"the legend of oak island"

by elizabeth you

gruesome deaths, mysterious caves, and buried treasure. it sounds like the description of a summer blockbuster movie, but there are places in this modern world where such intrigue still exists. one such place is Oak Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. oak island is located off of the eastern shore of nova scotia near the idyllic fishing village and tourist trap of Lunenburg. rumor has it that it is the final resting site of thousands - maybe even millions - of dollars of buried gold and treasure.

how could a fortune exist hidden so well that even with all of our knowledge and computer gadgets we can't uncover? how can generations of full-time treasure hunters still fail to complete this mystery? to find out the questions to these and other important questions, i took a trip to oak island, hoping to reveal the truth. unfortunately, oak island has been closed to the public for many years. the owners had promised to open it back up in august of 2001 but as my recent exploration found out, they have not fulfilled that promise. the road to oak island, sadly, is padlocked.

allow me to give you a little history lesson of oak island for those of you who have never heard of it. it is estimated that in the eighteenth century, treasure was buried on the island. until the treasure is uncovered, the truth about when and where it came from will remain a mystery. in 1795 three boys (Jack Smith, Daniel McInnis, and Anthony Vaughan) were in a rowboat exploring the many uninhabited islands in mahone bay in nova scotia. they happened upon the island which was once called glouchester (according to an 1760's map by Des Barres). they followed an ancient trail and stumbled across an oak tree that one branch had been cut off and there was a deep depression in the ground in front of the tree.

this area of islands and protected bays had long been home to pirates and buccaneers, including the famous Captain Kidd. local legend said that this island was cursed by the devil. the boys, believing they had found the site of buried pirate treasure, returned the next day to begin evacuation of the pit. ten feet down they discovered a 3-inch thick wooden platform firmly secured into the dirt and clay. they broke through the platform but found another ten feet below that. thirty feet below the surface, a third platform was discovered. seven years passed as the boys (now men) built a cabin and later homes on the island and continued to explore what became known as "the money pit."

the excavation continued to 95 feet with a thick wooden platform at 10-foot intervals. finally they came to a new layer- one of charcoal, coconut fibers, and clay. under this clay was a 3 feet by 18 inches stone tablet covered in undecipherable markings. below the stone was more dirt and planks, but before they got a chance to excavate further, tons of saltwater rushed into the hole and filled all but thirty feet of the pit. when they dug a parallel tunnel, it too was flooded with water. smith and mcinnis gave up but continued to live on the island.

in 1849 the treasure hunt was picked up by Doctor Lynds who drilled through the water and just past 100 feet they began to drill into a loose metal believed to be gold. three links of a metal chain and a "mystery object" were removed. more explorations revealed five tunnels with openings in the ocean floor that supplied 800 gallons a minute of water to flood the tunnel if disturbed. all efforts to divert the water or collapse the tunnels failed as there were many more openings they had yet to discover. many people lost their life savings or large investments in failed digging operations, including investors like Franklin D. Roosevelt. the only other major breaks were finding a scrap of parchment in the late 1890's and a pair of rocks (on opposite sides of the pit) with drilled out holes in 1938.

many theories have emerged about the origin of the oak island treasure. some of the more popular explanations are:

  • Sir Frances Bacon, greatly theorized to be the literary voice behind Shakespeare, preserved all of his original manuscripts in a time capsule below oak island.
  • Sir Frances Drake, in the service of Queen Elizabeth I used this island as a depot, and may have collected the treasure from pirate ships they raided in a vault at the island
  • Captain Kidd, the infamous pirate, may have claimed oak island as his home base. maps made of his stronghold match the layout of the island, and one purported kidd treasure map marks the location of the "money pit"
  • the French government, while trying to build a stronghold at nearby Ft. Louisbourg, may have used the island as a "bank"
  • a Spanish treasure galleon was damaged in a storm or battle and limped its way into the sheltered port at oak island, ultimately burying its booty before the ship was lost altogether. a large, unidentified ship has been discovered sunk in the nearby waters
  • in 1972 the British attacked Havana, Cuba, and raided all Spanish vessels in the area, but the estimated hundreds of millions of pounds, but the money never made it back to England and may still be buried below oak island.
  • Prince Henry Sinclair (a Knight of Templar) visited nova scotia in 1398 nearly a hundred years before Columbus' voyage. Sinclair was in possession of religious artifacts and treasures that have never been recovered.

since 1795 six people have lost their lives (four died in the shaft in an operation on August 17, 1965) and many others have lost an estimated one million dollars and we are no nearer to knowing the truth. the island is privately owned (currently by Fred Nolan and Robert Young) and has been surveyed as recently as 1995 but the treasure remains elusive. there are many theories about who left the treasure, from pirates to Egyptian princes to the royal British army, but no solid evidence has been found. someone went to great lengths to hide the secret of oak island and at least 200 years later, their secret, and their treasure is still out of reach.


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