Oak Island Pit Mystery

Oak Island Pit Mystery

by Capers Jones

One of the most curious human-caused mysteries of the past 300 years is the famous “Oak Island Pit” (aka The Money Pit of Oak Island) which has never been fully explained or fully explored, in spite of almost a dozen well-funded excavation attempts using fairly sophisticated equipment and professional engineers.

What has been found is an extremely sophisticated civil engineering project involving multiple lateral tunnels hundreds of feet long that feed sea water into a deep bore tunnel below a depth of about 90 feet.

Oak Island is a small island of about 140 acres off the coast of Nova Scotia in Mahone Bay. An image of Oak Island is shown below. The causeway in the lower left was built to allow excavation equipment to reach the island.

OakIsland_satIn 1795 a young man or teenager named Daniel McGinnis found a circular depression under a tree and a block and tackle on a branch above the depression.   With several friends they began to dig into the depression. They found a layer of flagstones a few feet below the surface and then a layer of logs at about 10 feet. The young men continued but stopped digging at 30 feet. They found another layer of logs but no bottom and nothing else.   They left the pit partly covered and nothing more happened for several years.

In 1803 a larger group with began to excavate again, funded by a man named Simeon Lynds. This was a group called The Onslow Company. This group also found layers of logs, and reportedly a stone slab with some kind of symbols on it:

OakIsland_stoneThe original slab has gone missing, so the picture above is only a replica of uncertain authenticity.

This second group reached a depth of 93 feet and found the bottom getting muddy. Using a crow bar that they stuck in the mud they found what seemed to be a stone cover or slab at perhaps 96 feet, underneath the mud. This cover seemed to be about the diameter of the shaft. Since it was late in the day they stopped and planned to dig to the cover the following morning.

In the morning they found that the pit had 63 feet of water in it. The group tried to dig a second pit nearby but it filled with also, so they gave up.

Nothing much happened until 1849 when another group, the third, tried to excavate the original pit. This group was able to drill through the stone floor at about the 96 foot level and reportedly brought up a few links of a gold chain.

This third group found that the water in the pit was salty and went up and down with the tides. They explored the edges of the island and found a surprisingly sophisticated water trap.   At a place called Smiths Cove about 500 feet from the pit were five stone water traps with coconut fibers and eel grass to filter the water. The five pipes came together into a single pipe leading into the pit.

Since coconut trees obviously do not grow in Canada this finding indicates a tropical location for some of the engineering gear. Interestingly, carbon dating showed the age of the coconut fibers to be between 1200 and 1400 AD. This does not mean that the pit was dug so early, because coconut logs and fibers might have been stored somewhere for perhaps hundreds of years before being transported to Oak Island. Even so the age of the coconut is an interesting mystery.

The group tried to divert water away from the pit and even built a coffer dam to keep water away from Smiths Cove, but the pit remained filled with water. This group ran out of money in 1851 and stopped excavation.

In 1861 a fourth attempt was made to reach the bottom of the pit by a group called the Oak Island Association. This group tried to pump the water out of the pit with steam pumps. But unfortunately a boiler exploded killing one worker and injuring several more.

The pumps could not remove water as fast as it was entering the pit. In 1864 this fourth group also ran out of money and stopped.

There were additional attempts in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, and 1936. None of them found the bottom of the pit but they did discover a second water pipe feeding water into the pit at about the 153 foot depth level. This pipe came from the opposite side of the island rather than Smiths Cove. The combined digging of all these groups made such a mess that the exact location of the original tunnel became obscured.

The Oak Island Treasure Company, the 1893 group, claimed to have found a vault at about the 150 foot depth. The vault was stated to be seven feet by seven feet and when drilled seemed to contain soft metal. The drill bit when withdrawn had a piece of parchment with the characters “VI” printed in ink. Other groups have not found any vaults.

One interesting historical note about the 1909 attempt: This was a group called The Old Gold Salvage Group and one of its members was future president Franklyn Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt kept up an interest in Oak Island for as long as he lived. Shown below is a picture of this group with the young Roosevelt third from the right:

OldGoldSalvageGroupThis picture was taken on Oak Island circa 1909 long before Roosevelt developed polio in 1921 at the age of 39. Roosevelt is third from the right, wearing a white shirt, and smoking a pipe.

President Roosevelt is not the only famous person interested in Oak Island. The actors Errol Flynn and John Wayne also had an interest, and Wayne was reportedly part owner of one of the excavation groups.

In 1959 a group headed by Robert Restall and his son attempted excavations, only to find tragedy instead. Restall’s team was building a shaft to stop the water entering from Smiths Cove when the tragedy struck.

Restall’s son found his father unconscious in the bottom of the shaft at the 27 foot level and went to help, only to become unconscious himself. Three more workmen attempting to help also passed out. A visitor, Edmund White, who was a fireman suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a pump engine. White had a rope tied to his waist to pull him up and was able to save one of the workmen, but the other four died before they could be removed from the shaft. After these deaths rumors began to occur about the “Oak Island curse.”

In 1965 a man named Robert Dunfield built the causeway to the mainland and brought over heavy equipment including a 70-foot digging crane. Dunfield attempted open-pit mining and dug a hole about 100 feet in diameter and 140 feet deep. He found a few porcelain shards but no treasure. Heavy rains slowed down the work and added to the cost, and eventually Dunfield ran out of money.

In 1970 another group called the Triton Alliance attempted a different approach of drilling a number of bore holes and sending down cameras. Apparently there are natural caves under Oak Island. Reportedly there were pictures taken of chests, but this is uncertain. An image from the web shows what all of these groups found between 1795 and 1970:

1804_MoneyPitOf course this image is a composite of indirect findings and not the result of a single excavation.

In 1995 the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute did a survey of Oak Island. They found three natural tunnels in the area of the pit, and concluded that the flooding might have been due to natural causes rather than man-made water tunnels. The tunnels were found by using red dye which later was seen around the edges of the island in three places. Of course that does not explain the coconut fibers. Neither does it explain the layers of logs found in the pit itself, that clearly were placed their during the construction of the pit.

Between 1795 and today about a dozen formal attempts have been made to excavate the Oak Island pit, without finding anything more than perhaps a few gold links, a piece of parchment, a stone with carved symbols, an anchor, an axe, and some ceramic pieces. While digging tools such as a pick have also been found, they are more likely to have been left by some of the more recent excavators rather than the by the original crew.

After abour 230 years of attempted excavation that cost more than $20,000,000, involved more than 500 people, and cost six lives the Oak Island pit remains a mystery as to its origins and purpose and who constructed it.

Based merely on the depth of the pit and the dimensons of the tunnels and the sophistication of the water traps, it can be assumed that the pit complex was designed by one or more very capable civil engineers. Probably at least 100 workmen were involved in digging the pit and the water traps over a period of at least two years. In fact since Nova Scotia has long winters with snow and freezing weather, the construction of the pit may have taken more than two years due to the short outdoor work season when the ground was not frozen or snow covered.

This Oak Island pit was not a minor effort and probably exceeded the engineering skills of pirates such as Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. The Oak Island pit is a very sophisticated civil engineering project. The pit has been the subject of several books and even television shows such as one on the History Channel. A search on Amazon will turn up at least six books about the Oak Island pit.

In addition to the pit itself Oak Island also had what appeared to be a construction in the shape of a cross involving nine large stones. Whether these stones are related to the pit or were made by Native Americans is unknown. Some of the stones had drill holes about two inches deep and over an inch in diamter, for unknown purposes.

There are many hypotheses about who built the Oak Island pit and what it was built for. Some of these provide fascinating glimpses into history. Following are some of the theories as to the pit’s origins:

  • One theory holds that the pit was dug by the crew of Blackbeard the pirate. Blackbeard was heard to boast that he had an underground treasure trove that could never be discovered.
  • One theory holds that the pit was dug by Captain Kidd, another pirate, although he did not spend much time in Nova Scotia. (President Roosevelt’s camp on Oak Island was called “Camp Kidd” after this pirate.)
  • One theory holds that the pit was used to hide the missing jewels of Marie Antoinette and was built by the French Navy. These jewels went missing from Versailles in 1791 and may have been taken from France by one of Marie Antoinette’s maids.
  • One theory holds that the Pit was built by the French army to hold treasures from the Fortress of Louisberg after it was taken by the British in the Seven Year’s War. The idea was to keep the treasure away from the British.
  • One theory holds that the pit was built by British Army engineers to hide treasure seized from the capture of Havana, Cuba in 1762. The Earl of Albemarle is cited in this theory.
  • One theory holds that the pit was constructed by Knights Templar and holds not only their treasure but perhaps the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant as well. Leaders of this order were arrested in 1307 and order dissolved in 1312. It was a wealthy order that provided banking services for much of Europe. Quite a lot of Templar treasure seems to have been spirited away and remains undiscovered; some of it may allegedly have been taken to Scotland and protected by the Sinclair family.
  • One theory holds that the pit was constructed by the Scottish Earl of Sinclair who allegedly visited America in 1398 (see the picture of the Westford Knight in the section on the Newport Tower). Sinclair was allegedly a secret Knight Templar and hence might have had some of the missing Templar treasure, although this is denied by the modern Sinclair family. In fact the whole Sinclair trip to America is denied by Sinclair’s descendants. However there is a placque in Nova Scotia that asserts that Henry Sinclair discovered America and it is claimed that he visited Nova Scotia, which is where Oak Island is located. There is also a Prince Henry society in Canada. It is an interesting coincidence that the Prince Henry theory coincides with the approximate age of the coconut fibers used to filter the water traps leading to the pit.
  • One theory holds that the pit was constructed by Masons due to what is claimed to be various Masonic symbols on the island and around the pit. Why the Masons would want to dig such a pit in unknown; unless as alleged Prince Henry Sinclair was a Mason.
  • One very unlikely theory holds that the pit was built by Francis Bacon to hide documentary proof that he wrote Shakespeare’s plays. This is due to finding a piece of parchment with “VI” written on it in ink. This theory seems embarrasingly off base.
  • One theory holds that the pit was built by Native Americans, probably the Micmac tribe who lived nearby. If so what it was built for is unknown since large deep pits are not common constructions among Native American groups.
  • One theory holds that the pit is a natural sink hole and not of human construction at all. There are in fact natural caves and tunnels under Oak Island. However enough artifacts have been found in and near the pit to indicate that humans did build at least portions of the pit even if it is a natural sink hole.

Considering the amount of money spent excavating the pit it is unfortunate that the excavations have been so haphazard and done so much environmental damage to the area. At this point it is probably not possible to separate the original construction from the work of dozens of later excavation attempts.

As of 2014 much of Oak Island is privately owned and the government of Nova Scotia requires permits to dig for treasure. Some digging continues in 2014 but apparently is no closer to finding out the purpose of the pit as previous crews. Oak Island remains a curious puzzle that has attracted a great deal of interest for almost 220 years.

Copyright 2014 by Capers Jones


oak_island_pit_shaft moneyPit_chart


  1. Iangislason says

    My take on this is if the people who went to all the work to construct such a complex chamber with flood tunnels thus making it almost impossible to get into ,there must be a back door entrance somewhere on the island or adjacent islands.I would imagine 1000 years ago oak island may have had a natural limestone sink hole with under ground caves that were formed naturally.Over the years of sea travellers some of which took the opportunity to build this pit by filling it back in using the oak logs and sand fill from the trenches they dug to the shore .The logs and flat stones were merely just to support the psand to close up the sink hole.I don’t think its rocket science to do the excavation in today’s times but I understand Rick and Marty’s concern of finding something of value before spending all the funds to do it.How you ask ?At a enormous cost dyke around the entire perimeter of the island and excavate.The goal would beto find the back door in but more then likely it has been disturbed when the open pit excavation was done earlier.Great Show good luck.

  2. Andreas Schmidt says

    It’s a very nice pirate story no doubt.

    But it’s an island, just above water and we’re talking about a complex system of booby traps. In order to create *safely* the money pit as theorized, hundreds of men should have worked on the island with XVI century tools to dig tons of earth and move them nearby, creating a hole of more than 400 feet in diameter, just to dig a 45° hole toward the “pit”.
    The problem now is not given by the depth, nor the huge amount of cubic feet of earth moved: given workforce and given time, you could do it. The huge problem is those men would have been under the sea level; a sea that’s 500 feet away.
    It’s a natural flooding system, to have the ocean so close.

    In my opinion, there’s nothing out there. It’s not possible.

  3. James says

    Nobody would go to so much trouble to construct this and not bury something down there. That doesn’t make common sense.

  4. Noonen says

    It is so elaborate, it must be the Knights Templar. If anyone is successful, I think it would be neat if the Ark of the Covenant were found. And I would like to see someone be able to block up those flood channels. As a Christian, anything to let people know the Bible is true and Jesus is real, receive Him into their hearts for the remission of their sins, be faithful and go to heaven—-wow, that would be best of all! Golly, this world has gotten so bad; even unbelievers are shocked and disturbed by all that is happening. Think of it, you can’t even let your child go out and play unsupervised.

  5. Jimmy says

    Very interesting story, and I will follow what happens when the two Brothers and their Farther try and find the treasure, who in their right mind go through the trouble of making all the deep tunnels and booby traps to hide nothing? And bearing oak planks 10 feet to 200 feet down in the ground.
    they had to be trying to hide something?

    • Mike Blatchford says

      And that my friend is just what they want you to believe, if it’s worth a lot you would do the same. The fact they can’t get to it tells you it’s not there. Would you bury your treasure so well you can’t retrieve it ?? No. You plan to come back.. Just give it some thought.

    • James says

      It is amazing that drillers today can tunnel horizontal under a river for miles with a casson to keep water out, but they can’t go down 160 feet vertical and keep the water out.

  6. Mike Blatchford says

    Oh by the way the real treasure of Oak Island is all the $$MONEY$$ spent in the area for supplies and services to help one more fool look for what is not there. I bet all the contractors and supply outlets in private are quite amused about all the fools spending their money to dig a hole to no where, and pray that they continue spending their money., and never figure it out, and being as it’s been going on for over two hundred years I would guess it still has a way to run before they run out of fools.

    Sorry if I hurt any feelings, fool once fool twice, well you get it……

    • Mike ONeill says

      Its in the financial interest of many people to perpetuate beliefs of there being “Something” down there – just think of the revenues to be earned by tourism, supplies and goods etc. Yes for sure, – theres good money to be made by a few who choose to bolster all this treasure talk. Just like the “Loch Ness Monster” in Scotland – many local people make lots of money by promoting and perpetuating myths of its existence

  7. Mike Blatchford says

    Well lets be honest, there is nothing there..
    Lets take it one step at a time.
    The coins found about the island, more likely then not were from ship crews getting water and other items like food and stuff. If you check a chart of the North Atlantic you will see that ships traveling west from Europe would land in the Nova Scotia area of witch there are many safe harbors to anchor and forage for what is needed to continue their voyage. The coins fell from the purse of seamen filing water casks and other shore related work as in gathering food.. There were no ships chandlers there at that time you were on your own. And the Templar coin they are so certain means they buried treasure is there, well “bull” the Templars stroke coinage everyone used it, so it could have come from anyone.
    Pirates? No a pirate ship has to small a crew to do what w done there. And it took a lot of time over a year to complete.
    OK the truth, if the Templars did it, it was not to hide or bury anything, it was to make you think they did and they buried it in plain site very close to the island. The Templars were not stupid and knew all would be looking so they gave us a place to look and not where the treasure is. Question would you hide something so well you may not be able to retrieve it? No you would not. The location of any Templar treasure went to the grave with the last Templar and he may very well had a heart attack over the it laughing his butt off.. Remember the cans of gold coins found in Northern California a few years ago they were just at the surface and if they were “6” inches deeper may never have been found and they have no idea where they came from.
    Two very smarts quotes: #1: Three men can keep a secret if two are dead. #2: Hide it in plain site.

  8. s.blakeney says

    The diagram of the money pit reminds of the Chinese pressure water clock! So u would only dig down down if you covers the hole above you,which mean the water from the sea is kept from coming in by it’s own pressure? SAME AS AN ENGLISH PUZZLE JUG which has sometimes 3 holes and two spouts to drink from

  9. Maurice says

    If money isn’t a factor, I would think to conduct a survey of the whole entire island using a full boar geophysical crew with geophysical equipment and map the entire island. My guess is what once was there is not anymore, how many people do you know would leave buried treasure????

  10. Archer says

    Rick and Marty Lagina, two brothers from Michigan, have bought most of the island and have renewed the efforts to discover the legendary treasure.

  11. BlueMojo says

    Does anyone know what happened to the original slab? The article states that it has gone missing, but when?

  12. Jorge says

    This is an extraterrestrial inside job.
    There is no explanation on how the flood shore tunnels were built. Unless his was built much before the actual shoreline. That is more than 4000 or more years ago when the sea shore was set back at least 100 or 200 feet or more providing for a less active tunnel flooding or flooded only when people were wandering around excavating….

  13. says

    According to the texts hidden by the abductee Nostradamus:
    (and/or his mentor. Research Simon Parkes, who has been ”abducted” by the same group which both Da Vinci and Nostradamus were – who had the same message in their ”riddles”)

    1. The Hidden Texts of Nostradamus have provided the Alkhemy terms which are ‘key’ words. Newton and Da Vinci used the same list.
    2. Amongst the key words are ‘Oak’, ‘quercus’ and ‘acorn’ all meaning a time portal.
    There is a very large list of other names meaning the same thing, including ‘Lotus’, ‘Nelumbo’ and ‘Rose’.
    We have all heard of Rose Lane a k a Rosslyn.
    3. The time gate, or ”stage gate” as Nostradamus puts it, is how people became prophets.
    In the quatrains where ever the word ”treasure” appears, it means a time gate.

    One can imagine how certain dictators in past times would not be the preferred person to possess a working time gate, such as Saddam Hussein.
    The very reason invasions of the Middle East occur is exactly this – portals and their possession.
    The Templars were sent to Oak Island to bury their ‘treasure’ where it could cause no harm.
    They planted the island down to Oaks because that is what was cached there.
    They had very important Off World assistance.

    The very first documentary regarding Oak Island, where they sent a laparoscope down, I saw for one extremely brief glimpse – the mechanical time gate with its looking glass. Exactly the same as the one Dan Burisch has illustrated.
    The next time over a year later when this documentary was repeated – that scene was deleted.

    The much bigger question remains: BIRCH ISLAND nearby.
    In the Alkhemy List the word BIRCH means:
    Ship, barque, canoe, boat VESSEL and the Earth.
    The word Island also means ”planet”.

    So MY question is this: what did they bury in Birch Island
    Was it the Vessel of Soloman?
    What vessel and what was its purpose?

  14. Brenda Brown says

    Thank you! This is the kind of article I would expect to read here. I so appreciate the well researched facts and the simple style they were put forth in. Very intriguing indeed! I’ve heard of Oak Island, but knew little about it. It sounds to me like it’s a truth whose time of revelation has not quite arrived. Curse or no curse, things have a way of coming to light when it’s their time. And if we have to choose from the possibilities of whose behind it, the fact that there’s constructed tunnels that run across the island makes me think there’s far more to this mystery than pirates and thieves trying to hide their treasure.

  15. says

    Thank You… one of my favorite stories…I grew up near this… have been waiting decades to hear what is to be found… so many theories…. my vote is that it is the “Ark of the Covenant”

    video? History Channel – The Arc of the Covenant: Oak Island, Canada / Kov?eg Saveza: Oak Island, Kanada – YouTube http://bit.ly/1pdpDZ6

    more updates on video? MYSTERY – Treasure on Oak Island (Documentary) – YouTube http://bit.ly/1uBpOiq

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *