Oak Island Money Pit
Oak Island is a 140-acre (57 ha) island in Lunenberg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of about 360 small islands in Mahone Bay and rises to a maximum of 35 feet (11 m) above sea level. Oak Island is noted as the location of the so-called Money Pit, a site of numerous excavations to recover treasure believed by many to be buried there. The island is privately owned, and advance permission is required for any visitation. The story of the Oak Island treasure pit is fascinating and complex. It is a story of mystery, greed, controversy and very little humour. The Oak Island treasure has been sought by many individuals and corporations for over 200 years.
It has attracted all strata of explorer from: the three teenagers who first discovered the site; to Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former US President, whose company Old Gold Salvage group searched in 1909; to the swash-buckling actor Errol Flynn who wanted to search Oak Island in 1940, but was discouraged when he found the search rights belonged to a company owned by fellow actor John Wayne.
In 1795, 16-year-old Daniel McGinnis discovered a circular depression in a clearing on the southeastern end of the island with an adjacent tree which had a tackle block on one of its overhanging branches. McGinnis, with the help of friends John Smith (in early accounts, Samuel Ball) and Anthony Vaughan, excavated the depression and discovered a layer of flagstones a few feet below. On the pit walls there were visible markings from a pick. As they dug down they discovered layers of logs at about every ten feet (3 m). They abandoned the excavation at 30 feet (10 m).
According to one of the earliest written accounts, at 80 or 90 feet (27 m), they recovered a large stone bearing an inscription of symbols (symbols pictured above). Several researchers are said to have attempted to decipher the symbols. One translated them as saying: “forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” No photographs, drawings, or other images of the stone are known to have been produced prior to its claimed disappearance circa 1912.
Investors formed The Truro Company in 1849, which re-excavated the shaft back down to the 86-foot (26 m) level, where it flooded again. The next excavation attempt was made in 1861 by a new company called the Oak Island Association which resulted in the collapse of the bottom of the shaft into either a natural cavern or booby trap underneath. The first fatality during excavations occurred when the boiler of a pumping engine burst.
Further excavations were made in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1959, none of which were successful. Another fatality occurred in 1887, when a worker fell to his death. (Six people have been killed in accidents during various excavations.)
What is Buried There?
There has been wide-ranging speculation as to who originally dug the pit and what it might contain. Man-made structures under Oak Island do in fact exist as discussed in many books. Whether these structures are the remains of prior excavation attempts or artifacts left behind by those who allegedly built the Money Pit are unknown.
Some believe the pit holds a pirate treasure hoard buried by Captain Kidd or possibly Edward Teach (Blackbeard), who claimed he buried his treasure “where none but Satan and myself can find it.” Others agree it was dug to hold treasure but believe this was done by someone other than pirates, such as Spanish sailors from a wrecked galleon or British troops during the American Revolution. John Godwin argued that, given the apparent size and complexity of the pit, it was likely dug by French army engineers hoping to hide the contents of the treasury of the Fortress of Louisbourg after it fell to the British during the French and Indian War.
There is a story that, like most others regarding the island, lacks adequate archival sources, or any quoted sources at all, which places the priceless jewels of Marie Antoinette (which are historically missing, save for some specimens in the collections of museums worldwide) on Oak Island. During the French Revolution, when the Palace of Versailles was stormed by revolutionaries in 1789, Marie Antoinette instructed her maid or a lady-in-waiting to take her prized possessions and flee. Supposedly, this maid fled to London with such royal items as Antoinette’s jewels and perhaps other treasures, such as important artwork or documents. The story then goes on to say that this woman fled further afield from London to Nova Scotia; through the royal connections she would have had during her service to the queen at Versailles, she managed to contract the French navy to help construct the famed ‘pit’ on the island.
Still others have speculated that the Oak Island pit was dug to hold treasure much more exotic than gold or silver. In his 1953 book, The Oak Island Enigma: A History and Inquiry Into the Origin of the Money Pit, Penn Leary claimed that English philosopher Francis Bacon used the pit to hide documents proving him to be the author of William Shakespeare’s plays, a theory recently used in the Norwegian book Organisten (The Organ Player) by Erlend Loe and Petter Amundsen. It has been asserted that the pit might have been dug by exiled Knights Templar and that it is the last resting place of the Holy Grail. [Source]
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