November 27, 2017 - by Doug Crowell
Owner of Lot 27 on Oak Island, Jeremiah Rogers may have also been a privateer like Captain James Anderson, who owned adjacent Lot 26. Captain Jeremiah Rogers was with Governor Edward Cornwallis when Halifax was founded by the British in 1749. He commanded the armed sloop Ulysses in the pay of the Government of Nova Scotia. Government dispatches mention him as early as January of 1751, and on the 29th of May 1753 he was to be found transporting soldiers to Mahone Bay to prepare the new township of Lunenburg, near Oak Island. Then on June 7 of that same year, he began transporting 1,453 German settlers there as well.
This would mark the first time in recorded history that such a large group of people lived anywhere near Oak Island. A French census taken in 1688 recorded 10 Europeans and 11 Mi'kmaq settled in Mirliqueche (present day Lunenburg). However, by 1745, there were only 8 settlers recorded as living in the region.
Captain Rogers was also responsible for transporting troops, mail, and supplies to forts and outposts all around Nova Scotia. He was present at the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, and at the capture of Fortress Louisburg in 1758. During his time as a sea captain for the province, he was granted lands in most of the townships around Nova Scotia. He had command of four ships during his career with the government. The first ship was named the Ulysses, which sank, in 1758, while trying to sail up the St. John River.
1758, Oct. 21.
Capt. Rogers in the Ulysses and Capt. Cobb in the York ordered to sail above the falls. "The Ulysses, Capt. Rogers, in passing the Narrows strikes on a Rock, and is drove by the Tide into a creek above Cobb where the vessel sunk in a short time, and it was with great difficulty the Light Infantry who were in her and crew were saved. Upon hearing this and that Cobb did not lay very safe I ordered him down again and very luckily for at Low Water he would have struck on the Rocks." The captain of the man of war "Squirrel" endeavored to raise the "Ulysses" but was forced to abandon the attempt and she proved a total wreck. Source: Glimpses of the Past - History of the River St. John, A.D. 1604-1784 by W. O. Raymon, in chapter XIII
He was then given command of a brand new ship named the Montague, which sank in the Canard River after bringing settlers from New England into the newly created townships of Cornwallis and Horton in 1760. We know that Capt. Rogers continued in service to the province until at least 1766, during which time he captained the sloop Amherst, and another ship named Nova Scotia Packet.
1766, Jan. 9
The schooner Nova Scotia Packet, Captain Jeremiah Rogers, outbound for Boston. Source: Atlantic Canada Newspaper Survey Pages 20 – 21
After his service with the government, he became a privateer and is known to have encountered trouble with the Spanish in the waters around what is now Puerto Rico. Little is known about his later years, though a Captain Jeremiah Rogers is known to have participated in guarding New York waterways for the British during the American Revolution. If this was the same Captain Rogers who owned land on Oak Island, then it is entirely possible for Captain James Anderson, and even Samuel Ball, to have become known to each other during their service with the British Military, as Anderson and Ball are known to have served in New York at that time as well. What are the odds that all three men ended up owning land on Oak Island without knowing each other?
One thing is certain. Captain Jeremiah Rogers connection to Oak Island deserves more investigation. My work on creating a documentary video, back in 2015, about Captain Rogers and the sinking of the Montague, led me to my current Oak Island research. During the creation of this documentary, I had cause to speak with a lady who had done extensive research for the church regarding the missing Queen Anne Communion Plate from the Fortress in Annapolis Royal. That fort had been the seat of power for the British in Nova Scotia from 1713 until 1749 and the founding of Halifax, which then became the capital of the province. Protocol dictated that Queen Anne's Communion Silver Set, which included two flagons, a chalice, and a paten of solid silver, reside in the church nearest the governor in the capital. The new government was so busy establishing itself and settling the rest of the province, that the request to transport the Communion set was not issued until 1759, at which time Captain Rogers was tasked with its transport. Events are murky, but the silver plate never made it to Halifax, perhaps because the Montague sank in that Annapolis Valley tidal river before Rogers had a chance to return to Halifax. To this day, the church does not know what happened to the silver plate, but the one that resides in Halifax now, is not the same one that was originally used at the fort's chapel in Annapolis Royal. What captured my attention when I learned that Captain Rogers owned land on Oak Island is the knowledge that American treasure hunters in 1877 reported finding a silver plate of unmistakable origin while digging on Oak Island. Is it possible that this plate was the missing Queen Anne church plate? Did it have any connection to Roger's lot ownership? We will likely never know for sure, as details of the discovery of the plate, indeed the plate itself, is now lost in the fog of time.
by Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock, Blockhouse Investigations
Let us start by apologizing for the sparse postings on our blog the last few months. You may be happy to know that the reason for the lack of articles is that we have been greatly occupied on several very rewarding research projects (more on that later). In pursuing that research, one of the search results brought up this photo from the Robert Dunfield Excavation Gallery on Jo Sayer's invaluable Oak Island Treasure Website. You can visit her website here, and we urge that you do, http://www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk.
Judging by this photo, what Robert Dunfield discovered in 1965 looks very much like the suspected French Drains uncovered by the Laginas, Craig Tester, the Blankenships, Dan Henskee and Charles Barkhouse this summer (2016).
That is all for the moment, however some much more robust articles are already in the works.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell
I am going to deviate from posting our usual historical Oak Island content for a moment. I would like to use this blog article to address the speculation that has swirled around the French Cipher "La Formule", since some of researcher and author Zena Halpern's research was featured on History channel's Curse of Oak Island television show recently in season four.
Now that the information regarding Zena Halpern's work has aired on the show, I can now tell you about the La Formule Cipher, and confirm how close, some viewers have come to a correct translation, or as near to one as we believe to be correct. You may never know how hard it is to sit and have to keep silent while everyone else is working on figuring out the answers before all the information airs on the show, especially when it looks like it hasn't been solved yet.
The La Formule cipher was brought to my attention, and it intrigued me because it utilized the same symbols as the well known Kempton Cipher (purported to be inscribed on Oak Island's 90 Foot Stone). The Kempton Cipher became public knowledge shortly after 1949, when Reverend A. T. Kempton brought it to the attention of author Edward Rowe Snow, and Oak Island treasure hunter Frederick Blair. Edward Rowe Snow soon published it in his book, "True Tales of Buried Treasure". Kempton stated that he received the cipher and an account of the history of the Oak Island Treasure Hunt, in 1909, from a retired school master, who resided near Mahone Bay. Kempton, who gave popular lectures, in New England, on the history of Nova Scotia, had intended to write a story about Oak Island, but never managed to get around to doing so. To this day, the Kempton Cipher stands as the only claimed copy of the inscription on the 90 Foot Stone. Skeptics doubt the authenticity of the Kempton Cipher primarily on the grounds that the solution to the cipher, "Forty Feet Below, Two Million Pounds are Buried" makes little sense to them, and they view it more likely to be a fabrication, created to entice people to invest in the treasure hunt, with promises that treasure is within a mere forty feet more. Prior to the release of the Kempton Cipher, the translation was always described in newspapers and magazines as stating "Ten feet below", rather than forty feet below. This is another reason why the Kempton Cipher is looked at with suspicion. Reverend Kempton was a pillar of his community and a respected historian, who was asked to write the forward for a book about the Acadians in Nova Scotia. So when he states that he was given this cipher and the story that accompanied it from someone who lived near Oak Island, it is ignoring the character of the man to doubt his word. Of course, we will never know for sure what was inscribed on the stone, removed from the Money Pit in 1804, until it is found.
When Zena Halpern came forth with the La Formule Cipher and the French Oak Island Map, it could not be ignored for the simple reason that it is the only other cipher ever seen to use the same symbols as substitutions for the actual lettering of the message. In fact, it presented us with even more symbols than the Kempton Cipher did! The Kempton Cipher has been well known in Oak Island circles since, as stated, 1949. Therefore, it is easy to pause and wonder if this newly revealed cipher was fabricated after 1949, using the existing Kempton Cipher. It would be easy to do, but would it be easy to do correctly? Typically, the symbols used in a substitution cipher have an internal logic to their selection.
Note the internal order to the symbols used in the Masonic Cipher Key above. Once they had chosen symbols for the letters A through M, the symbols were reused in order again, but a dot was added to each symbol to make it unique.
Do the Kempton Cipher symbols exhibit an internal order, or progression? Yes they do. This internal order was recognized by Joseph Judge, a retired editor with National Geographic, back in 1987.
The Kempton Cipher does not require the letter "Q" in its hidden message, but Mr. Judge predicted that the letter Q would be represented by the circle with a line running through it from top left to bottom right, as shown above.
The immediate test, then, is to see if this symbol is used in the La Formule Cipher. It is used four times, as seen below and indicated with red arrows.
But would it represent the letter Q as predicted? For that would we would need to decipher the message. I had started work on that task early this year, and my first step was to see if it deciphered using the same key as used with the Kempton Cipher. I thought I was onto something when I started to recognize what seemed to be French words like "pas" and "terrer". However, not being strong in French and not being able to parse the string of letters into more than a few sensible French words, I turned to checking this cipher against other languages in my computerized database.
As you can see in my scribbles above, using the French language wasn't helping me to test the symbol that should represent the letter Q either. Of the other languages tested against, Portuguese was the most promising, until I started testing the cipher against British English.
Then words began to appear, which all seemed related to the African continent.
This excited Zena, as it touched upon themes in her overall research, of which Oak Island as only a small part. Place names that I had never heard of before, such as Cephala and Harrar appeared. Even more amazing is that those two place name, when I researched them, are rendered in this cipher in their old and now unused spellings. Modern spellings for these places are now Sofala, in Mozambique, and Harar, in Ethipoia respectively.
It was also interesting to learn that Cephala was rich in gold and thought by some scholars to be the area of King Solomon's Gold Mines, as mentioned below in an excerpt from Vincent Leblanc's book, written in 1660AD.
The soyle of Cefala is exceeding rich in gold, and the river Cuama brings it ready fn’d in small threads which are found in the sand, so as this river passes through mines of gold, for which reason the Portugals by permission of a Mahometan Prince who rules the Country, have here built a Fort to facilitate their negotiation with the Inhabitants. ...where at this day are seen huge ruines of ancient structures, which resemble the greatnesse and magnificence of those of the ancient Romanes, chiefly in the kingdomes Batua and Toroa, where are the most ancient mines of gold in Africa. There you find likewise store of stones of excessive bulke so excellently polished, they never lose their lustre, fixed together without Cement, so fine, it is not perceivable. In like manner we finde there Remainders of walls of above twenty five handfulls thick, with certain hieroglyphick characters engraved, not to be read, as the like is observed in Persia among the ruines of the town Persepolis. Many do conceive ’twas from hence Salomon fetcht his gold, as I said elsewhere; and these great ruines to have been of that Ages building, and by the same King.
- Vincent Leblanc describes Cefala (or Cephala, which is now Sofala in Mozambique) and its surroundings in his Voyages fameux, quoted here from the 1660 English edition, The World Surveyed: Or, The Famous Voyages & Travailes of Vincent le Blanc, or White, or Marseilles, etc. , pages 194-195.
You likely didn't fail to take note of the line in the quotation above that said "with certain hieroglyphick characters engraved, not to be read". I know it caught my attention.
At this point the investigation was getting very interesting. Cephala, was the sight of the second Portuguese fort and settlement on the east coast of Africa, in 1505AD. They built their fort from stone imported from Europe. At this point, we are ringing the bells on many Oak Island themes. Unreadable inscriptions, gold, and stones not native to the region. Even the name Joab appeared in the cipher, who, if meant to be King David's General, as active in Africa at one time. Harrar was said to be the gold trading hub at one time. It certainly seemed like I was on the right track, especially considering the place names appeared in their ancient spellings. I am still amazed that at how that occurred by accident.
It was all very interesting, but I was unable to fully decipher the message using British English. I did not know if that was because I only had a partial message to work with, or if it was because I was on the wrong track. So an expert in Cryptology was brought in to see what he could make of the La Formule cipher.
That expert's name is Kevin Knight, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California. Professor Knight is the author of more books and papers on machine translation and decipherment than can be listed here, but if you really want to be impressed, check out his credentials here: http://www.isi.edu/~knight/
Perhaps his most impressive and pertinent accomplishment as an expert in cryptology is his work in solving the previously unsolved Copiale Cipher, a 75,000 character cipher comprising 105 pages. It proved to be the work of a secret society from the 1730s called the "high enlightened oculist order". Hopefully he would make short work of our simple substitution cipher. That hope proved true, and the decipherment below was what he sent back to us.
We had a little time to digest the material sent back to us, before we were to hold a Skype session with the Professor and his assistant, Nadda Aldarrab. They confirmed for us that it was a French Language solution that read as follows:
stop do not dig burrow forty foot with a
forty degree angle the shaft has five
hundred twenty two foot you enter the
reid gold UNMIL cient five foot reached
We took Professor Knight's solution and quickly set the solution keys to both the La Formule and the Kempton cipher on the same page for comparison. They are an exact match, as seen below. What's more, Knight's solution gave us our answer to the test question regarding the predicted internal structure of the symbol for the letter Q. The La Formule did indeed adhere to the expected internal logic of the symbols! A positive outcome to this test of internal logic is one factor in evaluating the legitimacy of this cipher. How likely would it be for someone in modern times to fabricate a cipher based on the Kempton Cipher and correctly choose the predicted symbol for the letter Q? That would greatly depend on the individual's knowledge of the construction of ciphers and Oak Island.
While looking over the solution that Prof. Knight and his assistant sent back to us, we noted that the letters "H" and "R" at the start of the third line of the cipher had been transcribed in error, and should actually have been written "I" and "Q" per the key.
We also did some digging on the "ISANTE" in the fifth line of the cipher. We identified it as most likely being "SOISANTE", with turns out is old to middle period French, encompassing a period of 1155AD to 1600AD, before falling out of use.
If the word is indeed Soisante, then the usage fits into Zena Halpern's timeframe of 1179AD and later. Are any other words in the solution words no longer in use today? Yes, Deus is also old to middle French. Most commonly translated as "God" or "Gods", deus was the former correct spelling for the word two as well.
Then on the fifth line of the cipher, we have "reidor". The obvious possibility for completing this fragment of the cipher is "correidor". We have yet to locate examples of old usage of this word in French, but if corridor is the correct interpretation of this fragment of text, then it is within reason to allow for a grammatical error on the part of the author of the cipher. Despite proofreading this article, I suspect you will be able to find a mistake that I have committed in writing it. The fly in the ointment however, is that the earliest known use of the word corridor in the French language is 1719AD. This doesn't mean it was not in use earlier, only that it is the earliest use identified so far. The good thing is that all these dates occur before the date of discovery for the Money Pit in 1795. In fact, even as late as 1719, there was likely less than thirty people living within a twenty mile radius of Oak Island, and all of them out of site of the island. Admittedly, corridor is purely a guess based on the small orphaned text in the solution.
So where does all of this put us?
We appear to have a partial French solution that translates into English as follows:
Halt. Do not burrow/dig to
forty foot with an angle of forty
five degree the shaft of five hundred
twenty two foot you enter the
corridor of one thousand sixty-five foot
reach the chamber
Obviously this is not a complete solution, and the missing parts of the document need to be reassembled to do more than guess at the full message.
There are indications that this fragment is supposed to be one part of seven pieces that comprise the full document.
Professor Knight was of the opinion that this cipher was likely related to the Kempton Cipher in some way and that both ciphers were typical to other substitution ciphers of their like used by secret societies, including their structure and sometimes bad grammar. He also felt that they were created by someone knowledgeable in ciphers Additionally, in answer to our questions, he stated that he had never seen this particular symbol set used in any other ciphers, in his experience.
So to recap:
I do harbor one concern about the ciphers though. In the La Formule cipher, the triangle with the Northwest to SouthWest line through it, stands for the letter"G". If this is applied to the Kempton Cipher, then the first word in that cipher which is "Forty", then becomes "Fgorty". In checking into Old English, I can find no ancient spelling of the word forty as fgorty. Ironically, a Google search for "Fgorty" meaning brought up an Historic Oregon Newspaper listing (East Oregonian : E.O. (Pendleton, Umatilla Co., Or.) 1888-current, April 16, 1902, Image 3) for a meeting of the Knights Templar. That caused a good chuckle for me.
I don't know what to make of the "G" puzzle though. Does it delegitimize one of the ciphers? Does it suggest that someone fabricated the La Formule Cipher, getting the internal logic right on the letter "Q", and using old French terms correctly, but overlooked the obvious conflict with the "G" (crossed out triangle) symbol? I suppose that someone may have been working from one of the versions of the Kempton Cipher, like Edward Rowe Snow's version, which chose to drop that symbol as being a mistake, and therefore wasn't aware of the use of the crossed out triangle symbol.
Upon comparing Snow's version against Kempton's version I realized that my concern was invalid. As you can see, the second symbol in the Kempton Cipher is a triangle with two lines through it, rather than just one, as seen in the La Formule. So there is no conflict between the two ciphers. So until more information surfaces, we have to allow that both the Kempton Cipher and the La Formule Cipher do more to corroborate each others legitimacy, than they do to refute each other. One comes from a person who was in a position to have seen the 90 Foot Stone while it was on display, and the other may have been passed down directly from the McInnis family on Oak Island.
On a final note, I thought I would present one other observation I made while researching the La Formule Cipher. Notice the last symbol in both ciphers. Edward Rowe Snow, even though he learned of the 90 Foot Stone Cipher from Reverend Kempton, interpreted that last symbol as a Roman numeral two, while in Kempton's letter to Frederick Blair, the same symbol could be seen as either a Roman numeral two or a rectangle. In fact, other instances of this symbol in the Kempton Cipher actually do look more like a rectangle, even though all the symbols, regardless of which way you interpret them, represent the letter "D".
Other renditions of the Kempton Cipher, chose to present the symbol as a Roman numeral as show below:
As all renditions of the "Forty Feet Below Two Million Pounds Are Buried" cipher are derived from Reverend Kempton's copy, and it is obvious that some symbols are perceived differently, depending on the observer.
I am going to draw your attention to another Oak Island artifact, discovered before the Kempton Cipher was released in 1949.
This stone artifact, now missing, was discovered by Oak Island treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden in the 1930s. It is believed that some previous treasure seeker had dynamited a much larger rock into fragments, of which the H O Stone was one piece. How much of the message inscribed on the rock was lost to this event is not known. It is yet another example of an unfortunate course of action taken on the island.
If you will play along, I would like to speculate about the possibility that this artifact somehow shares a connection to the Kempton and La Formule Ciphers. If we treat the inscribed characters as a cipher, enciphered like the others, then we are dealing with the following characters:
Since it has already been established that:
We are only left with the "H" symbol to decipher. Knowing that the only four letters not used between the Kempton and La Formule Ciphers are J, K, X, and Z, this leaves us with only four possible solutions. Is H equal to J, K, X, or Z?
Of these four possible solutions, in our speculative scenario, KEUES and XEUES do not seem to be defined.
JEUES and ZEUES, upon a cursory search, seem to be old words for the Jewish people, and the name of God, respectively.
A quick Google search on JEUES turned up these examples:
While a Google search for ZEUES seems to suggest ZEUES as an alternate spelling of the Greek god Zeus, or as a basis for the evolution of the name of Jesus. That requires more research than I have time for at the moment.
The one other possible solution I speculated on was could the "H" actually be a Roman Numeral II, like in the Snow version of the 90 Foot Stone Cipher? What if the cross bar on the inscribed H was a natural mark? This would make the "H" on the stone equal to the letter "D" in the cipher key, giving us the word "DEUES" or God or Gods as seen on Zena Halpern's map of Nova Scotia.
This is all idle musings on my part, as the cross bar on the H symbol on the stone certainly looks to be man made in the picture. It is too bad that the stone is currently lost, or it could be examined closer. The similarities in the symbols on the stone and in the ciphers just jumped out at me. The stone has always thought to have been inscribed with an H and a cross with a dot in each corner, and a center-dot-circle. A while back, while reviewing some notes on the H O Stone, it occurred to me that the four-dot-cross might actually be three separate symbols grouped closely together. That is when I could visualize it was a cipher like the others. I have no idea whether this interpretation is valid or not, but it is an interesting take. What would three separate pieces of possible Oak Island evidence being connectable to each other suggest? If they were all part of a stock selling scheme perpetrated in the mid to late 1800s, why were all three items never publicized together before? As always, there are more questions than answers.
I am currently involved in other research projects and do not have the time to look deeper into the H O Stone as a cipher, but if you find the idea worthy of some research, please let me know what you may determine, pro or con.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock, Blockhouse Investigations
Oak Island has attracted tourists to the island since the day knowledge of the treasure hunt became public in 1857. Thousands of curious individuals have found their way to Nova Scotia's Treasure Island to experience firsthand the lure of this enduring mystery. Since Robert Dunfield and Mel Chappell built the causeway to the island in 1965, visitors have been able to walk or drive onto the island to partake in guided tours. Before the causeway, visitors journeyed to Oak Island by boat, whether hired or in their own.
"Any boat seen to land parties above high tide mark will be treated as pirates and shot on sight."
We recently found a notice about Oak Island visitors permits from days gone by, shown in the above photo, in the R.V. Harris papers housed at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. The undated handwritten permit, likely written sometime between 1888 and 1935, reads as follows:
to land on Sellers farm, Oak Island to picnic, may be purchased at 25 cents per person from this date.
Parties of less than six may obtain a guide by paying $1 extra.
Any boat seen to land parties above high tide mark will be treated as pirates and shot on sight.
Landing must be made at North Cove stone wharf!
Season permit for 5 persons $10 in advance.
All boats permitted to come and go must have name on bow and stern in white letters on black ground at
least 2 inches high and one inch apart.
These permits do not allow trespass in meadowland.
$50 fine to be imposed if permits are forged. <undecipherable signature>"
As you can see, visitor's were welcome on the island for a small fee, but pirates would receive a much less friendly greeting.
We believe that this notice was likely issued between 1888 and 1935 because it mentions the Seller's Farm.
After John Smith, one of the co-discoverers of the Money Pit and owner of Lot 18 upon which the Money Pit is located, died in 1857, Anthony Graves bought up Smith's island lots. When Graves passed away in 1888, he left his island lots to his daughters Sophia and Rachel. Sophia was married to Henry Sellers, and the land became known as the Seller's Farm. Sophia died in 1931, but the land stayed in the Seller's family until Gilbert Hedden bought them out in 1935.
We suspect that sometime between 1931 and 1935 is the most probable date for this notice as the notice states "Farm Rentee". The most likely time for the farm to have been rented would have been after Sophia's death, but that is uncertain.
I can recall "Trespassers will be shot" signs posted in the Nova Scotia countryside back in the early 1970, but no later. You will not encounter such a notice these days, but remember, Oak Island is a privately owned island and under Canada's Trespass to Property Act, you can only be there with permission from the land owners.
Today, you can visit Oak Island under a much friendlier atmosphere. There are twice daily tours on weekends, typically running between late June and early September. These tours are most often led by Charles Barkhouse, of the Curse of Oak Island TV show. A Visitor Centre containing museum displays and a gift shop is staffed by friendly and welcoming faces.
You can visit their website by clicking here:
Thanks for reading.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell
Recent episodes of History Channel's popular television show, Curse of Oak Island, have highlighted former island resident Samuel Ball and his various land holdings. One of these holdings has caused many people to ask, "Where is Hook Island?" You will not find it on current maps of Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia, but it is not located very far from Oak Island.
It is a small island of about 3 acres, located only a half mile off the main land of Western Shore.
Formerly owned by Daniel Vaughan (the same Vaughan family as co-Money Pit discoverer Anthony Vaughan Jr.), he sold Hook island to Samuel Ball, labourer, on March 13th 1790, as shown in the following entry in the Registry of Deeds:
As you can see in the record above, Ball paid five pounds for the island, which Daniel describes thusly, "my island situated, laying and being on the west side of Mahone Bay,in the Township of Chester described and known by the name Hook Island."
Many years later, on December 14th 1845, Samuel Ball passed away. His will left his estate to his servant Isaac Butler, and provided for the care of Sam's widow and a Mrs. Best. The story of Sam's will is very interesting and it stipulated that Isaac Butler must change his last name to Ball in order to inherit Sam's land. Whether Isaac did this or not is unclear, but he did take possession of Sam's land holdings because we pick up on the trail of Hook Island almost 40 years later when Isaac Butler (not Isaac Ball) sells Hook island to Archibald Rafuse on May 30th 1884.
In the deed transfer record, Isaac describes Hook Island as "that certain island in Chester Bay known as Hook Island situated near the Western Shore and containing three acres more or less".
Then Hook Island disappears. You can no longer find Hook Island on a map of Mahone Bay. Did it erode away over time? No. Was it renamed? Yes. What is the new name by which Hook Island is now known? You will likely shake your head and proclaim how obvious it should have been, for you can easily see the former Hook Island directly off the South Shore Cove of Oak Island. Only now it is known as Sam's Island.
So how can we be sure that this is the Hook Island Samuel Ball owned (other than it now seemingly being named after him)? The only record we can find of Archibald Rafuse selling an island is in this deed record:
As you can see from the segments of a lengthy deed record above, Archibald Rafuse sold to Anslom Rafuse "that certain island in Chester Bay in said county, known as Sam's Island and which said island lies to the east of lands of Albert Shupe and Edmond Shupe about one half mile from the mainland and containing three acres more or less."
We believe it is certain that the Sam's Island mentioned here was formerly Hook Island, and that it simply became known as Sam's Island to the locals for obvious reasons. There is no doubt that the description matches Hook Island, and the chain of custody of the land went from Sam Ball to Isaac Butler to Archibald Rafuse. Sometime during the ten years that Archibald owned Hook Island, the name was likely dropped in favour of calling it by the name of its former owner, who likely had some notoriety by that time from living on "Treasure Island".
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell
As recent episodes of the Curse Of Oak Island television show focus on exploring a cavity in the bedrock under the Money Pit area, we have taken a look at other cavities that have been encountered in the Oak Island area in the past.
Forty-Two years ago, George Young, a project manager for a firm of engineering consultants, was overseeing the installation of a sewer system for the Western Shore area adjacent to Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, when an intriguing discovery was made. On the afternoon of October 28th, 1975, while attempting to dig a sixteen foot deep hole, thirty feet above the high tide line, near the current marina at the Atlantica Hotel, they struck bedrock only 7 feet below the beach's surface. That would not be deep enough to install the necessary pumping station, so surveyor Christopher Masland informed Young of the situation. They examined the flat smooth surface at the bottom of the ten foot wide hole and decided to try hitting it with the teeth of the excavator's bucket. To their surprise, it broke through, creating a hole about three feet in diameter, revealing a fifty-two foot deep cavity.
When the cavity was first opened, fresh water filled the cavity to within six feet of the opening. Over the next couple of days, as they worked to relocate the pumping station, it was noticed that the water level was rising in the newly discovered cavity, until it had overflowed the opening, and created a fast flowing brook down the beach to the salt water. Young decided to use two large pumps to drain the water from the cavity, but after a full day of operation, the water level was only lowered back to its original level, 6 feet below the opening of the cavity.
One of the workers, Garry Weisner, volunteered to be lowered down into the cavity to examine it with a flashlight. As Weisner described the cavity, Young made notes of the observations. He wrote:
"With his back towards the sea, the roof curved behind him until it became vertical almost four feet from him. To his right and left the wall curved downwards in a similar nature about four feet on either side, making the cavern about nine and a half feet wide at that point. The walls seemed to widen in an arc, so that they faded from his lighted vision, and in his estimation extended more than thirty feet below the hillside!"
Danny Hennigar, another employee on the crew, offered to explore the cavity in his diving gear, but after careful consideration, George Young decided that it was too dangerous, a decision he would later come to regret. As he learned more about the history of the area, and what he believed may be its possible connections to the ancient world, he realized that they had missed their one chance to explore the cavity for ancient archeological artifacts, as the cavity had been filled in with 660 yards of gravel, a steel reinforced concrete pad placed over the opening, and the seven feet of beach gravel put back over the pad. We can't help but observe that this description is very reminiscent of Dan Blankenship's "hidden shaft" discovery on Oak Island's south shore, during his time working with Robert Dunfield. Dan too broke into a domed cavity, many feet below the surface of the beach. He theorized that someone in the past had tunneled in from the side and then dug upwards.
Mr. Young also wrote that they encountered another 12 foot deep cavity on the Marina road, 120 feet away from the first one. In fact, the area along the mainland coastline near Oak Island is dotted with 'cave-in pits'. So what did Mr. Young make of these pits, and those found on Oak Island? After four years of researching the early history of North America, ancient languages, ancient tide levels, and land formations, Young came to believe that around the year 400 B.C., trans-Atlantic seafaring was routine, and visitation to the New World, then called Asqasamal, was common place. During this time a small group of settlers from Libya, whose heritage was a mix of Phoenician and Greek, came to Mahone Bay, and took advantage of the numerous limestone caves, formed by erosion due to ground waters, in the area of Oak Island. Young believed that these settlers, over time, dug tunnels between the various caverns, and shafts to the surface to ventilate their underground systems. Then sometime around 260 B.C., contact ceased with the old world, likely due to the destruction of the Carthaginian fleet by the time the First Punic War was over. If you note in Young's Mahone Bay map illustration above Oak Island and Frog Island were part of the mainland at this period in time.
Mr. Young then suggests that Mahone Bay was next visited in 470 A.D., by Coptic refugees from the Mediterranean. Young believed that this small group of refugees came with a small flat stone bearing an early Christian inscription which read "The people will perish in misery if they forget the Lord, alas. The Arif, he is to pray for an end or mitigation to escapecontagion of plague and winter hardship." This of course, is Oak Island's 90 Foot Stone, and it's mysterious inscription which had been recently translated by Dr. Barry Fell of Havard University from a copy of the inscription supposedly made by an unknown person in the past. Fell believed the inscription to be in Libyan script, of Libyan-Arabic dialect. As you can see in this illustration from George Young's book "Ancient Peoples and Modern Ghosts", a variation of the Kempton Cipher is shown upside down, and with a different intreperation of the symbol shapes.
Young goes on to write that it is not known how long these people stayed in the Oak Island area, but the 90 foot stone, similarities to their language found in the Mi'kmaq language, and other Egyptian artifacts found along the rivers and coastlines of North America are evidence of their past presence. The next significant event in Oak Island history, according to Young, happened in 1384, when a large group landed on the island with the purpose of hiding something of great value. At this time, the tides would have been 8.3 feet below 1980's levels. Young suggests that this group, likely Norsemen, constructed the Money Pit and its flood tunnels by repurposing the dwellings created by the earlier groups. In the process, they utilized the 90 Foot Stone as a marker of some type in hiding the "treasure". It was this group who Young believed created the fan-like finger drains in Smith's Cove as a feeder system and utilized the exisitng ventilation tunnels into the Money Pit as flood tunnels.
Finally, Young, having learned from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, and from the Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources in Ottawa, Canada, that tides have risen at a rate of approximately 41 centimeters per century over the past 6000 years, suggested that the rising tides created an island, seperating Oak Island from the mainland, and setting the stage for the discovery of the Money Pit by Donald Daniel McInnis, John Smith, Anthony Vaughan, and perhaps Samuel Ball.
This is interesting conjecture which seems to incoporate many of the unproven theories about early visitation to North American shores. Hopefully the efforts being expended at the Money Pit and Smith's Cove on Oak Island this year will provide some evidence suggesting whether or not George Young was on the right track with his self-described conjecture regarding the mystery of Oak Island. If you want to know more about Mr. Young's writings about Oak Island, you can search for a copy of his 1980 book, "Ancient Peoples and Modern Ghosts", published by George Young "Queensland" Nova Scotia, and printed by Lunenburg County Print Ltd.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations
Many people are likely aware of the theories that connect Shakespeare, the prolific English poet, playwright, and author, known as The Bard of Avon, to Oak Island in Mahone Bay Nova Scotia. What some people may not know is that starting in 1971, David J. Hansen, Director of The De Vere Foundation, researched the possibility that Edward DeVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, may be buried in a sarcophagus five fathoms deep on Oak Island. He believed that Oak Island is not only the site of Shakespeare's tomb, but the hiding place of his
original manuscripts, and other treasures. In the course of investigating and formulating his theory, Mr. Hansen talked with Robert Dunfield, a former Oak Island treasure hunter in the 1960s, and also with Daniel Blankenship, who is still hunting for treasure on Oak Island after fifty plus years. For the historical significance of insight from a former treasure hunter, a current treasure hunter, and Oak Island artifacts that help support this theory, we feel that the following letter that Hansen wrote to the mayor of San Francisco, Joseph Alioto, may be of interest to Oak Island enthusiasts. This letter comes to us from the research papers of Oak Island researcher and author Les MacPhie , and represents the start of our endeavor to provide Mr. MacPhie's body of research to the public. You can access the Les MacPhie Archives from our home page on the oakislandcompendium.ca.
Sorry that the photos in the Exhibit pages are no of very good reproduction quality. We present them as is. We hope that this letter gave you some additional insight into the history of the treasure hunt on this small island in Nova Scotia.
Thanks for reading, and goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations
This article is just to quickly relate an observation made from perusing the Parish Registers of Nova Scotia. A link to these archives was recently shared with the Oak Island Facebook Community by member Diana Young Gregory. This an excellent digital resource hosted online by Canadiana.org, which you can access by clicking here. You can find all the familiar family names listed within this register of births, marriages, and deaths, which have had a connection to Oak Island, such as Smith, McInnis, Vaughan, Ball, and others, from the earliest days of British settlement. Thanks for sharing it with us Diana!
One family name was unfamiliar to me, as I had never heard of it before, and I have been living in Nova Scotia all my life. Templeman is the surname I took note of while scrolling through the pages of the register. I did a quick phone directory search and could not find any Templemans currently listed in Nova Scotia, but they were here, living in Chester, near Oak Island, as early as 1787. Samuel Templeman was born in Chester, to Thomas and Mary Templeman, on March 21st, 1787.
The Templeman name caught my interest, of course, because of the various theories that involve purported Templar activities on Oak Island in the dim past. Could the Templeman surname be connected to the Knights Templar? Surprisingly yes. Check out this excerpt from The Internet Surname Database:
This name is occupational in origin and was given to one who was employed at, or who lived in one of the houses (temples) maintained by the Crusading order, the Knights Templar - so called because of their claimed association with the site of the old temple in Jerusalem. The surname was particularly associated with Cambridgeshire where the Templars had manors at Isleham and Duxford. Alternate forms of the name were 'serviens Templariorum' (1277) and 'de Templo' (1248)... The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Templeman, which was dated 1240, in the Fine Court Rolls of Yorkshire, during the reign of King Henry 111, known as the Frenchman 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Read more: http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Templeman
Now we are not suggesting that this is evidence of Templar activity in Chester, or on Oak Island. It is simply one of those amusing and interesting connections that sometimes occur when researching a topic, and we thought we would share it with you, along with the superb genealogical resource brought to our attention by Diana.
Though someone really interested in Templar research may want to backtrack this family for their own interests.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
Scotia from which you can still buy these maps. If you would like to read our article on the Dry-Dock Theory, click here.
Sarah provided photos of the map index, which we will provide here with her permission, as Mr. Bates created many more historical maps than just those for Oak Island. You may be interested in some of the others. Sarah pointed out that the pricing listed on the index may not be the current prices for each map.
I see at least three maps in the index about Oak Island that I will be adding to my Oak Island collection. Here is the contact information if you would like to purchase one of these maps for yourself or a fellow enthusiast:
Carrefour Atlantique Emporium
Location: Inside the Historic Properties (Privateers Warf) Market Mall
Address: Historic Properties, 1869 Upper Water St, Halifax, NS B3J 1S9
Phone: (902) 423-2940
Province: Nova Scotia
Thanks for sharing with us Sarah, and goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock - Blockhouse Investigations
There have been questions posed in the past as to whether or not there was a Windmill on Oak Island. I had never heard of one, nor had I found historical mention of one, but I have now. It appears as if the idea of a windmill was proposed by George Bates, a gentleman perhaps best known for having surveyed parts of Oak Island. He created a series of Oak Island maps, laid out as blueprints, back in the 1970s. In this map, he presents his theory that the works discovered on Oak Island, in Mahone Bay Nova Scotia, are more in line with known dry-docks in the West Indies, in use in early days. So there is no historic proof of a windmill on the island. It exists as a theory, but an interesting theory none the less.
The following narratives are numbered to match the red numbers we have added to the map so that readers can easily match the text below to the text in the labels on the map by George Bates.
Is this the Secret of Oak Island?
Is the famous "Money Pit" part of a pumping station for a former and quite possibly pirates drydock?
The mouth of the La Have river was the headquarters of pirates who resorted there in great numbers at the invitation of the French Governor Brouillon, for about twenty years, beginning in the early 1690's.
Shown above is the method of operation of a drydock as used in the early days. Many of the known facts and findings on Oak Island tend to support the theory. At the same time, however, it should be pointed out that tide water level in the Money Pit was found to be 32 feet below ground level, while the top of the upper chamber is about 98 feet below ground level. Two tunnels are known to have been constructed from the sea to the Money Pit. The first actually discovered in 1897, but known to exist fifty years before that, is about 320 feet long. It enters the pit at the 110 foot level and is 3 feet high by 2 feet 6 inches wide. the second tunnel, larger in size, but only about 275 feet long to the south shore of the island, enters the pit at the 150 foot level. A third tunnel is suspected at the 135 feet level. At least one large chamber, of cement-like construction, is known to exist at the bottom of the Pit. The remains of a "skidway", built long before the coffer dam of 1865 in the Cove, was found in 1937-38. What is the secret of Oak Island? George Bates 1970.
Method of Operation:
Windmill (or windlass) pumps lower chamber dry. Vessel enters drydock, and seaward locks are closed. Water gate to Tunnel No. 1 is then opened. Water in dock flows down the tunnel to the lower chamber, leaving the drydock void of water. Windmill continues pumping water into the upper chamber, from which in similar drydocks in the West Indies, it flows by gravity through Tunnel No. 2 to the sea. Pumping continues so long as there is water in the lower chamber.
Both of the chambers on Oak Island appear to be about 40 Feet high, of unknown length and width as yet. The drydock, if this theory is valid, was probably located on the eastern coast of the island in Smuggler's Cove (also known as Pirate's Cove and Smith's Cove), as Tunnel No. 1 is known to have a definite downward slope from the sea, westerly to the main shaft and lower chamber.
The principle aim, and especially so with pirates, is to get the water out of the drydock so that work on the vessel might proceed immediately.
In view of the known fact that pirates in great numbers made their headquarters in nearby La Have for a period of about 20 years and possibly for much longer than that, the extent and nature of the works so far found at Oak Island appear to be more compatible with the drydock or shipyard theory than that of hidden pirate or even other treasure. This may be the first shipyard in North America.
Section - Oak Pump Casing. Detail No. 1. Iron Band.
Shaft discovered in 1965
Tunnel No. 2
The "Money Pit"
Thick Oak Timber
Windmill - removed, demolished, or destroyed prior to 1795
Main Shaft - discovered 1795
Platform every 10 feet. Supports pump casing.
Upper Chamber - discovered in 1937 but known before then
Tunnel No. 1
Shaft Discovered in 1878
Smuggler's, Smith, or Pirate's Cove.
Dirt and rock fill
Known water tunnel
Lower Chamber - discovered in 1965
Oak Pump Casing. Strenghtened with bands of iron - See Detail No. 1
Known water tunnel
Drydock - Seawall type, extended into the sea - Detail No. 2
Drydock - type recessed in the shore. Detail No. 3
Mr. Bates theory is an interesting one, and his connection to the island via the survey work he did there will likely mean that we will run into his name again. I particularly liked that he suggests a reason for the iron that was found below ground with his Oak Pump Casing reinforced with iron bands, along with the chambers, Oak platforms, flood tunnels, and slipway. What doesn't seem to fit, is the fingers drains. Would they have been deeper if they were used to help drain a drydock?
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock
Radiocarbon (C-14) dating is one of the most reliable of all the radiometric dating methods. It has been utilized to scientifically test organic Oak Island artifacts many times since 1967. The test uses carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of the element that decays away at a steady rate. Organisms intake a certain amount of carbon-14 from the atmosphere while they are alive. By measuring the ratio of the radio isotope to non-radioactive carbon, the amount of carbon-14 decay can be determined, giving a fairly accurate age for the specimen.
Oak Island Compendium and Blockhouse Investigations is pleased to announce that Oak Island Researcher and author Les MacPhie has asked the Compendium to maintain his compilation of Oak Island Carbon Dating Reports for study by the public. We are honored to be able to do so. The index for those reports and an overview of the date results are displayed below. The collection of reports themselves are provided for download as a PDF file via a link at the bottom of this article. We invite you to dig in to the reports and see which carbon dates support your favorite theory, and which do not!
Thanks for visiting, and goodnight from The Blockhouse!
In 1570, Captain Francisco de Souza, governor of the island of Madeira, reported that Joao Alvares Fagundes was determined to create a settlement in the new land of the Cod Fish, and under license by King Manuel, had set sail some 45 to 50 years ago with several couples and families, mostly from the Azores. All contact with these intrepid settlers was lost. It wasn't until decades later that Basque fishermen brought back word that these settlers had created a colony in what is assumed to be Cape Breton, that existed at least until late into the 16th Century.
Are we sure that it was present day Cape Breton in which this colony was founded?
Governor Souza stated that in "Cape Britão, at the entrance of the north coast, in a beautiful bay, which had a settlement, with very precious things, and a lot of walnut, chestnut, grapes, and other fruits, where it seems to be the good land and so on this company were some couples from the Azores that they have taken as is notorious". What were the boundaries for this area known as Cape Britão? It is certainly one of the earliest names applied to this region of the North American coastline. In 1607, Samuel de Champlain identified the remains of a large, rotten, moss covered, wooden cross on the shores of the Minas Basin, in the Bay of Fundy (another place name given by the Portuguese). Another discovery in the Minas Basin area, directly North of Oak Island, and yet to be authenticated, is what seems to be an early Portuguese gravestone, known as the Ardoise Stone.
Local historian L.S. Loomer had the following to say:
"At the south extremity of Windsor township lies the high ground ofArdoise Hill. There about 1900 was discovered apparent evidence of other visitors to the area. It is a piece of slate, 12 inches long, six inches high, and a quarter inch thick. It bears a shield with a chevron and sword, an arrow, a skull and cross-bones, and the Latin inscription: 'C. Manulis, Hic Jacet, A.M.DLVIII.' Translated it appears to be 'Here lies C. Manulis 1558.' The rest is a mystery. He may have been one of a hunting party of Portuguese fishermen who died and was buried on Ardoise Hill. The stone, in private hands,would be the oldest known inscribed gravestone in Hants County." -"Windsor, Nova Scotia - A Journey In History," WHHS,1996, p. 25.
These two artifacts, the rotten wooden cross and the purported gravestone, were found not too far north of the "beautiful bay" known as Mahone Bay.
Hopefully, someday, more information will come to light about this early Portuguese Colony and their activities in the region.
For now though, this story emphasizes that the Portuguese should not be overlooked when considering early habitation along the shores of Atlantic Canada, and as potential visitors to Oak Island.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock
The so called Cave-in Pit on Mahone Bay's famous Oak Island has long been thought to be part of the original treasure works. This well-like hole, discovered in 1878, opened up suddenly when a pair of oxen being used to plow a field, passed over the spot and the ground collapsed under them. Sophia Sellers, the daughter of Anthony Graves, and her husband owned much of the island at this point, and it was she who was handling the team of oxen that day. Speculation held that it was an air shaft created by the original workers while digging the flood tunnel.
According to one authoritative account:
“One day in 1878 Sophia Sellers had been plowing with a team of oxen when the ground had suddenly caved in under the animals and they had dropped into a hole six to eight feet in diameter and more than ten feet deep. The oxen were extricated and the incident forgotten until many years later when Blair saw the hole and heard the story from Sellers. What interested Blair and his fellow searchers was that the hole, which they dubbed the “Cave-in Pit” was about 350 feet east of the Money Pit and directly over the suspected route of the flood tunnel from Smith’s Cove.
Some investigators had previously suggested that a five hundred foot tunnel (from the Money Pit to Smith’s Cove) couldn’t have been built without having at least one vertical shaft somewhere along its course. This would have provided an additional point from which the earth from the tunnel could be removed; more important, it would have served as an airshaft for those digging the tunnel. Blair and his associates also suspected that the creators of the Money Pit might have installed a valve or gate somewhere in the flood tunnel, to be used to shut off the water when they came back for their treasure.
So the first job was to excavate and explore the Cave-in Pit. At a depth of fifty-five feet, seawater began entering it. By the next day the water was at tide level (about fifteen feet below ground level at that spot) and it couldn’t be lowered by bailing. That project was then abandoned. But the group was still convinced that the Cave-In Pit had been hand-dug at some earlier point, and there was no record of any previous searchers having put down a shaft in that particular area…
… Today the Cave-in Pit is a gaping circular crater one hundred feet deep and almost as many feet across. And the water still rises and falls with the tide.” - source: The Big Dig, D’Arcy O’Connor, Ballantine Books, New York, Nov 1988
There are two pieces of information that caught our attention in the above excerpt from D'Arcy O'Connor's excellent account of the Oak Island diggings. The first being Frederick Blair and associates suspicion that the cave-in pit being the site of a valve or gate to shut off the flood tunnels, and secondly, that there were no existing records of searcher work undertaken in that particular area. The idea of a gate to shut off the flood tunnel was gnawing away at some memory of a document I had seen during my research of Oak Island. I took some time and went back through piles of pages collected from various archives, and I quickly realized that I need a better filing system. There were many documents that I had no recollection of gathering up any longer. However, I did find what my mind was trying to get me to recall. The following is a document written in 1867, by Charles Ross, and outlines the plan for stopping the water drain on Oak Island.
Here is the transcript of the plan:
"Plan for Stopping the Water Drain on Oak Island
On the eastern side of Oak Island there is a cove, from which point it is said the water is let in by means of a drain to the shaft in which the “Kidd Treasure” is supposed to be.
The plan I propose to stop the water is to sink a shaft twelve feet across the drain and from two to three wide, from 100 to 200 feet above the cove. The centre of the shaft to come on the centre of the drain.
As soon as the shaft is taken down to show signs of water being near, the working must be stopped and the ground probed, which will be best done with an iron rod to find the drain.
The position of the drain being found, a gate must be made of iron as that shown in the enclosed plan, 2.5 inches thick at the top and going off to 1.25 at bottom. The sides and bottom of the gate must be steeled and made sharp. The length to be 8 feet by 7 wide. A driving shaft made of hard wood must be attached to the gate on top, and of length required.
The gate being made, take it and lay it near the western bank of the shaft, taking care to have the centre of the gate if possible coming near the centre of the drain, then drive the gate down until the drain is closed. This being done, put the pump to work and take the water from the Money Shaft.
If it is found that the quantity of water coming into the shaft is likely to give trouble, sink another shaft 20 or 30 feet back of the first, and drive another gate."
So here we have an 1867 plan for shutting off the flood tunnel from Smith's Cove. Notice that it is recommended that the shaft for this gate be dug 100 to 200 feet back from the shore. The exact location of the Cave-In pit is hard to determine now, as Robert Dunfield's excavation of that pit, created a much wider hole in the ground. By overlaying the Stephen March Survey of October 25 1937 on Google Earth, we can estimate that the Cave-In pit is located about 174 feet from the shoreline. This puts it within the parameters specified in the plan outlined above. What's more, the "75 foot" shaft, located between the shore and the Cave-In Pit, on the March Survey sits approximately 50 feet from the Cave-In Pit and about 123 feet from the shoreline. This puts both shafts within the parameters of the plan, and the plan states, "If it is found that the quantity of water coming into the shaft is likely to give trouble, sink another shaft 20 or 30 feet back of the first, and drive another gate".
We are not sure at this time as to when the "75 Foot" shaft as noted on the March survey was dug, but this excerpt from an 1863 letter shows that either the company was digging a shaft in that area, or they suspected a shaft in that area.
The Oak Island Eldorado Company shut down operations in 1867. Was the Cave-In pit one of their shafts, possibly created by enacting the above plan? Did they cover over the Cave-In Pit at the end of their operations, and eleven years later, Sophia's oxen cause the covering to collapse? Now that we know of the plan Charles Ross put forth, we now have a document that suggests that work was either carried out in that particular area, or had been planned for that area, so we now need to allow that the Cave-In Pit may have been the work of searchers. Here is hoping that further documents come to light, that will tell us more.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock
A recent trip to the Truro Archives turned up a piece of possible evidence in our hunt for the Inscribed Stone, said to have been taken out of Oak Island's Money Pit from a depth of 80 or 90 feet. This stone is often referred to simply as the 90 Foot Stone. Some believe it existed, and others are skeptical. We have been busy trying to prove it either real, or an embellishment to the treasure legend. Our most recent visit to the archives produced a document we hadn't seen before.
It was a letter written to Mr. McCully in 1863, on August 30th to be exact, from a Captain W. Thompson. This Captain gave his address as Ship Consul, Marshall's Wharf, Halifax.
For those of you who have been following along with our search, or are familiar with the Oak Island Legend, the name of McCully will be instantly recognizable. Jotham McCully, or Truro Nova Scotia, was said to be involved with the Oak Island Treasure hunt from 1849 and onward. He died in 1899. It is McCully who gave the public their first published detailed information on the treasure hunt back in 1862, when he addressed unfavorable reports of the then current hunt, as reported in the local newspaper. As you read the transcript of the Thompson letter below, you will recognize another well known name tied to the early days of the treasure recovery attempts.
"Halifax Aug 30th/63
I have seen Mr. Creighton and he got the telegram all right. I was speaking to him about some shares and he said I should have applied to you. Can you let me have five shares, if so please make out the papers as soon as you can and I will be ready with the money. I will consider it as a favour if you will do this for me.
About the other affair, I suppose you have written to Boston. I was thinking if I had the address, I could write to her and send a piece of the stone and we could compare the answers received and if favourable, I could engage four laborers in Halifax, bring them down and meet you and the others that is Fraser & Ross at the place and go to work. Please write by return of Post and tell me what you think of it.
Cpt. W. Thompson
In this letter, Thompson mentions seeing Mr. Creighton. This was undoubtedly Augustus Oliver Creighton (known as A. O. Creighton), who owned the Bookbindery (along with his brother Herbert) in which the 90 Foot Stone was said to have been put on public display.
So here we have Jotham (J. B.) McCully, the man who gave us the earliest mention (1862)of the inscribed stone taken out of the Money Pit in 1803 or 1804, and A. O. Creighton, the man in whose window the stone was said to be displayed, mentioned in the same letter. Both these men were members of the company trying to recover the treasure on Oak Island at that period in time.
It is the second paragraph which grabs our attention. It is being suggested that "a piece of the stone" be sent to a lady in Boston. What stone? Why send a piece of it? Of course, the immediate conclusion to jump to is that it is the 90 Foot Stone. Both McCully and Creighton were involved in removing the stone from John Smith's fireplace in his former farmhouse on Oak Island. The answer as to why could easily be thought to be because the 90 Foot Stone was said to be a type of stone not native to Nova Scotia. Perhaps they wanted to consult a lady who was knowledgeable in stones, who might identify the place of origin of the stone itself. Maybe it was a larger piece of the 90 Foot Stone, with some of the symbols on it? Maybe they wanted to consult a linguistics expert? This doesn't seem like the prudent way to have someone assess the symbols carved on the stone though. Sending a photo or a tracing, or even an illustration of the symbols on the stone would be physically easier and more economical. Then we must consider the accepted timeline for the events surrounding the stone. The stone was mentioned in the three part article telling the history of the Oak Island Treasure Hunt, which was published in late 1863, with part three of the series printed in very early 1864. It stated, in part:
"...a flag stone about two feet long and one wide, with a number of rudely cut letters and figures upon it. They were in hopes the inscription would throw some valuable light on their search, but unfortunately they could not decipher it, as it was either too badly cut or did not appear to be in their own vernacular." - Source: 1864 January 2 - The Colonist, Tri-weekly Edition, Halifax N.S. (Newspaper)
On January 2nd of 1864, John Hunter-Duvar, secretary of the Historical Society of Nova Scotia, reads this article, and immediately writes to George Cooke, a member of the current treasure hunters on Oak Island, asking to learn who currently possesses the 90ft Stone.
“Sir, An interesting sketch of the Oak Island enterprise appears in the “Colonist” newspaper of this morning, and of which I believe you are the author. You mention a flagstone bearing an inscription was found and as it was preserved in the family of Mr. Smith ‘it may be seen by the curious at the present day.’ May I beg, in the name of the society, to be favored with the name of the person in whose possession the stone is, as, if authentic, it cannot fail to be important as a historical object. I have the honor to be Sir, Your most obedient servant J. Hunter Duvar Corr. Sec." - Source: 1864 January 2 – Letter written by John Hunter Duvar to George Cooke
On January 27th of 1864, George Cooke replies to Hunter-Duvar's inquiry.
“On my return I found your letter of the 2nd instant, desiring information respecting the flag-stone bearing an inscription taken out of the Old Pit on Oak Island, awaiting me… The stone in question was saved by Mr. Smith, who owned the place. About 40 years ago, at a time when nothing was doing at the island & when the prospects of the treasure seekers appeared altogether hopeless. Mr. Smith built, what was then called, his new house. In building it, he found that this interesting stone would suit admirably a corner in the back part of his chimney, and as he began to consider it of no value to himself or to any one else, on account of the operations at the island having ceased, he unfortunately put it into the chimney, the flat side out. Fourteen years ago Mr. Smith pointed out the stone, then & I believe still in the chimney, and assured me that it was the identical stone taken out of the “Money Pit” on the Island, in his presence. Mr. Smith has since died & the property has passed into other hands. Mr. Graves now owns the property & building is occupied by the present Oak Island Association. I am not aware whether Mr. Graves knows anything about the stone being in the Chimney. On making inquiries since receipt of you letter, I find that the chimney has been boxed round by a wood partition, and that a flight of stairs goes up near where the stone is inserted. I was not aware of this before. This may prevent the stone from being got at without trouble, and perhaps, expense, but as it is very important for the interests of the “Oak Island Association” if for no other object that the inscription on the stone should be deciphered, its position in the chimney ought not to ___ be an insuperable barrier to the attempt to decipher it being made. At the time I saw the stone I noticed that there were some rudely cut letters, figures or characters upon it. I cannot recollect which, but they appear as if they had been scraped out by a blunt instrument, rather than cut with a sharp one. I have the honor to be sir, Your Most Obedient Servant George Cooke" - Source: 1864 January 27 – Letter written by George Cooke to John Hunter-Duvar
Cooke's letter contains two notable pieces of information. The first is that he states that he personally had seen the stone. This is the first eyewitness account found to date in which someone states that they saw the stone, as opposed to a retelling of the stone's story. The second notable piece of information found in this letter is the claim that the 90 Foot Stone was still in the fireplace of the farmhouse on Oak Island as of January 27th, 1864. If we take this as factual, then is the "stone" mentioned in Captain Thompson's letter ruled out as being the 90 Foot Stone? He wrote his letter on August 30th of 1863, almost four months before the stone was said to have been uncovered and removed from the fireplace. Maybe this was a different stone, considered important, or maybe the 90 Foot Stone had already been removed from the fireplace, but the treasure seekers were not ready to share the possible clues it contained with outside parties at that point in time. Perhaps they had hopes of figuring out the inscription in house, so made up a story as to why it was difficult to view the stone at present.
Whether or not the stone referenced by Thompson was the 90 Foot Stone, his letter leaves us with potential leads to follow. What more can we learn about Captain W. Thompson? Is there another Oak Island stone considered important enough to seek an opinion on by the unnamed person in Boston? Who was the lady in Boston who may have been considered an expert on stones or linguistics? If this stone was indeed the 90 Foot Stone, is this letter an indication that the treasure hunters of 1863 considered the stone an actual physical and true artifact from Oak Island? The questions and the mystery continue...
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
by Doug Crowell and Kel Hancock - Blockhouse Investigations, Nova Scotia, Canada
Oak Island Compendium is happy to be able to bring you the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Oak Island Hydrogeology, Hydrography and Nearshore Morphology July - August 1995 Field Observations Report, courtesy of author and engineer Les MacPhie.
This very informative 157 page report can be viewed on our Oak Island website in its entirety by following the link below.
Good night from The Blockhouse!
To describe the method in simple terms, the apex of the stone triangle is where the surveyor positions himself, looking out along the center line towards the water. Somewhere along that line a point, labeled "T" in the example we saw, can be determined by sighting out along the two ends of the arc. Those "sight" lines will intersect the center line at some point, depending on the angles, and that point of intersection marks point "T".
Discovering this old survey method created some intriguing musings about the possibilities that point "T" could mark a flood tunnel, another hidden clue, or important landmark. Our excitement was renewed in season three of the Curse of Oak Island television show when they discovered a triangular rock off the South shore of the island. Could that be the point we thought the stone triangle might mark? Anything was possible because without the stone triangle we couldn't really determine point "T" with any degree of accuracy.
Imagine our surprise this weekend, while reviewing Dan Blankenship's field reports to Triton Alliance which he filed back in 1965. He had discovered an old shaft right on the edge of the water of the South Shore, and he wrote that the shaft was about 30 feet due south of the stone triangle. What's more is that this shaft was hidden from view. Dan wrote that it was a domed shaft buried under 12 feet of soil. He aptly called it the "Hidden Shaft". Now this is really interesting, as what better way to hide something important than to leave no indicators in the immediate area of that important spot, but create a survey monument a distance away that can be used to triangulate that spot again when needed, and only those trained in surveying would stand a chance of even knowing what the monument was for. Incidentally, it was a 17th century military surveying book we found the method in. So far, we have only found one land surveyor here in present day that understood the triangle.
Dan Blankenship investigated his Hidden Shaft in 1965 and again in 1966, forming a theory around it that involved the Money Pit shaft being a decoy, and the Hidden Shaft being the actual entrance to the Treasure Chamber in the vicinity of the Money Pit. Maybe, just maybe, the Stone Triangle was the real key to solving the mystery all of these years. Here is Dan's report for you to read:
So what do you think? Was Dan on to something important back in 1965? Did their trenching on the South shore accidently located point "T" as possibly indicated by the old stone triangle? As of yet, we have not seen a follow up report on this in the old papers, so we do not know if it was ever pursued further.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
UPDATE: Blockhouse Investigations believes in accurate reporting and giving credit where credit is due. Since we first brought you this story we've learned that we aren't the first or only party to discover the location of this stone. We've learned that a local Historical Society has also tracked it down and is in communication with the current owner. We feel that the responsible thing to do is for us to back off in our investigation and let the society continue on with their great work and perhaps assist as required.
We'll bring you the full story once things develop
What's the story of this inscribed stone? Where was it found and when?
By Kel Hancock Blockhouse Investigations
Well, it was discovered here in Hants County, Nova Scotia, around 1900 in the little village of Ardoise. It's made of slate which, coincidentally, is what the French word "ardoise" means- slate.
It's long been speculated that this stone was possibly the earliest grave stone to be discovered in Nova Scotia, and for many years it was considered "lost".
A long-time theory has been that it's the grave marker of a Portuguese sailor who died on a hunting party to the interior in 1558.
Local historian L.S. Loomer had the following to say:
"At the south extremity of Windsor township lies the high ground ofArdoise Hill. There about 1900 was discovered apparent evidence of other visitors to the area. It is a piece of slate, 12 inches long, six inches high, and a quarter inch thick. It bears a shield with a chevron and sword, an arrow, a skull and cross-bones, and the Latin inscription: 'C. Manulis, Hic Jacet, A.M.DLVIII.' Translated it appears to be 'Here lies C. Manulis 1558.' The rest is a mystery. He may have been one of a hunting party of Portuguese fishermen who died and was buried on Ardoise Hill. The stone, in private hands,would be the oldest known inscribed gravestone in Hants County."
-"Windsor, Nova Scotia - A Journey In History," WHHS,1996, p. 25.
A few decades ago the Nova Scotia Museum deemed that the stone was a fake. But many still insist that it's not.
Is it authentic or is it a fake? Perhaps the product of some adventurous and imaginative 19th century boys at play? Or does it really mark the final resting place of a Portuguese visitor to our shores?
Blockhouse Investigations has found this stone!
We're following the evidence and we'll bring you a full report soon.
Until then, Good Day from the Blockhouse!
By John Wonnacott and Les MacPhie
Part 2 – Interpretation of Findings
Important archaeological discoveries were made after the Becker drilling program described in Part 1 was completed in 1967. Drilling programs by Warnock Hersey in 1969 and Golder Associates in 1970 also found evidence of original work at depth in the area of the Money Pit as summarized in Section 2 below.
So three different drilling programs, with different crews and different equipment, all found intriguing artifacts close to the original Money Pit at depths greater than the “normal” bedrock surface! What is the real significance of these findings? What can we infer from the hard evidence brought to the surface by the drills some 45 to 50 years ago and what is the most probable reality that lies deep underground? In Part 1 of this article, the authors presented the raw data obtained from the Becker program of 1967. Here in Part 2 we give you the best engineering analysis we can think of, plus our best assessment of what the Depositors actually built at the bottom of the Money Pit. Keep in mind that this discussion relates mainly to the archaeological features at about 190 to 200 feet depth and does not consider other interesting findings higher up. Also we have not ventured into the controversial topic of the various theories which have been put forward to explain the “who” and “what” and “when” of the Oak Island Mystery.
2. Additional Discoveries after the Becker Drilling Program
In 1969 Tobias and Blankenship engaged Warnock Hersey to drill a series of holes. Their report (Warnock Hersey, 1969) indicates that Hole W9 encountered wood chips and highly plastic clay from a depth of 192 to 197.51 feet. From 197.5 to 198 feet, clay and a 2 inch thick layer of “red, silty brick-like material” was recovered. Also from 200 to 206 feet, a possible cavity was reported and the drilling return water from this zone was a different color and had a very stagnant odor.
Warnock Hersey Hole W8 (put down at the same location as Becker Hole B24) experienced significant lateral drift to the north based on an accurate down-hole survey in 2015. There was little resistance to drilling from 168 to 200.5 feet and limited sample recovery indicated the presence of loose silty sand. Blankenship (1969) reported that the hole encountered clay from about 178 feet to 204 feet. Our interpretation is that the hole ended at 200.5 feet inclined depth which is equivalent to 199.8 feet vertical depth for the measured lateral drift of 17 feet to the north (depth rounded to 200 feet). The important implication of this hole is that the top and bottom locations are accurately known and thus it represents a reliable point to identify the configuration of the Deep Rock area at 200 feet depth.
In 1970 Golder Associates were engaged to conduct a subsurface investigation including Borehole G103 which was drilled through the bottom of the old Hedden shaft. Based on pollen count analysis (Ritchie, 1970) of soil samples recovered from over 190 feet depth (Sample 27 at 194 feet depth and Sample 30 at 199 feet depth) this hole contained recent soil from the surface in comparison to pollen count analysis identifying ancient glacial soil (embedded in the weathered anhydrite) at an equivalent depth in Hole G102 located 50 feet to the south of G103. Also Hole G103 encountered a zone of very loose soil from 184.5 to 194 feet depth underlying about 30 feet of sound bedrock.
For convenient reference the summary table of archaeological findings included in Part 1 is reproduced below and the additional archaeological findings are included.
3. Location of Key Historical Shafts and Archaeological Boreholes in the Money Pit Area
There have been so many holes drilled since the first Searchers started investigating, that if all the boreholes close to the Money Pit were plotted, the result would be such a cluttered drawing that nothing very useful could be done with it. So Figure 7 shows only key historical shafts and boreholes with archeological findings in the area around the Money Pit (note that figure numbering continues from Part 1).
The first thing that needs to be said, is that we are confident that the Hedden, 1897 Chappel and 1931 Chappel shafts shown on Figure 7 are correct with reference to each other, and their orientation with respect to True North is correct2. The locations of the Becker, Warnock Hersey and Golder holes with respect to each other are considered to be accurate. It is possible that the relative locations of the shafts on the one hand and the boreholes on the other hand may not be correct with the shafts possibly being several feet further south with respect to the boreholes. However, our best assessment is that the shaft and hole locations shown on Figure 7 are correct and this is the configuration used for interpretation of the archaeological findings.
4. Lateral Drift of Boreholes
We mentioned in Part 1 of this article, that all boreholes are subject to lateral drift – but unfortunately (except for Hole W8) none of the holes that found archeological artifacts were measured for this possible problem3. The many possibilities for the alignment of adjacent holes make it difficult to interpret the configuration of archaeological features. To illustrate this point, Figure 8 provides a number of possible variations of adjacent holes which are six feet apart and vertical or which have 10 feet of lateral drift at a depth of 200 feet. As discussed in Part 1, it is considered that 10 feet of lateral drift at 200 feet depth is likely in the upper range of values, although 10 feet is certainly not the maximum lateral drift possible.
5. Convention for Reporting Depths in Boreholes and Shafts
After the massive excavations by Robert Dunfield in the area of the Money Pit in 1965/66 (Dunfield, 1966), the ground surface was lower by about 10 feet in comparison to the “original ground surface.” Therefore, the Becker, Warnock Hersey and Golder drilling programs were carried out from this new ground surface which is referred to as the “existing ground surface.” However, depths in the Chappell and Hedden shafts are with reference to the original ground surface whereas depths in the Becker, Warnock Hersey and Golder boreholes are with reference to the existing ground surface. The convention adopted for this article is to refer depths to existing ground surface. Therefore depths in the historical records related to the two Chappell shafts and the Hedden shaft have been reduced by 10 feet.
Figure 9 is a photo of the Money Pit area taken about 1967/68 after the Dunfield excavation was backfilled and after the site was graded. The Hedden shaft is visible but the 1931 Chappell shaft, which collapsed during the Dunfield excavation, is completely buried. This photo illustrates site conditions after the Becker drilling program but before the Warnock Hersey and Golder drilling programs. The site conditions illustrated in the photo indicate that depths below existing ground level reported in boreholes are with reference to a datum surface which is reasonably level but which may vary by several feet between widely spaced holes.
6. Discussion of Main Archaeological Discoveries
In view of the potential for complicated underground configurations of adjacent holes, the only rational approach for discussion of main archaeological discoveries is to start out with the assumption that each borehole was drilled in a straight line at the intended vertical or inclined orientation, keeping in mind that each hole could have wandered off-line as illustrated in Figure 8. There are at least four main discoveries that can be identified from a first examination of the archeological data:
There are only two ways that we can think of, to explain how modern wood could end up beneath a significant depth of bedrock, which itself is covered by about 160 feet of glacial till. The first scenario would involve development of a large natural cavity in the bedrock and then, well after the last glaciation, development of a sinkhole by “rat holing” from the cavity up through the thick glacial till layer to the surface. This event would then have to be followed by transfer of surface wood to the bottom of the sinkhole with lateral transfer of the wood into the cavity so it is overlain by some 30 to 40 feet of bedrock. We believe this first scenario to be practically impossible, particularly since there is no evidence of massive sinkholes on the Island. The second scenario is that Oak Island Depositors dug a shaft vertically down through 160 feet of glacial till and hit bedrock consisting of weak, weathered anhydrite. As the weathered anhydrite would have been structurally weak, the Depositors continued excavating vertically into the bedrock until they were in sound rock, and then they excavated one or more lateral chambers. If the Depositors were concerned about stability, they would have shored the roof of their chamber(s) with wood that was thick enough to be structurally competent.
The condition of the weathered anhydrite during the Depositors’ work was completely different from present day conditions. Initially any significant fractures in the weathered anhydrite would be completely filled with low permeability soil thus allowing excavation with only limited and manageable water inflow. In its present condition, the weathered anhydrite is highly pervious due to removal of soil from fractures during long intervals of Searchers’ pumping over the years.
Samples of the wood found below the bedrock surface in Hole B24 were radio carbon dated and an age of about 400 years was obtained. We now know that radio carbon dating for samples less than about 500 years old is not very reliable4. However, the results are positively definitive in that the wood had to come from a tree which lived no more than about 800 years ago and thus well after the last ice age. So our inescapable conclusion is that the wood found in these holes is of archeological interest and it was placed in chambers created by whoever dug the original Money Pit.
We think the smell of stagnant water from below bedrock comes from submerged organic matter that has decomposed in a low dissolved-oxygen environment. The same argument that concludes that wood found at this depth must have been placed as a result of human activity, strongly suggests that whatever organic matter caused the stagnant smell, must have originally been placed in the local area by human activity. It is interesting to note that the drilling wash water return (when drilling below the bedrock surface) did not generally have a stagnant smell – the odor was only reported in connection with several subterranean cavities. So all the deep groundwater does not have a stagnant smell, it only occurs in a few deep cavities in the bedrock. We consider that where very stagnant water has been found in cavities or chambers below the bedrock surface, those locations are of archeological significance.
Enough boreholes have been drilled in the general area of the Money Pit that we know the bedrock surface does not naturally vary by more than 10 or 15 feet in elevation except at the Deep Rock area. So either the Deep Rock area is a natural depression in the bedrock surface or it is a man-made feature. We really can’t be absolutely sure without excavating and examining the area, but drilling records indicate that the sides of the Deep Rock area seem to be about vertical. Most natural bedrock depressions have sloping sides. We also observe that sound anhydrite bedrock occurs below the bottom of the Deep Rock area, whereas the top of anhydrite bedrock is weathered everywhere in the area, other than at the Deep Rock area – and this suggests that the Deep Rock area has not has enough time to begin to show signs of weathering. So it appears that the Deep Rock zone was excavated vertically through 35 to 50 feet of weathered anhydrite. Everything we know about the Deep Rock area is consistent with the concept that it is man-made. We have selected a diameter of 16 feet for the Deep Rock area and realize that the diameter could be somewhat larger (if some of the boreholes were subject to lateral drift).
We discussed the characteristics of “puddled clay” in Part 1 of this article. Puddled clay was used for centuries to seal areas from water intrusion. It is very interesting that puddled clay was found in the Deep Rock and Money Pit areas and nowhere else in the immediate area. Since we believe these features are man-made, we consider that the puddled clay was placed by Depositors as part of their underground construction.
We have concluded that the wood found below bedrock was part of a roof shoring system for structural support of chambers excavated in the rock. We also believe that the Depositors were concerned about water seeping into their chamber(s) from above, particularly while they were working, so they would have sealed the roof with clay after shoring the roof, and they would have needed a second layer of wood to hold the clay in place. This accounts for the “wood/clay/wood/ 6 foot space” sequence found in Hole B24. Perhaps the side walls of the chambers are also lined with clay, but we have no data to support or contradict this notion. Either way, seepage water would have been directed around the chamber(s), collecting on the chamber floor, where side drains could have conducted it to sumps where it would have been pumped, or lifted in containers, to the surface. When the Depositors had finished building their chambers and depositing their treasure, we believe that they would have installed a timber bulkhead at the entrance of each chamber and then filled the bottom of the Deep Rock area with puddled clay. Based on current engineering principles, the reason for using puddled clay in this fashion is not readily evident to us. It is likely that the Depositors had reasons for using puddled clay which are not consistent with modern practice in underground engineering.
7. Discussion of the Configuration of the Underground Workings
Because wood was found at several quite widely-spaced locations, we conclude that there is more than one lateral chamber in the bedrock. For example, Boreholes B25 and B33 are 24 feet apart, and a single underground chamber 24 feet wide would require massive geotechnical supports – so this suggests that B25 and B33 encountered separate chambers extending out from the base of the Deep Rock area. However, there is an unlikely scenario where these two holes each drifted 10 feet toward each other in which case the holes would be 4 feet apart at 200 feet depth and thus could be in the same chamber. We consider that this scenario is highly improbable.
We don’t know how many chambers there are, but we have settled on three chambers as being a likely configuration and we have numbered them Chambers 1, 2 and 3. Chamber 1 is in the area of Holes B24, B33 and W9, all located to the south of the Deep Rock area and all having archaeological features at about the same depth. Chamber 2 is associated with Hole B25 where an iron plate was encountered at 198 feet depth. Chamber 3 is associated with Borehole G103 where recent soil from the surface was encountered. It is noted that, since G103 was drilled through the bottom of the 115-foot deep Hedden shaft, there would not have been much lateral drift in this hole. It is of interest to note that G 103 is about 24 feet from both B25 and B33 and that B25 and B33 are about 24 feet apart.
There is an interesting demonstration of lateral drift and how elusive the chambers are when trying to intersect them with a borehole. Warnock Hersey Hole W5 (not shown on Figure 7) was put down half way between Holes B24 and B33, both of which were assumed to intersect Chamber 1, with the objective of verifying the continuity of the chamber. However no indication of a chamber was found in this hole which extended to a depth of 210 feet. Also Warnock Hersey Hole W7 (not shown on Figure 7) was put down 3 feet east/northeast of Hole W5. No archaeological features were found in this hole which extended to a depth of 218 feet. However, both Holes W5 and W7 encountered significant soil inclusions in the weathered anhydrite.
We think the Depositors tried to construct chambers with a 6 foot roof height, as that would have been a convenient height for mining – and where the chambers were measured to be 7 feet high, those would be places where more of the roof came down than intended, during the mining. We don’t know the length of the chambers but Holes B 33, B25 and G103 at Chambers 1, 2 and 3 respectively are only some 5 to 7 feet (at surface) beyond the inferred limits of the Deep rock area. We have assumed for illustration purposes that the chambers extend about 20 feet beyond the limit of the Deep rock area. Figure 10 shows a plan view of the chambers, Figure 11 shows Section A-A through Chamber 1, Figure 12 shows Section B-B through Chambers 2 and 3 and Figure 13 illustrates our concept of a typical cross section through a chamber. Figure 12 shows a projection of the original Money Pit to Section A-A and the implications of this configuration are discussed in Section 8.
As explained in the preceding text, the presence of puddled clay, and the use of clay between layers of wood in the shoring for chamber roofs, indicates that the Depositors had concerns about ground water seeping downward into their workings. During construction of the underground chambers, this seepage water would have been an issue for the Depositors to deal with, and the conventional way to manage seepage water like this, is to excavate one or more sumps at low points in the underground workings, and install some form of pumping at those places. We think the ½ inch iron plate that was found in Hole B25 may possibly have been used to cover a sump hole which would have been excavated in the floor of one of the chambers. The plate would have been pulled back for pumping, and replaced when people needed to walk across the chamber floor.
So in our opinion, all of the archeological features found below the bedrock surface are consistent with construction of deep chambers which very likely would have been excavated as storage places for objects of great value. In other words, we think the archeological discoveries mentioned in this article strongly support the idea that the Money Pit was constructed to store some form of treasure or highly valued artifacts.
8. A Remaining Problem
After developing our concept for the configuration of chambers at 200 feet depth, we are left with one very puzzling and troublesome observation. The center of the Deep Rock area is about 18 feet away (to the southeast) from the center of the original Money Pit. Most previous publications (including Harris and MacPhie, 2013 and Triton Alliance, 1988) assumed that the original Money Pit was directly over the Deep Rock area. Our best estimate of where the Money Pit was located is shown on Figure 14. The supporting evidence for the correct Money Pit location is discussed below.
The correct position for the original Money Pit has always been a subject of some uncertainty. In the first place, we have no record of any reliable survey having been done, which tied the original Money Pit to other still-existing reference points. During the 1800’s many attempts were made to excavate at the Money Pit, and when these initial attempts to recover treasure were flooded out by water rapidly rising in the original workings, a series of new shafts were dug near the original Money Pit. These new shafts eventually either collapsed or were later backfilled so that by the 1930’s no evidence of the original Money Pit was visible at original ground surface. One good reference to the position of the original Money Pit is based on the work of William Chappel5 in 1897. In this regard, his records are the oldest reliable accounts on the subject, and thus should contain the fewest historical inaccuracies. M. R. Chappell, in his manuscript (Chappell M. R., 1973, Page 24) recorded information on the location of the 1897 William Chappell shaft as follows: “At this time the Money Pit which was not cribbed and therefore not too safe was used as the pumping pit, work and drilling being done in a new timbered shaft about five foot by eight foot south of and close to the Money Pit.” It is noted on Figure 14 that the perimeter of the Money Pit is only 4 feet from the 1897 shaft and that the shaft is positioned at a right angle to the Money Pit perimeter as would be expected. Since constructing a shaft would require a lot of effort and a sizeable financial outlay, we assume William Chappell consulted old records and spoke to older eye-witnesses to be as sure as possible that his new shaft was located close to the old Money Pit. Chappell probably had direct access to people who worked on Oak Island in the 1850’s, and those early Searchers almost certainly knew where the original Money Pit had been located.
Additional evidence of the original Money Pit location was recorded during the work by Dunfield (1965) where he reported that “At 8:00 am, November 4, 1965, we reached a depth of 22 feet and we have observed 1/2 to 2/3 of the original money pit well defined immediately north of the Chappell Shaft.” M. R. Chappell also reported (Chappell M. R., 1973, Page 82) on the position of the original Money Pit exposed by Dunfield as follows: “the thirteen foot circular uncribbed shaft appeared about fifteen feet north of the Chappell shaft and ten feet west of the north end of Hedden shaft.” The dimensioned position reported by M. R. Chappell was used to plot the location of the original Money Pit shown on Figure 14 with the dimensions assumed to be to the center of the Money Pit. It is clear that this location is also consistent with the other two descriptive locations of the Money Pit.
Our thinking of the way the Money Pit was constructed, is that the Depositors dug a vertical shaft through the glacial till, and when they encountered the anhydrite bedrock, with weathered zones and soil-filled cavities near the surface, they just kept excavating through the rock until they got to sound rock conditions, and at that depth they started excavating lateral chambers. We always thought that the Deep Rock area was the downward extension of the Money Pit – so how could the bottom of the Money Pit be so far away laterally, from the Deep Rock area?
We have been puzzling over this problem for the past few weeks. One obvious answer to the problem could be that there was a series of surveying or recording errors in the positions of the boreholes or the Hedden/Chappel shafts. There indeed were several errors made in some of the old surveys, but we just cannot find any errors that are anywhere close to being large enough to explain away the problem.
Another possibility is that the boreholes that ran into the Deep Rock area all drifted laterally to the north/northwest. Any one hole could have deviated by 18 feet, but we just cannot accept that all the holes that hit Deep Rock had the maximum lateral drift, all in the same direction!! Theoretically it would be possible, but the probability of that happening is astronomically tiny.
We are now mulling over the possibility that there were two vertical components to the Money Pit – another possible device, something never considered by Searchers until now – created by the Depositors to throw off future Searchers, if they ever dug as deep as the bedrock surface. Perhaps the original Money Pit was dug exactly where we believe it was dug, down to bedrock, and then perhaps the Depositors built a short lateral tunnel with temporary shoring that they would have removed after depositing their treasure, and from there they excavated vertically into the bedrock, creating the Deep Rock area and the underground chambers in rock. There are other possible scenarios for connecting the original Money Pit and the Deep Rock area. However, this issue has not been addressed in detail since it is beyond the scope of this Part 2 article.
We know the idea of having an offset shaft in the bedrock, as described above, may not be readily accepted. This is why we have taken so long to write the second part of this article – we have been struggling to find a solution - but we just cannot find another explanation for the 18 foot discrepancy between the Money pit location and the Deep Rock area location. So we are opening up this point for discussion by thoughtful Readers. We have gone through a lot of historical records and surveys that confirm the location of the shafts and boreholes, and we can provide the details if there is enough technical interest.
We are asking Readers to suggest alternative solutions to this remaining problem. There can be little doubt that the archeological discoveries of the Becker, Warnock Hersey and Golder drilling programs demonstrate that there are man-made workings deep below the normal bedrock level at the Money Pit. So what exactly did the Depositors build?? There is a way to find out.
9. Large Diameter Shaft to 200 Feet Depth
The concept of constructing a large diameter shaft to 200 feet depth to explore the chambers at that depth was considered by Triton Alliance in 1988. The project is described in their promotional document (Triton Alliance, 1988) but the project did not proceed due to lack of financing. However, this approach would give detailed information on the configuration of the chambers at 200 feet depth, would determine the contents (if any) of the chambers and would in all likelihood solve the Oak Island mystery. In addition, issues related to chests at 90 feet and a vault (with parchment?) at 140 feet should be resolved, because those probable artifacts would be within the area to be excavated. Excavation within a large diameter shaft would have to be carried out with particular care to preserve the archaeological heritage of the Money Pit, the Deep Rock area and the related chambers, as required by current legislation.
Several technologies for design and construction of such a shaft, even in the difficult ground conditions at the Money Pit, are readily available and there is successful precedent for the use of such technologies. The authors have participated as external advisors in three different conceptual designs for a large diameter shaft at the Money Pit as part of a Design Project program for fourth year engineering students at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. The reports on these Design Projects (McGill University 2006, 2008 and 2014) include only conceptual designs and order of magnitude cost estimates. The technologies considered are ground freezing (perimeter freeze ring), secant piles (continuous ring of interconnected concrete piles) and grouting (jet grouting and conventional pressure grouting). We consider the ground freezing design to be the preferred approach.
One of the interesting questions for such a design is to select the diameter of the shaft. This depends to a large extent on the actual length of the chambers. Assuming that the chambers are 20 feet long and allowing a distance of 7 feet between the end of the chambers and the wall of a shaft centered on the Deep Rock area, the diameter of the shaft should be 70 feet. The plan limits of a 70 foot diameter shaft are shown on Figure 15. It is noted that there is a clearance of about 10 feet between the wall of the shaft and the closest edge of the original Money Pit. In final deliberations for shaft design, consideration could be given to a larger diameter or to moving the shaft some 5 feet northwest (from that shown on Figure 15) so that it is centered more on the combined Money Pit and Deep Rock areas. If additional drilling more accurately identifies the configuration of the chambers, consideration could also be given to constructing a shaft with a diameter smaller than 70 feet. On the other hand, Triton Alliance proposed an 80 foot diameter shaft to 200 feet. Figure 16 shows a schematic cross section of the 80 foot diameter shaft proposed by Triton Alliance in 1988.
We think that a large diameter shaft to 200 feet would not only reveal many of the secrets of Oak Island’s Money Pit, its construction would generate tremendous world-wide interest. Imagine a weekly television show that presented all the artifacts, old Searcher’s structures and construction issues encountered since the last episode. Until someone builds such a shaft, the idea will give us all something to daydream about!
We hope through Parts 1 and 2 of this article, that we have demonstrated strong evidence that there are man-made structures deep in the Money Pit area. These structures are far deeper than any Searcher has ever been known to have explored. We can understand an overall construction sequence in which the deep underground workings were first constructed, and then the flood tunnel (possibly more than one) was built to prevent Searchers from recovering whatever was placed in the expected underground chambers. But the possibility that some unknown Searcher could have overcome the man-made water problems and other technical challenges, dug down to 200 feet and created these underground workings – and kept all of their efforts a secret to this day – is beyond what we are prepared to believe. So we conclude that the archeological artifacts buried deep in the Money Pit area are the work of whoever first created the Money Pit. We believe there is original construction down there, and very possibly treasure of great value.
Blankenship, Dan, 1969. Memorandum dated November 29, 1969. (This memorandum gives descriptive results of Warnock Hersey Boreholes W8, W9 and W10.)
Chappell, William, 1929. Affidavit Made in Connection with the Drilling Done in 1897, October 25, 1929. (Notarized by C. Guy Black)
Chappell, M. R., 1973. The True Story of Oak Island. Draft manuscript of events to 1965 transmitted to Dan Blankenship by letter dated September 20, 1973. (83 pages and four plans)
Dunfield, Robert R., 1965. Oak Island Project, Report dated November 4, 1965 (1 page).
Golder Associates, 1971. Subsurface Investigation, The Oak Island Exploration, Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Draft Report No. 69126 to Triton Alliance Ltd., Montreal, Quebec, April 28, 1971.
Harris, Graham and MacPhie, Les, 2013. Oak Island and Its Lost Treasure, Third Edition. Formac Publishing Company Limited, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2013.
MacPhie, Les, 2008. The Money Pit, Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Summary of Geotechnical and Archaeological Conditions and the 1967 Becker Drilling Results. Technical Report, January 2008.
McGill University, 2006. Design of a Deep Excavation Using Ground Freezing Technology, Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Report on Design Project by Fourth Year McGill Engineering Students (Cheehan Leung, Shoshanna Saxe and J. Ryan Thé).
McGill University, 2008. Design of a Deep Shaft to Explore Underground Workings and Recover Potential Treasure on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Report on Design Project by Fourth Year McGill Engineering Students (Chritopher Ong Tone, Nathan Ramsey, Behnam Shayegan and Robert Wolofsky).
McGill University, 2014. Feasibility Study of a Deep Excavation to Preserve the Archaeological Heritage of Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Report on Design Project by Fourth Year McGill Engineering Students (Mariam Abdul Ghani, Claire Meloche, Nabil Nassor, Rebecca Stanzeleit and Ming Jia [Peter] Wang).
Ritchie, J.C., 1970. Report on Palynological Analyses of Four (4) Samples from The Oak Island Exploration. Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 1970.
Triton Alliance Ltd/Ltée, 1988. The Oak Island Exploration, Summary of Operations, Field Findings and Operational Plans.
Warnock Hersey International Limited, 1969. Soils Investigation, Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Report No. 530-110 to Carr & Donald & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, July 31, 1969.
(Note: The initial report was followed by Warnock Heresy Letter dated August 27, 1969 transmitting the logs for Boreholes W5 and W7 and by Warnock Hersey Letter dated November 5, 1969 transmitting the descriptive results of Boreholes W8, W9 and W10.)
We would like to acknowledge Oak Island Tours for providing detailed information on the lateral drift measurements in Hole W8.
Also we wish to acknowledge the excellent work by Mark Sykes in drafting most of the figures for this article.
So for this reason, the lab took a lot of extra time trying to find clues in the data which would help determine the age of the sample. Secondly, the Dendrochronology lab we used is located at the University of Saskatchewan, and the pace of lab work was determined by other events going on within the university. So it has taken a long time for the lab to reach a conclusion, and even now we only have a draft report of the findings. I have been waiting until now to write this follow-up article, preferring to have a final report that I can share with you. But the professor who directed our work has said it is fine with him for us to publicize the results presented in the rough draft.
Our sample was determined to be Red Spruce (Picea rubens), and that species identification helped us in a curious way. Red Spruce trees are prone to infestations of spruce budworms, which cause characteristic damage to the tree, and such damage is observable in the growth rings for the years of infestation. For hundreds of years, budworm infestations occurred about every 40 years in Nova Scotia, and if our sample had included growth rings from infestation years, these would have acted as markers that would have helped the lab obtain a match. However we were not so lucky and the 34 years of growth exhibited by our sample was between budworm infestations. However this turned out to be quite a help just the same. The lab did find 3 possible matches for our sample, when they compared our growth ring sequence to their master chronology. Our growth ring sequence could be for one of the following three periods: 1659 to 1695 (meaning the tree sprouted in 1659 and was cut down in 1695), or 1711 to 1747, or 1822 to 1858. The interesting and valuable thing is this: for each of these three possible periods, there were no spruce budworm infestations! So the lab is quite sure that one of these three periods is correct and that means our sample probably dates to either 1695, 1747 or 1858.
Here is a photograph of our dendrochronological sample, after it was prepared by the lab. The pencil lines on the sample indicate where measurements were taken by the analysts:
1695... 1747... 1858?
The data base that the lab uses for their work is called a master chronology and it consists of individual tree growth ring sequences from many samples with over-lapping years of growth. The database has less than 5 Nova Scotia samples for the 1659 to 1695 and 1711 to 1747 growth periods, while they have quite a lot more data for the 1822 to 1858 period. Because of this variance in data density for the earlier possibilities, the lab has concluded that the date our sample tree was cut was more likely 1858. That’s not good news for those of us who are hoping the U-shaped structure could have been built before 1795, however, like so many findings at Oak Island, the answer is not definitive. Maybe our sample is older.
We have shared a copy of the dendrochronological testing report with Rick and Marty Lagina, and I have asked them if they could possibly get a permit to re-excavate at Smith’s Cove, in the area of the U-shaped structure. In my correspondence with the Lagina brothers I explained how we triangulated from old photographs to find the U-shaped structure about 15 years ago, and I suggested if they get a chance to dig in the area, to focus on the south arm of the structure, so that a new sample of the structure could be obtained (that would be from a different log than the one our recent sample was taken from, and hopefully they would find a log with more than 50 growth rings).
The lab at the University of Saskatchewan has told me that they would be very willing to investigate a new sample if we can obtain one. So I am crossing my fingers that Rick and Marty Lagina can come up with a new specimen, and that we will be allowed to take a thin slice of wood from it, so we can continue the Dendrochronology work. I think it would be great if we can learn the date for sure, when the U-shaped Structure was built!
As a footnote to this update, Danny Hennigar and I had an interesting adventure this week. Danny is responsible for the “Explore Oak Island Display” (located in the old historic train station in the village of Chester, Lunenburg County. The display is actually an museum of oak Island artifacts located at 20 Smith Road, open 7 days a week with free admission), and he had a visitor to the museum who observed the U-shaped structure sample shown in the photograph in this article. The visitor told Danny that he had found another piece of the same structure about 15 years ago, when he was beachcombing on a nearby island (This turned out to be a tiny island just north of Oak Island, between Oak Island and the mainland). This seemed plausible, because back in 1970 when Dan Blankenship had built the temporary cofferdam at Smith’s Cove, and the U-shaped structure was partially exposed, a very high tide flooded the workings and washed out the cofferdam. So a piece of the structure could have floated away from the excavation, and it could easily have washed up on a nearby island. So Danny called me and we made arrangements to go see this log.
When we arrived at the visitor’s place, we saw an impressively large piece of log, about 6 feet long and 12 inches in diameter. There were notches cut near one end (and the far end had rotten away), and 2 inch diameter oak pegs had been driven through the holes, just like the U-shaped structure. But the notches had sloping sides and they were not identical to the U-shaped structure notches, and there were no other notches at 4 foot spacings as we would have expected. On the other hand one notch was cut in a shape like those used to make corners in a log cabin – so we thought it was possible that this log could have been the south end piece of the base of the U-shaped structure which lies parallel to the shore, and the “log cabin” notch might have been where the south arm of the structure was joined to the base. However after carefully examining the log and thinking about it for a while, we concluded that this interesting new log was probably part of a very old wharf that was built somewhere in Mahone Bay. The most disappointing thing concerning this log was that it is too rotten for a dendrochronological sample to be cut from it. So we were left with a tantalizing experience.
Here are two photographs of the log.
What do you the Readers think? Could this mystery log have been part of the U-shaped structure?
They were fast to sell the island, once he did pass on, so that makes one think that they had no further interest in pursuing the treasure. Could this indicate that they knew the treasure was already found, or could it simply mean that they had more pressing needs for the money the sale would bring, than they had desire to retain rights to any future treasure found? We have heard the stories of the chest of gold that the Vaughan's supposedly had, and know of the gold cross and the story of three treasure chests found, as told by the McInnis sisters in the finale of season three of the History Channel's Curse of Oak Island television series. We know that the story of the gold cross has been around for at least ten years, as Danny Hennigar wrote about it and his interview with the sisters back then. We have read John Wonnacott's story on the Vaughan family and their successful foray into the shipbuilding and lumbering industry.
What of the Smith family? Are there any indications that they prospered beyond expectations? John Smith lost his father as a young boy, and his mother remarried to Neal McMullen, who owned a lot on Oak Island. The family lived there from 1788 and onward. That places John Smith on Oak Island for at least 7 years before the discovery of the Money Pit. He purchased Lot 18 (the Money Pit Lot) in June of 1795, and the deed is written in such a way as to infer that a structure already existed on this lot, and stories say he used the 90 Foot Stone as part of the fireplace in the NEW house that he was building. The truth of the matter behind the discovery story is more likely to be that John, and his friend and fellow island resident Donald Daniel McInnis, and perhaps Anthony Vaughan, discovered the Money Pit while helping John move onto his newly purchased farm. Perhaps they wondered just what old Caspar Wollenhaupt, the previous landowner and wealthy Lunenburg merchant, had been up to on Oak Island? In any event, the treasure hunt had begun.
We do know that John Smith went from owning one four acre lot on Oak Island, to owning about nineteen percent of Oak Island, all of Frog Island, and lots on other islands in partnership with McInnis. Not bad for a farmer who started with just four acres, but not impossible if you manage your money right in that day and age.
So, are there any other indications that the Smith family prospered after the Money Pit was discovered? Maybe. We found mention, in a family genealogy for the Smith family, that John Smith's grandson once donated over 200 rare books to Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
This same grandson donated the funds to build a public library in Port Williams, in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia, the area in which he had grown up (and incidentally the place in which Rev. Kempton had grown up during the same general time period). These donations perked our interest, as it seemed that this grandson was fairly well off financially, and he was a direct descendant from John Smith of Oak Island. Earlier we mentioned that John's mother remarried to Neal McMullen , after John's father Duncan had passed away. Well John and his step-father must have gotten along quite well, as John named his first born son Neal McMullen Smith (He honored his father by naming his second child Thomas Duncan). Neal Smith lived on Oak Island, but later moved to Cornwallis Township, in the Annapolis Valley, on the other coast of Nova Scotia. There he raised a family of eleven children, of whom Murdock Smith was the youngest.
We wanted to find out more about this Murdock Smith. The genealogy told us that he was a dentist in the Lynn area of Massachusetts in his later years, so we began to dig for information. Surprisingly, we found out that there was a wealth of information right under our noses, in the form of five old diaries written by Murdock Smith, curated by our local Kings County Historical Society. These were daily diaries kept by Murdock, chronicling his life on the farm and his studies at Acadia. The diaries follow him on his move to California and other travels. Though the diaries made no revelations about Oak Island, they provided us with information to further our investigation. Murdock Smith had the resources to travel and further his education, becoming the forty-second president of the Massachusetts Dental Society. The following biography was extracted from a 1914 publication titled "Biographies of the Founders, Ex-Presidents, Prominent Members and others of the Massachusetts Dental Society" as written by Waldo Elias Boardman.
So did Murdock Smith's wealth come from a life of hard work and diligence? We know from his donations later in life, from the library that is named after him, to his donation of rare books to Acadia University, that he was very financially sound. These donations could have been made possible by years of work as a prominent dentist in Massachusetts. There is the fact that he and his brother owned a farm together early in life to ponder. Did Oak Island treasure play a part in getting young Murdock off to a strong start in life? How much treasure profit could possibly trickle down to the eleventh child of John Smith's oldest child though? That is almost impossible to even guess at, even if we knew the treasure was real.
John Smith himself had fourteen children, the first of which (Neal McMullen Smith) was born on November 11th 1800, though sadly, eight of them did not outlive their father. One of them, James, died by accident on Oak Island on February 4th 1840 while carrying timber for some purpose.
As with everything Oak Island, there is suggestion of intrigue to leave you with in regards to this line of research. Remember those 200+ rare books that Murdock Smith donated to Acadia University? They were from the library of the Marquis of Hertford, who it seems was a prominent Middle Templar. If you look back at Page 128 of Murdock Smith's biography above, you will note that Smith himself was a Knights Templar. Just one of those odd coincidences? Maybe, but it sure makes us want to try and find out more about those books that were donated. Perhaps there is a clue to the Oak Island mystery tucked away in between the pages in one of those books!
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By John Wonnacott and Les MacPhie, May 2016
The 1967 Becker Program
“Who or what the heck is a Becker?”, you are probably asking. Well it’s the name of a drilling company and also a special type of drilling device named after the man who invented the equipment and started the company. In 1967 David Tobias and Dan Blankenship hired the Becker company to investigate the Money Pit area and with 40 drill holes they discovered compelling evidence of man-made workings far deeper than any Searcher had ever explored. What the Becker program found is the most intriguing set of archeological discoveries ever made at Oak Island.
Part 1 of this article will explain the Becker drilling program in the area of the Money Pit, and will present the factual details of what was found. Part 2, which will be published later, will present the interpretation of these findings. The reader will soon see that drill holes do not usually go in a straight line, and for that reason, understanding the configuration of underground objects or constructions encountered in the Becker holes is not nearly as easy as one would first think.
Before anyone can properly assess and interpret those archeological findings, it is important to understand the principal advantage and a critical weakness of the Becker drill. The way the drill works, a pile-driving hammer pounds the drill pipe into the ground, with a drill bit attached to the bottom of the drill pipe. The drill pipe is actually double walled pipe and compressed air is forced down the outer annulus. The compressed air passes by an opening in the drill bit, and drill cuttings are blown back to the surface, travelling inside the inner pipe. The compressed air travels at very high speed, so drill cuttings reach the surface before the drill bit has advanced more than a few inches. This is a tremendous advantage when drilling in search of artifacts, because the driller can know precisely at what depth any sample came from. Here is an illustration to show how the Becker drill works followed by a photograph of the Becker drill in operation at Oak Island:
Tobias and Blankenship knew all about the advantages of the Becker drill but they did not appreciate a problem that eventually plagued the work and confounded efforts to interpret the discoveries they made. No drill rig can make a perfectly straight hole. That’s because no soil or rock is perfectly homogeneous, so when one side of a drill bit face hits soil or rock of a greater hardness, the path of the drill bit wanders off vertical. When drilling in soil that has hard boulders, the drill bit is often deflected from its intended path, and a significant amount of “lateral drift” or deviation occurs. Around the Money Pit, the upper soil contains a lot of hard boulders, and despite the fact that the Becker drill string used double-wall pipe, which is pretty stiff and you’d think resistant to deflection, the drill holes deviated from their planned route. We’re not talking about a few inches of deviation here either – in a different drilling program some years later, where borehole deviation was measured, one hole drilled to a similar depth as the Becker holes deviated by 17 feet!
The problem with drill-hole deviation is that the driller does not know how much any particular hole deviates, and he/she does not know in which direction the drill bit has wandered off course. Based on our best estimate, a lateral drift of about 10 feet at 200 feet depth is considered to represent the upper range of values for most of the Becker holes. However, the lateral drift could readily exceed 10 feet for some holes. So if the maximum deviation is 10 feet, then the drill bit can end up anywhere within a 20 foot diameter circle at a depth of 200 feet. Surprisingly though, even if a 200 foot deep hole deviates by as much as 10 feet, the true depth that the bit achieves will be almost 200 feet (if you do the trigonometry, you’ll see such a hole reaches a true depth of about 199.7 feet!). Here is a schematic illustration showing the possible range of locations at a depth of 200 feet for holes with a lateral drift of 10 feet or less. Also shown on the illustration is a simplified geological profile of subsurface conditions in the area of the Money Pit.
Of course in 1967 there were down-hole tools designed to measure the orientation and amount of borehole deviation, but Tobias and Blankenship did not have that equipment on site during their Becker program. They did not realize at the time that they would need it. Since the Becker drilling technique does not routinely leave any drill casing in a hole after the drilling is completed, when the drill string is extracted, the hole soon collapses and it becomes impossible to measure deviation afterwards.
The Becker program of 1967 produced 40 boreholes in the area of the Money Pit. We know quite accurately where the holes were started or “collared”, we know how deep they were drilled, we know whether the holes were started in a vertical or inclined orientation and we know what archeological artifacts were found. But we don’t really know, in a lateral sense, where the samples were collected from. If we assume that every hole was drilled in a straight line, we can make some “interpretation” of the findings, but we must keep in mind that probably none of the Becker holes ended up where they were intended to go. Possible combinations and permutations of drilling results will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.
Tobias and Blankenship were hoping to find treasure chests that were assumed to be sitting at a depth of 100 feet based on Searchers’ work in 1849 or close to bedrock based on Searchers’ work in 1897. Bedrock was expected at about 150 to 160 feet and in 1967 everyone thought the Money Pit ended at bedrock. “So what did the Becker drilling actually discover?” you ask. Well at first, nothing remarkable. Dan Blankenship was supervising the work in the field, and the first borehole (B1) was placed about 15 feet west of the Hedden Shaft. The hole hit bedrock at 145 feet without encountering anything very interesting. The next 9 holes (B2 to B10) were located rather randomly, west and south of the Hedden Shaft, as shown on the following figure which also includes the later Becker holes in the area of the Money Pit:
Each of the first 10 holes ran into bedrock somewhere between 145 and 156 feet. But then Borehole 11 went surprisingly deeper, to a full depth of 200 feet before hitting bedrock! Along the way the hole encountered uniform clay – likely puddled clay (1) (based on findings from later Becker holes) – from 184 to 200 feet. Besides the clay, two “oak buds” (2) were found embedded in a clay sample recovered from a depth of 196 feet. Dan Blankenship described the consistency of the clay as “coming out like toothpaste”.
Such a simple discovery, but what a profound meaning it had! The depth of 196 feet was greater than any known Searcher had every explored at the Money Pit. Glacial deposits do not contain oak or maple tree seeds, so the “oak buds” could only have arrived in the clay well after the glacial period, meaning that the oak buds were relatively recent, in geologic time. To have relatively recent, organic material embedded in sixteen feet of uniform clay could only mean that the clay, which itself was enclosed in a glacial soil deposit, had been placed there by human hands. A somewhat similar condition of recent (3) material at depth was encountered in 1970.
Borehole 12 was put down in an old shaft located well south of the Money Pit area. This hole hit large boulders and was abandoned at a depth of 136 feet. Borehole 13 was located 4 feet north of B11 and again the hole went very deep before it struck anhydrite bedrock at 200 feet. Clay was encountered from 184 to 200 feet and careful examination of the clay found that it contained coarser pebble sizes at regular intervals of about 18 inches. This was a strong indication that it was a “puddled clay” deposit. Borehole 14 found clay from 184 to 200 feet. Boreholes 15 and 16 had drilling problems and Borehole 15A was put down four feet east of Borehole 15. Then Borehole 17 found more clay – likely puddled clay – from 176 to 198 feet.
Boreholes 18, 19 and 20 were not drilled anywhere close to the Money Pit. Borehole 21 was inclined to the northeast, in an attempt to get below the bottom of the Hedden Shaft. At 176 feet depth, a piece of slightly crumpled thin brass (4) was recovered.
At first sight, the brass had a bright shiny appearance but it quickly turned a dark color (probably due to oxidation upon exposure to the air). It appeared as if the brass had been torn from a larger piece of brass in the ground. A clay layer – likely puddled clay- was encountered from 184 to 192 feet. Stagnant water and evidence of a possible cavity were found from 200 to 206 feet.
It was at about this point in the drilling program that David Tobias made an intuitive decision. Up until that time, the general instruction to drillers was to stop the Becker holes once sound bedrock was found. However after a number of the early holes had continued to more than 200 feet before bedrock was hit, David Tobias decided to have the drill keep going to at least 200 feet in every new hole, even if bedrock was found at a shallower depth. At first this decision did not pay off – the casing broke off in Borehole 22 and the hole was abandoned before anything interesting was found. Borehole 23 found disturbed ground to 160 feet and then anhydrite bedrock until the hole was terminated at 205 feet.
Borehole 24 changed everything for the Oak Island Searchers. The hole was advanced to rock surface at a depth of 160 feet and the hole was advanced through rock from 160 feet to 192 feet with a tricone bit by rotary drilling with air circulation. After penetrating 32 feet of continuous rock, a sequence of 4 inches of wood, 12 inches of clay, 4 inches of wood and then a 6 foot cavity was found! Since the wall of the hole was in continuous rock from the bottom of the Becker casing to 192 feet, it was concluded that the first wood came from 192 feet depth. Even though the tricone bit was used in this section of the hole, the depth is considered to be representative since air circulation was used to advance the bit. A sample of the wood from 192 feet was radio-carbon dated to 1575, plus or minus 85 years (5). The tricone bit dropped through the cavity under the weight o the rods. The hole was then continued below the bottom of the 6 foot cavity, through bedrock from a depth of 199 feet to a final depth of 207 feet.
The next Borehole, B25, produced results as dramatic as B24. This hole, located 17 feet northwest of B24, was advanced to rock surface at a depth of 146 feet and then the hole was continued to 191 feet using the tricone bit. At 191 feet, after penetrating 45 feet of continuous rock, a 7 foot high cavity was found, that extended to 198 feet! Again the tricone bit dropped through the cavity under the weight of the rods. A hard obstruction encountered at the base of the cavity could not be penetrated by the tricone bit, so a diamond bit was put on, and a ½ inch thickness was eventually penetrated after 30 minutes of drilling – while the distinctive sound of a diamond bit on metal (6) was constantly being heard. The conclusion drawn was that the floor of the 7 foot high cavity was covered by a ½ inch iron plate.
Holes 26 to 32 were uneventful and then Borehole 33 was drilled, located 7 feet south of B24. Bedrock was struck at 152 feet and the hole was advanced using a tricone bit. After penetrating 32 feet of continuous rock, 2 feet of soft rocky drilling were encountered, followed by 2 feet of hard drilling and then 2 more feet of soft drilling. Clay was found from 190 to 192 feet and then a layer of wood was hit. The hole then advanced through a partial cavity containing soil and fragments of what appeared to be crude lime mortar. Rock was encountered again at 198 feet.
Borehole 34 found bedrock at 156 feet and this was drilled with the tricone bit to a depth of 205 feet without finding anything remarkable.
Borehole 35 was located about 6 feet west of B24. The hole was advanced to rock surface at 160 feet and then continued using the tricone bit to a depth of 181 feet. At that depth, 6 to 8 inches of wood was encountered, followed by a partial cavity from 181 to 192 feet where charcoal and clinker were recovered. An attempt was made to advance the Becker casing to the partial cavity, including down-hole blasting, but this was unsuccessful and the hole was terminated. Boreholes 36 to 39 did not discover anything of great interest; however Borehole 40 encountered rock at 167 feet and continuous clay from 175 to 195 feet with bedrock again at 201 feet. Boreholes 41 to 49 were either drilled somewhere further away from the Money Pit, or nothing of great interest was found.
Well that ended the Becker program around the Money Pit. Out of 49 holes attempted, 6 holes were abandoned because of drilling problems and 9 were drilled at other places away from the Money Pit. A total of 10 holes found something of archeological interest as summarized below in Table 1:
Table 1: Summary of Main Archaeological Features Encountered in Becker Holes
Tobias and Blankenship found 400 year old wood, cavities and an iron plate all under what looked like solid bedrock! What does it all really mean? The authors will discuss the interpretation of these fascinating discoveries in Part 2.
Blankenship, Dan, 1967. Three separate typewritten documents describing the results of the Becker drilling program (these documents are included in MacPhie, 2008):
Ritchie, J.C., 1970. Report on Palynological Analyses of Four (4) Samples from the Oak Island Exploration. Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May 1970.
Stelco (The Steel Company of Canada Limited), Hamilton, Ontario, 1970. Letter Report, including testing of brass sample, to
The Oak Island Exploration by Allen B. Dove, Senior Development Metallurgist, August 18, 1970.
MacPhie, Les, 2008. The Money Pit, Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Summary of Geotechnical and Archaeological Conditions and the 1967 Becker Drilling Results. Technical Report, January 2008.
Harris, Graham and MacPhie, Les, 2013. Oak Island and Its Lost Treasure, Third Edition. Formac Publishing Company Limited, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2013.
Thanks to Mark Sykes for drafting the third and fourth illustrations.
It seems as if he never managed to see those documents. So we followed the auction and were the successful bidders. These papers did not contain the drilling reports that Harris was looking for when researching his 1958 book The Mystery of Oak Island. They did however contain several reports and a few letters.
One of these letters raises an intriguing mystery in its own right. On August 6th of 1938, Gilbert Hedden wrote to Fred Krupp on Oak Island. The letter was quite haphazard in its composition, alternating back and forth between various topics, covering concerns from equipment inventory to winterizing the island and hiring a watchman, among some non island related matters.
The letter is an amazing item from days long gone, not only for its connection to Oak Island, but because it is written on stationary from the Lovett House, a luxurious hotel in Chester Nova Scotia in its day.
The most interesting and enigmatic portion of this letter is found in the very last sentence of the letter.
A "mysterious object"? Mention of It comes with no warning or hint, as no other reference to this object is found anywhere in the preceding paragraphs. It is obvious that Krupp, possibly in a previous letter, told Hedden of this object, and it is unfortunate that Hedden did not prompt Krupp for more information on this object in this letter. If he had, we might have gained a clue as to what this object was. As it stands, we only have another tantalizing mystery to ponder. What was the mysterious object found in 1938, and where on Oak Island was it found? Did it come from the pit, which was what they seemed to be focusing on at the time? This is classic Oak Island. Each find, each revelation, seems to only bring more questions.
If asked to sum up the Oak Island Mystery, right at this moment, in two words or less, I would have to say "frustrating intrigue".
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
By Doug Crowell - Blockhouse Investigations - Nova Scotia, Canada
Back on April 13th 2016, we brought you an article titled, Doctor Schmalz and his enhanced images of 10X video, which took a look at the work that Dr. Schmalz and his colleagues did to improve the image quality of film taken in the 10X Cavity at a depth of 235 Feet below the surface on Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. In it was an image of what could be interpreted as a chest and a handle of some sort (as seen in the image above). We have more images to show you. While we can not say at this time whether or not the following images were among those enhanced by Dr. Schmalz and crew, they certainly have similar clarity.
The following images come from a PowerPoint presentation that was in the collection of files and documents of the late Paul Wroclawski. The presentation was first given by Oak Island author Les MacPhie at Western Shore Nova Scotia on August 11th, 2007. What you are going to see in the following images is a wider angle shot of the area around the "chest". The images are presented in such a way as to zoom out from the image of the "chest & tool handle" that you have already seen, and allow you to see the additional artifacts and their placement in the larger area. The images are time stamped, so you can see that they are presented here out of chronological order. We leave any assessment of what these artifacts might be to the reader.
In the image above, a second and seemingly shorter "tool handle" appears. The "chest" can still be seen in the lower left hand corner of the frame.
There can be no question that there were man made items in the 10X Cavity at the time these images were captured, but what do you think they were or are? Considering the time that has elapsed since these images were recorded, these items may be currently buried in silt. Future efforts in 10X may uncover the true identity of these objects. Until then, we wait just as intrigued by the whole mystery as we ever were.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
The document we found at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia (MG1 Volume 1228) was the Bureau's "Re-statement of all locally known circumstances" pertaining to Oak Island in Mahone Bay Nova Scotia. When you read through the statement you will see that it was written sometime between 1951 and 1953. It is an interesting look into what the current lines of thought about the island were in the early 1950s, and also just how popular the island was as a tourist destination at that time (even without the internationally popular Curse of Oak Island television show to introduce the island to the world).
Enjoy the read!
One piece of information that I found most interesting was their account of the "original" oak trees. Though dead, I noted that they were referred to as "Live Oak" trees. Driscoll, in his much earlier account, almost three decades earlier in fact, also called them Live Oaks. Here we have two publications describing the trees as Live Oaks, and they had the benefit of seeing them in person. Perhaps we need to allow that the origin of the trees was less in doubt to those who saw them firsthand back then, than they are to us in the present day, who have no tangibles to work with. They were almost certainly not native to the area, but it seems that we have to give serious consideration to the idea that they were brought here from further down the North American continent.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the state of affairs on the island some 63 or so years ago.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
He has set up a Facebook Group named "Locating the Oak Island Inscribed stone", in which the general public can submit leads on the stone's whereabouts.
One clue that seemed to be a dead end was made by Rev. A.T. Kempton in a letter written to Oak Island Treasure Hunter Frederick L. Blair, which he received on April 19, 1949. In this letter Kempton states that he learned that the stone was in the possession of the Historical Society in Halifax, but that he had not been able to find anyone there that knew about the stone. I myself had followed up on this lead to no avail. I read through volumes of Historical Society publications and found nothing about Oak Island in general, let alone about the stone.
It did indeed seem like a dead end. Now over a year later, there is a trail to follow which just opened up!
The lead was found in an old letter, which has been kicking around research circles for years, written by John Hunter-Duvar, of the Historical Society of Nova Scotia, to George Cooke, Oak Island Treasure Hunter back in the 1860's. You see, Cooke had just finished supplying a local newspaper with a three part history of the workings on Oak Island that was published in the waning days of 1863. Hunter-Duvar upon reading the story in the paper, immediately wrote to Cooke asking about the Inscribed 90 Foot Stone. His letter was dated January 2nd 1864, but Cooke was away and did not answer it until January 27th, 1864. This was Cooke's reply.
There is no known record of whether or not John Hunter-Duvar and the Historical Society of Nova Scotia ever got to see the stone, but if it was removed from the fireplace of John Smith's former farmhouse and taken to Halifax and put on display, I can't imagine that they did not get to see it.
The new lead comes from the dates of these letters. Hunter-Duvar dated his letter January 2nd 1864 and Cooke dated his reply January 27, 1864. The clue might not jump out at you until you know that today's Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society wasn't founded until 1878, fourteen years after Hunter-Duvar wrote his letter! This society has been in constant operation until this day. This would have been the Historical Society that Rev. Kempton visited. No wonder he couldn't find anyone who could tell him about the stone.
So if the current society wasn't the society who inquired, then who was?
The answer was found recently in legislative papers of the Province of Nova Scotia.
The founding members of this Historical Society read like a who's who of prominent citizens and political figures of that day. We find past and future Premiers of Nova Scotia, Supreme Court Judges, and even a future Canadian Prime Minister. Beamish Murdock wrote one of the definitive histories of Nova Scotia, and Thomas Beamish Akin almost single-handedly created the Public Archives that we know today. These men were all about preserving the history of Nova Scotia. If they were interested enough to inquire about the 90 Foot Stone, then they were indeed curious. Is it possible that they did indeed acquire the stone, and Kempton's information about a Historical Society having the stone was correct? Perhaps the stone yet resides in a private collection started by one of these gentlemen. All of the sudden we have multiple paths to follow up on. Let's see where they lead.
Goodnight from The Blockhouse!
From The Blockhouse
is published by Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca
in Nova Scotia, Canada
Editors and Chief Correspondents
Kelly W. Hancock, CD
John Wonnacott, P. Eng.
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