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!
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.
All material and images published herein, unless otherwise credited, are copyright of Blockhouse Investigations and oakislandcompendium.ca and may be reproduced by permission only.
Views expressed in these blog posts are our own. The views of those that comment are their own.