The Fascinating Mystery of the Oak Island Money Pit (II)

Part 1 here.

Since the tablet had been found at 90 feet, the treasure had to be found at around 130 feet below ground. In 1861, the next group of treasure hunters tried their luck. The Oak Island Association employed over five dozen men, which was more than enough to finally uncover the treasure. They dug two more access tunnels but these were also inundated.

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As the second tunnel was flooding, a loud roar was heard coming from inside the Money Pit. The wooden supports installed on the sides of the pit had collapsed. However, this incident had also caused the bottom of the pit to give way. As the pit itself filled with water, debris was brought up. Among it, workers found a yellow dish and a piece of carved juniper wood.

Encouraged by the clues, the association installed a steam-powered water pump to drain the pit. An exploding boiler killed a worker and injured several others. The pit had claimed its first life. It wouldn’t be the last.

Despite spending a fortune, the Oak Island Association gave up in 1866. Their efforts had produced nothing.

When a copper coin was found on the island in 1890, people once again set their eyes on the Money Pit.

Attracted by its mystery, Frederick Blair and S. C. Fraser established the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1893. $30.000 bought them a three-year lease giving them exclusive rights over any treasure found during this period. The company would encounter difficulties without any sign of success. On March 26, 1897, tragedy struck again. The rope that was hoisting up a man named Maynard Kaiser snapped and he fell to his death. Following this incident, many workers became convinced that the treasure was cursed and refused to enter the pit.

Unable to properly drain the tunnel, the company resulted to drilling. After bypassing several layers of wood, stone and even metal, they reached a layer of wood splinters and coconut fibers, at a depth of 153 feet. An iron barrier prevented them from going deeper. The surprise came when the company sent samples of the wood and fiber to Amherst to be examined. A Dr. A. E. Porter inspected the sample and made a discovery that set fire to everybody’s heels. Among the debris Porter found a piece of parchment with the letters ‘VI’ written on it. The fragment was authenticated by specialists at Harvard University.

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Another discovery was made in the summer of 1897 but would not be revealed until 1931. As it turned out, William Chappell, one of the drill operators had found traces of gold on the drill bit but kept it for himself.

The following year would shed some light on the mystery of the pit. The treasure hunters were intrigued by the fact that all of the tunnels filled with water and suspected they were all linked, forming a complex network. They set out to test their suspicions and poured colored dye into the pit. By determining the dye’s path they would be able to identify the position of the flood channels and seal them off. If they succeeded, the flow of water could be cut off and the tunnels drained.

Much to their surprise, the men noticed the dye was coming out from the shoreline at an unexpected and distant point. Even with the help of dynamite, they were unable to obstruct the flood tunnels.

Intrigued by the enigma of the Money Pit, Franklin Delano Roosevelt joined the ranks of the treasure hunters in 1909. Although he found nothing, he never lost interest and even planned to return. The outbreak of World War II would prevent him from achieving this goal.

In 1931, Chappell told Frederick Blair about the gold he had found in 1897. Both men felt the call of the treasure buried in the pit and decided to give it another try. But they faced more problems than expected. For starters, following almost 150 years of excavations, the surface of Oak Island was covered with tunnel openings. Chappell’s team ended up excavating the wrong one. however, their dig managed to uncover several items, including an ax, a miner’s pick, fragments from an oil lamp and part of an anchor. They eventually ran out of money and gave up in 1932.

Next in line was steel magnate Gilbert Hedden. Since finances weren’t an issue, Hedden bought the eastern part of Oak Island, reached an agreement with Blair and hired competent workforce. His first attempt at uncovering the treasure took place in 1936 but returned nothing. The following year, while drilling in one of the many secondary shafts, his team discovered an oil lamp and sticks of dynamite at a depth of 65 feet. Further below, they came upon one of the original flood tunnels. Despite spending a $50.000 fortune on the expedition, Hedden suffered the same fate as his predecessors: failure to find what he was looking for.

In 1960 daredevils Robert and Mildred Restall moved to Oak Island to search for the treasure. Over the next five years, they would invest their efforts and life savings into excavating the now famous hoard. On August 17, 1965, as Robert was examining a freshly-dug tunnel, noxious gasses caused him to lose his consciousness and fall into the shaft. His son tried to rescue him but suffered the same fate. Two workers who tried to help them also succumbed to the fumes.

The legend around the Oak Island Money Pit says that the treasure will only be discovered after seven people have lost their lives in search of it. Six have died, one remains.

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In late 1965, geologist and investor Robert Dunfield began excavations of a previously unseen magnitude. Bulldozers, explosives and a 70-ton crane managed to reach depths of 190 feet. Although Dunfield’s efforts uncovered clues, such as pottery shards, multiple wooden platforms and an underground chamber carved in bedrock, he left the site in April 1966, after spending $130.000.

In 1969, the newly-formed Triton Alliance picked up from where Dunfield left off and began drilling in 60 different locations on Oak Island. They managed to find logs marked with Roman numerals as well as a collection of iron tools and items, all of which have been dated prior to 1790.

In 1971, the alliance recovered metal wire and chain pieces as well as fragments of concrete from borehole 10X. After consolidating the hole, they lowered a video camera inside. According to some sources, the camera ended up in a cave carved in bedrock. Inside the cave there were several wooden chests, along with a body or two. This led Triton to organize a diving expedition to the flooded chamber but despite ten attempts, nothing was retrieved. They eventually abandoned the dig in 1987.

Tighter regulations were imposed in 1989, limiting the number of licenses to excavate in the area. In 2010, the Canadian government passed the Oak Island Treasure Act, making treasure hunting in the area a very difficult and expensive venture.

To this day, no one knows what – if anything at all – lies buried in the Money Pit. But that hasn’t stopped speculations from running wild. Some say Captain Kidd or even Blackbeard himself stashed their riches on Oak Island.

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Others believe the pit might hide the true identity of William Shakespeare. The modest origins and education of William Shakespeare has led some to question whether he was the real author of the famous plays. According to them, Shakespeare’s writings were actually penned by Sir Francis Bacon, who wanted to protect his reputation against being labeled a meek playwright. The fact that Francis Bacon describes a self-flooding tunnel in his book Sylva Sylvarum has led some to believe that there might be a connection between him and the pit on Oak Island. They also claim that the piece of parchment recovered from the pit was actually a fragment of the documents that would prove this conspiracy to be true.

Another interesting theory is that the Money Pit might actually hide the famous treasure of the Knights Templar. During its days of glory, the order amassed great wealth and it is speculated that they also obtained invaluable Christian artifacts during their time in Jerusalem. Some historians claim that when the order was abolished by King Phillipe IV of France in 1307, the members who managed to escape arrest loaded the treasure on a ship headed west. Several peculiar stones with strange markings have allegedly been found on Oak Island, giving birth to the theory that artifacts such as the Holy Grail or the Ark of Covenant might be buried deep within its contorted tunnels.

Whether any of these items are indeed buried on Oak Island remains a mystery. Some have even claimed that the pit is nothing but a natural formation in which debris have accumulated over time. In any case, should you decide to find out for yourself, keep in mind what the legend says. Don’t become the seventh victim.

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