Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oak Island

Near the coast of Nova Scotia, in Mahone Bay, lies a small island dubbed the Money Pit and it is believed to have a massive treasure buried on it. Numerous excavations have taken place trying to find the treasure but so far, nothing has yielded any results. In 1795, 16-year-old Daniel McGinnis discovered a circular depression in a clearing on the southeastern 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 (in early accounts, Samuel Ball) 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. They abandoned the excavation after 30 feet. About eight years after the 1795 dig, according to the original articles and the memories of Vaughan, another company examined what was to become known as the Money Pit. They continued the excavation down to approximately 90 feet, finding charcoal, putty and coconut fibers at 40, 50 and 60 feet. At 80 or 90 feet, a large stone was found bearing inscriptions of symbols. Several researchers are said to have deciphered the symbols, one translating them as saying: "forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried." The pit subsequently flooded and the excavation was abandoned.

Another attempt at mining occured in 1849 but nothing was found. Yet another attempt was made in 1861 by the Oak Island Association which resulted in the collapse of the bottom of the shaft into either a natural cavern or booby trap underneath. The first fatality during excavations occurred when the boiler of a pumping engine burst. The company gave up in 1864 after their funds were exhausted. Further excavations were made in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1959, none of which were successful. Franklin Roosevelt was a part of the excavation team in 1909 and kept up with the Oak Island developments through most of his life. Gilbert Hedden purchased the southeast end of the island. He began digging in the summer of 1935, following excavations by William Chappell in 1931. In 1939, he even informed King George VI of the United Kingdom about developments on Oak Island.

Around 1967, Daniel C. Blankenship and David Tobias formed Triton Alliance, Ltd. and purchased most of the island. In 1971, Triton workers excavated a 235-foot shaft supported by a steel caisson to bedrock. According to Blankenship and Tobias, cameras lowered down the shaft into a cave below recorded the presence of some chests, human remains, wooden cribbing and tools; however, the images were unclear, and none of these claims have been independently confirmed. The shaft subsequently collapsed, and the excavation was again abandoned. The shaft was re-dug 181 feet but was stopped due to lack of funds and the collapse of the partnership. In the mid-1960s an account of the excavation of the money pit was featured in Reader's Digest and in 1979, the island was featured on an episode of In Search Of....

During the 1990s, further exploration was stalled because of legal battles between the Triton partners. As of 2005, a portion of the island was for sale for an estimated US$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. It was announced in April 2006 that partners from Michigan had purchased a 50% stake in Oak Island Tours Inc., for an undisclosed amount of money. The shares sold to the Michigan partners were previously owned by David Tobias; remaining shares are owned by Blankenship. Center Road Developments, in conjunction with Allan Kostrzewa, a member of the Michigan group, had purchased Lot 25 from David Tobias for a reported $230,000 one year previous to Tobias selling the rest of his share. The Michigan group, working with Blankenship, has said it will resume operations on Oak Island in the hope of discovering buried treasure and the mystery of Oak Island.

It is unknown who, if anyone, occupied the island prior to the first excavation or if there really is any treasure buried there. The stone supposedly reading "forty feet below lie two million pounds" disappeared around 1912 and it's whereabouts are unknown. The treasure is rumored to be pirate treasure, specifically either Captain Kidd's or Blackbeard's treasure. Other theories say that the treasure is either from a Spanish galleon or from British troops during the American Revolution. Another theory says that the treasure is really Marie Antoinette's jewels and even stranger, some theories say that Oak Island is hiding proof that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays or that the pit contains the Holy Grail. Of course, all theories remain undocumented and in dispute.

The most common belief now is that the money pit is just a sinkhole and that there is nothing special about it.

The location of Oak Island, just off of the coast of Nova Scotia.

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