The Mystery of Oak Island – Part 5

Water in the Money pit

According to an account written in 1862, after the Onslow Company had excavated to 80–90 feet (24–27 metres) the pit flooded with seawater up to the 33-foot (10 m) level; attempts to remove the water were unsuccessful. Explorers have made claims about an elaborate drainage system extending from the ocean beaches to the pit.

Later treasure hunters claimed that coconut fibres were discovered beneath the surface of a beach, Smith’s Cove, in 1851. This led to the theory that the beach had been converted into a siphon, feeding seawater into the pit through a man-made tunnel. A sample of this material was reportedly sent to the Smithsonian Institution during the early 20th century, where it was concluded that the material was coconut fibre.

Although one expedition claimed to have found a flood tunnel lined with flat stones at 90 feet (27 m), geologist Robert Dunfield wrote that he carefully examined the walls of the re-excavated pit and was unable to locate any evidence of a tunnel.

At the invitation of Boston-area businessman David Mugar, a two-week survey was conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1995 (the only known scientific study conducted on the site). After running dye tests in the bore hole, the institution concluded that the flooding was caused by a natural interaction between the island’s freshwater lens and tidal pressures in the underlying geology (refuting the man-made tunnel theory). The Woods Hole scientists who viewed the 1971 videos reported that nothing conclusive could be determined from the murky images. The reported five finger (or box) drains at Smith’s Cove have recently been thought to be the remains of an early salt works, with no connection between the drains and any flooding of the pit.

Oak Island lies on a glacial tumulus system and is underlain by a series of water-filled anhydrite cavities, which may be responsible for the repeated flooding of the pit. This type of limestone easily dissolves when exposed to water, forming caves and natural voids. Bedrock lies at a depth of 38 to 45 metres (125 to 148 feet) in the pit area.

Stone with alleged markings

A stone found 90 feet below the surface was said to have been inscribed with “mysterious markings.” It was first reported in a July 2, 1862, Halifax Sun and Advisor article, which mentioned a June 2, 1862, letter by J. B. McCully which retold the story of the stone. Offering a second hand description of its discovery during the early 1800s excavation, McCully wrote: “Some [layers] were charcoal, some putty, and one at 80 feet was a stone cut square, two feet long and about a foot thick, with several characters cut on it.” In an 1863 newspaper article, the stone was said to have been built into the “chimney of an old house near the pit”. Another article, a year later, claimed that the stone was held by the Smith family. On January 2, 1864, Historical Society of Nova Scotia secretary John Hunter-Duvar contacted treasure hunter George Cooke. In a January 27, 1864, letter to Hunter-Duvar, Cooke claimed that Smith built the stone into his chimney in 1824 and said that he was shown the stone by Smith in the chimney around 1850, when “there were some crudely 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.” According to Cooke, when he made inquiries in 1864, he discovered that the chimney had been enclosed in wood and surrounded by a staircase; the stone was no longer visible. An undated post-1893 letter by William Blair read, “Jefferson W. McDonald, who first mentioned Oak Island to me in 1893, worked under George Mitchell. Mr. McDonald, who was a carpenter by trade, also told of taking down a partition in Smith’s house, in order that he with others might examine the characters cut on the stone used in the fireplace in the house. The characters were there all right, but no person present could decipher them.” Mitchell was the superintendent of works for the Oak Island Association, which was formed on April 3, 1861, and ceased operation by March 29, 1865.

More about The Mystery of Oak Island in Part 6 of this series.

(Information from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)