top of page

Oak Island Money Pit: Secret History of Oak Island's Hidden Treasure in Canada

Oak Island Money Pit: Secret History of Oak Island's Hidden Treasure in Canada

If someone were to claim that they knew a story involves Holy Grail, a band of pirates, William Shakespeare, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Edgar Allan Poe, a person will certainly think of a riddle or a fanciful movie script. However, a particular site in Canada holds a history and brings together more of these elements.

Oak Island Mystery:

Lying off the shores of Nova Scotia and along Canada’s Atlantic coast, Oak Island is among the 360 islands dotting Mahone Bay. In the eyes of a casual observer, the 140-acre island appears common and similar to many other islands located in the region.

Rocks and sand skirt the perimeter of the landmass, while native forest and bush cover much of its interior parts. At its first glance, the mundane island conceals any historical evidence and importance. Yet, the appearance of the site deceives curious travellers. Despite the natural scenery and serene setting of the Oak Island, the story of the past replete with mystery, intrigue and tragedy. The potency of the story that follows captured the human imagination and driven several people to their graves.

Demystifying Oak Island:

Scholars and explorers have grappled and tried explaining the mystery of the island, but eventually failed to reach the bottom of the Money Pit of Oak Island. Several accounts depict the story of Oak Island’s Money Pit to begin in the summer months of 1795. Daniel McGinnis a teenage boy saw strange lights coming from an offshore island from his parents’ home.

In the view of author Lee Lamb, after further investigating the source of light, the teenage boy noticed and peculiar circular depression on the forest floor of the island, measuring 13 feet in diameter. While he looked around, he found several oak trees are missing surrounding the depression. Besides, he also saw a block and tackle hanging down from a tree limb directly on the shadow hole. Although several researchers have refuted the existence of the block and the tackle, yet whatever McGinnis saw that day made him believe that the scene is worth investigating.

McGinnis left the island to seek help from his two closest friends: John Smith and Anthony Vaughan and the following day all the three boys enthusiastically carried out excavating the mysterious site. One of the reasons that more filled the heart of these boys with curiosity can be found in an enticing chapter in Nova Scotia’s history. The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic describes years between 1690 and 1730 marked the “Golden Age of Piracy” and during the time, Nova Scotia had very few European settlements.

With just more than 200 nautical miles separating the remote bays of the present-day Nova Scotia and the thriving commercial centre for colonial Boston, pirates were known to gather near the Oak Island. The scarce population coupled with wilderness in the region provided an abundance of natural resources helped in restocking and repairing vessels, while the isolation of the place became a storage house for their vast misbegotten treasure. Legends say that infamous Captain William Kidd, a notorious pirate admitted burying an unspecified wealth of treasure in the area before his arrest in 1699.

Not much was done with the pit until 1802, while the stories differ and seem likely that the three young teenage boys spent the years in searching for the financial backer for assisting more sophisticated dig. Impressed by the story, Simeon Lynds visited the island the same year and formed a company to support the excavation. The work started in the summer months of 1803, the crew started cleaning the old pit and dug downwards. Legends say that they struck another oak platform 30 feet below the surface. As they continued digging downward and found something every ten feet. The materials included charcoal, putty, stones or more log platforms.

Finally, at the level of 80 or 90 feet, they found a flat stone measuring three feet long and one foot wide, with strange letters and figures engraved onto it. At 93 feet deep, the floor of the pit began turning into soft mud and before the ending of the day, the crew probed the bottom of the shaft with a crowbar with a hope to find something extraordinary and mystical.

Later they hit a barrier as wide and long as the shaft, expected to reach to the treasure vault and went off to sleep with the expectations that the next day fortune will bestow on them. The crew returned the next day to the spot, was shocked to find that the pit was filled with 60 feet of water overnight and found bailing to be useless. To their astonishment as soon as the water was removed more flowed in to take its place.

Another attempt was made to dig another shaft nearby and get the treasure by running a tunnel underneath the pit. Still, the new shaft filled with water as soon as the tunnel reached its objectives. The excavation did not stop there. Several researchers continued to dig the place by building a cofferdam to hold back the tides. However, searching for treasure was stopped in 1851 due to a lack of funds.

A decade later, in 1861 the excavation was again started, costing human life for the first time. They reached the pit and treasure with steam engine-powered pumps and with the bursting of a boiler, a worker was scalded to death while the others were severely injured. Additional excavations were carried out in 1866, 1893, 1909, 1931, and 1936 with extreme methods: setting dynamite charges to destroy the flood tunnel and building a dam to keep the water out of Smith's Cove, and bringing in a crane with an excavation bucket.

Each of these excavations failed to bring out the treasure of the Vikings and no one could say where the actual money was located looking at the depositions of the old shafts. The pit took two more lives in 1959 when Robert Restall and his 18-year-old son tried to find the treasure and fell into the pit's muddy water. Again, in 1965, Robert Dunfield applied modern techniques of open pit mining for the treasure hunt.

The dirt accumulated was carefully removed and instead of treasure, they found several pieces of porcelain dishware. Later in 1970, Triton Alliance was formed for hunting treasure but this time too, failed to recover gold. Often the caverns were thought to be natural and several of them were found beneath the island.


The mystery remains surrounding the pit with concerns of its establishment, ownership and presence of real treasure beneath it. Despite the legends, they found it unlikely to believe that Captain Kidd ever had to bury any treasure on Oak Island.

Although he did spend little yet quality time near Nova Scotia, yet was not enough to construct a pit for storing treasure. However, people believe him to bury a cache of booty on the Gardener’s Island near the eastern end of Long Island Sound, which has been seized by the New York Government.

SIGN UP to get such articles directly into your inbox.


Be the First to Expand Your
Intellectual Horizon!

bottom of page