If you’ve ever seen an episode from the eight seasons of The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel you know the story: a deep well, built by pirates on site, holds a treasure from the Templar era – it may even be the biblical ark of the covenant. Local mythology also harbors a curse: seven men must die before the treasure is finally found, she said. In fact, six men have already died in the search. But, after all, what is reality and what is legend on Oak Island?
The Lagina brothers, hosts of the well on the History Channel.Source: History Channel / Disclosure.
To date, no treasure has been found in the approximately 30-meter hole, located on the island of Nova Scotia, a maritime province in Canada. But peripheral discoveries, apparent clues, possible pitfalls and geological curiosities have forced researchers to move forward, even as historians contest the sensationalist claims about the treasure.
Secular treasure hunt
The story begins in 1795, when a teenager from Nova Scotia reportedly saw lights hovering over Oak Island. In a wood on the southeastern side of the island, he and two friends found a four-meter-wide depression surrounded by loose soil and young trees – signs that the soil had been turned over. The boys then dug what would be known as “Poço do Dinheiro”.
Just over half a meter below, they found a circle of stones. Three meters further down, they found a cut wooden platform, embedded in the sides of the pit. A second platform was 6 meters deep – and that is where the story ends.
At the beginning of the 19th century, it was Onslow Company send an official digging expedition. They found more platforms every 3 meters, with layers of dough, coal or coconut fibers – which is quite curious, since there are no coconuts planted within a radius of almost 1,500 kilometers from Nova Scotia. The crew’s biggest discovery was 30 meters deep: a rectangular stone with strange inscriptions.
The company continued to dig and soon reached what appeared to be a hollow container – considered a treasure chest. The team stopped working at night and, when they returned in the morning, found the well filled with water. They believed that the excavation triggered an explosive trap and ended efforts in 1805.
Photo of the well taken in 1947.Source: NOVA SCOTIA ARCHIVES / Reproduction.
The neighboring town of Truro sent a crew in 1849. They drew water from the well and reinforced the walls before drilling the ark. The drill penetrated successive layers of wood and loose metal. The drilling brought up three small links of gold chain, but before they could access the safe, the rock bottom collapsed and flooded again, taking the presumed treasure with it.
The crew believed that there was a kind of man-made drain that carried the treasure to another location on the island. That was when the curse reports began. The first death occurred in 1860, when a steam bomb used to drain the Money Pit exploded.
Also in 1860, a professor from Nova Scotia examined the stone found by Onslow and concluded that the code said: “Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried”. Another attempt at translation in 1970, however, interpreted the code as a warning from Coptic Christians not to forget their duty to the Lord.
Since then, more and more excursions have sought to find the treasure and four other men have died after inhaling harmful underground vapors. Today the History Channel program uses all the technology available in the quest to solve the island’s mystery: seismic tests, ground penetration radar, drilling and dye tests. So far, they have found an iron cross, which they attribute to the Knights Templar, a bone fragment and a wooden U-shaped structure.
And the truth about the Money Pit?
Research conducted by historian Joy A. Steele and marine geologist Gordon Fader shows that Oak Island was home to a secret British industrial center. Steele and Fader are certain that the Money Pit is actually the result of a natural geological feature of the island (prone to building natural sinks) that the British used as a tar oven to produce tar and pitch to coat their ships.
The excavated well layers – wood, coal and dough – line up with what would be expected in an old tar oven, Fader said in an interview with Popular Mechanics. For him, the U-shaped structure was probably part of a storage shed to keep pine tar in barrels and out of the sun.