Off the coast of Nova Scotia, there lies an island that has a history of mystery and treasure. Oak Island is the site of one of the most famous and longest lived treasure hunts in history. At the center of this historical enigma is a hole called the Mystery Pit or the Money Pit. To date, six people have lost their lives exploring and trying to unravel the mystery of this pit which has been excavated to a depth of over 190 feet with no end in sight.
The story begins 218 years ago in 1795 when a young man named Daniel McGinnis witnessed lights on the island one evening. Intrigued by their movement and glowing, he waited until morning and spurred on by that sighting, he explored Oak Island to find a depression and a nearby tree with a block tackle attached to it. McGinnis heard stories of pirates in the area and returned with two friends to explore the area and the depression. They dug to a depth of 30 feet and found some interesting items. A few feet below the surface was a layer of flagstones that covered the depression. Removing the stones and continuing their excavation, they found at 10 foot intervals layers of logs. They stopped at the third level.
What was under these layers?
That is the question that haunts those obsessed with this island and its secrets. The island seems to have many naturally occurring sinkholes and one of the many explorations of the pit resulted in the use of red dye indicating that passages from the flooded pit exited at three different locations around the island. It is believed the pit McGinnis found contains a secret treasure that was hidden and secured by a series of naturally facilitated booby traps which have repeatedly flustered the efforts of treasure hunters hoping to answer the enigma of the "Money Pit."
One such legend was that the infamous and fearsome pirate Blackbeard, Edward Teach, secreted a large treasure in the bottom of the deep pit stocked it with traps and pitfalls, killed the crew that buried it there and then later told those with whom he would talk about his loot that it was buried "where none but Satan and myself can find it" according to a 1958 article in "World Wide Magazine". Others attribute the booty to Captain Kidd who conspired with Henry Every to secure their hoard on the island. It is believed that McGinnis may have seen lights from one of these two pirate crews that night.
In the last two centuries however, while some skeptics attribute the hole to being a natural sinkhole, many of their critics claim there are too many unusual artifacts in the hole to be created by natural means. Some of the items found in the hole in the many expeditions over the last 190 years included cement, blue clay, pieces of metal, wood, timbers, oak buds and china among the contents of the hole.
The original three excavators returned eight years later with a new partner, they continued their dig from the 30 foot depth to almost 90 feet below the surface. At 10 foot intervals, they continued to find layers of logs. In addition they also found a layer of charcoal, putty, and coconut fibers. The most exciting find though was at 90 feet where the explorers discovered a tablet with a cryptographic language inscribed upon it resting on logs. A professor from Halifax finally claimed to have translated it into a mysterious statement, "Forty feet below two million pounds are buried" which was interpreted to be a clue to what was at the bottom of the strange hole.
One author points out the builders of the pit could likely have been English or English speaking due to the measurement in feet and even more reinforced by the reference to pounds. It is possible the tablet was faked to attract backing to continue the digging, but a correction in the inscription seems to make this unlikely. In any case, the dig continued past the logs at the 90 foot level and water began to leak into the pit. By the following day, the pit had sixty feet of water inside of it. Pumping water did not help so the alternate plan was to dig a parallel hole. The hole reached one hundred feet and then was connected to the money pit resulting in the water flooding both holes.
The flooding stopped the search for 45 years. It was caused by a trap that connected to a nearby cove. The diggers unknowingly opened the plug causing the flooding. This clever snare was only one of several that had been included to protect the possible treasure. To date, no one has been able to get to the bottom and its legendary cache. In 1849 a drilling expedition allegedly uncovered remnants of oak, metal in pieces and possibly golden links of chain around 100 feet. It was believed the drillers penetrated a treasure chest, but no one ever saw the links. It is known the foreman spent years trying to buy the island afterwards.
Several more attempts since 1849 have gotten to at least 190 feet and many discoveries including drainage systems manufactured from other areas of the island that were hidden as beaches and artificial drain tunnels connecting to the pit from other coves which indicated the pit was carefully constructed to keep people away from the alleged treasure. Artifacts found to date include cement, brass, steel chain and wire. The island itself also yielded a dead body, thousands of pieces of pottery, inscribed rocks, scissors and ashes that have been analyzed to have been burned bones. It also claimed a half dozen lives and continues to collapse and flood when people attempt to dig further.
Today the island and pit are privately owned and still hiding its secret. For more information, check out http://web.archive.org/web/20020804103503/http://members.xoom.virgilio.i... and http://www.unmuseum.org/oakisl.htm
Til next time…