Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let's Go To Oak Island! (part 1)

I heard about this a few years ago. As far as I know, it's true. Mr. Xoom and the others will certainly cane or umbrella me if it isn't, but I think it's a great story.

In the summer of 1793, a teenager named Daniel McGinnis, was taking a stroll on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. He stumbled upon a circular depression in the ground below an oak tree. The branches of the tree looked as if they been cut in order to use a pulley. Local pirate tales ran rampart, so Daniel returned later with some friends. Over the next several days, the boys would begin to unearth one of the most intriguing mysteries in history.

Two feet below the surface the boys uncovered a layer of flagstones. At ten feet down, they ran into a layer of oak logs and again at twenty and thirty feet. At this point they knew they couldn't go any further alone. They departed but agreed to return.

It took eight years, but the explorers finally returned, this time with the help of the Onslow Company, formed exclusively for the expedition. They resumed where they had left off and continued to ninety feet, finding a layer of logs at every ten foot interval. Besides the logs, at forty feet a layer of charcoal was uncovered, at fifty feet a layer of putty, and at sixty, a layer of coconut fiber.

At ninety feet a mysterious stone with some kind of strange glyphs was hauled up. No one has ever actually deciphered it. After a layer of logs was removed at ninety feet, water began to fill the pit. Pumping didn't help, so another pit was dug parallel to the original. At ninety feet, it too filled with water. The search was abandoned and the pit didn't get another visitor for forty five years.

In 1849, the Truro Company was formed to continue the search. It was discovered that the first crew had activated an ingenious booby trap. A tunnel dug from nearby Smith's Cove, would fill the pit with water just as fast as it could be pumped out. The Truro company decided to drill core samples to determine what was down there.

At 98 feet the drill went through a spruce platform. Then it encountered 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 casks or chests filled will coins. Upon pulling out the drill they found splinters of oak and strands of what looked like coconut husk.

The Truro Company returned in 1850 with plans to dig another parallel hole and then tunnel 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.

It turns out that the pit designers had created a drain system, spread over a 145 foot length 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 eel 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 feet away. Later investigations showed this underground channel to have been 4 feet wide, 2 1/2 feet high, lined with stone, and meeting the Money Pit between the depths of 95 to 110 feet.

To the Truro Company, the answer was now simple - just block off the water flow from the beach and dig out the treasure. Their first attempt was to build a dam just off the beach at Smith's Cove, drain the water, and then dismantle the drain channels. Unfortunately a storm blew up and destroyed the dam before they could finish.

An interesting note: the remains of an older dam were found when building the new one.

The next plan was to dig a pit 100 feet or so inland in the hopes of meeting with the water channel underground at which point they could plug the channel. This scheme too failed. And this was the last attempt by the Truro company to uncover the secrets of Oak Island.

To Be Continued...

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