Deconstructing Oak Island and its Money Pit



If I could talk to the men on Oak Island and those who are next up in the chase of false and poorly considered dreams, I’d say gimme all the money you are and will waste and I will waste it for you on more rational things. Like giant sling shots and trucks from the diesel brothers. You know, useless crap. Or maybe instead of spending all your time and money digging holes all over an island that has been dug all over after people dug all over it, donate to a charity.

But, I shall also defend those who have earned their money their right to waste it as they see fit.

With one known exception, no pirate is known to have ever buried his treasure anywhere for any reason. Not even the one who did, drew a map where X marks the spot. And the pirate most often associated with the Oak Island treasure, Captain Kidd, is not connected to Oak Island in any way other than fable and wishful hopes. But yes, he did sail in the neighborhood, off the east coast, but that’s as good as it gets.

More information on Captain Kidd can be found here

Oak Island is a text book and maybe teaching example of quest myth building. It promises reward for those who believe and carry through. It exacts a cost, most dramatically in lives, and the myth tells us belief is the most important element for success. [reward]. Oak Island and the money pit are products of a tried and true process of myth building, not fact finding. I’ll even go so far as to say, there is no fact there, other than yes, it is an island.

Here is my main theme for this installment. For all “quest myths” there is an origin. It is a story but more importantly, it is a secret. There must also be a secret keeper. (Look up Dan Brown about secret keepers) This secret keeper does one of two things, holds the secret and hands it down to the next secret keeper or pursues the secret to prove it or discover the truth of the secret they are keeping.

If the secret keeper simply hands down the secret, they must also give a back story to some degree to the next holder of the secret. For the next generation, and those that follow, the back story becomes fact, hardened by being retold and time.

If the secret keeper chooses to pursue the secret, they forge their own path and write a chapter of the myth themselves. Usually they fail in the quest since the “quest myths” I am talking about are based on limited facts if any, and great leaps of imagination. But the next stage is the most important; when their own pursuit of the myth ends, they often hand it down, with the additional information they can add as a product of their own efforts. They would likely be presented as facts or “strong evidence” or “this is what I know”.

The point is, the next generation is not told of the flimsy evidence supporting the origin of the myth, they are told the updated and dubiously validated version. The new version of the story handed down, includes perceived facts that cannot be any more valid since they are built on a myth to start with. In order to be unreal, the facts are either made up, “fake”, or miss understood.

Here is an example: Anyone seen the Loch Ness Monster? Nope, didn’t think so. The idea of a sea monster is not new, this is just a lake version. The first accounts are either made up or “as told” stories appearing in the newspaper years to decades later, rarely if ever by the person who witnessed it first hand.

This one also has modern twists. The well known photo of Nessie, “the surgeon’s photo” has been proven a fake. It was payback to The Sunday Telegraph by one of its employees, Marmaduke Weatherell, after they ridiculed him for falling for the original hoax of foot prints emerging from the lake by a monster.

The foot prints in question were faked using a Hippopotamus umbrella stand and they fooled Mr. Weatherell, a big game hunter. So as his co-workers ridiculed him, he chose at some point to gain revenge by faking a photo of the fictional beast and having it sold to The Telegraph through another party, to help them appear fools.

By the way, it was a plastic wood model attached to the top of a toy submarine bought at Woolworths. But this is not the point. The point is it has been sighted again many times, as recently as 2011. All based on two lies.

This is an example of myth passing to fact over time like a game of historical “telephone” we played in grade school. Each time a story or secret is told it is distorted. Add to it investment, even in just time holding the secret and the reason for the secret gets inflated. As a result, theory, becomes importance, becomes myth, becomes “fact” and a fool’s errand is born.

This inheritance of the myth of Oak Island is evidenced currently in the Reality TV show “The Curse of Oak Island”. The two brothers, Rick and Marty Lagina, who are spending an amazing amount of money chasing every hair brained theory emailed to them, yet never have actually dug in the what is considered the money pit. They spend a great deal of time with Dan Blankenship who was the one who searched before them and still lives on the Island.

This reflects the often shown pattern of current myth hunters reaching back to those who have searched before as “experts” and thus stitching the myth together in order to validate the myth for themselves. This is the same idea as thinking that a secret must be valid, or no one would keep it a secret. There must be something to be found, or people would not have invested to much to find it. Psychologically we validate through investment. We also value hard work so even a hard working fool can find respect and thus validity.

Someone first said “we love a mystery”. What they meant is, we will make a mystery out of anything at all. If we see something mysterious or suspicious we invent reasons or explanations for it. We make something often and usually out of nothing. How often do people call the cops on people “lurking” around? They are doing, by definition, nothing and we see it as suspicious.

What if I drive down a dirt road into the mountains past someone’s house and they see me. I may not be seen as anything unusual. Then I come back down that road three days later with something large in the back of my truck covered in a tarp. If seen by the same person, they likely will wonder and theorize what I was doing back there.

They may go in search for where I was, look for evidence of what I was doing and theorize and maybe start to accuse me of doing something bad. What if I leave behind a shovel, and disturbed ground and remnants of work having been done? The person will try and find a single explanation that ties them all together. That’s natural and logical. But the answer is often wrong.

I just gave the same blueprint as a map and buried treasure and pirate’s gold.

The Oak Island story goes, that someone saw lights on Oak Island at night and the next day or soon after a teenager went to find out what was being done that night on Oak Island. What he found was a tree limb with a rope and a pulley on it over a round depression in the ground. This teen went and gathered some friends and they speculated that someone had buried something. Obviously when something is buried it has great value, like dead bodies and trash.

When they dug, they found the hole they were emptying had pick marks in the walls from the hole being originally being dug. They also claim to have encountered oak planks or logs across the hole every ten feet they went down, for 30 feet.

This was the point, as the story goes, that they gave up. Supposedly not long after they got backing from someone with money and resources and they went much further down. They continued to encounter oak planks or logs every ten feet down. This is even though there are no oak trees on Oak Island. At 90 feet they encountered a stone tablet with coded writing on it, ontop of more oak planks.

As they dug further the tunnel flooded and could not be emptied. Many efforts came along after with various approaches, all encountering water and occasionally things like a couple links of a gold necklace and a piece of parchment paper with maybe two letters on it. They also encountered in theory clay and coconut fiber.

How a piece of paper is found in a dirt hole many feet down after a significant amount of time is beyond me. Maybe the wind blew it in 4 minutes before it was “found”. As for gold chain, check your workers for broken necklaces. Or maybe someone is “salting the mine”

Suffice it to say that all of this is almost un-provable. Now the Loch Ness example is based on known lies and no one knows if anyone lied about Oak Island in the beginning but the story is weak and disputed. The first accounts of the first discovery on Oak Island were told many years after the event and not by anyone involved. Many disputed that first stories claiming that it was not teenagers. Some said it was kids. Other’s claim it was land owners on the island that witnessed the lantern. Some claim it was the land owners doing the digging.

I would offer that maybe the land owners created the story to increase interest in their land.

No examples of the oak wood, be they planks for logs, have been saved and no evidence exists that they ever existed. The original hole is long since destroyed. The stone tablet is lost to time, if it ever existed.

The tablet is of special interest to me. It was set 90 feet in the ground and apparently the writing was in code. Cause if you randomly accidentally find this tablet 90 feet down, you have to disguise what you are telling someone. Why write in code at all, when leaving the tablet in a 90 foot deep hole? Why lave a note 90 feet down? Why oh why, not to mention how, would someone lose said tablet once found?

I feel this is an example of one-upmanship in the telephone game. Each previous story teller has to exaggerate the story to justify the excitement and interest. The story of the tablet tells me that someone felt cheated in their efforts and lost out their investment so they made up a story that is both un-provable, and un definable. If they say the tablet was there, and written on, it would have to give concise information that could be proven or not. If it is in code, no one really knows what it says but it says something! And that is an important clue. Right? With no proof the stone tablet even existed, this is a red herring to a lie.

The obvious theory is, it was pirate gold buried and booby trapped so no one could get to it. Some hair brained theories say it is crown jewels and some others claim it must be the Holy Grail. The predominant theory of pirate gold is supposedly linked to Captain Kidd. The only pirate ever known to have buried any at all. He also claimed there was more buried.

Lets approach this with Occam’s razor. The rope and block and tackle I cannot dispute. The depression in the ground I can. Anyone who has dug a hole knows that when you put the dirt back, it does not leave a depression, it leaves a pile above the hole. The earth does not go back in the ground compacted. It goes in with more air mixed in and takes up more space. If Captain Kidd was burring treasure as the story goes, the pile on the hole would be obvious and loose. Not to mention big!

This was supposed to take place around 1800. Hand shovels and picks are the order of the day for hole digging. But this is damn hard work. So go ten feet down in a hole big enough to stand and swing a pick in is a damn big hole. Five feet in diameter is likely not big enough. To dig a hole ten feet deep and five feet in diameter you make more than 195 square feet of dirt.

One square foot of dirt is not one shovel full, but more like two to three. Also, were now ten feet down in a hole. Someone up there is using a bucket on that limb. [thus the need for the block and tackle] So you now have feet and feet of rope and a shovel and a pick and a bucket and at least one brave soul to be in that hole and hope the sides don’t cave in. Is this possible? Sure, well diggers did this. Is it likely, no. Also keep in mind, as the story goes, these three people initially digging, went down 30 feet. That’s 600 square feet of dirt. 600 square feet of dirt up, up to 30 feet a bucket at a time.

Rather than considering if this is feasible, consider if this is likely based on a rope, a block and tackle and a depression in the ground? I guess in the 1800s there was a lot of time to kill. This does not even address the idea that they somehow had to pry out the planks or as some said logs, every ten feet and also raise them up the however many feet to the surface.

Let’s also consider the basic miss que in the facts. These teens or whoever witnessed the lanterns are supposedly the people burring the treasure. Said to be Captain Kidd’s treasure. This happened just before 1800. Captain Kidd was hanged in 1701.

The timeline is as follows:
Captain Kidd dies in 1701.
Lights are witnessed on the island, supposedly indicating the burying activity in 1795. The digging of the original 30 foot deep “money pit” occurred in the days that followed.
The first funded expedition going down to 90 feet occurred in 1803.
The first print account of the 1795 and 1803 events appear in The Liverpool Transcript newspaper in 1856.
The first telling of the story of the stone supposedly found in 1803, didn’t appear until 1864, by someone who was not alive at the time. The stone was already “missing”.
To date, 7 people have died looking for this treasure.

Add to this the oak planks or logs, oak being known as tough and resistant. Interesting metaphor in the myth. The tablet that is of no help and not available for scrutiny. The theory of the tunnel being booby trapped and were off to the races. We can come back to the most basic of questions based on the theoretical explanation of why the hole was dug. Why would a pirate put a treasure in a hole over 100 feet down on an Island that was lived on and only 32 feet above the sea level?

I’m not actually here to try and disprove the oak Island mystery. To be honest I don’t think it needs to be disproven since it has no basis in fact. It cannot be disproven, it is a myth. This is likely the largest and longest running myth connected to pirate gold and a great example of “Historical Telephone” and the power of the “quest myth”.

An un-provable and unlikely story starts, gets life from several authors over time and grows via the telephone game. Larger and larger efforts join the quest based on “evidence” found long ago but not available to be verified. Whoever runs the local restaurants and hotels and equipment rental locations are the only ones finding treasure.

To be fair, this is not just a pirate story. There are accounts of other theories of what is at the bottom of the “money pit” including the Holy Grail, the crown jewels, the arc of the covenant, lost Shakespeare works, a vertically placed Viking ship [cause that makes sense] and because it is the 21st century and the History Channel exists, something connected to free masons and the Knights Templar. Those make so much more sense ….

These are a product of two other influences on myths.  First is the idea of one upsmanship. Anyone who has been competitive with others knows this trend.  Fisherman likely invented it but it was also refined by most teenage boys about anything to do with girls, drinking or cars. In order to be more important or more respected, the accomplishments must grow.

The principle here is that over time, when a quest has not been fulfilled yet the quest is also known, you have to further substantiate the quest.  You cannot look for the same thing all the time of the cost of the quest exceeds the value of the prize.  Oak Island started as a quest for pirate gold.  Of course you can increase how much gold over time but there is a limit.  Eventually the value of the reward must either exceed the previous theory in value or add the intangible value of “priceless”.

The other factor in all myths is social trends.  Social trends impact most myths over time.  The ideas of alternate theories on who killed JFK reflects that social trend pattern.  In the 60s it was Cuba and Castro that helped kill him due to that being the “enemy” then.  In the 70s it was “the mob”.  Oliver Stone did his best to feed that hair brained idea.  In the 80s under Regan it became Russia, since they were the “new” enemy. Never before has so much been spent fighting an enemy we never fought.

In some ways you could say that as one theory was disproved, the next arises and this is natural progression.  I get it.  But none were disproved.  They were just the new theory based on what was then accepted and interesting at that time.  No more based on fact than the previous hair brained stupid idea.  The same is true on Oak Island.

Dan Brown has had an amazing impact on modern Youtube and history channel content.  History channel should be the aliens/Knights Templar/holy grail network.  I’ll write about the crown jewels and the stupidity of looking for them soon.  But the other ideas listed are just trendy.  In ten years they will look as ill informed and silly as leg warmers and Castro killing Kennedy.

Myths trend.  Not as fast as the banality of Twitter but they do trend and it offers new interest for each generation of myth hunters.  It is also a closed loop.  Each generation contributes to a myth what is important to them, not what was important to people 50 years ago. Thus each generation is feeding the myth and the new myth form interests that generation, thus carrying it forward.

Gold is always good, but trendy ideas like finding the Holy Grail is more so, since it offers fame.  Fame is more important than wealth to  many right now.  Thus reality shows that offer fame while people are barely paid.

Oak Island and its money pit offers nothing in substance and everything in myth building. There are no facts to build on and nothing to verify. Each new layer of the myth built on the last that was built on the previous all going back to original lies. What it does offer is the idea of reward and belonging in a club of those who have sought the treasure or played a role in it’s quest or simply believe. It offers a dream of sudden wealth and the opportunity to be right. This is what all quest myths offer, the chance for reward.

Look at history and our accounting of it with skepticism. Not because it is not to be believed, but because true or at least truer history is far more interesting. I wonder if Washington Irving and Robert Lewis Stephenson had any idea the impact of their well written and magical stories about pirates would have …


3 thoughts on “Deconstructing Oak Island and its Money Pit

  1. Pingback: The power of Piracy | 5280nup

  2. Pingback: Lost Facts About The Lost Dutchman Mine | 5280nup

  3. Pingback: The Flying Dutchman – wordstowardsclarity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s