Years passed and Smith and McInnis continued to live on the island. They did not live to see their work continued,
but in 1849 when a new treasure company was formed, Vaughan was still able to make the trip to the hilly island
and point out the spot where the original shaft had been found.
Old Doctor Lynds had a stake in this venture, and the first excavation reached eighty-six feet before the water
rushed in again. There was no pump or source of power in that time to exhaust the liquid as fast as it poured into
the hole. For lack of any other way of solving the problem the company hired a coal prospector who had a "pod
augur", a simple muscle-powered bit on the end of a free shaft. It was mounted on a platform at the thirty-five foot
level, just above the water. One James Pitbaldo directed the drilling and each time the bit was removed it was
examined carefully; every scrap of material adhering to it was dried and sorted under a magnifying glass.
The drill struck the known platform at one hundred feet and bored through. Chips found on the bit proved to be
spruce, five inches thick. Then the bit dropped another twelve inches as if passing through an empty place, and
chopped through four inches of oak. At this point the drill operator hit a layer of loose material which he believed to
be metal. Previously when the bit was withdrawn, chips of wood or other particles were found clinging to it. When
nothing was found on the bit he guessed it had been scoured off in a stratum of gold coins.
Again it was lowered into the pit and carefully removed. The story has it that when Dr. Lynds cleaned the point
he found three links of a thin gold chain.
During the excitement of this discovery Pitbaldo lowered the drill once more. When it was brought up John
Gammell saw him remove something caught on the bit, examine it closely and slip it in his pocket. When Gammell
demanded to see what he had found, Pitbaldo refused, saying he would show it to all the shareholders the following
That night Pitbaldo disappeared and was not heard of until several months later when he and a companion turned
up in Cape Breton Island. They made some efforts to question the Treasure Company's title to Oak and threatened
to return that spring and oust them from the site. But Pitbaldo was killed in a mine accident during the winter,
taking with him what might have been a valuable clue to the character of the treasure.
It is worth noting that this work was done with a "free" drill, a loose flexible shaft which descended into the
ground in a more or less vertical direction but which might have drifted many feet off a plumb line from the center
of the pit.
After more probing with the drill the first layer of loose material was found to be twenty-two inches thick. Eight
more inches of oak lay below; then another twenty-two inches of unknown substance and four more inches of oak.
The drillers concluded that this indicated two oaken chests made of four inch timbers, one on top of another. Just
below the chests the bit struck six inches of spruce, as if they were resting on another platform, and below it more
The operators set the drill up a few feet to one side and began again. It hit the platform, dropped eighteen inches
and commenced to wobble and jerk. It seemed to have struck the edge of something, cutting into wood on one side
and nothing on the other. Splinters of wood were brought up on the drill such as might be chipped off barrel staves.
During the summer of 1850 the company sank a second shaft to one hundred and nine feet, ten feet away from the
Money Pit. From the bottom of this hole they started a horizontal tunnel in the direction of the treasure. Again the
water burst through and flooded the new shaft as deep as the old. There were a few fresh-water springs on the
island and it had never occurred to the diggers that the water had any connection with the ocean. But careful
measurements proved that its level varied about an inch for every foot of change in the tide. When one of the
laborers fell into the pit and tasted salt-water the truth was confirmed.
An improvised bailing machine, rigged to two horses for power, failed to lower the water to any extent. Dr. Lynds
had noticed many years before that the beach on Smith's Cove seemed to have been leveled off unnaturally.
Searching for the source of the sea water the company stripped off the sand and gravel on this beach for a distance
of 145 feet. Rounded boulders were found under the surface, and beneath them a two foot layer of eel-grass
extending from the high to low tide marks.
And under the eel-grass was more of the coconut fibre, tons and tons of it. More excavation located the entrances
to five channels descending and converging toward a point back of the beach; these were filled with loose stones.
This antique plumbing served to carry the water into one main tunnel which led in the direction of the Money Pit.
Specimens of this coconut fibre can still be found on the island. The purpose of the builder of this system of drains
can only be fathomed by considering the effect of his work. He was not so foolish as to dig a straight hole from the
ocean to the treasure pit. The rush of water through it at high tide might cause it to be choked with sand or collapse.
He wanted a steady, even flow of filtered water from the sea which would drown out trespassers digging in the
Money Pit. At high tide the water is absorbed by the coconut fibre like a huge blotter. If the bottom of the drain in
the Money Pit is uncovered the coconut fibre discharges its store of liquid into the hole until the pressure is
equalized. Twice a day the "blotter" is replenished by the tide. The flow of water has been calculated to be as much
as eight hundred gallons a minute.
Years later one of the Smith descendants who was plowing behind two oxen narrowly escaped falling into a
fifteen foot hole which collapsed beneath him. This was located in almost a direct line between the beach and the
Money Pit, and was filled with water. It undoubtedly has some connection with the water tunnel but all attempts to
intercept it and seal off the flow have been without success.
The 1849 treasure company threw up a clay cofferdam around the excavated area on Smith's Cove in an effort to
stop the water. The tide soon cut through it but its stone foundation can still be seen today.
The company dug one more shaft twenty feet south of the Money Pit, and when the sea water broke through
again the job was abandoned.
In 1863 A. A. Tupper, who had been a foreman with the '49 group, raised enough money for another try. He
freighted in a water pump powered by a primitive steam engine which succeeded in keeping the ocean below the
hundred foot level. Tupper's new shaft suffered from repeated collapses in the soggy ground, and he reluctantly
gave it up as unsafe to work in.
In 1870 a stranger appeared in the Mahone Bay area. Dark complected and speaking with an accent, he bought a
sloop for $2500.00 and hired two local fishermen to sail it.
He took the boat thirty miles out to sea to a point south of Halifax. There he took a sight on the sun and set a
northwest course back to the mainland. As the sloop approached the shore he took out an ancient chart and studied
it intently. This he kept mostly concealed from the fishermen but they reported the writing on it was something like
Yiddish or Script German. The course he set brought him not into Mahone but to St. Margaret's Bay a few miles
northeast. He kept this up almost every day until fall and returned to repeat the performance the following spring.
Apparently he never found what he was looking for because he disappeared soon afterward. It may be worth
mentioning that modern hydrographic charts show that it is possible to sail a due northwest course into Mahone Bay
and make a landing on Oak without touching any of the hundreds of other islands.
Some years later the Halifax Treasure Company resumed the work with more capital than any of the previous
operators. Numerous shafts were dug to intercept the water influx from the ocean and pump it out before it could
reach the pit, but it could never be located. Work stopped until 1893 when a new company was organized by
Frederick L. Blair.