Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Oak Island Money Pit

Oak Island – Location of the Money Pit

Oak Island is considered as the location of the Money Pit which is a site of over 200 years of treasure hunting. It is a 57 hectare island situated in Lunenburg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada and the island is one of the 360 small islands along Mahone Bay which rises to a maximum of around 11 metres above sea level.

To a casual observer, it seems like several others in this area of the province, where rocks and sand skirt the perimeter of this land while native forest together with brush; cover most of its interior. At first sight, this island conceals any evidence of historical importance though appearance could be deceiving, and inspite of the natural scenery and the serene setting of Oak Island, this island have an intriguing story, which is mysterious as well as tragic.

Oak Island Money Pit
Placed at 200 meters from the shore and connected to the mainland by a modern causeway, this is a privately owned island. Several excavations gave rise to layers of apparently man made artifice which laid buried deep as 32 meters though ended in collapsed excavations and flooding. Some debate that there is no treasure and that the pit could be a natural phenomenon, probably a sinkhole.

Unfolding of the Money Pit - 1795

The story of Oak Island’s Money Pit began unfolding in the summer of 1795 when Daniel McGinnis, a teenager observed strange lights on an island offshore from his parent’s house and on investigating the island for the source of the light; he noticed a peculiar circular depression of about 13 feet in diameter on the island’s forest floor.

McGinnis observed that several oak trees surrounding the depression had been removed. Besides he also observed that a block and tackle hung from a severed tree limb exactly over the shallow hole and though some of the researcher refutes the presence of the tackle and the block, he was convinced of what he observed that day that the scene became worth exploring. McGinnis decided to leave the island to seek the help of two friends, John Smith and Anthony Vaughan and the next day the three of them started their mission of excavating the mysterious site.

Together with his colleagues, McGinnis excavated the depression and discovered a layer of flagstone, few feet below and on the pit walls were visible marking from a pick. As they dug further, they discovered layers of logs every 10 feet and finally abandoned the excavation at 30 feet.

Eight Years Later – Excavation by Onslow Company 

Eight years thereafter as per the original articles and memories of Vaughan, another company investigated and it came to be known as the `Money Pit’. The company – `Onslow Company’, sailed 300 nautical miles from central Nova Scotia near Truro to Oak Island with their focus on obtaining what was believed to be a secret treasure. They carried on the excavation down to around 90 feet and noticed layers of logs or marks at every ten feet with layers of charcoal, putty as well as coconut fibres at 40, 50 and 60 feet. One earlier written account relates that they had recovered a large stone at 80 -90 feet with the inscription of symbols where several attempts were made by researcher to decipher the symbols.

One seems to translate it as `forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried’. These symbols are considered to be currently associated with the `forty feet down’, translation which is seen in several books that appeared in True Tales of Buried Treasure written in 1951, by Edward Rowe Snow an explorer and historian. He states that he had been given this set of symbols by Reverend A.T. Kempton of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Besides this no more information regarding his involvement in the Oak Island tale is related. Subsequently the pit was flooded up to a level of 33 feet and the excavation was abandoned for 45 years since bailing did not reduce the level of the water.

The Truro Company Re-excavation 

The Truro Company was then formed in 1849 which re-excavated the shaft back down to 86 feet level but it got flooded again. They then drilled into the ground below the bottom of the shaft and according to a 19th century account, the pod auger or drill, passed through a spruce platform at 98 feet of 30 m, a 12 inch of 300 mmhead space, 22 inches -560 mm of what was described as metal in pieces, 8 inches of 200 mm oak, another 22 inches of metal – 560 mm, 4 inches of 100 mm oak, with another layer of spruce and lastly a clay 7 feet – 2.1 m, without striking anything else.

Description is made available by the `Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’, - `Golden Age of Piracy’ on what occurred between 1690 and 1730. During that time, Nova Scotia only had a few European settlements and with over 200 nautical miles that separated the remote bays of the current day Nova Scotia from the commercial centre of colonial Boston, pirates would frequent these areas near Oak Island. Due to the unpopulated wilderness of the region it became an abundance of natural resources to restock and repair vessels and its isolation provided an appropriate location to harbour their vast misbegotten treasure. There is also a related incident of a notorious pirate, the infamous Captain William Kidd, who had admitted of burying unspecified wealth of treasure in that area before he was captured in 1699.

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