Oak Island, in Nova Scotia, Canada, is the site of a 200 year old fascinating mystery regarding buried treasure in a pit. The rumors of buried treasures include that Captain Kidd or Blackbeard hoarded pirate treasure in a pit on the island. There is another theory that the pit was dug by Spanish sailors or British troops during the American Revolution. Another belief is that the missing, priceless jewels of Marie Antoinette are in the pit. Many Masonic markings have been found on Oak Island. The Freemasons have an initiation rite involving a hidden vault containing a sacred treasure. It has been speculated that the pit was dug to hide documents that English philosopher, William Bacon, was the true author of William Shakespeare’s plays. It has also been said that the Knights Templar dug the pit for the last resting place of the Holy Grail and the Arc of the Covenant.
Oak Island is a 140 acre, tree covered island, in a group of approximately 360 islands in Mahone Bay. Out of the 360 islands, Oak Island is the only island with very large oak trees. The history of the mysteries surrounding the buried treasure of Oak Island is as follows:
Eighteen year old Daniel McGinnis saw some lights on the island. He went to the island to find the source of the lights, but found a clearing with a circular depression. Nearby was a tree with a tackle block (a system of ropes and pulleys) affixed to one of its branches. McGinnis acquired the help of two of his friends, John Smith and Anthony Vaughn, to dig in the depression. The found a layer of flagstones, and underneath the flagstones, they discovered a layer of logs every ten feet. At 30 feet, they abandoned the excavation. The excavated flagstones were made of a type of slate not found on Oak Island.
By 1805, the excavated area became known as the “Money Pit”, because it was believed to be the hiding place of buried treasure. The Onslow Company sailed 300 nautical miles to continue the excavation. They, also, found the layers of logs every ten feet. At 90 feet, they found a large stone inscribed with symbols. After several researchers tried to decipher the symbols, one of them translated the symbols saying “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried”. The pit flooded up to the 33 feet level and bailing did not reduce the water level. The excavation had to be abandoned.
A group of investors formed The Truro Company and tried to excavate the shaft again, only for it to be flooded again. Using a drill, or “pod auger”, they drilled into clay for seven feet and found no buried treasure.
A new company, The Oak Island Association, attempted the next excavation. The bottom of the shaft collapsed into a natural cavern or it collapsed due to a “booby trap”. The boiler of an excavation pump burst, causing the first fatality. When their funds were exhausted, the group had to stop their search in 1864.
• 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1959
Further excavations were done during these years with the same results. None of these excavations were successful. During one of these excavations, red paint was poured into the flooded pit and three separate exit holes on the island were discovered. In 1897, a cement vault and parchment were discovered while drilling.
A New York newspaper published a story about the mystery of Oak Island. Gilbert Hedden became fascinated upon reading the article and made six trips to Oak Island. He went to England to the meet Harold Tom Watkins, who was the author of “Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island”. Hedden believed he found a link between the island and a map in the book written by Watkins.
William Chappell performed further excavations which were futile. He sank a 163-foot shaft close to the original shaft. At 127 feet, he found artifacts including a pick, an axe, and an anchor fluke. Following all the previous excavations, the area was littered with refuse and debris. Therefore, the artifacts could not be verified as to whom they belonged.
Gilbert Hedden purchased the southeast end of Oak Island. He was unable to find anything of value.
Daniel Blankenship and David Tobias formed the Triton Alliance, Ltd. They purchased most of Oak Island. A pair of wrought iron scissors was found and determined to be 300 years old. A heart shaped stone was also found.
Triton Allian, Ltd. Excavated a 235 shaft which was supported by bedrock and steel caisson. Cameras were then lowered into the shaft. Some unclear images showed wooden cribbing and tools, some chests, and human remains. However, the shaft collapsed, and the excavation was abandoned again.
A television show told the legend of Oak Island to a wide audience.
A portion of the island was for sale for 7 million American dollars. A group of American businessmen in the drilling industry purchased the land that was for sale.
The Oak Island Treasure Act became effective January 1, 2012. This allows for treasure hunting to continue on Oak Island under terms of a license issued by the Minister of Natural Resources.
• Present Day
It is argued that there is no treasure on Oak Island and that the pit is natural phenomenon such as a sink hole. In 1995, the Woods Holes Oceanographic Institute concluded that the flooding of the pit was due to a natural interaction between the island’s fresh water and tidal pressures.
There have been a total of six deaths during excavations of the money pit. Over 50 books have been published about Oak Island about the history of the excavations and the different theories involving buried treasure. The island’s pit remains an enigma in spite of the theory that the pit is a natural sink hole. For now, the mystery of Oak Island remains a mystery. Oak Island may be visited with advanced permission, as the island is privately owned.