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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
At the same time a new set of core samples
were drilled at the pit itself. The results were surprising.
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.
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
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
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. The
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
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.
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 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
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
In 1959 Bob Restall
and his family began their attack on the island which ultimately proved
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 it. Though
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
Today Triton is petitioning the Canadian government
for a $12 million loan to continue their excavations.
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
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.
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,
Found tunnels that were cut through bedrock - under 40 feet of
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
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
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
Spruce found at 155 feet
155 feet: eight pieces of steel chain - Swedish steel made prior
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
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
- 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!!!!!
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
1803 - Onslow Company along with the
3 original finders begin excavation. They get down to 90 feet but are flooded
1804 - Onslow Company digs parallel
pit to 110 feet but this too floods when they attempt to tunnel over the
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
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.
Click on image to enlarge
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