diggings" from the Liverpool Transcript (Oct 1862), at 80 or 90 feet (27 m) they recovered a large stone bearing an inscription of symbols. The pit subsequently flooded up to the 33-foot (10 m) level. Bailing did not reduce the water level and the excavation was abandoned.

Investors formed The Truro Company in 1849, which re-excavated the shaft back down to the 86 foot (26 m) level, where it flooded again. They then drilled into the ground below the bottom of the shaft. According to the nineteenth century account, the drill or "pod auger" passed through a spruce platform at 98 feet (30 m), a 12-inch head space, 22 inches (560 mm) of what was described as "metal in pieces", 8 inches (200 mm) of oak, another 22 inches (560 mm) of metal, 4 inches (100 mm) of oak, another spruce layer, and finally into clay for 7 feet without striking anything else.

One account states they recovered three small gold links of a chain from mud stuck to the drill. They attempted to prevent the pit from flooding by damming Smith's Cove, and later by excavating a shaft into what was believed to be a flood tunnel from the sea to block it and prevent the pit from filling with water.

The original 18th Century story of the pit's discovery along with the mid-19th century newspaper accounts are based on unverified folklore and may be entirely false. The earliest published description of the Money Pit is a news article in the Liverpool Transcript newspaper in October 1862. This included an oral account of the early years of excavation attempts as told by at least one digger. No supporting material or evidence has surfaced ever since, and the story has been impossible to verify. Several researchers have noted that artifacts like the inscribed stone and gold chain links could have been placed in the pit during expensive excavation operations for the purpose of attracting more investors.

Documented history

The Money Pit was first mentioned in print by the Liverpool Transcript in October, 1856. More accounts followed in the Liverpool Transcript, the Novascotian newspaper and A History Of Lunenburg County *, but this last account was based on the earlier Liverpool Transcript articles and does not represent an independent source.

The next excavation attempt was made in 1861 by a new company called the Oak Island Association and apparently led to the collapse of the bottom of the shaft into a suspected void or booby trap underneath. The first fatality during excavations occurred when the boiler of a pumping engine burst. The company gave up when their funds were exhausted in 1864.

Further excavations were made in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931,1935, 1936, and 1959, none of which were successful. Franklin Roosevelt (later President of the United States) was part of the Old Gold Salvage group of 1909 and kept up with news and developments for most of his life. About six people have been killed in accidents during various excavations.

In 1928, a New York newspaper printed a feature story about the strange history of the island. Gilbert Hedden, operator of a steel fabricating concern, saw the article and was fascinated by the engineering problems in recovering the putative treasure. Hedden collected books and articles on the island, and made six trips there. Wholly convinced that there was buried treasure on Oak Island, Mr. Hedden even ventured to England to converse with Harold Tom Wilkins, the author of Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island. Gilbert believed he had found a link between Oak Island and a mysterious map in Wilkins' book.

The very wealthy Hedden then bought the southeast end of the island. He did not start digging until the summer of 1935, following excavations by William Chappell in 1931. In 1939, he even informed King George VI of England about developments on Oak Island.

The 1931 excavations by William Chappell sank a 163 foot shaft 12x14 feet to the southwest of what they believed was the site of the 1897 shaft, close to the original pit. At 127 feet, a number of artifacts, including an axe, anchor fluke, and pick were found. The pick has been identified as a Cornish miner's poll pick. By this time the entire area around the Money Pit was littered with the debris and refuse of numerous prior excavation attempts so it is unlikely the pick belonged to the original party (if any) that created the hole.

In 1965, Robert Dunfield leased the island and, using a 70-ton digging crane with a clam bucket, dug out the pit area to a depth of 140 feet (43 m) and width of 100 feet (30 m). The removed soil was carefully inspected for artifacts. As a result, the location of the original shaft is no longer known. Transportation of the crane to the island required the construction of a causeway (which still exists) from the western end of the island to Crandall's Point on the mainland two hundred meters away.

Around 1969, Daniel C. Blankenship and David Tobias formed Triton Alliance, Ltd. and bought most of the island. In 1971, Triton workers excavated a 235 foot (72 m) shaft supported by a steel caisson to bedrock. Cameras lowered down the shaft into a cave below were said to have recorded the presence of some chests, human remains, wooden cribbing and tools, but the images were unclear and none of these claims have been confirmed. The shaft subsequently collapsed and the excavation was again abandoned. This shaft was later successfully re-dug to 181 feet, reaching bedrock; work was halted due to lack of funds.

The Money Pit Mystery was the subject of an episode of the television series In Search of... which first aired January 18, 1979, bringing the legend of Oak Island to a wider audience. Previously the story had only been known among locals, treasure hunting groups, and readers of sensational magazines and anthologies. The island has been loosely associated with the Freemasons and Templars, but none of this is proven.

As of 2005, a portion of the island was for sale with an estimated price tag of $7 million. A group called the Oak Island Tourism Society had hoped the Government of Canada would purchase the island, but a group of American businessmen in the drilling industry did so instead.[1]

It was announced in April 2006 that partners from Michigan purchased a 50% stake in Oak Island Tours Inc., for an undisclosed amount of money. The shares were previously owned by David Tobias, and the remaining shares are owned by Dan Blankenship. Allan Kostrzewa, a member of the 'Michigan Group', purchased Lot 25 from David Tobias for a reported $230,000 one year previously. Working closely with Dan Blankenship, the 'Michigan Group' has said they will resume operations on Oak Island in the hope of discovering buried treasure.

Pit flooding

Treasure hunters discovered coconut fibres beneath the surface of one beach (coconuts are not indigenous to Nova Scotia). This led to the theory that the beach had been converted into a giant "wick", feeding water from the ocean into the pit. Another theory is that the coconut fibers were used to make a form of putty to seal oak platforms set at various depths in the pit.

Coconut fibres were also used as shipping dunnage and some say that the fibres may have been discarded from cargo ships stopping at the island or sailing nearby. The purpose, and indeed the very existence, of these fibers and putty have been a source of heated debate among Oak Island researchers.

Oak Island lies on a glacial tumulus system and is underlain by a series of water-filled limestone cavities (Anhydrite) which could be responsible for the repeated flooding of the pit. Bedrock lies at a depth of 160180 feet in the Money Pit area.

Upon the invitation of Boston-area businessman David Mugar, a two-week survey was conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1995, the only scientific study ever conducted on the site. After running dye tests in the bore hole, they concluded that the flooding was caused by a natural interaction between the island's freshwater lens and tidal pressures in the underlying geology, refuting the idea of artificially constructed "box drains" or flood tunnels. Scientists who viewed some of the videos taken in 1971 concluded that nothing of value could be determined from the murky images.

Buried treasure?

There has been wide speculation about what the pit might contain. Most suggestions include treasure buried by either Captain Kidd, British troops during the American revolution, Spanish sailors from a wrecked galleon, the Inca or even exiled Knights Templar hiding the Holy Grail in the pit. A theory published by Penn Leary in his The Oak Island enigma: A history and inquiry into the origin of the money pit from 1953, claims that English philosopher Francis Bacon used the pit to hide documents proving him to be the author of William Shakespeare's plays, a theory recently picked up on in the book Organisten (The Organ Player) by Norwegian Petter Amundsen and novelist Erlend Loe.

The notorious pirate Edward Teach (Blackbeard) claimed he buried his treasure "where none but Satan and myself can find it," leading to inevitable suggestions that he dug the pit, but there is no evidence to support this. The pit may contain nothing at all. Since the 1970s fewer people have believed the pit has any connection to pirates, due to the massive scale of the subterranean structure and its similarity to other natural formations found in the area.

The cipher stone (which disappeared from the island in 1919) has been translated many times with multiple decoders to read "Forty feet bellow lies two million pounds." Even this has been argued to be a hoax despite its appearing in nearly all early accounts of the island. A cipher key and a coded message have been linked to masonic vaults.

History or legend?

The story of the money is largely unverified and the gap of sixty years between the supposed discovery and the first known reports is very long. There is no surviving evidence that the nine platforms existed. Indeed, it is noteworthy that almost all of the debris, lost tools and other items mentioned in the early accounts have not been found. This includes the two links from the gold chain, the inscribed stone, and even the tree itself. The piece of parchment apparently does exist and is in the possesion of Dan Blankenship.

Many elements contained in the Oak Island story, such as the discovery of tantalising but inconclusive objects and a message in indecipherable code, are common in fictional works on treasure and piracy (such as the Edgar Allan Poe story The Gold Bug). This has led many to conclude that the early account of the Money Pit is a romanticised combination of several works of nineteenth century fiction conflated with a local story about a search for buried treasure.

Oak Island in popular culture

bulletSeveral works of fiction have been based upon the Money Pit, including "The Money Pit Mystery", Riptide and The Hand of Robin Squires.
bulletThe television show Bones aired an episode called "The Man With the Bone" on April 5, 2006, which featured a fictionalized version of the Oak Island pit moved to Assateague Island, Maryland.
bulletThe television show In Search Of... hosted by Leonard Nimoy, aired an episode that investigated the Oak Island Money Pit with interviews and recreated footage, as well as footage of the actual location.
bulletThe Soul Calibur series of video games features the character Voldo, who protects the treasures in an area called the Money Pit. The location of his stage in the Money Pit varied from game to game.

Nineteenth century sources

bullet"Correspondence," Liverpool Transcript, 15 August 1857. (The Transcript is available on microfilm, in the Vaughn Memorial Library of Acadia University.)
bullet"The Oak Island Folly", the Novascotian, 29 August 1861. (The Novascotian is also available on microfilm, in the Vaughn Memorial Library of Acadia University.)
bullet"Patrick," the Novascotian, 30 September 1861.
bulletMcCully, J.B., "The Oak Island Diggings", Liverpool Transcript, October 1862
bullet"A Member", "A History of The Oak Island Enterprise," 2, 7, and 14 January 1864
bulletDesBrisay, Mather, A History Of Lunenburg County 1895.

External links

bullet OakIslandTreasure.co.uk
bullet Unmuseum.org, diagrams of the excavation locations
bullet CBC Radio conversation about Oak Island
bullet Satellite image of Oak Island at Google Maps
bullet "The Secrets of Oak Island", Joe Nickell, Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 2000.
bullet The Oak Island Tourism Society
bullet A critical enquiry


  1. ^ For Sale: Island with Mysterious Money Pit. Retrieved on December 5, 2005.

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