Group after group have tried to solve the riddle, including Arrol Flynn, John Wayne,
and a young FDR. Neither brute force nor technology have been able to overcome the
problems. Six lives have been lost and millions of dollars spent trying to uncover
the secrets of what has become known as the Money Pit. Still, no one knows what lies
at the bottom, who built it or why. There are numerous theories but little proof.
This is the story of Oak Island, Nova Scotia, one the most frustrating and intriguing
mysteries of all time. It was first discovered in the 1790’s by a pair of brothers.
They stumbled upon a circular depression in the ground on the island. They dug down
two feet into the depression and found a layer of flat stones. Thinking they had
stumbled upon treasure, they pulled out the stones and found nothing but dirt. They
continued to dig, finding a layer of oak logs stretching across the hole every 10
feet. After they hit logs at 30 feet, this time covered in a layer of charcoal they
gave up, vowing to return to continue the dig.
Eight years later after it was initially found, further excavation revealed oaks
logs again at 40 feet, with a layer of blue putty covering them. 50 feet is reached,
and revealed a layer of beach stones on top of more oak logs. 60 feet reveals more
oak logs, covered with coconut fibers. The familiar layer of logs was found again
at 70 feet, and 80 feet. At 90 feet one of the most puzzling clues was found - a
stone inscribed with mysterious writing. Once the strange writing was decoded, the
stone was found to read “40 feet below, 2 million pounds is buried.”
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 Money Pit. Again the water
flooded in and the search was abandoned for 45 years.
As it turns out, an ingenious booby trap had been sprung. The crew 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.
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 encouraging results.
At 98 feet the drill went through a spruce platform. Then it hit 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 chests filled will coins.
The company returned in 1850 an dug another parallel hole 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
It turns out that the pit designers had created a drain system, spread over 145 ft
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 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 ft. away. Later investigations showed this underground channel
to have been 4 ft. wide, 2.5 ft. high, lined with stone, and meeting the Money Pit
between the depths of 95 to 110 feet.
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
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
At the same time a new set of core samples were drilled at the pit itself. The results
were surprising. At 126 feet, wood was struck and then iron.
Between 150 and 154 feet and also between 164 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 40 foot level of the
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
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".
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. They actually poured red paint into the tunnel, and it could be seen seeping
out three sides of the island. Though this find certainly strengthened the case that
something valuable was buried below it didn't bring anyone closer to actually finding
Blair and The Oak Island Treasure Company continued to sink new shafts and drill
more core samples, but no progress was made and no new information obtained. Between
1900 and 1936 several attempts were made to obtain the treasure. All met with no
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 ft.
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 since. Lives have
been lost, fortunes have been squandered, and still the treasure at the bottom of
the Oak Island Money Pit remains