Though there are somewhere around 360 islands in the Mahone Bay area on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, Oak Island stands out from the rest.
The island itself is nothing special. It is small, with only about 140 acres of land, and is mostly covered in trees. That’s not what makes Oak Island such an exciting, mysterious place.
It’s actually the many theories and excavations that surround the tiny island which contributes to its fame.
Before we get into the good stuff, though, let’s go over some of the island’s history.
French fisherman are the earliest known European settlers in the area. Then about 10 years later, in 1761, Oak Island was divided into 32 four-acre lots for settlers and families coming from Massachusetts. The Oak Island residents seemed to have enjoyed a quiet, pleasant, and not at all mysterious life until about 1857. This was when the first rumors of buried treasure surfaced, but it wasn’t until 1862 that the story started to come alive.
J.B. McCully, a treasure hunter from Nova Scotia, wrote an article that the early settlers to the Oak Island area brought with them a story about a dying sailor who had visited with Captain Kidd’s pirate crew. He also claimed that the sailor told of buried treasure that worth about 2 million pounds. Thus, the treasure hunting began.
Since this story was told, excavations have taken place and treasure hunters have scoured the island regularly. Not yet has any of these attempts ever ended with finding the buried treasure, though there have been some mysterious findings along the way.
The first excavations took place sometime before the early 1800’s according to McCully. He explained that a man named McGinnis and two friends dug at the supposed site of the treasure. They hit a layer of paved stones after digging two feet down and then layers of logs every ten feet. They only dug to 30 feet, however, because the rest of the community was afraid of a curse.
About eight years after McGinnis’s attempt, some others tried their hand at discovering the treasure. Though they never found the treasure, they did run into the same logs every ten feet and layers of charcoal, putty, and coconut fibers. This is curious, as coconut is not a native plant to the area.
Another strange item was found as well. At 90 feet down, a large stone with symbols inscribed on it was uncovered. After this point, however, the pit that had been dug filled with water and the excavation ended. After studying the stone, it was concluded by one transcriber to read, “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” Mysterious.
In 1849, the site was excavated again. This time, it was drilled farther down where it hit a spruce platform at 98 feet down, then a layer of “metal in pieces,” a layer of oak, a second layer of metal, a second layer of oak, another layer of spruce, and finally nothing but clay.
Several more attempts at revealing the treasure were made. In 1861, 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1959. Within these excavations, there was nothing to note except a few accidental deaths and a strategy used by one group of pouring red paint into the excavation site which revealed three escape routes, or flood channels.
In 1971, a company called Triton Alliance received the okay to dig, and went to work again. After digging 235 feet, they lowered cameras down and got some fuzzy evidence of possible treasure chests, various artifacts, and human remains. The video was never confirmed and the excavations stopped when the shaft caved in.
Today a tourism company owns the island and has commented that they will continue to look for the treasure. Is the mystery of the Oak Island treasure just a tall tale? Other than Captain Kidd’s treasure, some think it could also be Shakespearian manuscripts, the Ark of the Covenant, Spanish naval treasure, freemason artifacts, and Marie Antoinette’s beloved jewels. Others believe the area has natural sinkholes and other natural phenomena.
We may never know the truth.