Blair, an insurance salesman, first heard of Oak when he was seventeen and was continuously involved in the work
until his death in 1950. Investing his inheritance and all his savings, he started digging in 1895. A grandson of one of
the original discoverers, James McInnis still farmed on the island and passed on to Blair all he knew about the
Blair dug a shaft on the site of the Sink Hole and struck salt-water at fifty-five feet, thus verifying its connection
with the water tunnel. Next summer the Money Pit, which by this time had collapsed, was re-excavated to
thirty-five feet where a jumble of debris blocked further progress. Another shaft and a lateral tunnel were dug
beside it and the Pit was opened to a depth of a hundred and eleven feet. For the first time the lower end of the
water passage was found. It was two and a half feet square and filled with loose stones. Still the flow of water
could not be shut off.
Blair's company bored five inch holes haphazardly near the beach in an attempt to block the tunnel. Dynamite was
lowered into each hole and set off. When a heavy charge was exploded at a hundred and eight feet the water in the
treasure pit was roiled by the force of the blast, but there seemed no hope of stopping the water at such a depth.
Drilling was again tried at the Money Pit through a two and a half inch pipe. At a hundred and twenty-six feet the
bit struck oak and then iron. Twenty-seven feet deeper the drillers cut through a layer of what seemed to be stone.
Some of this material was sent to A. Boake Roberts & Co., analytical chemists in London, and no previous
information was given them of its source. The analysis proved the substance was artificial and had the same
chemical properties as hardened cement. The drill located a cement roof, walls and floor of a chamber. Its size was
estimated to be five feet square and seven feet deep.
Whenever the bit was removed from the ground anything adhering to it was carefully set aside. This debris was
taken to Truro where, at a meeting of the directors of the company, it was placed in an open container which was
then filled with water. The wood chips and lighter material floated to the top of the vessel.
Idly, one of the directors picked a bit of flotsam from the surface of the liquid and rolled it between his fingers.
Examining it more closely, he placed the little ball on the table and unrolled it.
This fragment was a torn piece of parchment, about a half inch long and a quarter inch wide. On it were written
with a quill pen the script characters "v" and "I." Had a message been left behind with the treasure?
Blair tired of boring holes into the chamber and began sinking more shafts around it. He seemed to have a theory
that if enough holes were dug the water would finally drain out of the pit and leave the treasure high and dry. Of
course, the Atlantic Ocean filled each hole as soon as it was dug, and the water remained at the same level in all the
others. Blair was the first to suspect the existence of another water tunnel leading from the beach south of the pit.
He found that dye placed in the Money Pit did not appear in Smith's Cove but made traces in the ocean on the
south side of the island. When the company's money ran out he obtained title to the land and in 1905 secured a
grant of Treasure Trove from the Canadian Parliament.
In 1909 no less a personality than Franklin D. Roosevelt became interested in the treasure. His mother had a
summer home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, and tales of the Money Pit had spread all over Canada. His
group raised $5000.00 and Roosevelt, Duncan G. Harris, Frederick Childs and Albert Gallatin sailed from New
York on August 18. Their expedition included diving suits (which proved impractical) and test drillings at one
hundred and fifty feet found the same cement-like material. Samples of it submitted to Columbia University were
reported to be man-made. Roosevelt's work on the island was brief but his interest continued for many years. In
August, 1939, while he was visiting Halifax he privately devised a plan to anchor his battleship off Mahone Bay and
see the work then being conducted by Erwin T. Hamilton. Hamilton was informed of the secret scheme and had a
sedan chair ready to carry the President up the hill to the site of the shaft. News of the imminent outbreak of war in
Europe reached Roosevelt before he left Halifax and he was obliged to return immediately to New York.
In 1913 a Wisconsin college professor and a Captain John Welling tried to open the Money Pit with a power dredge
and had no better luck. Some years later another group tried sinking a long steel caisson which was kept under air
pressure to prevent the water from entering it at the bottom. The tube was lowered by firing a charge of dynamite
from its base to break up the soil. But the man who set the fuse had to exit so hurriedly that he contracted the
"bends" from the sudden release of pressure. Blair returned to the island in 1922 with J. B. Cameron, a New York
contractor. With heavy machinery and a large crew of men they sunk several more shafts, but were unable to
conquer the water.
More years passed while the Money Pit was abandoned. Melvin Chappell, of Sydney, N. S. did considerable
digging in the early 1930's with the usual lack of success.
In 1928 a New York newspaper printed a Sunday feature type of story about the strange history of the island.
Gilbert D. Hedden, operator of a steel fabricating concern, saw the article and was fascinated by the engineering
problems to be overcome in recovering the treasure. Hedden collected a library of books and articles on the island
and made six trips there. His attorneys made an investigation of the characters of those living who had been
associated with previous treasure companies and made favorable reports. Convinced that the story was no hoax,
Hedden and a few friends organized a new venture. He took in Blair, whose grant of Treasure Trove did not expire
until 1944, and bought the southeast end of the island.
Hedden did not start to dig until the summer of 1935. The pit was excavated to a hundred and fifty-five feet and
strongly timbered, but no chests or cement chamber were to be found. Hedden was digging in the spot indicated
by Blair as the original where the drill had found the chamber, but the ground had shifted so badly from the
collapse of other pits that he believed the treasure might have slipped many feet horizontally and sunk deeper into
the wet clay.
Electricity was brought to the island for the first time and pumps installed with a capacity of 1000 gallons per
minute, twice the expected flow of water. The water tunnel entrance was exposed at a hundred and four feet, and
this flow was transferred to another old shaft where the pumps took care of it easily.
More strange things remained to be discovered on the island. In August, 1938 Hedden found a boulder near the pit
with a rough hole drilled in it, two inches deep and an inch and a quarter wide. Blair remembered seeing a similar
hole in a rock east of the pit near Smith's Cove, and relocated it under some trash and underbrush.
While collecting data on the Oak Island mystery, Hedden had run across a book published in 1937 by Harold T.
Wilkins entitled Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island. In it was reproduced a map dated 1669, without latitude or
longitude, supposed to have been drawn by the convicted pirate William Kidd. Hedden was struck by its
resemblance to Oak. The shape of the island has changed considerably in 300 years with the pounding of the tides,
but Oak's outline had more than a superficial similarity. When compared with it he found 16 points of likeness. A
careful survey showed sunken rocks were located where reefs were marked on the Kidd map. References to
elevations checked with the Oak Island topography. A pond had existed where it appeared on the old chart. And
soundings showed areas of deep or shallow water around the island just as given on the printed map.
The map was suitably embellished with a cryptic legend:
18 W. and by 7 E. on Rock.
30 SW. 14 N. Tree
7 By 8 By 4.
[William Kidd Map]
Hedden hired a surveyor and ran a straight line between the two rocks with the curious holes. It proved to be 25
rods long. From a point 18 rods east of one rock and 7 rods west of the other he set a stake. The surveyor then ran
another line directly southwest 30 rods, as the Kidd map suggested. The terminal point was in a tangle of
underbrush near the south shore. It was uncovered carefully and a number of glacial boulders were found, half
buried in the sand. They formed a triangle, roughly ten feet on each side and ten feet across the base. Pointing due
north was a bisecting line 14 feet long. There was an arc of boulders laid at the base of the triangle like a rocker
The arrowhead formed by the apex of the triangle and the bisecting line pointed toward the Money Pit almost
exactly 14 rods north. The first two lines of the legend on the Kidd chart had directed the treasure hunters to a new
landmark which had never before been noticed. The "7 By 8 By 4" was roughly the size of the triangle constructed
around the shaft, as shown on the accompanying drawing.
[Kidd Chart Drawing]
Hedden went to Europe that winter on business and he located Wilkins, publisher of the Kidd map, in England.
Expecting to be welcomed with the news of his discovery, Hedden detailed the evidence that his island had been
found in Nova Scotia. Wilkins was at first reticent, then seemed confused. Once he told him the map was a
complete fabrication; later he confided he had drawn it from memory. He had been permitted to see the original,
and had been told the story of its discovery, by Herbert Palmer of Eastbourne, England. Palmer, a collector of such
articles, had four charts of the same island and a tale to tell connecting them with Kidd. He would not allow
Wilkins to copy them.
Hedden found Palmer and asked his price for the four maps. A figure of $525,000.00 was mentioned which seemed
too much to Hedden. He finally persuaded Palmer to show him the maps, which was done with consummate
secrecy; the bearings given on them (if there were any) were covered over with a coin.
The maps Palmer had were of a shallow crescent shaped island. They bore not the slightest resemblance to the
chart Wilkins had published. None of them contained the incredible legend, though one indicated a triangle as a
guide. Palmer assured him the island was in the China Seas, thousands of miles from Oak. If Palmer had the
published map he wasn't showing it to Hedden.
Hedden went back and tried to get Wilkins to explain. Wilkins suggested, in a somewhat befuddled manner, that
perhaps, during his long years of research in the British Museum, he had seen the map and sub- consciously
retained its outline and the legend. Either that, he thought, or he was in psychic communication with Kidd's ghost!
It is difficult to imagine that Wilkins' memory had preserved so many details, and yet he could not recall the most
important particular--- where was the map?'
Thoroughly dissatisfied, Hedden returned to Oak and resumed digging. He had planned to bore out laterally from
the 150 foot level in a radial pattern in order to probe the area completely. However it was necessary to timber the
hole so closely at the bottom that there was no room to operate a drill, and the dampness caused frequent electrical
In 1934, before he began excavating, Hedden met a young man who had been working on the island for a month
with a churn drill. Baker, as he was known, had made several deep holes near the Money Pit and told Hedden he
had had no luck. But he had run across one peculiar thing. Once when the drill was pulled up he noticed specks of
a silvery substance mixed with the clay on the point. It was free mercury. (Mercury is almost never found in its
metallic form in nature.)
Lack of funds prevented Hedden from continuing the search and in 1939 Erwin T. Hamilton took over the work for
Hamilton was a professor of mechanical engineering at New York University. He sank a smaller shaft from the
bottom of Hedden's to a hundred and seventy-one feet and hit heavy gravel. Another water tunnel, entering from
the general direction of the south shore, was found at a hundred and sixty-five feet. He drilled twenty feet more
into the gravel without striking anything.
Hamilton completely explored the tunnels dug by the 1849 company and found the salt water had perfectly
preserved the timbering. He followed one passage that led directly under the old Sink Hole; for some unknown
reason it there doubled in height and width and then ended suddenly. Tools and partially erected beams had been
dropped and left behind. Apparently water had burst into this tunnel because another one had been started further
up which avoided the area entirely. But Hamilton found only one other thing of interest. While digging at ninety
feet near Smith's Cove, in what seemed to be ground undisturbed by previous treasure-hunters, one of his
workmen sent up something tied to a line. It was a single leaf of tobacco, and was tightly rolled.
In July of 1952 my wife and I made a visit to Oak Island. The local people know little of this history and are inclined
to discount the possibility of any treasure. Rumors were heard that someone was planning to bulldoze the whole
east end of the island into the sea; however this would accomplish little since the treasure seems to be now more
than a hundred feet below sea level. The island has been almost a major industry for the natives and succeeding
generations of many families have toiled on the various projects. Ten years ago a tea-room operated successfully on
the island from the business of tourists visiting the works.
We found a boy with an ancient inboard on the western shore of the bay. He was in the tourist ferrying business,
which was poor since we were his first customers of the season. We landed on the remains of Hedden's dock,
partly destroyed by a hurricane in 1944. Most of the grim oaks were bare and dead, victims of the black ants and a
new crop of spruce growing thick around them. Out of curiosity I cut one down. It had seen some strange sights,
for the tree-rings showed it was born in 1793.
We climbed the hill jutting up from Smith's Cove. This end of the island had been a hayfield as late as 1942; now
there was only a narrow path through a thick stand of Christmas Trees. Most of our attention was occupied by
beating off the black flies and mosquitos that swarmed out of the woods. At the top of the hill I slipped part way
into a hole ten inches wide and thirty feet deep. The landscape was pocked with these potholes, test drillings by
some recent hopeful.
The view of Mahone Bay was beautiful, dotted with fuzzy islands, but the sight of the treasure pit was depressing.
Old pictures of the workings had shown several large buildings and machine sheds around it. Now the ground was
stripped and only the top of that heartbreaking hole appeared. The level of the earth near it had sunk fifteen or
twenty feet from the col- lapse of previous shafts. What we could see of the timbering was in fair shape. Near the
pit we found the drilled stone, the west end of the base line on the Kidd chart. The eastern stone we learned had
been covered over by Hamilton's work on the beach.
We climbed down to the shore opposite Smith's Cove and stumbled over the boulders looking for the stone
triangle. The beach there is receding from the pounding of the tide; it has been estimated that the island has lost
sixty feet on that side in the last two hundred years. In a small clearing, just on the edge of solid ground, we found
the triangle. Following a compass north we pushed through the thick brush, up the hill again, headed straight for
the Money Pit.
Northwest of the shaft was Hedden's bunkhouse, boarded up and deserted. Near the front porch lay four old
pieces of broken rock; later we learned the history of these relics. On the beach several hundred yards northwest of
Smith's Cove had been one huge rock. It had carvings, old and new, on one flat vertical surface. In the 1920's
someone had dynamited it and dug underneath in a vain hope of disinterring some clue to the treasure. The
scattered fragments were collected and brought up to the cabin. Many of the pieces were probably missing but we
photographed the ones remaining. Some of the carvings were obviously recent and in English, yet one stone was
inscribed with peculiar symbols. This is generally explained as the work of some prankster, but the figures are
deeply cut and very weathered.
On our way home we met Gilbert Hedden in New York City. Over dinner and drinks he told us much of the story
of his era on the island. He completely believes in something buried there, and would try again if the opportunity
to do so came. He spent only his own money on the work and considerably diminished his own fortunes to attest
his faith. Although he thinks gold coins might have been planted on the island to encourage investors in the
treasure companies, the parchment is much too unlikely to have been the result of a similar scheme. Finding the
treasure now is even more complicated because it has been penetrated by drills several times, undermined once
and collapsed. had tons of debris dropped on it and has been constantly stirred by the action of the tides and
So much we know about Oak Island. During the summer an occasional sailboat comes alongside the battered dock
and a few tourists stroll up the hill for a look at the Money Pit. Otherwise it is just another island in the Bay. Almost
everyone is dead who dug and cursed, sweated and dreamed of gold. The tourists joke and throw pebbles into the
pit, but those that view the stone triangle are silent and thoughtful . . . because it is there!