Early excavations (1861–1898) (continued)
In 1866, a group known as The Oak Island Eldorado Company or more commonly The Halifax Company was formed to find the treasure. By this time there were many shafts, bore holes, and tunnels under Oak Island by previous treasure hunters. When a plan to shut off the alleged flood tunnels from Smith’s didn’t work, the company decided to shift focus to the original main shaft. Exploratory holes were drilled that turned up bits of wood, more coconut fiber, soft clay, and blue mud. The group gave up the search in 1867 having found nothing of interest.[
In 1896, an unknown group arrived on the island with steam pumps and boring equipment. Although the pumps were unable to keep water out of the flooded side shaft, boring samples were taken. It was claimed that one of the samples brought a tiny piece of sheepskin parchment to the surface. The parchment had two letters, “vi” or “wi”, written in India ink. The second accidental death occurred on March 26, 1897 when a worker named Maynard Kaiser fell to his death. Red paint was poured into the flooded pit by the group in 1898, which reportedly revealed three exit holes around the island.[
Old Gold Salvage group (1909)
Captain Henry L. Bowdoin arrived on Oak Island in August 1909 representing the Old Gold Salvage Group, one of whose members was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. By this time the area now known as the “money pit” was cleared out to 113 feet (34 m), and divers were sent down to investigate. Although multiple borings were taken in and around the pit, none of the cores revealed anything of interest.[
Bowdoin also examined Smith’s Cove, where drain tunnels and a ring bolt in a rock had reportedly been seen. Although the group found the remains of an 1850 cofferdam, no evidence of anything else was found. Bowdoin later examined the “stone cipher” in Halifax, and found it a basalt rock with no symbols. He was doubtful that symbols could have worn off the rock, given its hardness. The group left the island in November 1909, but Roosevelt kept up with Oak Island news and developments for most of the rest of his life.[
William Chappell and Gilbert Hedden (1928–1939)
August 1931 aerial photo of digs and buildings
In 1928, a New York newspaper published a feature story about Oak Island. William Chappell became interested and excavated the pit in 1931 by sinking a 12-by-14-foot (3.7 m × 4.3 m) 163-foot (50 m) shaft southwest of what he believed was the site of the 1897 shaft (which was thought, without evidence, to be near the original pit). At 127 feet (39 m), a number of artifacts, including an ax, a fluke anchor and a pick, were found. The pick was identified as a Cornish miner’s pick, but by this time the area around the pit was littered with debris from previous excavation attempts and finding the owner was impossible.
Gilbert Hedden, an operator of a steel fabricating company, saw the 1928 article and was fascinated by the engineering problems involved in recovering the reported treasure. Hedden made six trips to Oak Island and collected books and articles about the island. He went to England to consult Harold T. Wilkins, author of Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island, about a link he found between Oak Island and a map in Wilkins’ book. After Chappell’s excavations, Hedden began digging in the summer of 1935, after he purchased the southeastern end of the island. In 1939, he informed King George VI about developments on the island. Further excavations were made in 1935 and 1936, none of which were successful.
More about The Mystery of Oak Island in Part 4 of this series.
(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)