Monday, January 19, 2015

Curse of Oak Island - An Expanded History Part V

(Blogger's Note: Early postings about this follow. The entire article is more than 12,000 words and should contain a good history of Oak Island.)

The Money Pit Claims Additional Victims

Nothing more was accomplished until 1959 when Bob Restall moved to the island. He had fallen under the spell during a chance visit several years earlier. Although his financing was always small, he was convinced that he would be the one to succeed. With his family, wife Mildred, and his sons, he moved to the island, living in a couple of shacks that had no indoor plumbing, running water, and for the first few years, no electricity.
Without the large financial backing that had been available to some of the corporations and syndicates that had been formed over the years, Restall couldn't rent large equipment or huge capacity pumps. The search was reduced to what it had been about a hundred fifty years earlier, picks and shovels and back-breaking manual labor by the men who were there.
Restall first tried to block the flood tunnel from Smith's Cove, pouring cement into the drains, but that failed. He tried to locate the main tunnel to block it and failed. He was unable to stop the flood of water, and even if he had blocked those to Smith’s Cove, it wouldn’t have stopped the flow of water.
Restall had other problems as well. His lease on the treasure hunting operation was from year to year. Chappell was always bringing around potential investors and introducing them to Restall. They would discuss the treasure and theories about it. Restall was convinced there was thirty million dollars buried in the Money Pit. He based that on the original stone that had been translated to say that two million pounds was hidden. Restall converted the two million pounds to dollars, basing the calculation on the rate of exchange in the late eighteenth century and that the price of gold had increased from those earlier days.
On August 17, 1965 Restall's treasure hunt ended. Restall was working in what was called the Hedden shaft. Restall was either looking into it, or had begun to climb down into it, when he fell into the water. His son, seeing his father in the water, started to climb down to help him. He slipped from the ladder and fell in. Karl Graeser, who was visiting the island with an eye to beginning his own treasure hunt, arrived at the scene, saw both Restalls in the hole, and started down to rescue them. Behind him was Virgil Hiltz, a teenager hired by Restall to help with the work. Both of them fell victim as well. Andy DeMont, another teenager also working for Restall, tried to rescue them all.
Others who were vacationing or visiting the island ran to help. One of them was a firefighter, Edward White. He realized that some kind of gas had seeped into the pit and that the others had been overcome by the fumes. He tied a rope around his waist and was lowered into the water. Searching the water, he found DeMont and tied a rope around him. He tried to find the others, but couldn't. As he was losing consciousness, he was hauled out. White and DeMont survived. The bodies of the other four were eventually recovered. No one knows exactly what happened and there are debates about the gas that had seeped into the pit. Whatever it was, it was deadly and the death toll had climbed by four.
But almost before the bodies were buried, Chappell was back with another investor, Bob Dunfield. He brought in bulldozers, scraped the area around the Money Pit clear, and shoved tons of dirt into Smith's Cove. That muddied the water there, but the water flooding the Pit was clear. Dunfield believed that he had finally succeeded in blocking the drains from Smith's Cove. That left one other channel that was flooding the pit.
Dunfield built a causeway from the island to the mainland so that he could bring over additional heavy equipment. He used that equipment to dig up much of the area around the Money Pit. He drilled additional holes confirming the results of other such tests. He made a discovery that was interesting when he found a void under the island that he believed to be a natural formation. This could be another source for the water that had defeated everyone else. Sort of a bonus that those who built the Money Pit had never known.
Equipment break downs, the hostility of the locals, and lousy weather forced him to return home. He wanted to buy the island, but Chappell wanted $100,000. Dunfield couldn't raise the money, or felt the price was out of line though it does underscore the idea that the real source of riches on the island was the land rather than the treasure. Whatever the reason, he lost interest in the project although he did believe there is treasure in the Money Pit.
For the next several years, a variety of people became interested in the Money Pit. Many of these people would later combine to form the Oak Island Exploration Company. They would have a ten million dollar plan to recover the treasure. With the equipment available, and with the expanding and growing technology, with the ability of modern pumps to move huge volumes of water, it was believed they could overwhelm booby traps and the genius of the designer of the Money Pit.

The Beginnings of the Next to the Last Assault

In 1968 Dan Blankenship and a Montreal businessman, David Tobias, formed a partnership to recover the treasure. Tobias had been interested, as had Blankenship, for a number of years. They formed the Triton Alliance Ltd. In 1971, one of the small bore holes was enlarged, encased in steel and named Borehole 10X. The idea was to put a video camera down into the void under the island. Blankenship, watching the screen, saw something strange in the murky water. He called over others and asked what they saw. To a man, they said that a severed human hand floated, suspended, in the water.
Another probe picked up what looked to be three chests and one clearly defined handle. They also saw various tools, spikes, and logs. Finally they saw a human body, with the skin and hair mostly in tack, slumped against a wall. Pathologists have suggested that a body submerged in salt water, in an airless environment, might be preserved. It would be the same as pickling it in brine. But all this was with a video camera technology that was nowhere near as good as that today. The videos are difficult to see and the evidence those others claimed to see is, at best, a good guess.
With Borehole 10X enlarged to the point where a man could climb down exploration at the bottom was conducted. Because the end of the shaft was underwater, divers were lowered. The first diver reported a strong current as he exited the borehole and into the chamber that had been found. It was suspected this was caused by the flood tunnels. More earth was pushed into Smith's Cove, and on a second dive, the current was gone.
Borehole 10X was 230 feet deep. The metal casing was forced down to 180 feet. The remainder of the hole was through the natural rock and soil of Oak Island. At 230 feet the borehole ended in a void where the television camera had recorded the hand, body and other items. The water was filled with debris, and as the diver rubbed against the walls of the chamber, the rock crumbled, filling the water with a chalky substance. Given the depth, the closed quarters, and the debris in the water, the divers couldn't see much. Blankenship, who made several dives himself, reported that it would suicide to move away from the bottom of the borehole to explore the rest of the underground and underwater chamber.
On a dive in November 1976, Blankenship heard a deep rumbling somewhere above him. He demanded to be hauled out as fast as possible. As he looked down, the casing of Borehole 10X collapsed. Later, Blankenship, checking the damage to the borehole, found solid ground at the 73 foot level. Drilling found the twisted remains of the borehole casing at 90 feet.
There were attempts to recreate Borehole 10X, but mechanical problems and funding hindered the completion of the project. However, they continued to work, pushing the hole deeper into the island. However, when they reached 167 feet, the project, which had yielded nothing of significance, was abandoned.
Legal maneuverings, disputes over the ownership of part of the island, and fights about the use of the causeway, slowed the hunt for a number of years. All the time, some work was being accomplished, but all of this caused troubles with financing for the various projects. Those with the money didn't want to jeopardize their capital until the legal matters were completely settled and those without it could do nothing.

The Big Dig

Tobias, Blankenship, and the Triton Alliance planned a big dig on Oak Island. Using ten million dollars, they would defeat the booby traps and recover whatever was hidden in the depths. Plans called for a huge shaft over the Money Pit with pumps that could keep the sea water out. The new shaft would be large enough to encompass all the earlier workings so the exact location of the original pit, somewhat in dispute by now, and remember, at one time it was known precisely, was no longer a problem.
Tobias had found twenty underwriters and believed that the financing was in place. By now they were talking of a treasure worth between a hundred million and several billion dollars again all based on that original estimate of two million but now corrected for the changing price of gold and inflation and a premium on the treasure. He refused to guess what might be hidden, but was sure that it was extremely valuable otherwise no one would have gone to all the trouble to hide it.
The Stock Market crashed in 1987 and many of the speculators scared of such a risky investment withdrew their support. But Tobias came up with a new plan. He would sell the television rights to the big dig, broadcasting a special similar to The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault, which we all know worked out very well for Geraldo Rivera and the television network

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