The Oak Island Treasure Pit

Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada is home to the world’s most mysterious booby trap. The Oak Island treasure pit has been the focus of the world’s longest and most expensive treasure hunt and one of the world’s deepest and most costly archaeological digs.

In 1795 at age 16, Daniel McGinnis made his way across to Oak Island on a fishing expedition. When he arrived on the island he discovered a tree whose branches had been cut in a way which looked like it had been used as a pulley. Below the tree McGinnis found a hole and decided to come back the next day with some people and shovels to work the hole. The next day they returned and began to dig.

Two feet below the surface they came across of layer of flagstones covering the pit.

At 10 feet down they ran into a layer of oak logs spanning the pit.

Again at 20 feet and 30 feet they found the same thing, a layer of logs.

Not being able to continue with just shovels, they partnered up with the Onslow Company, and formed for the purpose of the search.

They continued down to 90 feet, finding a layer of oak logs at every 10 foot interval. Besides the boards, at 40 feet a layer of charcoal was found, at 50 feet a layer of putty, and at 60 feet a layer of coconut fiber.

At 90 feet one of the most puzzling clues was found – a stone inscribed with mysterious writing.

After pulling up the layer of oak at 90 feet and continuing on, water began to seep into the pit. By the next day the pit was filled with water up to the 33 foot level. Pumping didn’t work, so the next year a new pit was dug parallel to the original down to 100 feet. From there a tunnel was run over to The Treasure Pit. Again the water flooded in and the search was abandoned for 45 years.

An ingenious booby trap had been sprung. The Onslow Company had inadvertently unplugged a 500 foot waterway that had been dug from the pit to nearby Smith’s Cove by the pit’s designers. As quickly as the water could be pumped out it was refilled by the sea.

This discovery however is only a small part of the intricate plan by the unknown designers to keep people away from the cache.

In 1849 the next company to attempt to extract the treasure, The Truro Company, was founded and the search began again. They quickly dug down to 86 feet only to be flooded. Deciding to try to figure out what was buried before attempting to extract it, Truro switched to drilling core samples. The drilling produced some interesting results:

At 98 feet the drill went through a spruce platform. Then it encountered 4 inches of oak and then 22 inches of what was characterized as “metal in pieces””. Next 8 inches of oak, another 22 inches of metal, 4 inches of oak and another layer of spruce. The conclusion was that they had drilled through 2 casks or chests filled will coins. Upon pulling out the drill they found splinters of oak and strands of what looked like coconut husk.

One account of the drilling also mentions that three small gold links, as from a chain, were brought up. Unfortunately no one knows where they have gone.

Interestingly, the earth encountered beneath the bottom spruce platform was loose indicating that the pit may have gone even deeper. A later group of searchers would find out how much deeper.

The Truro Company returned in 1850 with plans to dig another parallel hole and then tunnel over to the Money Pit. Just like before, as they tunneled over, water began to rush in. They brought in pumps to try to get rid of the water but it was impossible to keep the water out. During the pumping someone noticed that at Smith’s Cove during low tide there was water coming OUT of the beach.

This find lead to an amazing discovery:  the beach was artificial.

The Artificial Beach:

It turns out that the pit designers had created a drain system, spread over a 145 foot length of beach, which resembled the fingers of a hand. Each finger was a channel dug into the clay under the beach and lined by rocks. The channels were then filled with beach rocks, covered with several inches of eel grass, and then covered by several more inches of coconut fiber. The effect of this filtering system was that the channels remained clear of silt and sand while water was still allowed to flow along them. The fingers met at a point inland where they fed sea water into a sloping channel which eventually joined the Money Pit some 500 feet away. Later investigations showed this underground channel to have been 4 feet wide, 2 1/2 feet high, lined with stone, and meeting the Money Pit between the depths of 95 to 110 feet.

To the Truro Company, the answer was now simple – just block off the water flow from the beach and dig out the treasure. Their first attempt was to build a dam just off the beach at Smith’s Cove, drain the water, and then dismantle the drain channels. Unfortunately a storm blew up and destroyed the dam before they could finish.

An interesting note: the remains of an older dam were found when building the new one.

The next plan was to dig a pit 100 feet or so inland in the hopes of meeting with the water channel underground at which point they could plug the channel. This scheme too failed. And this was the last attempt by the Truro company to uncover the secrets of Oak Island.

The next attempt at securing the treasure was made in 1861 by the Oak Island Association. First they cleared out the Money Pit down to 88 feet. Then they ran a new hole to the east of the pit hoping to intercept the channel from the sea. The new shaft was dug out to120 feet without hitting the channel and then abandoned.

A second shaft was run, this one to west, down to 118 feet. They then attempted to tunnel over to the Money Pit. Again the water started to enter this pit as well as the Money Pit. Bailing was attempted and appeared to work. And then the bottom fell out. Water rushed into the shafts and the bottom of the Money Pit dropped over 15 feet. Everything in the Money Pit had fallen farther down the hole. The big questions were why and how far?

Over the next several years different companies tried to crack the mystery unsuccessfully. They dug more shafts, tried to fill in the drain on the beach, built a new dam (which was destroyed by a storm), and drilled for more core samples. They met with little success.

Over the next several years The Oak Island Treasure Company would dig more shafts, pump more water, and still get nowhere. In 1897 they did manage to clear out the Money Pit down to 111 feet where they actually saw the entrance of the flood tunnel temporarily stopped up with rocks. However, the water worked its way through again and filled the pit.

The treasure company then decided that they would attempt to seal off the flow of water from Smith’s Cove by dynamiting the flood tunnel. Five charges were set off in holes drilled near the flood tunnel. They didn’t work. The water flowed into the Money Pit as rapidly as ever.

At the same time a new set of core samples were drilled at the pit itself. The results were surprising.In 1893 a man named Fred Blair along with a group called The Oak Island Treasure Company began their search. Their first task was to investigate the “Cave-in Pit”. Discovered in 1878 about 350 feet east of the Money Pit, the cave-in pit appears to have been a shaft dug out by the designers of the Money Pit perhaps as a ventilation shaft for the digging of the flood tunnel. It apparently intersected or closely passed the flood tunnel. While it was being cleared by the Treasure Company it started to flood at a depth of 55 feet and was abandoned.

Between 130 and 151 feet and also between 160 and 171 feet a blue clay was found which consisted of clay, sand, and water. This clay can be used to form a watertight seal and is probably the same “putty”; that was found at the 50 foot level of the Pit.

The major find was in the gap between the putty layers. A cement vault was discovered. The vault itself was 7 feet high with 7 inch thick walls. Inside the vault the drill first struck wood, then a void several inches high and an unknown substance. Next a layer of soft metal was reached, then almost 3 feet of metal pieces, and then more soft metal.

When the drill was brought back up another twist was added to the whole mystery. Attached to the auger was a small piece of sheepskin parchment with the letters “vi”; “ui”; or “wi”; What the parchment is a part of is still in question.

More convinced than ever that a great treasure was beneath the island, The Treasure Company began sinking more shafts in the attempts to get to the cement vault. They all met with failure due to flooding.

In May of 1899, yet another startling discovery was made. There was a second flood tunnel. This one was located in the South Shore Cove. The designers had been more ingenious and had done more work than previously thought. Though this find certainly strengthened the case that something valuable was buried below it didn’t bring anyone closer to actually finding the treasure.

Fragment of Inscribed StoneThe first was a fragment of a stone bearing inscriptions similar to those found on the inscribed stone discovered at the 90 foot level of the Money Pit. The second discovery was of several old timbers in Smith’s Cove. These timbers seem to have been from the original designers due to the fact that they were joined using wooden pins rather than metal. As will be seen later these timbers were only a small part of a much larger construction.

The next treasure hunter was Erwin Hamilton. He began his search in 1938 by clearing out previous shafts and doing some exploratory drilling. In 1939 during drilling two more discoveries were made. The first was the finding of rocks and gravel at 190 feet. According to Hamilton they were foreign and therefore placed there by someone. The second finding came after clearing out an earlier shaft down to 176 feet. At this point a layer of limestone was encountered and drilled through. The drilling brought up oak splinters. Apparently there was wood BELOW the natural limestone.

In 1959 Bob Restall and his family began their attack on the island which ultimately proved tragic.

His one discovery was made on the Smith’s Cove beach while attempting to stop the drain system. He found a rock with “1704” inscribed on it. Though others believed it was prank left by a previous search team, Restall believed it was from the time of the original construction.

In 1965 tragedy struck. While excavating a shaft Bob passed out and fell into the water at the bottom. His son, Bobbie, attempted to rescue him as did two of the workers. All four apparently were overcome by some sort of gas, perhaps carbon monoxide from a generator, passed out and drowned.

Bob Dunfield was the next to take on the island. In 1965 he attempted to solve the problem with heavy machinery – bulldozers and cranes. He attempted to block the inflow of water at Smith’s Cove, and may have succeeded. Then on the south side of the island an trench was dug in the hope of intercepting the other water tunnel and blocking it off. The flood tunnel wasn’t found, but an unknown refilled shaft was found, possible one dug by the designers of the Pit. The shaft apparently went down to 45 and stopped, its purpose is unknown.

Dunfield’s other findings were based on drilling. It was determined that at 140 feet there was a 2 foot thick layer of limestone and then a forty foot void. At the bottom of the void was bedrock. This information matched with a drilling done back in 1955. There seemed to a large, natural underground cavern, something apparently common with limestone around the world.

Daniel Blankenship, the current searcher, began his quest in 1965. In 1966 he dug out more of the original shaft found by Bob Dunfield in 1965. It turned out that the shaft did go beyond 45 feet. Blankenship found a hand-wrought nail and a washer at 60 feet. At 90 feet he met a layer of rocks in stagnant water. He assumed this was part of the south water tunnel but couldn’t explore further because the shaft could not be stopped from caving in.

A pair of wrought-iron scissors were discovered in 1967 buried below the drains at Smith’s Cove. It was determined that the scissors were Spanish-American, probably made in Mexico, and they were up to 300 years old. Also found was a heart shaped stone.

Smith’s Cove revealed some more secrets in 1970 to Triton Alliance, a group formed by Blankenship to continue the search. While Triton was building a new cofferdam they discovered the remains of what appeared to be the original builders’ cofferdam. The findings included several logs 2 feet thick and up to 65 feet long. They were marked every four feet with Roman numerals carved in them and some contained wooden pins or nails. The wood has been carbon dated to 250 years ago.

The western end of the island has also revealed several items. Two wooden structures, along with wrought-iron nails and metal straps were found at the western beach. Nine feet below the beach a pair of leather shoes were unearthed.

The next major discoveries came in 1976 when Triton dug what is known as Borehole 10-X, a 237 foot tube of steel sunk 180 feet northeast of the Money Pit. During the digging several apparently artificial cavities were found down to 230 feet.

A camera lowered down to a bedrock cavity at 230 feet returned some amazing images. At first a severed hand could be seen floating in the water. Later three chests and various tools could be made out. Finally a human body was detected.

After seeing the images, the decision was made to send divers down for a look. Several attempts were made but strong current and poor visibility made it impossible to see anything.

Soon after the hole itself collapsed and has not been reopened.



About TheTaoOfD
Truth Seeker. Truth Spreader.

64 Responses to The Oak Island Treasure Pit

  1. Pingback: » The ZazenLife Strange Place Collection Zazen Life

  2. Jennifer says:

    what a fantastic story! Surely the minng exploration equipment around these days would be able to do scans of the area to do more. I am intrigued and would love to hear or more happening. A great story writer would have a field day with the possiblities of a non-fiction-based adventure book.
    Look forward to reading more of your work 🙂

  3. Pingback: The Oak Island Treasure Pit « Zazen Life | Four Blue Hills (A repository, of sorts)

  4. This is absolutely amazing!! Thanks for posting, love stuff like this!

  5. judithatwood says:

    Thank you for providing background about this place. I’d heard of it before, but I had no idea of the history behind the location. In fact, I thought the hole was still being explored, and I had never heard about anyone finding a body!

    Welcome to I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on various posts. Please consider visiting the Friends page, and telling us about yourself, and your blog — I’m trying to offer the community opportunities to learn of and visit each other. Please remember to include a link to your blog. And thanks so much for signing on with all of us.

  6. I love this story. No end to mystery. And thanks for the follow.


  7. Maxi says:

    Like Rob’s comment about the bird. Still, I am impressed at a 16yr. old takin’ it on.

    Thank you for the friendship – Maxi

  8. Joseph L Cartwright says:

    There is nothing there, the island was logged 30 years prior to the start of the hunt. The current video of a hand is were??? How much coconut fiber, not a lot, not even every ten feet by the “original” accounts. The story has been stretch. The water comes in from the bottom of a natural cave.

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  10. Tim says:

    Sounds like a job for GOOGLE

  11. pattisj says:

    Interesting story. Thanks for subscribing to my blog. 🙂

  12. adonis49 says:

    Very disappointing story. New technologies are no match to good earlier design? What could be the conclusion? Pirate treasure hole? State military underground tunnels?…

  13. dougjohns says:

    I have always loved this mystery. And I have used it to illustrate/introduce the serious dedicated treasure hunt/search taught in the parables of Jesus: a treasure worth investing energy in an all out search) Matthew 13:44-46 (buried treasure in a field, pearls) and LUKE 15:1-10 (lost sheep, coin) …. and thanks for following me!

  14. dinnin789 says:

    I want to see the pictures they got of the inside of the cave, with the severed hand and bodies

  15. Zack Jones says:

    ive heard about this on the history channel once before. they were talking about wonders of the world and ancient treasures. alot of people believe that this is the hiding place of the ark of the covenant. i cant remember exactly but it said something about crusaders pirating the ark back in the say from some famous family during some type of war and was never seen again. this ark according to scripture contained the power of the universe. some believe that some of the arks protectors may have assembled this trench in attempt to hide it from everyone for the rest of eternity making it impossible to get to the bottom of. to this day no one knows whats down there, yet we have been to the moon and sent robots to mars. theres obviously something down there thats sacred, and secret. we should fund exploration with modern day technology and they could probably get it.

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  17. Craig says:

    Hmm, interesting story, but sounds like a very romanticized one too.

    • TheTaoOfD says:

      awesome! thanks for sharing both sides of the story. i read about this but i felt like the information in the article is more along the lines of fact

  18. Rob says:

    “I’m just saying, a five ounce bird cannot carry a one pound coconut.”

  19. Quote- Soon after the hole itself collapsed and has not been reopened. End Quote.

    I think a fitting ending to the story is – ‘Yet’!

  20. Cody Petrus says:

    They finally excavate it, and find the first trollface. Problem?

  21. I have to wonder about the effort the original creators put into creating this hiding place.

  22. This indeed is incredibly fascinating!

  23. Art says:

    Proof that some things should remain hidden….

  24. cubbyholes says:

    Where is Indiana Jones when you need him?

  25. metaphyzgirl says:

    OMG this is so intriguing, I will always be wondering what the heck is buried down there ! Also, thank you for following me.

  26. Fascinating story indeed. I was really intrigued as to why so much effort went into hiding this ‘treasure’ so long ago. What a lot of labour would have beeninvolved, as well as engineering and planning skill.
    I will check out more of your entries when I have time, but I also wanted to say thank you for following me.

  27. Jush says:

    I need to go play Minecraft now

  28. Well someone(s) went to a lot of trouble to keep something buried. It looks as though whatever it is wants to stay buried and even forces of nature want whatever it is to remain buried. Let’s leave it…

  29. treefarmer says:

    I am over 60 years old and I remember reading this article when I was a teenager. I do not remember the original author or publication — possibly Popular Science or Mechanix Illustrated or Parade? The ending is a cheating “then he woke up” tease.

  30. Kathy says:

    Great mystery. I hope someone else takes up where the last seeker left off. I hate not knowing the ending.

    (Thanks for the follow.)

  31. Alex says:

    Well there’s only one way to solve this… strip mine the entire island. If you dig up everything then there aren’t any channels left to flood the chamber now are there?

  32. I remember reading about this pit when I was a kid. Amazing that, to this day, no one has gotten to the bottom of it. So to speak.

  33. Peter says:

    You can not carbon date something to 250 years ago. That is not how it works. Look it up. Good story though

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  35. Carolyn says:

    How did the coconut fiber get to Nova Scotia? That was not indigenous…..

  36. Ken Rush says:

    I remember following this story as a boy in the early 60’s
    My teacher thought that the one way the original designers could retrieve the treasure was if they had dug all night after they first encountered seeping water.

    I remember something about it didn’t fill up with water until the next day and by then the trap had sprung

  37. inkspeare says:

    Fascinating, thrilling, wow.

  38. slpmartin says:

    What a fascinating story…just loved reading it.

  39. Orange says:

    “Minecraft: Origins”

    This is so cool, though, I love mysteries like this.

  40. Wow! What a mystery!

  41. Blake says:

    Seems like people were playing real-life “Minecraft” 300 years ago.

  42. Ashley Key says:

    Wow, very intriguing! great article, kept me in suspense. a little disappointed that still no one has found what is at the bottom…you would think that with the technology we have today just for common use that someone would have been able to get into whatever is down there by now… Still, very great article, I may do some searching around and see if there is anything else about it not mentioned here, you’ve got my attention!

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  44. Katrael says:

    I read about this somewhere and it’s fascinating as to how ingenious people could be when they need to be. I don’t think they’ll ever know what was in this pit let alone recover what’s there. Great post

  45. Tom Staley says:

    Glad I found your posts, I have skimmed through them and subscribed, Can’t wait to settle down and read the great stuff you have.

  46. Watson says:

    like all good booby traps, it probably had a mechanism for the builder to disable it, should he have returned. undoubtedly all the digging has ruined said mechanism long since

  47. gardeniahung says:

    Very interesting article about sunken treasures hidden and found in the Oak Island Treasure Pit. Are You An Archeologist?

  48. willowdot21 says:

    This just so amazing why would anyone do such dangerous and time consuming work to create such a trap!! Well at least it has kept lots of people busy? BTW thanks for following my blog I shall be having a nose around here to see what you have concealed here! Now I want to take this chance to wish you and yours a very happy Christmas and a healthy 2012. xx

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  50. John Galt says:

    Clive Cussler used many of the facts from this story in one of his books, fascinating!! Indeed….

    • Spencer Wolfe says:

      Which Clive Cussler book if you don’t mind me asking, I’m a big fan of the Cussler books and would love to read the book this one is in. Thanks

  51. Dana Burton says:

    Well CRAP!! Apparently the origional people never intended to retrieve this cache either. It just keeps collapsing in on intself and costing more than it’s worth to find it. Huh. Who will try next?
    The suspense…

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