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The Lost Treasure of Oak Island

The Lost Treasure of Oak Island and the Centuries-Old Quest to Find It

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From a distance, Oak Island, located on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, appears to be just another island. Located approximately 200 feet from the shore, the tree-covered island rises to no more than 36 feet (11 meters) above sea level, and covers an area of no more than 140 acres. However, this tiny island is home to one of the biggest treasure hunts in history. Many have been drawn to the island in the quest to uncover its supposed hidden riches, and a handful of people have lost their lives doing so, but to this day, no treasure has ever been recovered from Oak Island.

Map showing location of Oak Island, Nova Scotia

Map showing location of Oak Island, Nova Scotia (Wikimedia Commons)

The Oak Island treasure hunt began in 1795, when 18-year old Daniel McGinnis saw lights coming from the island. Out of curiosity, he went searching for the lights and discovered a clearing on the southeastern end of the island. Within the clearing was a circular depression, and nearby a tackle block hung from a tree. (A tackle block is a system of ropes and pulleys used to lift heavy objects). With friends John Smith (in early accounts, Samuel Ball) and Anthony Vaughan, McGinnis returned to the area and began excavating the depression. A few feet beneath the surface, they discovered a layer of flagstone, and the pit walls had markings from a pick. Approximately every ten feet (3 m) they dug, they found a layer of logs. After excavating to thirty feet beneath the surface, McGinnis and his friends abandoned the excavation without ever finding anything of significance.

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

Digs and Buildings, Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, August 1931. (Wikimedia Commons)

Reports of the boys’ efforts were published in several printed works. Eight years later, the Onslow Company sailed to the area to try to recover the supposed treasure, that was assumed to lie hidden at the base of the pit. Based on the written accounts of the boys, the Onslow Company attempted an excavation of what was now referred to as the “Money Pit.” They excavated an additional 60 feet (18 m), taking the total excavation to 90 feet (27 m) beneath the surface. Like McGinnis and his friends, the Onslow Company also found a layer of logs every 10 feet. Additionally, they found layers of charcoal, putty and coconut fiber at 40, 50, and 60 feet. Somewhere around 80-90 feet, the excavators from the Onslow Company discovered a large stone bearing inscriptions of symbols. Researchers attempted to translate the symbols, with one concluding that they read: "forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried." The excavation was again abandoned when the pit flooded to the 33-foot level.

The ‘Money Pit’ on Oak Island in 1947

The ‘Money Pit’ on Oak Island in 1947 (public domain)

In 1849, another excavation was attempted. The Turo Company, formed by investors, returned to the site to try to uncover the treasure. They successfully re-excavated the pit down to 86 feet when it flooded again. They drilled into the ground to allow the water to drain, and the drill auger passed through many layers of different materials: a spruce platforstone at 98 feet, a 12-inch head space, 22 inches of what appeared to be pieces of metal, 8 inches of oak, another 22 inches of metal, 4 inches of oak, another layer of spruce, and then 7 feet of clay.

In 1861, a company called the Oak Island Association attempted another excavation. During their efforts, the bottom of the shaft collapsed. It is unknown whether it collapsed into a natural cavern, or a booby-trap intended to protect the treasure. The first fatality occurred during this excavation when a boiler pump exploded, killing one. The Oak Island Association’s excavation attempts ended in 1864 when they ran out of funding. The lure of hidden treasure remained strong, as additional excavations were attempted in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1959, with no success. They did, however, pour red paint into the shaft, which led to the realization that it led to three separate exit holes. The second fatality occurred in March 1897.

Excavations continued through the early 1900s. In 1931, excavator William Chappell uncovered an axe, an anchor fluke, and a pick. Because the area had been littered by equipment from the previous excavation attempts, it is unknown who these artifacts belonged to. In 1928, Gilbert Hedden, a steel fabricating operator, had learned of the island and became fascinated. After much research, he believed he found a link between Oak Island and a map found in Harold T. Wilkins,’ book: Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island.  Hedden ultimately purchased the southeast end of the island, and began digging in 1935, although his efforts were unsuccessful.

Stone found by Gilbert Hedden in 1936 at Joudrey's Cove

Stone found by Gilbert Hedden in 1936 at Joudrey's Cove.

In the 1960s, the Restall family began excavations, which tragically led to the deaths of four men. Robert Dunfield leased the island in 1965, using a 70-ton crane to dig the pit area to 134 feet (42 m) deep and 100 feet (30 m) wide. In 1967 the island was purchased by Triton Alliance, Ltd., and excavations made it to 235 feet (72 m) deep. Cameras were lowered into the shaft and some believed that images retrieved included chests, human remains, wooden cribbing and tools. However, due to poor image quality, the existence of these items has never been confirmed.

A memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives while searching for the mysterious treasure on Oak Island

A memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives while searching for the mysterious treasure on Oak Island. Credit: Elke / Panoramio

To this day, the elusive Oak Island treasure has never been recovered, and it is not even clear what the treasure contains. It has been speculated that the treasure includes: pirate treasure, naval treasure, Marie Antoinette’s jewels, Shakespearean manuscripts, Knights Templar or freemasonry treasure. Some non-treasure theories include that the area is a natural sinkhole created by underground caverns, and that it is the site of a sunken Viking ship.

Oak Island and the Oak Island Treasure remain a mystery to many around the world. It has been featured in books, movies, songs, TV shows, and video games. Throughout the various excavation attempts, many man hours, funds, and even human lives were sacrificed in hopes of finding the treasure. Perhaps someday the treasure will be found, but for now, it remains a mystery.

Featured image: Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Credit: Farhad Vladia / Panoramio


Oak Island – Wikipedia. Available from:

Oak Island Treasure. Available from:

Oak Island Money Pit: The Last Great Unsolved Mystery. Available from:

By M R Reese



Maybe it is a sink hole and the logs were put over the hole and when they sank down three feet more logs were put over the hole to keep people and wildlife from falling in. The tackle may have been left from a previous rescue.

i really wish that people would stop trying to prove the knights Templar did anything in North America until actually evidence is proven, which to my knowledge has never happened. all those who keep pushing the KT just sound like looney tunes and characters out of a really bad DB novel. I hope when the discovery channels series comes back they will kick the nutters out and concentrate on what they know and can find out and not some bs conspiracy theories put forth by attention seekers

Peter Harrap's picture

not human.

Human beings do not construct pits consisting of layers of logs at 10ft intervals, and of charcoal, putty and coconut fibre at 40, 50 and 60ft and so on with other materials as well down a depth of over 100ft.

Its no way to hide stuff you may want to go back and get in a hurry, and no place to hide it, given it is a very small island easily visible from the shore.

McGinnis could see lights, and he found tackle, possibly left by another treasure-seeker, or the builders.

Perhaps it dates back to before the white man came there to live, but the natives would have surely noticed if that is the case.

So it is not in a hidden secret place: it was meant to be found.

And explored (here's some tackle to get you started!?).

And it would take several fit strong hardworking people quite a long time, at some personal risk to build this weird layer cake of stuff, if indeed they were human beings at all.

Suppose this and other inexplicable mysteries and events are  another way of reminding us of God's presence, and are created by God?


I would like to see them find something,but I doubt that there is anything to find It seems unlikely that pirates would go to all that trouble, and everthing esle is pretty farfetched Getting H2 To pay for the searth was a stroke of genius.

DeAegean's picture

I'm on my way now to go uncover the treasure! Wish me luck!


mrreese's picture

M R Reese

M R Reese is a writer and researcher with a passion for unlocking the mysteries of ancient civilizations. She believes that only by understanding where we come from, can we truly understand our life path and purpose. She has earned... Read More

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