Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Money Pit

In 1795, a boy living on the Atlantic coast of Canada rowed his small boat out to an uninhabited island, known as Oak Island, to explore it.

There he found a big oak tree with a rope hanging from a limb over a hole in the ground filled with dried mud. The teenage boy thought, “Treasure lowered into a hole by pirates!” He hurried home and returned to the island with two friends, to help him dig for treasure.

The three boys dug down to 10 feet, and found a layer of oak logs, and thought, “Treasure!” and pulled-up the logs, but only found a small empty space and below that some more dirt. At 20 feet down and 30 feet down, they found the same thing -- layers of oak logs over a small empty space and more dirt.

The boys thought, “There must be treasure down here! If there is not, why would someone do all of this work?” But, more than 30 feet down was too much for teenagers. So, they filled-in the hole with the dirt they had taken out, and promised to return as adults.

In 1803, the three boys, all more than 20 years old, now, purchased the part of the island with the hole, formed a company with their money and the money of friends and bought much equipment to dig down to treasure. They dug again down to 30 feet, and then to 40 feet, 50 feet, and so on, each time finding the same kind of layer of oak logs, as before, which they pulled up.

But then, at 90 feet, they found a flat stone, with a code chiseled into it, looking like this…

The code easily translates to these English words: “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried.” “Two million pounds” in those days were equal to about $500,000,000, or about 5,000,000,000 pesos.

The young men began digging like crazy people! They pulled up the oak logs beneath the message, and dug deeper, but soon they were taking out one bucket of sea water for every two buckets of dirt. The Sun was setting. So they hammered metal rods into the mud, and were certain from the sounds they heard while hammering that a few feet down into the mud, at the 98 foot level, their rods struck two wooden boxes filled with metal! Treasure! They all went to bed that night, thinking that when the Sun came up in the morning they’d climb down their ladders and find pirates’ gold!

In the morning, the money hole was filled to the top with mud and water! All of their work was ruined! They did not know it then, but a few feet below the 100 foot level were two tunnels, filled with coconut hair, bringing water from the nearby ocean to protect against someone digging that deep. The young men tried to pump out the water and mud, but the hole just kept filling again. They gave up.

In the years after that, one company after another was formed to try to get down to a treasure in the hole. It is said that, over the years, machines for drilling wells brought to the surface a single gold coin, and 3 links in a gold chain. At 154 feet drillers reached what sounded in the drill pipe like a box made of concrete containing a wooden box filled with metal. At 196 feet drillers cut into pieces of wood which scientists dated to 1575. In the early 1970s, drillers got the biggest shock of all -- drillers drilled through a brick ceiling into empty space! A room, beneath the island, over 200 feet down!

They lowered a television camera down the hole they had drilled, and saw what looked like 3 large wooden boxes, a human hand floating in water flooding the tunnel from the drilling, and a dead human body, in a sitting position!

Drillers drilled hole after hole into the ceiling of the underground room and -- surprise, surprise! -- the roof of the room suddenly collapsed, and the 200 feet of dirt and mud above it sank down, and form a huge crater on the surface!

Since that disaster, a company has been slowly sinking a giant metal tube into the ground, hoping that someday men may climb 200 feet down a ladder in the tube and bring up an enormous treasure.

No matter what, the Oak Island Money Hole is amazing. More than 400 years ago, someone managed to dig more than 200 feet down into the mud of an island surrounded by ocean, build a treasure room with a brick ceiling, and then build a vertical tunnel above it protected by a trap -- tunnels filled with sea water!


  1. I really liked this story; hunts for buried treasure always capture the imagination. I remember getting a "treasure map" down the shore when I was a little kid that showed the alleged locations of famous treasures, and asking my dad if we could take a trip to go dig for some of them.
    It kind of made me laugh after I read it too, because of the double-entendre of the title. It's a money pit in the literal sense in that there's supposed to be a fortune at the bottom, but it's also a "money pit" in that generations of people have dumped their money into buying the land and financing expensive excavations on it (millions have been spent already).
    I wouldn't put any of my money into the Money Pit, but I still hope they find something some day.

  2. There are some amazing side-stories to the Money Pit story.

    At one point someone predicted that the Money Pit would contain the original folios, preserved in mercury, of the works of William Shakespeare (your cousin, Phil, through your dad, your Dad's mom, your great gf Edward Decatur Eitelman, and through his mother May Katherine Pitman). A bizarre prediction -- but at one point in modern times one of the Money Pit bore holes generated a tiny bit of non-paper writing material such as world have been used in Shakespeare's time, with writing on it, and a tiny bit of mercury!

    Another side story: There is pretty good evidence that the pit does, indeed, contain part or all of the same treasure which is the subject of the movie NATIONAL TREASURE.