Many words have been invented by treasure hunters and writers to explain Oak Island’s mystery. The island has been the site of many costly and time-consuming treasure searches. The quest for lost treasures on the Island has lasted over two centuries, and no tangible treasures seem to have been discovered. With hints strongly signaling the possibility of treasures being concealed, nothing has prevented humanity from attempting to discover what lies under Oak Island. Archaeologists have spent a lot of money attempting to crack one of the world’s greatest puzzles. Many of the treasure hunters have been driven by folly and greed in efforts to find the possibly hidden treasures in the island. One thing is certain though: until something tangible is found, the search and digging in the island will not stop. In the meantime, people will keep relying on the different theories that try to explain the origin of the mysteries of the island.
There are numerous pieces of literature that have been written to narrate the history as well the possible theories that try to explain the mysteries. There are a number of mysteries in the Oak Island. However, the Money Pit is perhaps the most important one as it has been the subject of treasure hunts and literature over the past two centuries. Other major mysteries that have characterized the Oak Island are the Nolan’s Cross and the Triangle Shaped Swamp. This essay uses literature to examine the various aspects that surround the Oakland mysteries. The focus will be on the mysteries above and the theories that have been tried to explain them.
The story begins in 1795 when Daniel McGinnis, a teenager, saw glistening lights at night on the island from their residence in Nova Scotia, Canada (Nelson). Given that the island was only a short distance from the colonial Boston commercial center which was an enclave for pirates, the only thing on McGinnis’ mind was buried loot. As such, the next morning, together with two of his friends, he set out to find out what might have been left behind. When they found a strange circular depression that was about 13 feet in diameter, their curiosity was increased as this pointed out to the possibility of treasures being left behind. A series of flagstones and rotten oak logs that they found as they dug only increased their curiosity. Everything pointed out that the shaft was man-made and there was nothing that could convince them otherwise. Their efforts, however, were unsuccessful as they found no treasures to satisfy their curiosity. This does not mean that there were no signs of the shaft being dug by humans. At 30 feet, McGinnis and friends had dug as they could, and such the excavation was abandoned. Little did they know that they had begun the story of one of the longest and most expensive mystery excavation by man.
In the years that followed, many companies, individuals, and exaction teams with dreams of finding the hidden treasures in the Island partook in the digging excavation in the same spot that McGinnis had started digging. This not only led to the deepening of the hole, but also of the mystery that surrounds the island. It seemed McGinnis was not satisfied with the first excavation and that is why early in the century that followed he and his friends were joined by a businessman, Simeon Lynds. Together they formed Onslow Company, which was a treasure hunting group that continued the work that the trio had started earlier. As such, Onslow Company began operations in 1804, and according to O’Connor, the excavation team found an oak platform at intervals of 10 feet exactly (10). The oak platforms were found along with other materials including charcoal, clay layers, and coconut husks. This further increased their curiosity as they pointed out human activity in the digging of the shaft. As they continue digging, they found the biggest clue at 90 feet that significantly confirmed the activity of people in making the hole and the existence of treasures beneath. They found a stone that bore an inscription that they could not decipher. Further digging showed a wooden chest was below, but since it was already evening, they decided that there were done for the day. What they found and experienced the morning that followed discouraged them to a great extent. They found 60 feet of the shaft they had dug had been filled water. Furthermore, attempts to remove the water using buckets failed as the level remained the same. This marked the end of the Onslow excavation for the year. In the year that followed, with their curiosity remaining unsatisfied, they decided to dig a parallel shaft as a way of bypassing the water that was filling the first one. When the second shaft suffered the same fate, the expedition of the Onslow Company was discontinued. This, however, was not the end of the excavation by the ever curious human beings.
The ‘Money Pit’ lay undisturbed until 1849 when yet another firm, the Truro Company decided to uncover the mystery. The company decided to re-excavate the original shaft. The excavation team was prepared for the water that characterized previous excavations and thus made use of a hand-operated auger to dig and remove the materials. When they found wood, clay, and links of god chain, they were convinced that hidden treasures lay below. However, their efforts to use additional shafts that they dug nearby were unsuccessful water filled them just like it did in previous excavations. They too had to abandon their operations in 1850 without solving arguably the biggest mystery in the world. According to O’Connor, there were other operations in between 1858 and 1862 that experienced the death of a workman. These operations, just like the ones before were also unsuccessful. This, however, was not the end of the excavation of the Money Pit mystery.
The group that followed was the Oak Island Association. This group decided to take a different approach, and unlike previous excavation teams, it focused on dividing the tunnel that fed water to the original team. They dug a 120-foot shaft that missed the tunnel, and they decided to sink another one. When a tunnel was extended to the Money Pit from the second shaft, water began coming in. This was followed by a collapse of the Money pit as evidenced by a loud crash. Later theories suggested that the ‘chests’ had fallen into a void deep below the dug shafts and they arrived at a conclusion that a booby trap was made by the people who hid the treasures to protect them (O’Connor 29).
After decades had passed, Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897 found a “pirate tunnel” that led to the Money Pit from the Smith’s Cove. Smith’s Cove is a beach on the island. The company had been created four years earlier, and this further shows the interests of people in unearthing the mysteries of the Oak Island. As such, they sought to close off the tunnel in order to drill shafts that will not be filled with water. The diggings by the company led to the discovery of parchment fragments that had two letters that could possibly be “ri.” It is also suggested that the excavation team of the company found cement. However, the company was faced with a tragedy as one of its workers slipped from a pulley and died. The company eventually ran out of funds, and its assets were sold in 1900. This marked the end of the team that came out without anything in regards to the treasures. The operations of all the previous companies and individuals left the area’s topography demolished as the original appearance when it was first started by McGinnis was no longer there. Despite the areas topography completely changed by excavation operations, the 20th century marked another period that human beings sought to find out what lied below the Oak Island. As previous excavations, the operations by newer individuals and companies in the 20th century yielded nothing in relation to the treasures they sought to find. Instead, most were characterized by tragedies such as death. As informed by O’Connor, there was the death of four men in a shaft in 1965 (143).
In the year 1966, David Tobias and David Blankenship came together to continue the expedition that previous excavators had done unsuccessfully. The two partners carried extensive drillings where 60 boreholes were sunk in 1967. Even after enlisting a number of investors, their efforts were significantly hindered by land disputes, mechanical problems, and the 1987 crash of the Stock Market. Their major dig that was valued at $10 million was thus stopped when the partners fell out. Again, this was not the end of the excavation by humans into the Money Pit. Currently, the Money Pit is the subject of an expedition the History Channel where advanced technologies are used to find what lies below the island (History Channel). While some discoveries have been made, there have not been any hidden treasures that have been found by the excavation teams. From the excavations that have been characterized the island since the discovery by McGinnies, history has shown that there have been numerous counts of unsuccessful expeditions that have been carried by humans to find out what lies below the Island. The teams were left only with tragedies. Huge amounts of money were lost in the efforts to find the possibly hidden treasures, and a number of people were left dead. However, it is deducible that the efforts by man to find out what is below the island will not stop until a satisfying answer to his curiosity is unearthed. With technology advancing, nothing can stop human beings from the continuation of the expedition started by McGinnis.
Interestingly, it is not only the Money Pit that is the source of the mystery surrounding the Oak Island. There are other features that form part of the Oak Island mystery. This section seeks to examine these other mysteries. Before expounding further on other mysteries, further evaluation is done on the Money Pit, which as mentioned earlier, is the greatest mystery of the Island if not of the world.
At the heart of Nova Scotia lies a very deep shaft that was sunk centuries ago into the Oak Island. As informed by Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe, at 33 meters below the surface, lie two flood tunnels that link the Money Pit to the Atlantic Ocean (1). It is these flood tunnels that have rendered the excavation of many individuals and companies unsuccessful. While the numerous attempts that have been carried out in the past two centuries have failed, there are still others that are ongoing.
Solving the mystery of the Money Pit will involve answering some hard questions. Given that the Money Pit was dug before 1775, who at that point time had the administrative and engineering capabilities to organize and plan such a deep mystery? Who at that time had the available workforce that could carry out such work? The members of the workforce, were they coerced, enslaved, or did they work voluntarily? Who during the period had the time to maintain the workforce on site to carry out tasks for several months? Who possessed the necessary equipment and the resources needed to carry out the tasks as the Money Pit was being constructed? Who had the motivation to come up with such a mysterious project?
As seen above there exist numerous questions that continue to puzzle researchers, channelers, clairvoyants, archeologists, dowsers, among other individuals whose curiosity had been aroused by the mysteries surrounding the pit. As time continues, finding answers to the questions become hard, and the mystery deepens.
However, the book by Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe tries to answer some of the questions surrounding the mystery (51). Although the answers offered by the authors do not solve the mystery, they provide a possibility to what might have happened that led to the formation of the Money pit. According to the authors, a person who could have possessed the necessary administrative and engineering skills at the time could have been a military or a naval officer (51). This military or naval officer must have had a specialty in defending or attacking fortified positions. In addition, he must have been an engineering officer. Also, the engineering officer must have had experience in silver or gold mining. Therefore, from these explanations, a possibility could be a Viking boat builder, Aztec or Mayan Architect, a Celtic sea-rover. If one of the candidates above is responsible for the construction of the Money Pit, he must have possessed a well-disciplined and large workforce. In addition, the workforce must have worked uncomplainingly and unquestioningly as they built the system under the Oak Island. As such, they must have been guided by order and discipline. As seen, finding a possible candidate who could have constructed the Money Pit is hard. The possibility of one person or a group of people being motivated enough to construct something as magical as the money pit is small.
Whichever the case, there are possibilities that necessitated the constructed such amazing piece of engineering work. According to Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe, there must have existed something of uniquely huge value that required a complex depository like the Money Pit (55). As such, the builders were motivated to keep the valuable thing as safe as they could. Another possibility is that it was something that was taken to be holy and sacred and required no disturbance. If this was the case, the motive of construction of the Money Pit was to protect the holy thing. Another possibility could have been that the Money Pit was constructed to secure something very dangerous. As such, it was the intention of the builders to ensure that it was totally secure. These are only but possible explanations. The real truth, for now, is only known by the people who made the shaft. Others have to wait until the ongoing excavation ti find something, that is if they at all they will.
As mentioned earlier, it is not only the Money Pit that characterizes the mystery of the Oak Island. The Nolan Cross in another mystery found on the Island. According to Finnan, Frederick Nolan carried out expeditions on his property and came up with deep findings that continue to characterize the mystery of the island (79). According to the author, Nolan found stones had been positioned on the island (79). The positionings of the stones followed precise mathematical measurements as well as geometric patterns. It was the conclusion of Nolan that a vast and well-organized enterprise had been performed on the island by people who had extensive knowledge of engineering and mathematics.
The largest and perhaps most dramatic discovery by Nolan was the megalithic cross that was embedded on the ground on the island. The cross is made up of five granites stones shaped like a cone. Each of them weighed about 10 tons (Finnan 82). Of the boulders, four of them are positioned to form the arms and body of the cross and the fifth one is a third away from the base. A sixth one, according to Finnan, was found at the exact midpoint of the two boulders forming the arms of the cross. This sixth rock which was made of sandstone that was softer had been eroded or worked on by hands to portray a human head appearance. What is intriguing about the cross is the dimensions. The measurements between granite boulders and the middle stone are exactly the same: three hundred and sixty feet. It is the conclusion of Nolan that the cross comprises a geometric code that was made by military engineers that pointed out to the direction of the real treasure. It is the belief of Nolan that the treasure is part of huge wealth taken by the British after the 1762 Havana sacking. He believed that while some of the booty was shipped to England, some part of it was diverted to Oak Island by secret military officers. However, as pointed out by Finnan, radiocarbon dating debunks the theory and points out that the construction of the money pit was done at a much earlier time. However, he made one discovery that added to the mystery surrounding the Oak Island. His cross was additional evidence showing mysterious activities happening earlier in time on the island.
Triangle Shaped Swamp
This is yet another mystery on the Oak Island. Given its shape, it is the belief of many people that the swamp is manmade. Just like it is with the Nolan’s Cross, people believe that the swamp is related to the treasure that his hidden in the island. Specifically, theories have pointed out that Money Pit was created in order to turn away attention from the real place where the treasure was hidden. Therefore, the real location of the treasures could be at the swamp that is triangular shaped. As seen, there are many possible explanations to the location of the treasures. If at all there were any treasures, the people who hid them must have been very smart given that for two centuries, humans with advancing technology have failed to find out their location.
As mentioned earlier, there are numerous theories that have been extended to explain the mysteries surrounding the Oak Island. These are just theories. The existence of theories only means that mystery is significant enough to trigger humans to develop possible explanations for its existence. Some of these theories point out to legends being architects of one of the greatest mysteries that has spanned over more than two centuries.
Pirates and Privateers
This theory associates the mysteries of the Oak Island to a notorious pirate, William Kidd. Given that he was a notorious privateer, the theory holds that Kidd could have hidden his treasures in the Oak Island. Many tales have been told by old men on their dying beds alluding to be part of the privateer’s crew. Some of these tales pointed out to these crew members having knowledge of the existence of hidden treasures; some of which point to Oak Island. However, Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe argue that Kidd had little or no chance at all of possessing something valuable or the engineering skills and the men required to construct something as mysterious as the Money Pit (126). As such, while he may have been a great privateer, the chances of his involvement in the Oak Island are slim. However, given that everything surrounding the Money Pit seems mysterious, the involvement of Kidd cannot be ruled out.
According to Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe, there may be another privateer that could be credited with the construction of the Money Pit: Henry Morgan (130). Morgan is clearly differentiated in character from Kidd as he was a charismatic leader. He is associated with the Oak Island because of his raid on Panama. The well-planned raid involved a force of approximately 2000 buccaneers. Despite being ambushed by Indian archers, the indomitable pirates led by Morgan managed to attack Panama successfully. The spoils from the attack and others could have motivated Morgan to get involved in the Oak Island. With enough resources and man power, it is a possibility that he is the man behind the mysteries of Oak Island.
Celts and Vikings
The Celts and Vikings are part another theory that tries to explain the origin of the Money Pit. It is not irrational to consider the Celtic sea-rovers as the constructors of the Money Pit because they carried out numerous expeditions into the Atlantic. One of their expeditions might have given birth to the construction of the money pit. Vikings are among other possible people that could have constructed the Money Pit given that they are always keen to explore more living space. According to Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe, there exists evidence linking Vikings to the exploration in the Atlantic coasts of the US as well as Canada (140). As such, the authors point out both the Vikings and the Celts would have possessed the skills, the organization, the discipline, and the strength required to execute the work on Oak Island.
The Indomitable Templars
This theory has it that founders of the Order went to the Temple of Solomon site to carry out excavation and identify the treasures and secrets hidden beneath. They had suspected that maybe the Ark of the Covenant was hidden in a secret compartment below the Temple. As such, this theory has it that maybe below the Oak Island; there is the Ark of the Covenant as well as other ancient treasures.
Bacon’s Secret Secret Cypher
This is yet another theory and has it that Francis Bacon was the real author of poems and plays that have been attributed to William Shakespeare. Given that he had more than enough experience, education, and talent, he was capable of authoring them. Therefore, according to the theory, the original manuscripts of the works of Shakespeare as well as Christopher Marlowe, and other valuable treasures, could be hidden below the Oak Island.
The mystery surrounding the Oak Island is intriguing and continues to trigger human curiosity. Although numerous excavations involving expensive budgets have been carried out on the island, they have been hugely unsuccessful in solving one of the biggest mysteries of the last two centuries. Until something tangible is discovered, the curiosity of humans in regards to Money Pit and the Oak Island as a whole will only continue to grow. In the meantime, however, various theories as explained in this paper offer possible explanations that human beings can rely on.
Fanthorpe, Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe. The Oak Island Mystery: The Secret of World’s Greatest Treasure Hunt. Toronto: Hounslow Press, 1995.
Finnan, Mark. Oak Island Secrets. Halifax: Formac, 3002.
History Channel. The Curse of the Oak Island. n.d. 7 July 2017
Nelson, Byran. Is this the wildest treasure hunt in history? The mystery of the Oak Island Money Pit. 28 March 2017. 6 July 2017
O’Connor, D’Arcy. The Big Dig. New York: Ballantine, 1988.