This article was originally published on our website: storieswithpictures.com
Treasure islands have captivated the minds of men since the start of sea travel. As the Golden Age of Piracy came about in 1700s, hiding loot in remote isolated places became the new trend. Pirates might have disappeared, but their silver and gold remain hidden somewhere, waiting to be discovered.
So what about the Oak Island, then? It’s a 140-acre patch of land covered with forest and swamps, located off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada. It’s as remote as an island could get, making it the perfect spot to hide pirate’s loot and various treasures from all over the world.
It has been bothering the minds of treasure-hunters for over 227 years, and for good reason. Some people speculated it was the spot of Knights Templar and their hidden riches, while others thought it was connected to Marie Antoinette and her jewelry. The truth, as always, turned out to be much more exciting and more complicated at the same time
Treasure Dumping Ground
Rumours have been circling around the Oak Island being the ultimate treasure dumping ground for centuries and some people even believe it might be the home to Holy Grail and some hidden William Shakespeare manuscripts.
While that may or may not be true, those rumours started as early as 17th century and have been growing more popular ever since! Back in the day it was all about pirates and everyone was sure that this was the very island Captain Kidd, one of the most famous pirates in the world, stashed his loot to avoid being prosecuted for piracy.
According to a crewman on the Kidd’s ship, the treasure was worth £2,000 (around £500,000 or $ 680,545 today). That sum of money was definitely enough to pique everyone’s interest!
The First Explorers
The Oak Island might have remained just that – a bunch of treasure rumours if it wasn’t for a boy named Daniel McGinnis and his two friends, who have heard about the buried loot of Captain Kidd and kept an eye out for anything unusual.
The Oak Island might seem like a mundane patch of land in the middle of nowhere, but only until you start digging. During a fishing expedition, the lucky trio stopped by the island to restock on their supplies and stumbled upon an unusual depression in the ground.
Needless to say, they started digging and went all the way down for around 30 ft (9 m), revealing a huge pit filled with oak platforms, flagstones, and building instruments. Next, something unusual happened…
They Stopped Looking!
For some weird and unknown reason as soon as the boys reached the depth of 30 ft, they stopped their dig. The location was already known as the Money Pit due to the prospects of finding some real treasure there, so it’s really unlikely they would just stop looking at that point.
Chances are they actually found something and were content enough to stop their rigorous search, which required lots of time and strength as the boys didn’t have any special tools.
Others believe they dropped the search due to superstition as the Oak Island later got a bad rep for being cursed. But that was only the beginning of the treasure hunting craze that drew people from all over the world to this little island!
The First Proper Excavation Left Everyone Speechless
The word about McGinnis and his short treasure hunt got out and drew even more people to the Oak Island. This was the time when the Onslow Company joined the search for Captain Kidd’s gold and this time they were equipped with proper excavation gear.
They managed to dig as deep as 90 ft (27 m), finding more man-made logs that were located in even intervals, which made everyone believe The Money Pit was, in fact, created for some purpose and, of course, they believed it was to hide some loot!
Onslow Company managed to salvage one spectacular piece of evidence before the tunnel they’ve dug up got flooded with seawater. No matter how much they tried, they lost all access to The Money Pit.
The Enigmatic Stone
One of the weirdest and most enigmatic finds made on the Oak Island is the stone with symbols that no one could decipher. The stone itself hasn’t survived till today, but according to historic accounts and first hand descriptions – it was a sight to behold.
Found in the early 1800’s, the stone has spent a considerable amount of time being a prized possession of the Smith family, where it was built into the chimney and was used to entertain the guests who tried to decipher the mysterious symbols.
The stone was later removed and sent to Halifax, where professor James Liechti managed to finally translate the inscription. According to him, it meant: "Ten feet below are two million pounds buried". One more piece of the Oak Island puzzle hinting to a great treasure buried in its depths!
Why Hide Treasure There at All?
You might be wondering why would anyone go so far to hide their prized possessions, gold, and jewelry when they could simply own all of it and live happily ever after? Well, those were different times back then and no one could guarantee that their riches would be safe with them.
It was the time of great conflicts and wars when the island was first discovered. The Seven Years War was raging along with the French-Indian War, which were driving people away from their homes in search of isolated places to save their riches.
If we look at the Oak Island from that perspective – it was the perfect place to stash away whatever valuables people had. And if they had the means to reach the island, they must have been hiding more than just a chest of gold and jewelry!
Piracy was Blooming Back Then
As far as history is concerned, Oak Island wasn’t just a great spot to hide from the horrors of war – it was also an ideal spot for pirates who could stop there to restock on their supplies.
When you’re a pirate you don’t really want to visit any major ports to get some water and wood, especially if you’re loaded with precious loot. That’s why islands like this were particularly popular among this adventurous bunch.
The Oak Island’s location also made it a perfect spot to stash away whatever goods they managed to plunder. While this scenario might seem a bit far-fetched to the modern city-dweller, such were the days of freedom-loving seafarers and their dangerous lifestyle. But what about that treasure? One more surprising historical figure got the Oak Island fever – one of the Presidents of the United States!
The President of the U.S.
Yes, none other than Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself was inspired by the Oak Island's mysterious treasures. As a young man, he joined an excavation party organized by the Old Gold Salvage Group, that went to the island with the full force of proper equipment and a group of professional divers.
Please mind that it was 1909, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the search party came back empty-handed. The Money Pit didn’t want to reveal its secrets just yet…
Heavily inspired by his grandfather’s stories, who was a sailor and a merchant, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sure the island was packed with all kinds of goods. He monitored all treasure-hunting parties that went to the Oak Island, but the place would start revealing its mysteries much, much later.
The Oak Island’s Death Toll
While treasure hunting might seem like an exciting hobby, not many people realize just how dangerous it might be. Digging deep underground holes that may be flooded with water at any moment isn’t really the safest things to do, especially as a family business.
But this didn’t stop Robert Restall, who came to live to the island with his whole family and dedicated his life to finding the fabled treasures. But alas, that adventure didn’t last for long.
In 1965, after digging up a 27 ft shaft, Robert Restall was going down to explore it, but accidentally inhaled some hydrogen sulfide fumes. He fell down and his 18-year-old son went to his rescue, but was overcame by the same fumes.
The Oak Island Curse
Two more men tried to help the father and son who vanished in the shaft, but met the same fate! Four people died there in just one day, with only one worker left alive to tell the story.
As tragic as it may be, there is one more explanation of why those deaths happened at all – it turns out the island is cursed! And according to that curse, seven men will perish before they’ll be able to find the treasure.
All in all, six people perished during various treasure-hunts throughout the history of the Oak Island, so it might be cursed after all! Still, two more adventurous brothers came to the island in search of riches despite all the deaths and hardships that were waiting for them around each corner of this godforsaken land.
The Lagina Brothers Have Something Others Don’t
Marty and Rick Lagina have always been passionate treasure-hunters, so when they put their feet on the Oak Island, cursed or not, they knew they were onto something. Much like everyone else before them they felt that the island had a treasure trove of secrets to be uncovered, but they had something no one else before them had.
Marty and Rick dedicated their whole lives to uncovering the mystery of the Oak Island and, apart from that, were wealthy enough to support their lives’ mission with the state of the art technology and the coolest gadgets one could possibly imagine.
Naturally, they were luckier than their predecessors and the Oak Island started slowly removing its layers of enigma, revealing what’s hiding in its depths. But that definitely didn’t happen at once!
Born Treasure Hunters
The Lagina brothers might be all grown-up now, but their passion for treasure-hunting started years before when they were just little kids. Not only were they reading about the Oak Island throughout their whole lives, but they also started treasure-hunting as soon as they could walk!
Rick Lagina was only 10 years old when he first felt the urge to look for a treasure – something mysterious and precious that’s been lying underground for centuries.
Rick’s and his brother’s first treasure search happened in their hometown in Kingsford, Michigan, where they recruited a bunch of kids to help them move a huge granite rock they believed could be hiding some treasure underneath. They didn’t find much, but it was the beginning of their treasure-hunting career.
To prove that their intentions were very serious, the Lagina brothers didn’t beat about the bush for too long and simply went ahead and purchased half of the Oak Island! Along with it, they obtained 50% of the Oak Island Tour Company and whatever riches, gold, and jewelry they might obtain on the land they bought.
The Blankenship Clan own the other half of the territory, making it a win-win for both sides. If the brothers don’t find anything – at least the locals have earned some money for their property.
And if they find a big treasure, the Oak Island will become one of the biggest attractions in the area that will bring flocks of tourists to the place – all this at no cost for the Blankenship Clan!
Of course, the brothers went to the infamous Money Pit first and started digging where everyone else has been digging before for years. And why not? Evidence pointed to some valuables hidden there.
At least that was the place where some human activities have been recorded before and many of the treasure-hunters and historians believe that the Money Pit didn’t get flooded on its own. In fact, there was a flooding system that was activated by some traps to prevent treasure-hunters from finding the loot.
One of the first finds by the Lagina brothers was the Spanish coin dating back several centuries. Where there’s one coin, there should be more, right? At least, that’s what they believed at the time.
Finally, a Real Treasure Map
After making a few other significant finds, like an ancient Roman sword that had no business lying hidden in the ground of a Canadian island, the treasure-hunters had a truly unusual visitor – Zena Halpern, a historian and researcher who had dedicated her life to finding all there is to find about the mysterious order.
She presented the Lagina brothers with a carefully made copy of an ancient map created in France somewhere in mid-1600s. The map depicted the Oak Island, out of all places, and had some mysterious inscriptions on it talking about hatches and some secret mechanisms, all pointing to valuable items stashed away somewhere on the island.
According to the writings on this map, there was indeed some kind of treasure (or something valuable) and it originated in Africa. But was the treasure-hunting duo brothers able to trace the markings and actually find what they were all about? Let's see what they dug up next.
Actual Human Remains
What no one expected to find on a Canadian island were the remains of a Middle Eastern person! Well, not exactly full remains, but the treasure hunters did find a piece of a skeleton of the Middle Eastern ancestry.
What business did they have so far away from their home? This all had a distinct aura of some secret business done by the Templars in faraway lands, especially knowing that at some point in time they all had to fled and take all their possessions with them.
Marty Lagina was now sure that something truly extraordinary happened on the island in 1600s - he still didn’t know whether it had something to do with the Knights Templar, but one thing he knew for sure – that island was no ordinary place and people started visiting it much earlier than everyone thought!
No One Expected to Find This in the Ground
Were the treasure hunters right after all? This unusual island seemed like a very special place that has seen some extraordinary historic events that no one knew about. One of their next finds was truly groundbreaking – they unearthed an ancient led cross with a hole on top.
This old cross dated somewhere between 1200’s and 1600’s, making it a truly ancient find, not only on the island, but in the whole region as well. It also meant that someone was visiting this remote destination long before it was officially discovered and much earlier than America was discovered by Christopher Columbus!
A Medieval Cross buried deep down inside an island in the pre-Columbian America, now that’s a find worthy of a mention in a TV show (which, in fact, actually happened). We aren't sure what happened there back in the day, but it could easily change our whole knowledge about American history.
The Order of Solomon's Temple
Historians have reasons to believe that the cross was actually connected to the Templars and their unique history. But what do we really know about them?
The Order of Solomon's Temple was a military organization based on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (hence the name of the order) that was active roughly from 1119 to 1319. Their deeds are shrouded in mystery as they weren’t only skilled soldiers, but they were also great scientists and money managers, who developed one of the earliest forms of financial system.
They were closely connected to the Crusades and once the Holy Land was lost, they became very unpopular among powerful people and King Philip, who had a big debt with the order, used this situation to destroy the Templars. Still, many of them fled and, rumour has it, took most of their riches with them. It wouldn't be surprising that some of those valuables ended on such a remote location. After all, the order was all about secrecy!
There is another explanation as to why this type of cross was found on the island and it’s also connected to gold. Back in the day transporting gold and silver really wasn’t safe as the treasure could easily be stolen by some adventurous pirates.
That’s why merchants came up with a way to smuggle gold unnoticed – they used similar led crosses, but they were actually fake. Precious gold was molded into a form of crosses and encased in a simple led coating to hide what was beneath it.
Gold and led are both heavy metals, so it would have been easy to use such crosses to smuggle gold. But who would go all the way to hide them on this remote island, out of all places?
Finally, Something Truly Valuable
The treasure-seekers have been digging up the Oak Island since 2006 and for the first time in the history of excavations they finally found something that was officially tagged as treasure by the Treasure Trove License.
When they uncovered the infinitely beautiful rhodolite garnet, both brothers couldn’t believe their eyes. Rhodolite stones look very similar to rubies – they have a deep raspberry shade with a purple hue, which looks remarkable in the sun.
This stone is believed to be around 500 years old! But what’s even more interesting about this garnet is that the stone in it most likely originated in Africa. Did this mean that there were some ships passing by the Oak Island while going from Africa, loaded with valuables?
A Breathtaking Gem
This was one of the many precious things discovered in the infamous Money Pit. While most people were sceptic about some kind of treasure lying down there, the treasure-hunting duo has always believed there was one. And they were right!
The lost treasures of the Oak Island have slowly started uncovering themselves to the eager treasure-hunters who were persistent enough to never give up on their search. But what was that stone doing so far from Africa?
It could actually be connected with the legend of Marie Antoinette gems that was also connected to the Oak Island at some point. Precious stones like that were also used by Romans and Egyptians in religious purposes. Still, there were no facts explaining what was this gem doing in the boggy pit on an island in the middle of nowhere.
Did Francis Drake Build the Money Pit?
The Money Pit offered as many treasures as it posed questions. Who had the right knowledge and engineering prowess to build something so elaborate? Every time the Lagina brothers tried to clear the water from the Money Pit to dig deeper, it was filled with water from some unknown source.
The main theory was it came from a set of tunnels built specifically to avoid strangers getting into the Money Pit. One of the main theories was the Francis Drake was the one behind such an engineering marvel.
He had great knowledge about coastal mining and had a crew that could build him the most elaborate set of tunnels deep underground. He was also a very famous pirate who had hoarded a huge amount of treasure over the years, so he could easily be the one hiding part of his riches at such a remote location. But then the brothers made an even more ground-breaking find…
What’s Hiding Beneath The Swamp?
On the other side of the island, far from the Money Pit, the treasure-hunting duo set on a different quest altogether – the triangular shaped swamp has been bothering them for some time and after making a few peculiar finds there, they decided it had to go.
Ancient wood stumps hinted that the swamp was once dry area, and if so, what if there was something else there long before it turned all mushy and boggy? Their gut was telling them there was something unusual there.
That’s when they made a find that has turned their worlds upside down as they have started uncovering a set of stones after removing patches of dried up swamp. But they weren’t just any stones – they were man-made and carefully put together with a single purpose!
The Hidden Pathway
What the treasure hunters and their team stumbled upon was an ancient pathway stretched from one corner of the island to the other. With a ship wharf on one end, the cobble path was stretching for a few miles before it disappeared into the forest.
But the direction it disappeared into was pointing right at the Money Pit! This meant that at some point in time there was a ship docked there and someone was transporting something (treasure, perhaps?) from one end of the island to the other.
Otherwise, why go through all the trouble of building such an elaborate pathway? Those people needed to carry something and it was quite heavy. If the pathway, indeed, goes all the way through the island and to the Money Pit, this would mean that the treasure was undoubtedly there.
The Mysterious Object
Another patch of swamp nearby the ancient stone wharf housed just as many secrets. It was just simple logic – if one swamp was hiding a manmade ship wharf with a stone road leading deep into the island, then the other part of the swamp could be hiding something, too!
The treasure hunters went on an excavating spree, using all the latest gear to dry up and then clear layers of swamp, going through every inch of the dirt in hopes of finding anything that would hint to the reason behind why would anyone need a ship wharf on the Oak Island.
After they X-Rayed the whole area using seismic scanning, the brothers and their team went all silent for a moment. There was a huge ship-shaped anomaly 200 ft long sprawled underneath that swamp!
Even More Ancient Findings
To make matters even more interesting, the team kept on finding bits and pieces of ancient wood dating back 500 years and more. And it wasn’t just any wood!
Not only was it dated back to the medieval times, this wood was used to create cargo barrels – and all of that was dug deep in the swampy area of the island, at the very same place that now contained a mysterious ship-shaped object.
The dots were starting to connect finally. The cobble stone pathway leading towards the Money Pit area, the stone ship wharf, and all the objects that were found inside the swamp – all these were puzzle pieces of one huge story and the treasure hunters were so close to finding out the truth!
So, Was It a Ship After All?
The swampy area of the Oak Island just kept on giving. It seemed that after all the hardships of the previous years Lady Luck has finally blessed the Lagina brothers as they continued uncovering historical pieces one after the other.
It turned out their seismic scanning was right – there was, indeed, a ship lying down underneath a large part of the swamp next to the stone ship wharf! As the team started digging up wooden pieces of an ancient ship, they simply couldn’t believe their eyes.
This meant they were right all this time! Historians also concluded that the cobblestone path was probably built by the Portuguese, and with the ship’s discovery this meant only one thing – someone came to the Oak Island a few hundred years ago and unloaded some precious cargo here in the early 1600s!
The Money Pit Area Excavation
So what kind of treasure did the ancient seafarers hide on the island? Instead of digging up a huge hole once again and get it flooded with water to the brim, treasure-hunting duo decided to be smart about it and came up with a brilliant plan to drill small-diameter boreholes at the Money Pit area that would allow them to go much deeper than they’ve ever gone before.
What for, you might ask? They were secretly hoping to intercept the original tunnel that was leading to the possible treasure or at least get a glimpse of whatever was lying down there without actually going down there.
This innovative approach allowed them to get ground (and other) samples from the depths of the Oak Island and, with the help of a geologist, find out what was really going on there. Was there a man-made tunnel running underneath the island? And was it filled with riches, after all?
Hitting the Jackpot
After the Money Pit collapsed numerous times during the last few hundred years, it became almost impossible to get there. But lucky for the treasure hunters, the machinery has evolved so much that they didn’t really need to go anywhere themselves.
So what did the drill dig up from underneath the Oak Island? The geologists have created several boreholes and were coming up with loads of various samples – mostly rocks and bits of wood from the tunnel underneath. But suddenly one of them froze, checking up the readings from the water and soil that came up from one of the boreholes.
He rushed to the Lagina brothers – there was gold there after all! The readings showed high concentrations of gold and silver in the water, which meant there must be some kind of treasure lying down there, big enough to send bits and pieces of it floating in the water of the drowned Money Pit!
Bringing in Heavy Machinery
The Lagina brothers now knew that they had to go deeper than they’ve ever gone before – they estimated the treasure to be somewhere below 90 ft (27 m), but they also had to widen their grasp. Small boreholes were simply not enough for them!
Now they had to dig wider as well, that’s why a decision was made to bring in heavier machinery and start excavating the Money Pit area with a 220-ton crane, a heavy hammer grab, and sections of 10-foot-wide casing. Tons of earth (or spoils!) from underground would be carefully sifted for potential valuables.
To do that, the Lagina brothers and their team would use an industrial-sized wash plant. Their treasure-hunting operation just keeps on getting bigger and bigger with each day and they are about to find something huge!