Oak Island

The Discovery

One summer day in 1795 Daniel McGinnis, then a teenager, was wandering about Oak Island, Nova Scotia when he came across a curious circular depression in the ground. Standing over this depression was a tree whose branches had been cut in a way which looked like it had been used as a pulley. Having heard tales of pirates in the area he decided to return home to get friends and return later to investigate the hole.
Over the next several days McGinnis, along with friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan, worked the hole. What they found astonished them. Two feet below the surface they came across of layer of flagstones covering the pit. At 10 feet down they ran into a layer of oak logs spanning the pit. Again at 20 feet and 30 feet they found the same thing, a layer of logs. Not being able to continue alone from here, they went home, but with plans of returning to search more.
It took the three discoverers 8 years, but they did return. Along with The Onslow Company (owned by Simeon Lynds, a wealthy business man from the mainland), formed for the purpose of the search, they began digging again. They quickly got back to 30 foot point that had been reached 8 years ago.
They continued down to 90 feet, finding a layer of oak logs at every 10 foot interval. Besides the boards, at 40 feet a layer of charcoal was found, at 50 feet a layer of putty, and at 60 feet a layer of coconut fiber.
At 90 feet one of the most puzzling clues was found - a stone inscribed with mysterious writing. The translation by the Halifax professor was:"Forty Feet below two million pounds are buried". This translation makes a lot of sense. It turns out to be a simple substitution cipher where each unique symbol corresponds to a unique letter in the alphabet.

The key to deciphering the inscription is:

The translation for the given inscription works and seems very unlikely to be a simple coincidence. The way I see it, there are two possibilities.
First possibility: The inscription recorded by the professor was a hoax used to encourage further investment in the search. This is certainly a possibility and could only be disproved by the re-discovery of the original stone or possibly the discovery of a new one. If this inscription is a hoax, the crossed out F in forty is certainly a very nice touch.
Second possibility: The professor made an accurate recording of the original stone. If this is true, we gain several pieces of information about the builders: since feet are used in measurement we can track down who would and wouldn't use them; the translation is in English - unless builders were being very clever (they certainly had this trait), they were probably from an English speaking country; the stone was found at 90 feet which means the treasure would be at 130 feet (Note: in 1866 the Money Pit had already collapsed 15 feet, but the cement vault between 150 and 160 feet had not been drilled yet. The putty above the vault started at 130 feet.)
After pulling up the layer of oak at 90 feet and continuing on, water began to seep into the pit. By the next day the pit was filled with water up to the 33 foot level. Pumping didn't work, so the next year a new pit was dug parallel to the original down to 100 feet. From there a tunnel was run over to The Money Pit. Again the water flooded in and the search was abandoned for 45 years.

The Booby Trap

As it turns out, an ingenious booby trap had been sprung. The Onslow Company had inadvertently unplugged a 500 foot waterway that had been dug from the pit to nearby Smith's Cove by the pit's designers. As quickly as the water could be pumped out it was refilled by the sea.
This discovery however is only a small part of the intricate plan by the unknown designers to keep people away from the cache.
In 1849 the next company to attempt to extract the treasure, The Truro Company, was founded and the search began again. They quickly dug down to 86 feet only to be flooded. Deciding to try to figure out what was buried before attempting to extract it, Truro switched to drilling core samples. The drilling produced some encouraging results.

First Hints of Treasure

At 98 feet the drill went through a spruce platform. Then it encountered 4 inches of oak and then 22 inches of what was characterized as "metal in pieces"; Next 8 inches of oak, another 22 inches of metal, 4 inches of oak and another layer of spruce. The conclusion was that they had drilled through 2 casks or chests filled will coins. Upon pulling out the drill they found splinters of oak and strands of what looked like coconut husk.
One account of the drilling also mentions that three small gold links, as from a chain, were brought up. Unfortunately no one knows where they have gone.
While searching through the bore samples, one of the workers saw the foreman, John Pitblado, carefully examine an object and then put it into his pocket. When challenged on the matter, Pitblado refused to reveal what he had found, saying that he would only show the object to all investors at the next board meeting. But he never appeared. Instead he spent several years trying to purchase the east end of Oak Island. Not surprisingly, the owners refused to sell. No one seems to have discovered exactly what Pitblado retrieved from the auger that day in 1849, but it surely must have convinced him that treasure lay deep beneath the island.
Interestingly, the earth encountered beneath the bottom spruce platform was loose indicating that the pit may have gone even deeper. A later group of searchers would find out how much deeper.
The Truro Company returned in 1850 with plans to dig another parallel hole and then tunnel over to the Money Pit. Just like before, as they tunneled over, water began to rush in. They brought in pumps to try to get rid of the water but it was impossible to keep the water out. During the pumping someone noticed that at Smith's Cove during low tide there was water coming OUT of the beach.
This find lead to an amazing discovery - the beach was artificial.

Artificial Beach

It turns out that the pit designers had created a drain system, spread over a 145 foot length of beach, which resembled the fingers of a hand. Each finger was a channel dug into the clay under the beach and lined by rocks. The channels were then filled with beach rocks, covered with several inches of eel grass, and then covered by several more inches of coconut fiber. The effect of this filtering system was that the channels remained clear of silt and sand while water was still allowed to flow along them. The fingers met at a point inland where they fed sea water into a sloping channel which eventually joined the Money Pit some 500 feet away. Later investigations showed this underground channel to have been 4 feet wide, 2 1/2 feet high, lined with stone, and meeting the Money Pit between the depths of 95 to 110 feet, filling it at a rate of 600 gallons per minute.
To the Truro Company, the answer was now simple - just block off the water flow from the beach and dig out the treasure. Their first attempt was to build a dam just off the beach at Smith's Cove, drain the water, and then dismantle the drain channels. Unfortunately a storm blew up and destroyed the dam before they could finish.
An interesting note: the remains of an older dam were found when building the new one.
The next plan was to dig a pit 100 feet or so inland in the hopes of meeting with the water channel underground at which point they could plug the channel. This scheme too failed. And this was the last attempt by the Truro company to uncover the secrets of Oak Island.

The Pit's Collapse

The next attempt at securing the treasure was made in 1861 by The Oak Island Association. First they cleared out the Money Pit down to 88 feet. A total of 63 men and 33 horses worked in shifts to operate the bailing mechanism. Then they ran a new hole to the east of the pit hoping to intercept the channel from the sea. The new shaft was dug out to 120 feet without hitting the channel and then abandoned.
A second shaft was run, this one to west, down to 118 feet. They then attempted to tunnel over to the Money Pit. Again the water started to enter this pit as well as the Money Pit. Bailing was attempted and appeared to work. And then CRASH!
The bottom fell out. Water rushed into the shafts and the bottom of the Money Pit dropped over 15 feet. Everything in the Money Pit had fallen farther down the hole. The big questions were why and how far?
Over the next several years different companies tried to crack the mystery unsuccessfully. They dug more shafts, tried to fill in the drain on the beach, built a new dam (which was destroyed by a storm), and drilled for more core samples. They met with little success.

The Cave-in Pit

In 1893 a man named Fred Blair along with a group called The Oak Island Treasure Company began their search. Their first task was to investigate the "Cave-in Pit". Discovered in 1878 about 350 feet east of the Money Pit, the cave-in pit appears to have been a shaft dug out by the designers of the Money Pit perhaps as a ventilation shaft for the digging of the flood tunnel. It apparently intersected or closely passed the flood tunnel. While it was being cleared by the Treasure Company it started to flood at a depth of 55 feet and was abandoned.The Cave-in Pit
Over the next several years The Oak Island Treasure Company would dig more shafts, pump more water, and still get nowhere. In 1897 they did manage to clear out the Money Pit down to 111 feet where they actually saw the entrance of the flood tunnel temporarily stopped up with rocks. However, the water worked its way through again and filled the pit.
The Treasure Company then decided that they would attempt to seal off the flow of water from Smith's Cove by dynamiting the flood tunnel. Five charges were set off in holes drilled near the flood tunnel. They didn't work. The water flowed into the Money Pit as rapidly as ever.
At the same time a new set of core samples were drilled at the pit itself. The results were surprising.

Cement Vault

At 126 feet, wood was struck and then iron. This material is probably part of the material that fell during the crash of the Pit. On other drillings the wood was encountered at 122 feet and the iron was missed completely indicating that the material may be laying in a haphazard way due to the fall.The small piece of sheepskin parchment
Between 130 and 151 feet and also between 160 and 171 feet a blue clay was found which consisted of clay, sand, and water. This clay can be used to form a watertight seal and is probably the same "putty", that was found at the 50 foot level of the Pit.
The major find was in the gap between the putty layers. A cement vault was discovered. The vault itself was 7 feet high with 7 inch thick walls. Inside the vault the drill first struck wood, then a void several inches high and an unknown. Next a layer of soft metal was reached, then almost 3 feet of metal pieces, and then more soft metal.
When the drill was brought back up another twist was added to the whole mystery. Attached to the auger was a small piece of sheepskin parchment with the letters "vi"; "ui"; or "wi". What the parchment is a part of is still in question.
More convinced than ever that a great treasure was beneath the island, The Treasure Company began sinking more shafts in the attempts to get to the cement vault. They all met with failure due to flooding.

2nd Flood Tunnel

In May of 1899 yet another startling discovery was made. There was a second flood tunnel! This one was located in the South Shore Cove. Oak Island in 1931The designers had been more ingenious and had done more work than previously thought. Though this find certainly strengthened the case that something valuable was buried below it didn't bring anyone closer to actually finding the treasure.
Blair and The Oak Island Treasure Company continued to sink new shafts and drill more core samples, but no progress was made and no new information obtained.
Between 1900 and 1936 several attempts were made to obtain the treasure. All met with no success.

Stone Fragment

In 1936 Gilbert Hadden, in conjunction with Fred Blair, began a new investigation of the island. Hadden cleared some of the earlier shafts near the Pit and made plans for exploratory drilling the next summer. However, he made two discoveries away from the Pit.
The first was a fragment of a stone bearing inscriptions similar to those found on the inscribed stone discovered at the 90 foot level of the Money Pit.
The stone fragment

The second discovery was of several old timbers in Smith's Cove. These timbers seem to have been from the original designers due to the fact that they were joined using wooden pins rather than metal. As will be seen later these timbers were only a small part of a much larger construction.

The Hadden Shaft

Mystery Deepens

The first half of the twentieth century saw many more attempts to retrieve the treasure, including an expedition by Franklin Roosevelt. Almost all of these focused on solving the problem by digging in the immediate vicinity of the Money Pit. Every group failed, probably because by this time the original location of the Money Pit had become confused and because much of the ground beneath the eastern end of Oak Island was a honeycomb of water-filled tunnels.
The next treasure hunter was Erwin Hamilton. He began his search in 1938 by clearing out previous shafts and doing some exploratory drilling. In 1939 during drilling two more discoveries were made. The first was the finding of rocks and gravel at 190 feet. According to Hamilton they were foreign and therefore placed there by someone. The second finding came after clearing out an earlier shaft down to 176 feet. At this point a layer of limestone was encountered and drilled through. The drilling brought up oak splinters. Apparently there was wood BELOW the natural limestone.
In 1955 George Greene, representing a group of oil men from Texas, arrived on the island. He planned to locate the treasure vault by drilling. He sank four holes into the area thought to be the Money Pit. He encountered limestone at 140 feet, then the drill dropped through 40 feet of empty space before striking bedrock at 180 feet. This large empty space was a new discovery. Greene pumped 100,000 gallons of water into the cavern, but the water quickly drained out and he never discovered where it went.

Tragedy Strikes

In 1959 Bob Restall and his family began their attack on the island which ultimately proved tragic.
His one discovery was made on the Smith's Cove beach while attempting to stop the drain system. He found a rock with "1704" inscribed on itThough others believed it was prank left by a previous search team, Restall believed it was from the time of the original construction.
In 1965 tragedy struck. While excavating a shaft Bob passed out and fell into the water at the bottom. His son, Bobbie, attempted to rescue him as did two of the workers. All four apparently were overcome by some sort of gas, perhaps carbon monoxide from a generator, passed out and drowned.

Heavy Machines

Bob Dunfield was the next to take on the island. In 1965 he attempted to solve the problem with heavy machinery - bulldozers and cranes. He attempted to block the inflow of water at Smith's Cove, and may have succeeded. Then on the south side of the island a trench was dug in the hope of intercepting the other water tunnel and blocking it off. The flood tunnel wasn't found, but an unknown refilled shaft was found, possible one dug by the designers of the Pit. The shaft apparently went down to 45 and stopped, its purpose is unknown.
Dunfield's other findings were based on drilling. It was determined that at 140 feet there was a 2 foot thick layer of limestone and then a forty foot void. At the bottom of the void was bedrock. This information matched with a drilling done back in 1955. There seemed to a large, natural underground cavern, something apparently common with limestone around the world.

Recent Discoveries

The heart-shaped stoneDaniel Blankenship, the current searcher, began his quest in 1965. In 1966 he dug out more of the original shaft found by Bob Dunfield in 1965. It turned out that the shaft did go beyond 45 feet. Blankenship found a hand-wrought nail and a washer at 60 feet. At 90 feet he met a layer of rocks in stagnant water. He assumed this was part of the south water tunnel but couldn't explore further because the shaft could not be stopped from caving in.The iron scissors found at Smith's Cove
A pair of wrought-iron scissors were discovered in 1967 buried below the drains at Smith's Cove. It was determined that the scissors were Spanish-American, probably made in Mexico, and they were up to 300 years old. Also found was a heart shaped stone.
Smith's Cove revealed some more secrets in 1970 to Triton Alliance, a group formed by Blankenship to continue the search. While Triton was building a new cofferdam they discovered the remains of what appeared to be the original builders' cofferdam.The remains of the coffer dam built by Triton Alliance
The findings included several logs 2 feet thick and up to 65 feet long. They were marked every four feet with Roman numerals carved in them and some contained wooden pins or nails. The wood has been carbon dated to 250 years ago.
The western end of the island has also revealed several items. Two wooden structures, along with wrought-iron nails and metal straps were found at the western beach. Nine feet below the beach a pair of leather shoes were unearthed.
The Triton Alliance comissioned a complete geological study of the island from Golder Associates of Toronto, a leading geological engineering firm. They spent an entire summer testing soil and bringing up core samples from deep underground. Their report, rumored to have cost over $100,000, contained a detailed a analysis of the geological structure of the island, complete with cross-sectional maps the underground features. The contents of the Golder report have never been made public, but the results have encouraged the Triton group to continue their excavations.

Borehole 10-X

The next major discoveries came in 1976 when Triton dug what is known as Borehole 10-X, a 237 foot tube of steel sunk 180 feet northeast of the Money Pit. During the digging several apparently artificial cavities were found down to 230 feet.Borehole 10-X
A camera lowered down to a bedrock cavity at 230 feet returned some amazing images. At first a severed hand could be seen floating in the water. Later three chests (of the treasure type I would presume) and various tools could be made out. Finally a human body was detected.
After seeing the images, the decision was made to send divers down for a look. Several attempts were made but strong current and poor visibility made it impossible to see anything.
Before the cavern could be completely explored by divers, Borehole 10-X collapsed inward, crushing the metal, cribbing and almost killing Blankenship, who scrambled out of the hole seconds before it imploded.


Today Triton is petitioning the Canadian government for a $12 million loan to continue their excavations.The Hadden Shaft They are building a large concrete-lined shaft 70 feet in diameter and 180 feet deep. Perhaps they will finally unlock the 200 year-old secret of Oak Island. Unfortunately the island is closed to the public now….but hopefully tours will be available again soon.

Here you'll find summaries of some of the vital information that is known about the Oak Island mystery. Hopefully this information will help you check your facts and theories.

Drilling Results

Below you'll find information about some of the major drillings that have occurred on the island.

Triton - 1967-1969
• Determined that bedrock layer was at 162 +/- 10 feet
• Between 172 and 224 feet found china, oak buds, cement, wood, and metal
• Found tunnels that were cut through bedrock - under 40 feet of bedrock
• Found 40 feet rock, inches of wood, layer of blue clay, inches of wood and 6-7 foot void
• Carbon date of wood - 1575 +/- 80 years
• Depression from 172 to 222 feet (beneath Hadden shaft) - 30 foot in diameter filled with layers of blue clay with small stone spaced at 18 inches!!!
• 186 feet: metal and brought up piece of brass (high impurities)
• 212 feet: brick-like material found - it had been fired
• Cement found - worked by man
• 210 feet: hard metal hit

Borehole X-10
• 140 feet: found a 4 foot cavity
• 160 feet: found a 4 foot cavity
• Bedrock at 180 feet
• 210 feet: hit a 2 foot cavity
• 230-237 feet: a cavity
• Handfuls of metal found at 165 feet - low-carbon steel - prior to 1800
• Spruce found at 155 feet
• 155 feet: eight pieces of steel chain - Swedish steel made prior to 1790
• Wood at 180 feet
• Metal in several places above and below bedrock

660 feet north-northeast of the Money Pit - 1973
• 110 feet: a 2 inch piece of wire - dated from 1500s to 1800s
• A solid metal plate
There are future plans to excavate

Artifacts Found

Below you'll find a listing of the artifacts found, or allegedly found, on the island. Many of the artifacts have been lost and are known only through writings left by early searchers or writers.

- Copper coin, bosun's whistle, and iron ring bolt embedded in a rock at Smith's Cove - 1795-1802
- Inscribed stone
- Gold links - 1849
- Remains of the old cofferdam
- Wood and end of a keg pulled out when the Pit collapsed
- Blue clay
- Parchment
- Anchor fluke of ancient design - 1931 - since disappeared
- Dump with thousands of broken pottery flasks
- Rock with "1704" inscribed on it.
- Nail, washer
- Scissors, heart stone
- Original cofferdam - logs 2 feet thick up to 65 feet long with Roman numerals marked on them.
- Nails and metal-straps
- Leather shoes
- 3 drilled rocks and ash piles analyzed to be burned bones!!!!!

Where in the world is Oak Island?

Oak Island is a 140 acre island just off the eastern coast of Nova Scotia, Canada located in Mahone Bay.


1795 - Daniel McGinnis finds The Money Pit. McGinnis, John Smith and Anthony Vaughan dig to 30 feet temporarily give up.
1803 - Onslow Company along with the 3 original finders begin excavation. They get down to 90 feet but are flooded out.Oak Island
1804 - Onslow Company digs parallel pit to 110 feet but this too floods when they attempt to tunnel over the Money Pit.
1849 - The Truro Company begins digging. They drill through 2 casks filled with "loose metal". Also recovered 3 gold chains links.
1850 - Subterranean waterway and artifical beach were found at Smith's Cove.
1861 - First life claimed by Oak Island. A man was scalded to death by an exploding boiler.
1861 - The bottom literally fell out as the items that had been at 100 feet fell farther down to hole thanks to weakening of the pit by several cross tunnels.
1893 - Fred Blair and The Oak Island Treasure Company begin their investigations. Cave-in pit investigated.
1897 - Triangle rock formation was discovered.
1897 - Cement valut encountered and parchment was found during drilling.
1897 - Second life lost when Maynard Kaiser fell to his death while being pulled out of the pit.
1899 - The 2nd flood tunnel, The South Shore Tunnel, was discovered.
1936 - 2nd inscribed stone found and more evidence of original cofferdam found.
1965 - In one day Oak Island claimed four more lives: Bob and Bobbie Restall, Karl Grasser, and Cyril Hiltz.

Oak Island Money Pit Area
Click on image to enlarge

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