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The Money Pit Mystery and Early Treasure Hunting on Oak Island

The Money Pit Mystery and Early Treasure Hunting on Oak Island


Oak Island is located off the coast of Nova Scotia near Halifax, in the eastern part of Canada. This 140 acre island is privately owned, and is best known for its supposed buried treasure, especially at a certain spot commonly known as the Money Pit. Since its discovery around the end of the 18th century, a number of theories have been put forward to explain the nature of the legendary treasure in the Money Pit of Oak Island. In addition, many attempts to unearth the treasure have been made in the following centuries, though these have yet to meet with success. Nevertheless, efforts continue even today, with the hope that a fantastic treasure, perhaps with funding in the form of , will eventually help solve this mystery.

Discovering the Money Pit on Oak Island

The Money Pit of Oak Island is reported to have been discovered in the summer of 1795, when a teenager by the name of Daniel McGinnis came across a circular depression in the ground whilst wandering on the island. McGinnis decided to investigate the pit with a few friends, and over the next couple of days, he, along with his friends John Smith and Anthony Vaughan, began to dig a hole.

Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. (Crystalinks)

Two feet (about 0.61 meters) from the surface, the boys struck a layer of flagstones. They continued digging, and at a depth of 10 feet (about 3 meters), they came across a layer of oak logs. Two more layers of oak logs were encountered again at 20 feet (about 6 m) and 30 feet (about 9 m) below the surface. At this point, the boys were no longer able to continue on their own, and decided to go home, with the intention of returning to continue their search.

The ‘Money Pit’ on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1947.

The ‘Money Pit’ on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1947. (Public Domain)

It was only eight years later that McGinnis and his friends managed to return to their dig site, along with the Onslow Company, which was established for the purpose of excavating the Money Pit. The digging continued until a depth of 90 feet (about 27 meters). At each interval of 10 feet, a layer of oak logs were discovered.

The Oak Island Treasure? “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried”

In addition, a layer of charcoal, putty and coconut fibre are reported to have been found at the depths of 40 feet (abut 12 meters), 50 feet (about 15 meters), and 60 feet (about 18 meters) respectively. The most puzzling discovery, however, was allegedly made at 90 feet. At this depth, a stone with an inscription was found. The writing on the stone, which consists of symbols, has been commonly deciphered as follows: “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried”.

Replica of the Money Pit inscribed stone.

Replica of the Money Pit inscribed stone. (Oak Island Treasure)

When the layer of oak logs found at this layer was removed, water began to enter the pit, and by the following day, it had flooded it until the depth of 33 feet (10 meters meters). The excavators attempted to pump the water out of the pit, but to no avail. In the following year, a shaft was dug parallel to the Money Pit, with the intention of digging a tunnel to the latter at 100 feet (30.5 meters). This, however, did not succeed, as the problem of flooding recurred once more.

Oak, Metal, and Spruce Layers at the Money Pit

The search for the Money Pit treasure was abandoned for about half a century, before it was resumed in 1849 by the Truro Company. Once again, the problem of flooding was encountered. The company decided to figure out what was buried in the pit before attempting to continue digging. For this purpose, drilling core samples were obtained, which supposedly contained a layer of spruce, followed by one of oak, and then metal pieces. This was followed by another layer of oak, metal pieces, and spruce. With these findings at hand, it was concluded that there were 2 casks / chests of gold coins waiting to be discovered in the Money Pit of Oak Island.

The Truro Company tried digging a parallel shaft and a connecting tunnel in the following year, but like the Onslow Company before them, they were not successful. The Truro Company eventually gave up, and several attempts to locate the treasure were made in the following century and a half, with various discoveries being claimed to have been made at the mysterious site on Oak Island.

More Discoveries: Who May Have Left a Treasure on Oak Island?

At a depth of 160 feet (about 49 meters), for instance, a cement vault, believed to contain the treasure, was reported to have been discovered in 1897. Despite all these attempts, the treasure of the Money Pit has yet to be found, and the effort continues even today.

Digs and Buildings, Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1931.

Digs and Buildings, Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1931. (Public Domain)

The most recent attempt to retrieve the treasure is being made by the brothers Rick and Marty Lagina and their team. Their treasure hunting has been made into a History Channel series entitled The Curse of Oak Island. Some of the finds made by the brothers in the Money Pit include pieces of metal and wood. But one of the most intriguing discoveries was made at the end of the program’s 4th season (which concluded at the end of February 2017), during which a large piece of worked metal that might have been part of a treasure chest was found.

Although most treasure hunters have ended up empty handed, another recent revelation found off the coast of Oak Island points to an incredible, and possibly history-changing, finding.  A shipwreck, believed to be Roman, was discovered near Oak Island, and within the wreck it has been claimed that a well-preserved Roman ceremonial sword was retrieved. 

The Roman sword found just off Oak Island. Photo courtesy of and National Treasure Society

The Roman sword found just off Oak Island. Photo courtesy of and National Treasure Society

J. Hutton Pulitzer, lead researcher and historic investigator, along with academics from the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society, wrote a paper in 2016 on the find and also outlined other possible evidence that romans may have reached the New World more than 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus. Debate still rages on regarding this artifact and its possible repercussions for the history books.

Featured image: A photo that has been associated with the mysterious Oak Island. Source: Expanded Perspectives Podcast/Youtube Screenshot

By Wu Mingren


A&E Television Networks, 2017. The Curse of Oak Island. [Online]
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Keyes, B., 1996. The Story of Oak Island. [Online]
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Krystek, L., 1998. The Mystery Pit of Oak Island. [Online]
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Mysteries of Canada, 2016. Where is Oak Island. [Online]
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Mysteris of Canada, 2016. Oak Island Money Pit Treasure. [Online]
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Oak Island Tours Inc., 2017. Oak Island - Nova Scotia. [Online]
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Oak Island Treasure, 2017. Oak Island Treasure. [Online]
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The Inquisitr News, 2017. ‘The Curse of Oak Island’ Team Makes An Intriguing Discovery [Spoilers]. [Online]
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Wray, J., 2017. Have the Laginas finally found treasure on The Curse of Oak Island?. [Online]
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angieblackmon's picture

I am so in love with this story. I dig the show too. I’d love to actually visit the island, walk on it. Breathe the air and maybe help solve an amazing mystery!

love, light and blessings


That's one of the major problems. So many other shafts have been sunk over the years that no one is sure that they are digging in the original shaft. It may be better to rename it "Swiss Cheese Island" at this point.

Cousin_Jack's picture

Reading about the tale, its nice to see the British government sent some Cornish miners to the pit but I’d have thought that if its below sea level then they’d have known the pit could flood. Nowadays it’d only cost a few thousand pounds for the cost of a drilling rig to find if anythings there, if they still know the whereabouts of the original shaft, but it wouldn’t be a major problem if they didn’t.

In Anglia et Cornubia.

Again this sword. ""Gladiator Sword" is available on eBay, Amazon, Wal-mart and even Linen and Things.", to copy a former reader on this subject.

Really this Roman ship is there sunk ??? Do you have proof of this?


dhwty's picture


Wu Mingren (‘Dhwty’) has a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology. Although his primary interest is in the ancient civilizations of the Near East, he is also interested in other geographical regions, as well as other time periods.... Read More

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