Saturday, January 17, 2015

Curse of Oak Island - An Expanded History Part III

(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.)

Another Company Takes Over the Operation

A new company, the Oak Island Contract Company was formed, attempted to attract investors, and failed miserably. They estimated they needed about six thousand dollars, but couldn't raise it. When that failed, they abandoned their efforts.
A year later, in May 1863, the Oak Island Eldorado Company was formed. The officers were the same as those in the Contract Company. They succeeded in raising about four thousand dollars, part of which would be used to build a larger, stronger cofferdam. With the sea held at bay, they believed they would be able to recover the hidden wealth. Although they did build the cofferdam, it was soon destroyed by the Atlantic Ocean but that didn’t matter. It had done nothing to reduce the rate of water flow into the Money Pit.
With that, the Eldorado Company began drilling operations instead. This time, however, they used a casing about three inches in diameter. That was significant because it ensured that what was brought up came from deep in the pit, rather than something that might have fallen in at a later date. They managed to reach depths of 150 feet, finding wood chips, coconut fiber, and charcoal. More water was struck at 140 feet, then soft clay and fine sand.
They did sink a couple other test holes, but nothing of interest was found. There are also reports that they tried to dig another shift 175 feet from the Money Pit but no documentation has been found to confirm this. By 1867, they had run out of money and ideas. The corporation was dissolved.

A Quarter of a Century Break

That ended the attempts to recover the treasure for about twenty-five years. Frederick Blair, who had long been interested in Oak Island and the rumored treasure, in 1893, formed the Oak Island Treasure Company. One of the accomplishments of Blair was a collection of all documentation and an oral history of all the searches that had preceded his. He interviewed many of those who had been involved in earlier attempts to get at the treasure. Blair then produced a prospectus, with the help of Adams Tupper, to outline what was known. The prospectus said:
It can be proven:
That a shaft about 13 feet in diameter and 100 feet deep was sunk on Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, before the memory of any now living.
That this shaft was connected by an underground tunnel with the open ocean, about 365 feet distant.
That at the bottom of this shaft were placed large wooden boxes in which were precious metals and jewels.
That many attempts have been made, without success, to obtain this treasure.
That it is reasonably certain the treasure is large, because so great trouble would never have been taken to conceal any small sum.
That it is now entirely feasible to thoroughly explore this shaft and recover the treasure still located therein.

The company planned to raise about $60,000 for the search. They would use half the money to secure the treasure rights from the government of Nova Scotia and to lease the land from the current owners. The remainder of the shares would stay in the company's safe, to be sold as needed for supplies and payroll. The plans were published and in a short time they had sold enough of those shares to begin their work.
One of the things that made Blair's plan better than those that had gone before him was a piece of information he had that they didn't. Sophia Sellers, daughter of Anthony Grave and wife of Henry Sellers, had been plowing on their farm when the earth in the field caved in under her team. A hole, six feet in diameter and ten feet deep had opened up. Blair noticed that this hole was about 350 feet east of the Money Pit and over what many suspected was the route of the water trap. With that knowledge, Blair hoped to defeat the water hazard.
The task was to explore the cave-in site and then excavate it. They believed that the builders of the Money Pit had hidden a gate of some kind that would allow them to stop the flow of water so they could get at the treasure (which, by the way, is probably not correct) when they were ready to recover it. However, after digging down to fifty-five feet, the water began to pour in and no amount of bailing would lower it. They abandoned that aspect of their quest.
Another shaft was begun, away from the original Money Pit, but once again water was encountered. Once again, the rate of flow was such that the pumps could not overcome it. And, once again, the project was abandoned.
By now the whole area around the original Money Pit had been dug up, tunneled through, and excavated to such an extent that the ground was soft and mushy. Several different companies had sunk shafts near the pit, trying to tunnel into it. The whole countryside around the pit was riddled with shafts and tunnels and old excavations. All this time water was flowing from Smith's Cove, under the island and directly into the Money Pit and that kept the workers out. The site was becoming dangerous just to walk on.
Beginning in 1896, the men began another attempt to excavate the Money Pit. Other companies that had preceded the Oak Island Treasure Company had filled in some of the pits they had dug. And, the original pit, after the last boring exploration, had been filled in as well. The new task was to excavate the pit and try to keep the water out using their new and higher capacity pumps.

The Money Pit Claims a Second Victim

On March 26, 1897, Maynard Kaiser was being raised by rope to the top of one of the pits when the rope slipped from the pulley. He plunged back into the pit and was killed. That accident convinced the other workers that there was some kind of ghostly guardian of the treasure and they wanted no part of this enterprise. Kaiser, they believed, had been killed as a warning to them.
After the executives of the latest treasure hunting company convinced the men they could continue work without fear of ghosts, spirits and curses, and probably promising higher pay, they reached a depth of 110 feet. The pumps were keeping the pit clear of water. They noticed that one of the old tunnels dug in the 1860s was responsible for the water that was now filling the Money Pit. They explored the tunnel, found another, and then another large pit. The water was coming from the bottom of it. Blair realized that this was the original Money Pit. They had just spent a great deal of time, effort and money excavating the wrong shaft, a mistake that was easy to make given the nature of the Swiss cheese landscape.
Moving their equipment and operation, they began to excavate what they were sure was the real Money Pit. They reached 111 feet when they came to a new tunnel that was 2½ feet wide on the east side of the pit. The water was pouring through it with such force that the men realized they'd never be able to block it inside the Money Pit. In fact, water was pouring through so fast that it filled the Money Pit and all the other shafts to the tide level rapidly. They'd have to stop the flow at the other source if they planned to block it at all.

1 comment:

Bob Koford said...

I am fascinated how much interest and money has been expended, up to this point, and we haven't even left the 1800s yet.

Weird. It just keeps on hanging on.