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The Treasure Pit of OAK ISLAND

Bruce Ricketts

If I told you that there was a buried treasure on an island just off the coast of Nova Scotia, you might believe me. After all this area of North America was a favourite stomping ground for pirates in the 18th century.

If I told you that the treasure was buried in a deep pit, you might respond, "Of course, that was it to make sure no one but the pirates found it".

But what if I told you that the treasure pit was, to date, almost 200 feet deep, protected by an elaborate set of booby traps (underground channels to an ocean beach over 500 feet away), has been the subject of countless excavations since 1795, costing millions of dollars, and the death place of six treasure hunters, and they still haven’t found the treasure…  If you answer: "That’s the treasure pit at Oak Island", you are correct!

The story of the Oak Island treasure pit is fascinating and complex. It is a story of mystery, greed, controversy and very little humour. The Oak Island treasure has been sought by many individuals and corporations for over 200 years.  It has attracted all strata of explorer from: the three teenagers who first discovered the site; to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former US President, whose company Old Gold Salvage group searched in 1909; to the swash-buckling actor Errol Flynn who wanted to search Oak Island in 1940, but was discouraged when he found the search rights belonged to a company owned by fellow actor John Wayne.

The story of the Oak Island Treasure Pit has been written about in numerous books.  To date the treasure has not been uncovered, but tantalizing glimpses of what are purported to be part of the treasure have been reported. The following are a sample of some of the theories on who buried the treasure on Oak Island:

  • the most popular theory is that of the early 18th century pirate Captain Kidd, who frequently visited the region of Oak Island for rest and relaxation and to repair his ships. He seemed to have a habit of burying part of the treasure he plundered far and wide.
  • the most bizarre theory is that the treasure is the original works of William Shakespeare/ Sir Francis Bacon buried on the site in the late 16th century. This theory is based on the evidence of a piece of parchment paper brought up from the pit by one of the treasure hunters.
  • equally strange is the theory of the crown jewels of France which went missing in 1791 and were said to have been smuggled to Louisburg (north of Oak Island in Cape Breton). Since Louisburg was frequently attacked by the British when the French owned it, the jewels were considered unsafe and were transported to Oak Island.

The theories go on but no one knows for sure the origin of the Treasure Pit.

Excavation of the Pit has never been successful because of the booby traps which were set to protect it. In the mid-1860s, while excavating at the 90 feet level, the treasure hunters encountered soggy ground. This was not too surprising because the Pit was only 500 feet from the coast line and high tide of the ocean was about at the 32 foot level. At 93 feet the wetness was more pronounced. At 98 feet they struck an extra hard surface. They took the rest of day off and the next morning found that the shaft of the Pit was filled with sea water to the 32 foot level. We now know that the miners had inadvertently opened a series of channels to the beach which had been installed as a booby trap to protect the treasure.

Many attempts have been made over the years to discover how the booby trap works. Coffer dams have been built on the nearby beach, thought to be the source of the water flow… but to no avail.

In the over 200 years that adventurers have searched for the Treasure Pit of Oak Island, they have encountered oak log platforms every ten feet or so to the thirty foot level. From there, a drill probe used in 1849, encountered multiple layers of charcoal, putty and coconut fibre.  At the 98 feet level, a spruce platform guarding two oak chests containing loose metal pieces (pieces of eight?) was discovered.

But the discoveries do not stop there.  Continued drilling, in 1897, found that there were, below the 98 foot oak chests, layers of wood and iron, a 30 foot layer of blue clay (a hand-worked watertight mixture of clay, sand and water) , a seven foot deep cement vault at 153 feet and an iron barrier at 171 feet.

Early on in the hunt for the Treasure, an inscribed stone (which has been lost over time) was found face-down in the Pit.  There have been various interpretations made of the inscription.  Below is a drawing of the inscription:

stone_inscription.gif (3794 bytes)

The most commonly accepted translation is as follows:

translation.gif (2893 bytes)

Today, Oak Island is owned by two individuals who still search of the treasure. 

Who knows, maybe some day we will know the true story of the mystery of the Treasure Pit of Oak Island.
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