Since 1795, explorers have been baffled by the mysterious Oak Island. There are rumors, folklore, and conspiracy theories, but there always remains one sure thing. The mysterious island has a money pit. It’s the world’s most expensive treasure hunting site with $1.5M so far spent on excavations. There’s still no treasure in sight.
The first expedition they took on was just a rock as they wanted to know what lay beneath it. At only ten-years-old, they couldn’t move it. They’d still get it done though. They recruited a team of eight friends who all helped shift the enormous rock and find out what was beneath it. Turned up nothing, but it would’ve been fun.
That was the beginning of their treasure hunting days.
Reader’s Digest Glues them on the Treasure Hunting Path
A year later, aged 11, the Reader’s Digest ran a feature piece covering the Curse of Oak Island Treasure. The story fascinated the pair as they learned that it wasn’t just kids that went on treasure hunting adventures. The big boys were digging deep, in both their bank accounts for the equipment and in their quest to dig down the depths of the Money Pit.
This was a story to stick with the pair for life. Rick especially was gripped with the Oak Island Treasure story that he deep-dived into study books and researched everything there was to learn about the area. What the stories were, the excavations that’d been done, who could’ve buried stuff there.
Europe and the ancient artifacts that have not been discovered - would they be what could be found? Or is there truth to the Baconian theory after all. If you don’t know, the theory goes that Sir Francis Bacon was the author behind Shakespeare’s writing. Who knows?
The Lagina brothers hope to find that out. Even if it means they die trying.
The first dig was done in 1795 by Daniel McGinnis
Daniel was only 16-years old when he went to Oak Island hunting game. During his stroll around the 140-acre island, he spotted a depression in the ground. Right above the unusual depression he spotted the block and tackle from an old ship, hanging from a sawn tree limb.
Now, Daniel was from Chester in Nova Scotia, not far from Oak Island so he had heard plenty of stories about pirates and buried treasure. So his heart must’ve skipped a beat when he found a couple of clues that there could be something authentic about the local stories.
He returned the following day with two friends, John Smith and Anthony Vaughan to begin digging down through the depression on the land.
After digging down a few meters, they hit old oak logs. Continuing down to six meters, again they struck the same type of aged logs, and that continued to nine meters. So every few meters of digging through soil, they'd eventually hit solid oak logs.
At nine meters, they could see the shaft walls and the hallmarks of pickaxes that'd struck there before. The work became too much for the three of them, and they sought the help of the locals. Nobody would entertain the idea because it was supposed to be haunted by two fishermen since they disappeared in 1720. They gave up digging, until 1803.
McGinnis Returns with Smith in 1803, this time to settle
A local man, Simeon Lynds, joined the two after being captivated by the tales of their previous dig. The trio formed a treasure company and continued to explore the depression the boys began digging eight years previously.
This time, they discovered more than the layers of oak. They also found charcoal, some ships putty, and coconut fiber. Now coconut fiber is not native to the area, so this was another indication that the ground had been disturbed, quite possibly by someone intent on hiding something extremely valuable.
By the time they had reached thirty meters, they used a crowbar and hit a rock-solid surface.
The trio was certain they’d just hit a treasure chest but the next morning, it was 18-metres deep with water. No matter what they did, they could not get the water to drain from the pit. They thought instead of hitting a treasure chest, they’d actually hit a water spring. The dig was put on hold for a year, before hiring miners to dig another 30+ meter shaft to the side of their existing dig site, hoping to burrow in from the side. They reached 32-meters and again, the shaft filled with water, this time rapidly, leaving the miners with a near-death experience lucky to survive.
They’d Hit a Trap
Whoever built the underground fortress had designed it intentionally to fill up with seawater, every time it drained.
The result was their project was put on hold for over four decades.
A Syndicate Tries Again in 1849
This time, Vaughan and Smith were back and part of a syndicate with much more resources to tackle the complexing shaft. Knowing the frustrations of their previous attempts, they decided they needed samples of the material to know what they were dealing with.
They brought in a pod drill, which would extract samples of everything it bore through. This led to even more compelling discoveries.
The drill was able to bring up traces of oak, metal, clay, and spruce. The metal pieces of clay combined with metal fragments suggested there were, in fact, two chests atop each other with either gold, coins, or jewelry inside them. The most significant catch though was a few links from a gold chain, which was never seen again! They just vanished.
By 1850, the group decided to dig another shaft, but this one flooded in chaotic style. One of the workers was nearly killed. Anthony Vaughan though was quick to notice something he hadn’t realized before. Eight years previously, like the water filled up this time, it drained as fast as the tide goes out. At the same time, 158-metres away was Smith’s Cove. When the water drained sharply from the pit, the pace of the water at Smith’s Cove would increase significantly.
The company shifted the focus toward the beach and discovered a 47-meter wide stretch of a solid concrete floor under the sand.
Whoever designed the shaft had used the beach to funnel water down a 21-meter slope directly landing in the Money Pit they were digging. They now knew why they kept experiencing flooding. It was designed that way. What’s more is the entire stretch leading to the Money Pit was filled with loose rock to prevent the land from eroding over time.
In the process of uncovering this, they’d inadvertently disturbed the land, causing it to weaken. The pressure of the seawater took its toll, and the bottom of the Money Pit collapsed. All there was left was a huge blank space.
The company folded soon after spending around $40,000 excavating the Money Pit. They had gained nothing. But, for everyone interested in whatever was down there, they had made promising discoveries.
That set way to a wave of treasure companies showing interest in exploring the site in the hopes finally to solve the mystery of what lay beneath.
Frederick Blair organized a second syndicate to tackle the site. After spending $100,000 with nothing to show for it, the group folded.
Blair, although having spent a fortune, did acquire rights to the island. These allowed him to offer leases to other explorers and if something was discovered, he'd be entitled to a share of the loot.
His thinking was spot-on as treasure hunters indeed wanted in on the action. From the developments made previously, it was clear there was someone who'd gone to a lot of trouble to hide something. That can only mean it's of high value.
Harry Bowdoin was first in-line to have a stab at it. He had plenty of backers for his venture, including Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nothing panned out.
Another syndicate was formed and tried to find what lay below. Again, no avail.
William Chappell tried his hand and plowed $30,000 into the Money Pit. He too came out empty handed.
Gilbert Hedden was another businessman to lose $100,000 trying to solve the mystery. Even the high-powered machinery, speed pumps, and aligned with a mining company still couldn't produce anything.
If there is anything there, these are the two to find it. Now in their fifties, they’ve followed the goings on of Oak Island since the age of eleven. That’s decades of knowledge of everything that’s happened around the site. Rick and Marty Lagina are equipped with the latest technical gadgets to help with the excavation, and they’re not short of funding to continue their treasure hunt for the long-haul. That's thanks to a Reality TV deal struck with the History Channel, and the land and rights they own on Oak Island since they bought most of the 140-acre land for an estimated $7M back in 2005.
The pair is as committed as they can be to solving a mystery that’s intrigued them since their childhoods. Now they have the resources and better equipment to finally unearth whatever lays beneath the Money Pit on Oak Island.
Only time will tell what they’ll find. There’s plenty of eyeballs on them, hoping they'll finally put an end to a story that’s had no conclusion for over 220 years.