Friday, January 30, 2015

Project Blue Book, John Greenewald and the Latest

(Blogger's note: This is the latest from John Greenewald about the uproar over the Project Blue Book files. Although annoyed at the MSM for not understanding the story and believing that this was something new, I am not annoyed at John for getting the material published at his Black Vault site. It was a service to all of us interested in this. And yes, I have used the Fold 3 site, but then, I do have a complete set of the Project Blue Book files on microfilm. Sometimes it was easier to locate a case at Fold 3 then in the confusing filing system used for Project Blue Book. Anytime information is restricted, for whatever reason, it is a sad day for all of us.)

January 29th, 2015 – It is with great frustration to announce, that, and their subsidiary Fold3, has laid down a claim to copyright on the Project Blue Book material – which has long been labeled as “public domain” by the National Archives & Records Administration (NARA). is claiming ownership to the digital version of this material – despite me having records that Fold3 doesn’t even have in their archive and I received under the FOIA starting back in 1996.  They simply claimed it was 100% theirs and I was forced to remove it.

Because of my attempt with properly crediting Fold3 with a DIRECT LINK to their site as partial credit for some of the material, they used that show of proper credit by me to issue a copyright claim under the Digital Copyright Millennium Act (DCMA). Anyone who knows anything about the law can attest; you are “guilty until proven innocent” so this was the beginning of the end. I never hid from Fold3 as a source, and even brought them up in some media interviews I did take part in, which were all cut out. No one cared about that part of the story – this new archive was what they wanted to report on because it was simple, straight forward, easy and free. And people loved it.

Based on an evidence-less claim I was forced to remove the entire site.  That’s right, there was ZERO evidence submitted to my web hosting provider of ownership or copyright or license, but rather, they simply placed the accusation which is all it takes.

In good faith, I took the site down in hopes a compromise could be reached. They already had credit given on the front page of the site for some of the material, and that link alone resulted in a 12%+ increase in their entire statistics since they posted records in 2007, and my link multiplied their weekly hits by 10x, yes ten times, in only 5 days (statistics are posted on their page, so I am not guessing on those statistics but rather took notes).  

I stated there was much more information here than is cited to Fold3, but they didn’t care.  I offered giving them a full 100% “share of voice” banner ad to advertise Fold3 (in addition to the link already driving them traffic), or to sell ads with no profit share to me, and they didn’t care. I asked if they would work with me on any capacity, because CLEARLY interest was being generated by my audience (and obviously not by theirs) but they didn’t care.

In the end – they offered I become a member of their affiliate program – and offer a link to them in exchange for a portion of sales generated. ie: You have to sign up with them, pay a membership, and they give me a percentage.  I quickly declined. (Blogger's note: So it is clear, there are no fees required for viewing the Project Blue Book files. There is a requirement for membership, but there is no cost there either.)

This is public record material, and it should remain so. To lay ‘exclusive’ claim to it in the digital world, when both sites (my site and theirs) offer it for free – is ludicrous and a waste of time and money for everyone.

But at the end of the day, I am proud to have brought attention to information that although has been available for quite some time – the public at large never knew it existed.  I will let Google Trends prove my point.  Here is the popularity of Project Blue Book, since 2005, and a graph relating to people searching for information on it. (Blogger's note: The graph simply will not print here but there is a tremenous spike in traffic just as John has suggested.)

I am proud to be the one who caused such an uproar of interest by the public and the media (despite some erroneous facts in the reporting).
Did some media outlets misreport? Yes, and if this page was still up, there was a message on the front page setting the record straight. 

But, call it corporate greed, a legal loophole, or a grey area in the copyright law, all of that is gone in the name of getting your personal information, and your credit card, by a corporation that has a wallet much thicker than mine. I’ll let you decide what the right label is to put on this entire mess.

Does all of this upset you? Me too!  And I invite you to express your thoughts to, Fold3, and anyone else you’d like to express your disappointment:

355 South 520 West
Suite 250
Lindon, UT 84042
Ph 1-800-613-0181

Ancestry Inc. Corporate Headquarters
360 West 4800 North
Provo, UT 84604
Ph 801-705-7000
Fx 801-705-7001  

In 18+ years, I’ve never seen anything like this, and it is a sad day for the world of public domain, public information, public record and the idea of “Freedom of Information”.

I have vowed from day 1, never to fall into the pit of desire of placing a price tag on PUBLIC information. It’s a shame I am very much alone in that belief.

John Greenewald, Jr.
The Black Vault

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Radar and NEO

Here’s something that I found interesting. I get a daily update known as the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Today’s (January 29) was about the close approach of the Near Earth Object (NEO) known as 2004 BL86, which is about a third of a mile in size and if it struck the Earth could cause widespread damage and loss of life. It came within three quarters of a million miles of Earth or about three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

Now all that is interesting and I often joke about worrying about the asteroid that is going to strike the Earth. It really isn’t much of a joking matter because of the destructive potential of such a strike, especially if it hit a population center.

But all that isn’t the real point here. What caught my attention in the description of the close encounter (yes, I used that term on purpose), they wrote, “Still, the close approach to planet Earth allowed detailed radar imaging from NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California and revealed the asteroid to have its own moon.”

The largest ships ever build on Earth are just under a third of a mile long. I mention that for some perspective. Now we’re told that not only can these Earth-base radars detect something relatively small at such great distances, but it is capable of discriminating between an object some 1700 feet in diameter and its much smaller companion.

I think you all can see where I’m going with this. If we have a radar system that good, with that ability, what else might it have detected closer to Earth? Does that system operate all the time and what is it searching for? Oh, I know, it probably is set to look for these small asteroids in their near Earth orbits, but they must see other things at other times such as satellites, space debris and the like. What do they do with those objects that don’t fit into the normal astronomical  or other categories? Are those data collected or just ignored? Are they sent to another organization such as, oh, I don’t know, the Air Force Space Command?

These sorts of things would be classified, of course. National security. We wouldn’t want our competitors in the world to know just how good these radar systems are so the information from them would be classified and besides, we don’t have a need to know.

This might be a path that we wish to follow. Who knows what a FOIA request might shake loose… or we might just learn that they have nothing that is responsible to our request… or call it a goose egg.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Project Blue Book Files and John Greenewald

(Blogger’s Note: John Greenewald has posted the following at various sites and I thought it interesting enough to post here. He gave permission and provides his perspective on the situation as it has developed over the last few days. I think John is getting some unfair bad publicity out of this and thought all along that the problem were the reporters who know nothing about UFOs, care little about UFOs and are happy to wallow in their ignorance.)

John wrote:

Just wanted to set the record straight. ,

First off, I never, EVER, made it appear these documents were newly declassified. The media created that, and many outlets copied each other. Many of the stories you see, I was never even interviewed for, yet I am quoted extensively.

Second, I went out of my way to say these documents have been available, even in some places online, during the course of the interviews I did do.  But, I converted them to a comprehensive and user friendly database, that quite simply was a format that was not available anywhere else and this was the first time the public could get unrestricted access to them. IE: it was free, required no registration, was searchable, and you could download them all with a few clicks in PDF format.

Third, I gave credit to the investigator who compiled the 130,000 jpeg images, which he then started circulating for someone to figure out how to convert them to a better format about 8 months ago.  For a couple months, no one did anything with them (but circulated a torrent file), and although I offered to help store the files on the web, I felt I wasn’t smart enough to convert them to something that was web-friendly.  After about 3 months, and I noticed no one cared or was able to take the project to the next level, with the full knowledge of the one who compiled the data, I built the entire database. Converted 130,000 jpeg images (which are just about as useless as microfilm, but at least they were digitized) to a us3r friendly format.

Here was the full process

  • -          I created the scripts to convert the 130,000 jpegs into more than 10,000 .pdfs

  • -      I then created acrobat action scripts to OCR (text recognition) 10,000 pdfs  and at the same time, created filters to pass the images through to make them more readable to the human eye then their existing format

  • -     I then programmed the entire site in HTML 5, built the indexes broken down by decade, and uploaded the 220GB of material to my server

  • -   I then created a massive search engine that mined the 10,000 pdfs and created a searchable index which is what you see today

   The original compiler wanted no credit but to that of a nickname which is what I’ve given out and posted on my page as the top, #1, credit.

There have been a select FEW that are going around claiming quite a bit, and attacking me personally.  What the media says, or reports on, is out of my control but I have done everything to the best of my ability to circulate the proper information, nothing but the facts, and give credit to where credit is due.

At the end of the day, the media and the hundreds of thousands of people a day who are now hitting the archive obviously were not aware these records were available, so even though some of the news stories became factually incorrect, who cares?  Regardless of that fact we can easily set them straight on, the mass media attention, much of which is very good press, is all fantastic for this field. 

Those that are beating a dead horse, are simply wasting time.


 John Greenewald, Jr.

The Black Vault  Government Secrets

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Project Blue Book Declassified - Really?

I’m watching the ABC Evening News, something I attempt to avoid because there is so little news in the broadcast (but that’s another story) and they tell me that the Project Blue Book files are now declassified and on line. I’m wondering what they mean because they have been on line for quite some time.

They’re referring to John Greenwald’s efforts to post all of these files at his Black Vault website, and his effort is commendable. But NICAP had many of the files on line for years and I have never found a gap in the Fold 3’s Blue Book files also on line. Or, in other words, the only “news” here is that John has provided us with another site where we can see these files.

ABC also seemed to suggest that this was something new. The Air Force had finally released all of the files of its investigation, except, of course, they did that in 1976. I made a trip down to Maxwell Air Force Base and spent time going through the files*. Anyone could have done it but the fact the files had been declassified hadn’t been announced publically. There had been some sort of announcement in an Air Force bulletin that I happened to see, so I made arrangements to take a look.

And once those files were transferred to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., they were more accessible to the public. You could buy the microfilm copies for something like eight or ten dollars a roll back then, but there were ninety some rolls of them. Over the years I actually managed to obtain a full set of the microfilms, so I’ve had all of the Blue Book files in my office for a couple of decades.

The statistics “announced” by ABC didn’t tell the whole story either, and they seemed to think Blue Book began as a result of the Roswell UFO crash (Roswell isn’t even mentioned in the Blue Book files except a short paragraph in a newspaper clipping that is part of another file), but actually the idea for an investigation can be traced back to December 1946 and probably had more to do with the Ghost Rockets of Sweden and some sightings in the US than it did with either Roswell or the Kenneth Arnold sightings. I laid this out in Government UFO Files, along with documentation to support the idea.

They said that 701 cases of the some 12,000 remained unidentified but the truth is that many of the cases are labeled, but not identified. These are labeled as “insufficient data for a scientific analysis.” In many of those cases all the information necessary for a complete investigation is included, but it is labeled that way. This was an attempt to reduce the number of unidentified cases by labeling them as something else and that is all that it was.

In addition to that, many cases that are labeled with a solution are clearly in error. For example, the Portage County UFO chase of 1966. (It was on April 17 and involved several police officers, deputy sheriffs and their supervisors and a stylized version was seen at the beginning of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. See also my posting here on May 20, 2014 for more information.). It has been explained as a combination of Venus and a satellite. The police officers saw the satellite in the west and as it passed over them, as they chased it across Ohio and into Pennsylvania; their attention was then drawn to Venus. The trouble here, as outlined in the Project Blue Book files is that there were no satellites visible in that part of the United States at that time of the morning. Letters and other documents in the Blue Book file prove this, yet the satellite portion of the solution is allowed to stand.

To make it worse, drawings made by the police officers show what was visible in the sky. Those drawings mark the position of the UFO, that of the moon, and that of Venus. Or, to put a point on it, the police officers did see Venus and identified it as such. But the label on the case, which is clearly in error, is allowed to stand and the case is shown to have a solution.

There are many such cases in the Blue Book files. Cases in which the solutions are simply not borne out of the documentation available. Yet we continue to hear about only 701 unidentified cases when the number is probably closer to 5000 when the solutions are examined carefully and those labeled as insufficient data are included. Insufficient data is not a solution, but is a label other than unidentified.

It was good to see a news report that treated UFOs seriously. It was not so good to see facts and figures used that were clearly inaccurate. I’m sure John knew the difference but I’ll wager that the reporter looked at a few things on line, misunderstood them, and ran with his story. The best thing about all this is that you don’t have to believe me. You can look it all up in the Black Vault.

*Bob Cornett and I might have the first outsiders to go through the Blue Book files. The first thing we did was list all the unidentified cases complete with the names and locations. When the files were released into the public mainstream the names had been redacted. We could, of course, put the names back in… but the job of redacting was poorly done and in most of the case files you can find the names. A complete listing of the unidentified cases is available in Project Blue Book – Exposed in both hardback and as a Kindle ebook.
I will note that Jack Webb, in preparation for his TV series about Project Blue Book paid to have all the files microfilmed. We all owe him thanks for doing that.

Curse of Oak Island - An Expanded History Final Installment

(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.)
As of today, the big dig has not taken place. The Triton Alliance has had to postpone their plans a number of times. Some of it has had to do with financing, but part of it has to do with the credibility of the story. After all, there is no solid proof that anything of value is in the Money Pit. Theories about it abound. Some believe it is pirate gold, some believe it was treasure from Europe, some believe it is the lost original manuscripts of William Shakespeare, and some are convinced it is nothing more than some sort of a hoax based on faulty reasoning and bizarre natural phenomena. A few think that treasure had been there once, but has been removed, probably by the original designer.
Evidence pulled up during the many test drillings have produced some interesting results. Tobias had some of the material, the coconut husk, samples of wood recovered at the bottom of the pit, and iron spikes, analyzed. According to the National Museum of Natural Sciences, the spikes had probably been forged prior to 1790. The wood was carbon dated to 1575, plus or minus 85 years. That means the treasure could have been put down there as early as 1490 or as late as 1650. In other words, the Money Pit had been dug at least a hundred and fifty years before it was found according to that analysis.
Of course, if the coin dated 1713 found by the boys back in 1795 was inside the pit, it means that it could be no older than 1713, the date of that coin. If it was found on the surface and outside the pit, then the date on it had little to do with the pit and could have been dropped by almost anyone at any time between 1713 and 1795.
Clearly the evidence, from the stone triangle found in the summer of 1965, the cofferdam erected in Smith's Cove, to stones that were carved and scattered on the island, shows a presence there. The Money Pit is a worked area, constructed for some purpose. That is not really in dispute. And, it could have been constructed two years before Columbus set sail for the New World. More likely, it was build some time after that, long after that, but the point is, it predates 1795 by decades.
So, is there a treasure? It seems unlikely that someone would invest the time and effort to construct the pit without putting something valuable at the bottom. Whoever built it would have been able to recover that treasure if he had decided to do so. The secret to the recovery is there for all to see. It’s in the shaft dug around the Money Pit, parallel to it, with tunnels to the pit. The original builder of the Money Pit would have known about the booby traps and would have known the way to defeat them. Only those who didn’t know, which would be practically everyone else in the world, would dig into the Money Pit. That would trip all the booby traps before they could get to the treasure. Digging that parallel pit and then connecting with the original pit trouble leaves the “plugs” in place.
Another theory is that the Money Pit itself is a red herring. Those who built it, dug a side tunnel, or two, or three from the main shaft, and used these tunnels to hide their treasure. A hundred yards, two hundred from the main pit, closer to the ground, was the treasure. The Money Pit was then filled in with the booby traps set. If the original owner of the treasure returned, he could dig down thirty or forty feet, out the proper distance from the main pit, recover his loot and be gone. The main shaft would be undisturbed. And, anyone who found the island and the evidence of the Money Pit would dig that up assuming, incorrectly, that the treasure had to be at the bottom of it.
The treasure then could be somewhere else on the island, or it could be gone, recovered long before the pit was found in 1795. There have been indications of loose metal held in chests, but no one has recovered the chests and that evidence has not been duplicated in more than 100 years. There are the three gold links brought up during one of the drilling operations if that is not legend... or even worse, a marketing ploy of the mid-nineteenth century. So, there is an indication that something was buried or maybe that was all that was left to find... sort of.
Oak Island is unique in the field of treasure hunting. Everyone knows where the treasure is supposed to be. At the bottom of the pit. Modern technology should be able to defeat the booby traps, but financing, legal squabbles, and bad luck has prevented that. Any archaeological benefits have been destroyed long ago by all those who dug before. The huge earth moving machines that plow up tons of dirt certainly would have destroyed any archaeological evidence. They did ruin the stone triangle and some of the carved stones near Smith's Cove have disappeared.

The Latest Attempt by the Lagina Brothers

I had thought, twenty years ago, given the improvements in our technology, given what we could do, and how much water we could pump, with infrared and satellite mapping, it would seem that we could defeat the Money Pit’s builders whose technology was now centuries out of date. That didn’t happen, of course. The Big Dig never took place and no one seemed interested in making a new attempt until the Lagina brothers, who had been fascinated with Oak Island for decades, decided to make a try.
It doesn’t seem as if they have bothered to learn the history of Oak Island and why all the others failed but that could just be editing by the producers. The Laginas do seem to understand that the Money Pit has been excavated so many times that no one is sure where the real pit is. They seem to think that it might have been a red herring and have looked for something else on the island that could lead them to the treasure which explains all that mucking around in the swamp. But they have discovered nothing exciting other than some coins found on the surface, and have done nothing other than bring in some really big machines in their attempts to gain the treasure. For all their time, effort and money, they have charged around without getting much return. Why head to Europe to talk about the Knights Templar when the Money Pit was created centuries after the disappearance of them?
For me, this whole thing, meaning the show, has dragged out much too long. I didn’t really need to see a segment on someone saying that he had deciphered the code on the stone saying that it was a double cypher but without adding anything of value to the search. According to this theory, the code tells them to dump corn into the channel to block the water flowing into the Money Pit. Corn, according to them, is dry and would absorb the water. It would expand and block the tunnel but the real question is why not just dump dirt and rock into the channel to block the flow. This seems to be an overly elaborate method to defeat the booby traps and seems to come from nothing other than wildly irrelevant speculation.
The truth seems to be that the symbols were created in the 1860s to sell shares in one of the companies that wanted to recover the treasure. That the man who displayed the stone in the 1860s turned it into some sort of a heavy weight on which to create paper or the like suggests that he knew the real value of the message. I would suggest that the message was added to the stone long after it was originally found and is therefore meaningless.
I have to laugh when the Laginas created some sort of square diving platform and then pushed it into the round hole of Bore hole 10X. Their plan was use it to lower diver into the pit to see what was at the bottom of it… but all I could think of was the square peg in a round hole.
There is something else. Remember that decades ago there was a collapse in the 10 X that seemed to drop everything into a deeper hole creating a blockage at the bottom of the enlarged hole. There is four foot of debris and trash that blocks entrance into the narrower section of 10 X that leads down into some sort of natural chamber. Remember that divers did enter that and found themselves in what might have been a natural chamber that had strong currents suggestion a connection to the sea. It could be that if there was anything left in the Money Pit, it dropped into that natural feature and the treasure would no longer be in a place where it could be recovered.
For all their effort, for all their traveling around half the world, for all the experts they have brought in to consult, they haven’t added much to our knowledge other than some things about the triangular swamp that they don’t believe to be natural. They haven’t found anything in there other than a tree stump that they attach some significance to. I don’t know what it might have been. Someone, long ago, might just have discarded it into the swamp for no other reason than to get rid of it.
Yes, I know their drilling has brought up some bits and pieces that seem to confirm a vault and treasure, but the evidence is quite thin. I wonder if some of those things found in the mid-nineteenth century might not have been planted to entice investors to produce more money though these results by the Lagina expedition seem to be real.
They show us the result of various technological gadgets that seem to confirm something buried on the island. Using high-tech metal detectors, they found what they believe are large stashes of nonferrous metals, but in the end, they haul nothing out of the ground. Using ground penetrating radar, they find void underground that suggest something has been buried or the soil has been worked but in the end, that produces nothing other than speculation.
And when that fails, and they find a strange clearing, they resort to dowsing. That’s right, they used dowsing to locate what they thought might be an underground tunnel system carrying water to the money pit. They brought in digging equipment, dug two holes and found… nothing. But that didn’t stop the narrator from sort of suggesting there was some science to back up the idea of dowsing. So, when all else fails, slip off the deep end.
They attempted to recreate the experiment with the dye from decades earlier, looking for the source of the water in the Money Pit and fail. Instead of using the Money Pit (which I’m beginning to think they may not have found) they toss the dye into Borehole 10 X. Using a helicopter, they found what they thought was some of the dye, but it turned out to be algae growing near the shore. It is interesting that they failed to duplicate the dye experiment and wonder if it was because they used the borehole rather than the actual Money Pit.
I wonder this because, in the last episode of the season, which was hyped with announcements of a major discovery, they use divers in Borehole 10X, but they divers find nothing. The dive is called when the communications cables and air hoses become entangled and I have to say, that was probably a good call. The dive was extremely dangerous. In fact, though the divers were willing to try again, the Laginas refused to allow it and I say good for them.
Instead they use some high­-tech radar, lowering it into a six-inch in diameter tube that they had drilled the year before. I don’t know why this wasn’t done earlier in this season because it would have saved a great deal of nonsense with them running around the world chasing the Knights Templar.
That radar seemed to find a chamber some 235 feet below the surface, which might have been rectangular, which might have contained two chests, which might have been supported in part by a large wooden post, and which might have two entrances to it. I use the qualifiers and while there were times that these words were not used, in the end, in listening to the expert, he did use them. They thought this chamber had been made by humans because it seemed to contain objects that had been made by humans but in the end, it was all speculation based on their interpretation of what the radar showed.
And that was the thing… it was interesting and sort of exciting if you didn’t pay close attention to the words being used. They were all excited by the results and said it was the first real evidence of something valuable hidden under the island but that isn’t exactly accurate. It was a suggestion of something hidden in a chamber created by humans that might contain a treasure but it was no evidence of anything real. You might say it was the interpretation of evidence of something real. But this was their last attempt to learn anything for the season. Winter is coming.
The show, Curse of Oak Island, was interesting in the beginning, but they have been diverted in their search so often, they have spent so much time exploring ideas and theories that don’t work (really, we have an old manuscript that seems to have a star code on it that translates to something on the ground at Oak Island which points to the spot where the treasure is hidden but we seem to have lost interest in that by the final episode) and listen to people with wild ideas that have little or nothing to do with finding a treasure (such as filling the channels that seem to be filling the various pits with water and using corn to block them) or taking trips to Europe to chase down the Knights Templar, that I suspect we’re never going to get a resolution. This will continue as long as the ratings hold up, but I think there is a limit to the patience of the audience. They better find something significant quickly and I’m not sure that the season finale is as significant as they all suggest, or no one is going to care if they do get to the bottom of the hole. 

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Curse of Oak Island - An Expanded History Part IV

(Blogger's Note: The first parts of this article follow.)

Who Owned the Treasure?

As the Oak Island Treasure Company retreated to Halifax to devise another attack plan, another problem arose. The legal ownership of any treasure recovered was in suddenly in dispute. English law, enacted centuries earlier, gave the rights to any treasure to the crown, allowing the monarch to reassign a percentage to the discoverer. However, there was no requirement for the finder to receive financial benefit or reward, other than the thanks of the crown. In other words, the crown could take all the treasure without any compensation to those who had actually found it and didn’t even have to say, “Thank you.”
Earlier companies had operated under a treasure license granted by the crown and would take their chances. If the reigning monarch was generous, they would be amply rewarded. That situation changed in 1867 when the Dominion of Canada was created by the British North America Act of 1867. Under the new law, the province had the authority over any and all treasures. Blair petitioned the Nova Scotia government for a clarification of what the government would claim if treasure was recovered. An agreement was reached giving two percent of the treasure to the government and the rest would be divided among the various shareholders and company officials once the treasure had been recovered.
With all the legal problems finally resolved, they went back to work. They decided to dynamite the drains at Smith's Cove and plug them there. That should stop the flow of water into the Money Pit and all the ancillary pits and tunnels and finally allow them the chance to get to the treasure.
The third hole they dug in Smith's Cove broke through into a shaft filled with water. Convinced they had found the channel that let water fill the pit, they crammed it with dynamite, filled it in, and then set off the charge. Water and debris flew a hundred feet into air. The water in the Money Pit and those around it boiled with activity. Convinced they had succeeded where all those others had failed they believed they were close to recovering the treasure and yet the pumps could barely keep up with the flow of water. With the pumps working twenty-four hours a day, they were able to hold the water at the hundred foot level. The company erected a platform and spent the rest of the summer of 1897 boring exploratory holes inside the Money Pit hoping to find evidence of great wealth just under them.
The major find of this new boring was a cement vault about a hundred fifty feet down. Inside the vault there seemed to be a chest filled with loose metal. Continuing the operation, they discovered an iron plate at 171 feet but they were unable to bore through that. Analysis of fillings recovered from the pit, confirmed the belief that there were iron plates in the pit. Analysis also revealed that there was a concrete vault, obviously something that had been created by human hands or that was what was claimed.
By the fall of 1897, the directors of the company were more convinced than ever that they were digging for a huge treasure. They decided to dig two additional pits to 180 feet, away from the original site, and then tunnel over as so many others had. They wanted to come up under the iron plate so that they could get at the cement vault.
Water again defeated them. One shaft reached only 70 feet before the water burst through from one of the other, long abandoned tunnels. The second shaft reached 160 feet before water drove them out. Pumping failed to reduce the level of the water in either and the effort had to be abandoned.
The next summer, they decided to again plug the drainage system in Smith's Cove. To precisely locate the drains, they decided to throw dye into the Money Pit. By pumping water into the pit, they hoped to backwash the system forcing the dye back through the channel to reveal the source. This, they hoped, would allow the channels to be plugged. They were horrified when the plan worked all too well. Dye showed up in Smith's Cove, as they had expected. But it also appeared on the south side of the island in what is called South Shore Cove. Dynamiting the drains in Smith's Cove, even if successful, would do little to stop the flow of water.
They spent the next two years digging additional shafts, trying to defeat the water booby traps. But each shaft was soon filled with water. They ran into other lateral tunnels that other searchers had dug in the century before they began the new work. Blair and his associates figured that the water flowing into the pit had to come from more than the two identified sources but they couldn't prove that.
By 1900 the whole Oak Island Treasure Company was about to sink into the muck they had created. A new prospectus was written and some additional capital was brought in. They dug another shaft but it too flooded, driving out the workers. Additional exploratory holes were bored but produced no interesting results. The company finally went broke and was unable to continue. The Oak Island Treasure Company finally gave up.
Blair, however, had not lost his enthusiasm for Oak Island. Spending his own money, he retained his lease on the Money Pit acreage. And he kept the treasure license from Nova Scotia government in force. Blair was convinced that the Oak Island Money Pit could be defeated, that there was great wealth hidden at the bottom and he was going to get it.
In 1909, Henry L. Bowdoin, who had been hearing about the Money Pit for years, joined forces with Blair. Bowdoin was convinced that with modern equipment and divers, it would be a relatively simple task to recover the treasure. In April 1909 he formed the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company in New York City and in August 1909, Bowdoin and members of his company sailed from New York to Halifax. On August 27, they arrived on Oak Island and established their headquarters, which they dubbed "Camp Kidd."
After some preliminary work, such as searching for the drains in both Smith's Cove and South Shore Cove, they moved their equipment to the Money Pit. Without the 1,000 gallon per minute pump they had planned to buy but couldn't afford, they couldn't lower the water level at all. They decided to send down the diver. He dropped to about 113 feet. The way was clear to that point, but beyond it, there was wreckage from the many other attempts to reach the treasure. Bowdoin hauled up the diver and then dropped dynamite into the pit to try to clear out the debris. This was accomplished.
Next they began to probe the bottom of the pit, boring through it in an attempt to recreate, or corroborate, the findings of the 1897 expedition. Twenty-eight holes were bored, but according to the records kept by Bowdoin, they found nothing to indicate any treasure in the pit. Like the expeditions before him, Bowdoin soon ran out of money. He failed to sell any more shares in his treasure company, even with a prospectus that claimed the reward would be more than $10,000,000 for those who were lucky enough to invest in his company.
Over the next few months, Bowdoin exchanged correspondence with Blair. The tone of the letters was less than cordial. Blair accused Bowdoin of being overconfident and undercapitalized. Although Bowdoin wanted to extend their contract, Blair refused, insisting that Bowdoin prove that he had the financing to mount a proper expedition for the next round. Bowdoin responded with anger saying that he would tell the world that the Oak Island treasure was a hoax. On August 19, 1911, he did just that. In Collier's (magazine) Bowdoin published, "Solving the Mystery of Oak Island." He wrote, "My experience proved to me that there is not, and never was, a buried treasure on Oak Island. The Mystery is solved."
Over the next several years there were additional attempts to recover the treasure. Bowdoin's biased article had not done much to stop the interest in Oak Island. However, none of these attempts made much progress in either learning anything new about the Money Pit or in recovering the treasure hidden in it.

Work Stops Again and then Starts Again

Blair's search for another investor, or group of investors, failed to produce results until 1931. Then, it wasn't all the newspaper articles and advertisement written that produced the investor. It was one man's long interest in Oak Island, and the fact he had been on the platform in 1897 when the drilling operation had provided some corroboration for the belief in the treasure.  William Chappell of Sydney, Nova Scotia, knew that the treasure existed. Since he had been on the crew in 1897, his family's lumber business had expanded and produced huge profits. He decided to use some of those profits in another attempt to recover the treasure.
Ironically, their first problem was to figure out where to dig. No work had been done for over twenty years and the area was riddled with holes, shafts and tunnels dug by all those others trying for recover the treasure. Chappell finally settled on a site and began his operation. When Blair visited the island later, he told Chappell that he was digging in the wrong place.
Chappell then decided to dig a large shaft around the Money Pit. With the help of an electrical pump, he kept his new shaft relatively dry. As they dug, they found old tools and an anchor fluke. They reached a depth that no one else had managed, but then things turned to crap. First, so many shafts had been sunk, and so much water had been forced in and pumped out that the ground had turned into a soup. The soft earth began caving in. They also found what might have been the mouth of the drain from South Shore Cove. They couldn't plug it but that didn't matter. The pump was up to the task of keeping the water out of their new shaft.
By the end of the summer, they had spent $40,000 and had accomplished very little except digging up more of the real estate. They shut down the operation for the season because winter was coming and they believed they would come back the next year to finish it. That, however, didn't work out.
The next complication for those treasure hunters was created by a dozen people who had very little to do with the search but who were important to it. Sophia Sellers, who had owned the Money Pit for years, died, and her heirs were each requiring a huge sum to lease the area before they would consent to further operations. But in the summer of 1932, the heirs allowed another party to begin operations. Blair still held the treasure trove rights so that he would be involved in the recovery if there was one. That new operation was of little value and failed to produce any results of note other than complicating the issue.
In 1933, another man, Thomas Nixon, began his work on Oak Island. He grossly misrepresented himself and did little more than drill a number of holes. In his report, he claimed to have confirmed some of the items from the 1897 diggings but that was all he managed to do. He wanted Blair to extend his search contract and when Blair refused, Nixon threatened to sue.
Blair was no longer interested in Nixon and his tales. He had found another investor, Gilbert Hedden, from New Jersey. His family had sold a business and that left Hedden with the financial resources to pursue his dream of solving the riddle of Oak Island. Hedden told Blair that he was prepared to spend $100,000 to recover the treasure.
In the beginning of this long saga, the first of the companies formed back in the nineteenth century, had invested only four to six thousand dollars, hired dozens of men, and spent months on the island. Now, about a hundred years later, with the mystery unsolved, with the treasure still in the ground, the stakes were considerably higher. Of course technology might overcome the booby traps that sheer determination couldn't.
Blair tried to arrange for the various rights, but the Sellers heirs refused to allow him to dig. They had learned that a millionaire from the United States wanted to dig and they wanted fifty-five hundred dollars for the land. That was ten times what it was worth, unless of course, there was a treasure in the pit. Then it could be worth, literally, millions of dollars but no one really knew.
Blair attempted an end run by having legislation introduced that would allow the holder of a treasure trove license to dig on land owned by someone else. If the two parties couldn't reach an agreement, then arbitration would settle the matter. The law was not enacted but that made no difference. Hedden finally caved in and paid $5,000 for the eastern end of the island. But it was too late in the season to begin any new operations because winter was coming. Another year had been lost.
In 1936, Hedden was finally ready. Rather than attack the Money Pit, he decided to drain the pit dug by Chappell and explore the area around it. Using a huge pump, he was able to drain the Chappell pit, the cave-in pit, and several of the other shafts dug by earlier expeditions. The summer months were used in these operations which were successful in drying out some of the terrain but failed to produce any treasure.
There was one important discovery, however. Hedden, searching the island, found a number of rocks, some arranged in a curious triangular shape that seemed related to the construction of the Money Pit. There were even rumors that these artifacts related to a map included in a book about Captain Kidd. Those connections seem to have been eliminated by later investigations and possibly by some of the evidence found, so the connection to Kidd is tenuous at best. However, the stones found on Oak Island did prove that those who built the Money Pit understood engineering, astronomy and navigation. That would seem to rule out many of the theories about who hide the treasure there.
Hedden spent a great deal of time and effort chasing the strange map from the book about Kidd. When he discovered that the map was the figment of the imagination of the writer, his enthusiasm for the search might have evaporated. At any rate, when time came for Hedden to renew his agreement with Blair, Hedden let it lapse. (Of course the fact that Hedden was in trouble with the IRS might also have contributed to his decision.)
When Hedden bowed out in 1938, Erwin H. Hamilton, a mechanical engineering professor at New York University, was ready to step in. In fact, he had approached Blair a couple of years earlier only to be told that Hedden owned the land and had the rights to dig. But then the way was cleared in 1938 for Hamilton to take over the operation. Hamilton conducted a number of tests, including another using dye. He mapped the various tunnels dug under the island and planned his new assault. However, the Second World War started soon after and that prevented Hamilton from proceeding.
From that point on and through the 1940s, a number of different men tried to recover the treasure. Some of the attempts were little more than negotiations which fell apart as the participants failed to agree on who would get how much of what. The property on which the Money Pit was located was sold by Hedden, fell back into his hands and was sold again. Nothing of importance was accomplished although there were some interesting developments. President Roosevelt, for example, maintained a correspondence with a number of men involved in the search and even made plans to return to Oak Island. He had been one of the original investors in a company formed a couple of decades earlier.
Work on Oak Island would not begin again until the mid-1950s. George Greene, an oil man from Texas, applied to Chappell, who now owned the property, for permission to drill. He sank a number of holes, found a huge void below 140 feet and pumped tens of thousands of gallons of water into it. The water disappeared, flowing out. Greene promised to return the next year but didn't. He was murdered in 1962. That probably had nothing to do with Oak Island though, if it could be connected, it would help reach the total of seven who “must die” before the treasure could be recovered.