A Critical Analysis of the Oak Island Legend
- The Legend
- The Analysis
- Inscribed Stones and Flood Channels
- Video Evidence and the "Severed Hand"
- Dates and Errors
- Just A Hole?
- Final Thoughts and Theories
Oak Island is a small (roughly .5 x 1 mile) island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The island's name derives from the large number of oak trees that once grew there, although the original name appears to have been Gloucester Island in honor of the Duke of Gloucester. The island's elevation above sea level does not exceed 30-35 feet; It is in fact no longer really an island since an earthwork causeway was constructed to link it to the mainland some years ago. The tale surrounding the island has been told in many forms since it first became popular in the 1860s; despite the protestations of those who insist on believing in the legend, all available evidence points to it being totally false.
The story of the island's mysterious "Money Pit" goes something like this.
Several local boys rowed to the island in 1795 "in search of adventure." Some variants state the locals felt the island was haunted due to "strange lights and fires" that were sometimes seen there, so it's possible the boys went off on a dare. Another variant claims one of the boys, probably Dan McGinnis [or McInnis, or McInnies depending upon the source] went alone and discovered things that led him to bring his two friends at a later date.
While on the island, the boys discovered one of two things, again depending on which version is consulted: either a) an oak tree with a "large ships' pulley" hanging from a branch or; b) a branch on the tree which bore "burn marks" as if a heavy load had been hanging from a rope thrown across it. Most accounts also state that vegetation in the area around the tree had been cut down and new plants were growing to cover the open area. This discovery naturally excited the boys and according to all accounts they returned with picks and shovels with which they excavated a large pit containing oak beams made into "platforms" at 10' intervals. Most accounts state the oak platforms were "sealed" (against what?) with a substance which may have been "ship's puttey.".
Finding the job to be beyond their abilities as the pit deepened, the boys recruited several local men who managed to enlarge the hole considerably. However, the hole mysteriously filled with water at just about the depth at which the men expected to find something.
Over the last 200 years many different expeditions have tried to gain access to whatever lies at the bottom of the Pit. All have been thwarted. According to the tale one group of diggers discovered that water is brought to the pit through an ingenious set of stone-lined channels (e.g. "box drains") filled with coconut fibres, which wick water from the nearby bay to the center of the Pit.
During an expedition in the early 1800s a stone tablet inscribed with a cypher later translated as "forty feet down two million pounds are buried" (or something to that effect) was reportedly discovered. This stone allegedly appeared and disappeared several times and is said to have been last seen in the early 20th century. It was never photographed or sketched by anyone; the series of pictograms depicted in books about Oak Island are the invention of some unknown 20th century author.
During another excavation attempt in the 1800s a core drill (e.g. "pod auger") was lowered into the pit to see if any samples could be brought to the surface. Various accounts attest that the drill encountered iron, air spaces, and other substances at regular depths, though none of these claims have ever been substantiated. Also at this time a drill supposedly brought up "several links from a gold chain" which appeared "ancient" by one account. At another point, again according to the tale, a drill brought up a tiny piece of parchment containing two letters (possibly VI). Whether any of these artifacts are extant or ever existed to begin with are subject to debate. It is also unclear how the drill operators could determine exactly what substances their drills were encountering at the various depths; it's said that they "knew by the sound and the ease of turning the drill" that they were encountering "metal in pieces," but how much of this is fact and how much is wishful thinking, and why were none of these substances brought to the surface, embedded in the mud that allegedly brought the chain and parchment to light?
During one of the 19th-century excavations a group is said to have intercepted one of the alleged "flood tunnels" and attempted to block its path. Another group excavated the same area in the early 20th century and found no such tunnel.
The elusive treasure at the bottom of the pit has been attributed to everyone from British soldiers under the command of General Clinton during the American Revolution to Captain Kidd and even "Incas fleeing the wrath of advancing Spaniards." How the latter were supposed to have engineered the structure or the pit's nefarious water channels is not known. It is known that pirates and the British did frequent the islands in the bay, so the association with the British military may hold some merit.
Today, the "Pit" area of the island, which is pockmarked with a huge number of holes sunk by various treasure-seekers over the years, is owned by the Triton Alliance, a private company dedicated to raising money for its efforts to locate the treasure at the pit's bottom. Their most recent effort, dubbed "Borehole 10-X," involved a metal sleeve or tube (effectively a caisson arrangement) built 180' NE of the original Pit to allow the diggers to descend into its depths. The sleeve collapsed soon after it was completed, and at last notice the Triton people have discontinued their efforts due to internal dissention and a lack of funding.
Since many people have asked, it must be noted that no one presently knows the exact location of McGinnis' original find due to the situation noted in the previous paragraph. Upwards of 100 shafts have been sunk, and excavations using huge earth-moving equipment during the middle of the 20th century obliterated the center grouping of shafts. Thus it is impossible for anyone to say with any accuracy that a given point represents the "original" Money Pit.
So far five diggers have lost their lives in vain attempts at uncovering the pit's contents.
Anyone possessing a background in folklore or mythology will note many classic elements frequently encountered in tales of lost treasure:
- Mysterious nature of the site; general mystery of the island itself (i.e lights, fires, possibly haunted)
- Random "teaser" artifacts discovered during excavation (stone, oak beams, chain, parchment fragment)
- Diggers being "just that close" to treasure before being thwarted
- An elaborate, ingenious system of traps or impediments (think of Indiana Jones)
- Association of the site or treasure with famous individuals (Gen. Clinton, Captain Kidd, Templars, etc.)
- A belief that the treasure will be uncovered only once some future event has occurred. In Oak Island's case, the belief is that it will be found once the last oak tree on the island is gone.
The story of the treasure hunt is certainly riddled with outright fabrications generated by wishful thinkers and unscrupulous fundraisers attempting to maintain public interest in the legend. Nowhere is there to be found any attempt at a rational analysis of the events by those who participated in them, and nearly all information currently available for research is little more than hearsay. Every book reviewed in the course of researching the legend simply parrots the "party line" tale as told above, with minor variations. No original, first-person description exists to describe what was found during the initial digging in 1795 or even in the early 1800s.
The entire tale as we know it is based on a single set of interviews conducted by a newspaper writer with two early treasure-hunters in approximately 1860. This means our understanding of what was supposedly found during the initial excavations is based solely on the reminiscences of two individuals who'd invested their lives and fortunes in the hunt, and who firmly believed a treasure was buried on the island. Thus their testimony can be considered at least suspect. Also, no written records were kept by treasure-recovery organizations prior to roughly the same 1860 date.
Additionally, facets of other treasure-related legends have been absorbed into the Oak Island tale over time, introducing even more confusion and unreliable evidence.
The end result is that the story of Oak Island as we know it is based solely on folklore, tall tales, and unreliable evidence. Let's examine several aspects of the legend from a critical viewpoint to see where the inconsistencies lie.
The "inscribed" stone tablet is said to have been discovered during one of the original efforts to recover the treasure. According to some accounts one of the original men involved in the effort used it as a fireback in his home's fireplace for some years. Other men are reported as using it in a bookbinder's shop as a hammering table. However, according to other accounts the stone was present (and apparently legible) during at least one later fund-raising drive. How could it have survived as fireback and/or anvil while retaining a legible inscription? Why is it that the stone is said to have surfaced, conveniently, during fund-raising drives in the mid 1850s and once again later on?
At least one writer has stated the phrasing of the inscription (i.e. the use of the word "pounds") is inconsistent with the supposed date of the Pit. It is also true that no one ever actually translated the so-called cypher--even the legend says "eventually one wise man pronounced" the currently accepted translation. We have no idea who this person was or what qualifications he might have possessed for making a translation of the stone. In fact, the actual stone was never photographed or even sketched--no depictions of it appear in books until long after it had been "lost." This means the cypher commonly seen in modern books is the invention of some 20th century author. It is almost certain the translation of the "inscription" on the stone is a fiction generated by someone who wanted to raise money for an excavation, or an author who was simply trying to sell books.
Also the question must be asked: why would anyone concealing a treasure leave such a marker? Leaving such a clear sign would only excite those seeking to uncover whatever was secreted in the Pit--exactly the opposite of what the treasures' owners would want. Indeed, even leaving the "branch with burn marks" or "rope and ships' pulley" exposed and in full view of anyone stumbling upon the site is an inexcusable error on the part of someone attempting to conceal valuables in the area. Anyone diligent enough to bury treasure in such an inaccessible fashion and supposedly guarded by an ingenious set of traps would not be clumsy enough to leave a clear marker on the surface where a child could (and supposedly did!) stumble across it.
Turning to the "mysterious" filling of the pit with sea water, one need only look at the geology of the island for an answer. It is quite small and only a few feet above sea level, after all. Several geologists who have examined the site have stated that much of the rock underlying the island is limestone (bedrock begins at between 160 and 180 feet), and is filled with faults and voids as is common in limestone-based formations. Indeed, some accounts state the the lost treasure has likely escaped discovery by "falling into a void in the rock." Thus the filling of the pit with water is easily explained. There is nothing mysterious about the effect of hydrostatic pressure in a context such as Oak Island. In fact, there is an area in eastern Africa where seawater is present in crevices near the surface a number of miles from the coast; the water has infiltrated that far inland through voids in the underlying rock strata.
What most likely happened on Oak Island was that once the diggers reached a certain depth the pressure exerted by sea water flowing through the channels and fissures in the rock became too great for the earth remaining in the Pit, so a "blow-out" occurred and the Pit was filled as would any hole dug to such a depth in close proximity to a body of water. It must be remembered that the island rises a maximum of thirty feet above sea level, and the Pit was dug to a depth of over 100 feet. Thus, it extended roughly 70 feet below mean sea level a depth at which the remaining soil would be subject to considerable pressure. Many writers have asserted that a natural explanation for the seawater is impossible due to the "hard clay soil" which is found on the island. This assertion is incorrect, however: while the surface soils are indeed firm clay, one need only to dig to between fifty and one hundred feet to encounter sandy, rocky subsoils which are much more water permeable. Early accounts of the legend state that the diggers were removing "one bucket of earth for every two of water" by the time they reached the ninety foot level, so the Pit was wet long before the initial disaster occurred.
A reasonable test of the correctness of this assertion involves digging another pit of similar depth in an undisturbed location on the island to see whether it fills with water. Even this method is not foolproof though since the underlying bedrock (and the fissures it contains) is inconsistent, so the behavior at one spot on the island might differ from that found at the Pit area. See the brief analysis kindly provided by geologist Gordon Fader, who is extremely familiar with the structure of the seabed and geology around the island.
The "stone lined channels filled with coconut fibres" may exist in some form. They may be incomplete fakes constructed by prior expeditions and shown to prospective investors as "proof" they existed; they could also be evidence that the island was used for some other purpose. Apparently coconut fibres have been found on the island in the past, but this in itself means nothing since this material was used as cargo packing material (dunnage) for many years and it is therefore impossible to eliminate the possibility that it arrived on the island at some other time.
The history of the Pit also states that various groups have attempted to dig up and block the "flood tunnels," that are depicted by various authors (with no supporting evidence whatsoever) as running at angles from the nearby beach areas and reaching the Pit shaft at some depth. Could the section of the channels nearest the beach not be excavated successfully? No book which this writer has examined has shown photos of any such feature. Are they imaginary?
On a related topic, much has been made of Triton's discovery of old cofferdam arrangements in the water off a beach where it is believed one of the "box drains" originates. Several writers have commented that this feature must be a remnant of the works constructed when the Pit was created. These writers completely ignore the fact that a 19th century recovery effort involved not one, but two attempts at blocking the flooding by erecting cofferdams in the appropriate areas. While we have no firm data, it seems far more likely that this cofferdam represents the remains of one of these attempts and could be successfully dated to the mid 1800s.
It's also true that not everything to be found on the island is necessarily related to the Pit, though many proponents of the legend believe otherwise. The island was divided into housing lots long before 1795 (the area including the Pit is said to have been lot #18) and the island was known to French settlers for centuries before the English arrived. There could well be remnants of previous homesteads or other works on the island that have nothing to do with the supposed treasure, yet all discoveries made on the island are immediately interpreted in light of their relationship with the legend.
Also see the bathymetry article supplied by Gordon Fader in Sept. 1998. It provides independent verification that the flooding could easily be caused by natural phenomena. Many thanks to Gordon for providing a copy of the article for use on this site.
In the early '70s Triton and the Canadian Broadcasting Company lowered a video camera into the Pit and brought back a fair amount of footage from the bottom reaches. When viewed by Triton, especially after it was digitally enhanced in the early 90s, claims were made that both a "severed human hand" and a portion of a wooden trunk were "clearly visible." This footage has been broadcast on a number of TV documentaries, many of which were highly credulous and made no attempt to analyze the validity of the evidence, as is far too often the case with popular pseudoscientific television. The two items mentioned above were cited as proof positive that man-made objects existed at the bottom of the Pit and proved the existence of the treasure. This is by no means true.
First, the video obtained by the camera was difficult to analyze since the lighting is harsh and shadowy and the water extremely turbid, filled with suspended flakes of limestone and other debris. Also there is no sense of scale in the footage. One cannot tell how far away items might be or how large they are. Apparently one of the Triton people even remarked that he "wished they'd dumped a hundred white plastic rulers down there" before sending the video camera down. This would have provided the same effect as is achieved through the use of tape measures in photographs made during archaeological digs . Video evidence is of little use without something with which to establish perspective.
So what was that "hand?" Given that we have no idea how large the object was, it could have been anything--debris from previous excavations, plant matter, or a rock with an odd shadow pattern thrown across it by the video lighting. One is reminded of the infamous "human face on Mars" that was trumpeted by UFOlogists as proof of the existence of ancient civilizations on that planet. Said "face" was actually a mountain range which took on anthropomorphic characteristics due to lighting conditions at the time the famous photograph was taken. We often see what we desire, not what is really there, and humans have a built-in sense of pattern matching that causes us to identify unknown objects using previously-encountered items as reference points. We are also wide open to suggestion.
In any case, how could a "severed hand" still be floating 200' under the island after all these years? The bodies of the workers who died during known excavation attempts were recovered, thus the only remains that might be in the deep reaches of the Pit would be those of the original diggers. These would be over two hundred years old. How would a human hand have survived intact after centuries of submersion in seawater?
What of the "portion of a wooden chest" that supposedly appeared in the video? Again we have no way of determining perspective and we have no idea how far from the object the camera lay when the images were taken. If the lens was only a foot or so away, the "chest" might simply have been part of an old board which had fallen into the Pit during some other excavation attempt. It is a well documented fact that the Pit works (cribbing, supports, and so forth) have collapsed repeatedly during various excavation attempts, making it obvious that a great deal of debris has been deposited due to known activity over the past 200 years. This fact strengthens the fundamental question of why everything supposedly "found" during treasure-hunting attempts is automatically judged an artifact of the original excavation. To do so ignores the consequences of 200 years worth of barely-documented recovery attempts that have resulted in a rabbit warren of abandoned tunnels, shafts, and construction material.
The latest entry in the saga also involves video footage. Apparently the Triton people drilled several small-diameter holes into the area around the Pit and lowered a video camera into the voids they encountered at various depths (exactly how deep these voids were is not known, but they must be over 200' deep). The video footage thus obtained apparently showed flooded caves whose walls were "sculpted by flowing water" (Gordon Fader). Not having seen the footage this writer cannot comment responsibly on this analysis, but if true this only bolsters the theory that the flooding of the Pit is purely natural. Sculpting of rock by flowing water is a process involving millenia, not a few hundred years.
Dating the "Pit" is one of the major obstacles to researching its actual history. The Halifax area was inhabited for several hundred years prior to McGinnis' alleged trip in 1795 and recent scholarship has revealed that Europeans occasionally trekked to the area as far back as the 14th century. Given this, how are we to choose a range of dates for study? Several writers--mostly those who propose Templar-based explanations--seem to believe the Pit was constructed in the mid 15th century (ca. 1450) due to the activities of various people associated with this group.
Another has proposed a date in the early 17th century and an association with a treasure recovery expedition conducted by Sir William Phips. Phips located the wreck of the Spanish galleon, Nuestra Senora de la pura y limpia Concepcion, which was sunk in the Caribbean during a storm. He returned the recovered treasure to England. At least one author feels he made a side trip to Oak Island to hide treasure he didn't want to reveal to the King of England. While the book outlining this theory is well written and probably the most logical Oak Island book ever written, it sadly falls back on conspiracy theory and fails to question the basic premise of the whole legend. It also provides no hard evidence to support the authors' conclusions.
It seems very likely that any date prior to roughly 1700CE is simply too early for several good reasons associated with the usual version of the legend itself. While we should not take the entire tale at face value we can presume Dan McGinnis found something on the island that day in 1795. Let us believe for a moment that he did indeed find a clearing that was in the process of being reclaimed by vegetation, and that he did see an old "ship's pulley" and rope hanging on a tree branch. The questions are obvious:
1) How long would it take for plants to fill in a clearing on the island to the point where it would be relatively indistinguishable from the surrounding woodland? 100 years? 200? Given the growth rates of deciduous plants, one would expect a figure closer to 30-40 years. After that amount of time the clearing would be filled wth medium-sized oaks, even larger softwood trees, and any remaining open area would be covered by undergrowth--effectively concealing the depression that McGinnis is said to have found.
2) The wooden pulley and rope would not have lasted longer than roughly the same 30-40 years. Natural (hemp) rope rots when exposed to weather for long periods, and any iron components on the pulley assembly would have crumbled. At the very least the rope or chain would have snapped, leaving the pulley buried in undergrowth.
It seems that a date between 1750 and 1790 is most likely to be accurate if we are to believe the two components of the legend mentioned above. If on the other hand these details are inaccurate it throws the date range wide open. But again, what evidence of digging or other disturbance would remain on the surface after hundreds of years?
At the very worst we cannot push the date back beyond 1700, and this effectively invalidates both the Templar and Concepcion theories, as well as Penn Leary's idea that Francis Bacon's manuscripts were secreted in the Pit. See the separate theories document for more discussion of these ideas.
Next, let's examine another aspect of the site. Again according to the legend, Dan McInnis is said to have found "a depression in the ground, as if someone had dug a large pit and then refilled it later on" (paraphrased from any number of accounts). Given the scale of the supposed excavation, i.e. a massive work involving a 200' deep, 14' diameter pit and a number of ancillary "box drains" leading from the central site to the beach, an obvious question comes to mind: where's the rest of the evidence?
Consider: a project of this magnitude would require a large number of men using carts or wagons of some type to move earth and debris as the excavation progressed, and construction of the "box drains" involves the digging of two long trenches or tunnels leading to the coast. Why did McGinnis apparently not notice any evidence of this additional surface activity? The use of carts to haul earth away from the Pit would leave deep, visible tracks or ruts and may involve cutting down trees to make a path from the coast. No such path or track is mentioned in the legend, which is odd since it would serve to strengthen evidence of previous excavation on the island. If the earth was not hauled away it still had to be placed somewhere during the excavation phase, and this would require even more clear-cutting of timber to handle a huge mound of spoil earth and rock. The men working on the project would need to be housed somewhere and fed regularly. There's no known evidence of any large camp or cooking site that could have accommodated these workers--they may have lived aboard ship during the work but some sort of base camp, tool storage building, or other ancillary structures would be required. The legend simply says "a depression in the ground."
Also, such a project would require a large quantity of equipment (shovels, pulleys, buckets, hand drills, hammers and mallets, saws, axes, adzes, and so on). A beam or tripod arrangement over the pit would have been necessary to handle removal of earth from the pit; intermediate platforms and ladders are required to allow access to and egress from the pit as it deepens, and a great deal of wood needs to be worked (sawn, planed, drilled, and so on).
One has only to visit a large construction site to note that:
- tools and materials are regularly lost or forgotten during and after construction
- the working of wood at a "sawing station" results in the formation of a huge pile of sawdust and wood chips
- a large area around the actual construction site is trampled, becoming a mud hole (one need only look at photos of the area around the Pit to see what it would have looked like during this period)
To this author's knowledge, all that's been found on the island is the original depression. None of the expected debris, spoil earth, lost tools, or other items have been uncovered. A few scattered items have come to light (the so-called "Spanish shoe" and miscellaneous bits of chain) but these could just as easily be attributed to the post 1795 excavation efforts. Nothing of the magnitude expected at any sort of large construction site has ever been encountered; if it had, it would have become part of the legend.
In other words, are we supposed to believe that a huge excavation/construction project involving hundreds of men, huge quantities of worked timber, and tons of earth was carried out on the island, and the only visible marker was a depression in the earth and a few missing trees? Think about it, especially in light of the Dates And Errors discussion above. Had such a huge project been conducted, McInnis would have found not only a depression in the ground, but the remains of a pile of excavated earth and rock, a larger clearing in the forest, the remains of sawn lumber (i.e. unused branches, stumps, and so on), a termite-ridden pile of wood shavings, and remnants of any temporary buildings used by the construction gang. Unless we're to believe that the builders policed the entire area and carefully disposed of all construction debris, the site is suspiciously clean.
In general it must be remembered that no careful, scientific study of the island or the Pit has ever been performed. All currently available material has been generated by treasure seekers who have a vested interest in maintaining the legend, or by conspiracy theorists who wish to link Oak Island to everything from the Grail Legend to Egyptians. A rational archaeological study of the Pit is impossible since vital data have been obliterated by previous explorers, nor are any artifacts in existance which have been obtained in a reliable manner. Coconut fibres, stone channels, and oak beams -- all were "found" in a manner which is unacceptable for scientific study. Just as a dinosaur bone, pot, or arrowhead removed from its natural context becomes less useful for a paleontologist or archeologist, these items are effectively useless for determining what, if anything, the Pit was used for.
Had the site been less disturbed it would have been possible to determine the exact configuration of the Pit to whatever depth it actually ever extended; there's no good reason to believe the original feature was actually 200+ feet deep. Any competent archaeologist would be able to analyze the soil composition to determine whether it had been disturbed, since earth that has been excavated and then refilled shows different characteristics (color, consistency, compactness, etc.) than that which was deposited naturally. This is now impossible since the "Pit" feature has been enlarged to a huge diameter and none of the original earth is still in place to be analyzed properly. So how could we determine answers to the real questions surrounding the site, which are:
- Was the site used by humans capable of excavating such a deep storage chamber?
- If so, what was actually stored there?
- If not, what alternate explanations for the original disturbance of the site can we surmise (i.e. military use, shipfitting, etc.)?
- How can we negotiate our way through the pseudoscience, legend, romanticism, and fakery to find the facts about the island?
Nearly all legends hold some basis in fact. There is no reason to believe that the entire story was concocted by young boys solely to pull a prank on their relatives (though if this is the case it is probably the largest practical joke ever perpetrated!). There are several possible explanations for the depression and/or "burn mark" that McInnis is said to have found; some involve natural explanations while others require human intervention. Again, see the separate theories document for detail on the subject.
Supposedly there exists a graduate thesis paper that successfully compares the basic elements of the Pit's design (i.e. an excavated area floored and covered with oak beams) with known British military storage practice of the period. Efforts during the last few years to uncover a copy of this document or other official British military materials referencing Oak Island in any way have proved fruitless. It appears this location may have been entirely ignored by official organizations during the period in question.
Skeptic Joe Nickell published an article in the March-April 2000 Skeptical Inquirer in which he theorizes that the Pit is simply a natural sinkhole which was incorrectly perceived by its discoverers-- another such sinkhole was encountered on the island in 1878 and was immediately suspected of being the result of one of the "box drains.". He also found that many of the island's explorers and investors had Masonic connections, which may or may not be relevant. See the bibliography for a complete reference to Nickell's article, which is available on the CSICOP Web site.
It is this writer's opinion that whatever feature existed in 1795 extended no more than 20-30 feet below ground level, and that as the original excavators progressed they simply dug through the bottom (perhaps the oak platform) of the previous works and continued into untouched soils. It's quite possible that the discovery of a single platform at the ten foot level was magnified by folklore and the tall tales of the diggers until it mutated into "oak platforms every ten feet." Sadly there is no way to determine the accuracy of this observation due to the poor state of the site, but if records are discovered in London or elsewhere we may put to rest the romanticized legend and pseudoscientific conspiracy theories that surround this topic and find out what, if anything, the island was actually used for.
And that will be sufficiently interesting and enlightening in and of itself.
For additional information, see obtain the attached bibliography, which lists all sources currently known to me. Probably the most reliable book on the subject is Marcil's work, though the various Smithsonian articles are helpful as well.
Please contact me via e-mail should you discover new or unknown sources not mentioned in the bibliography.
Dick Joltes 19 April, 1996
update: -- April 1997 (modified text, added bibliographic entries)
update: -- Oct. 1997 (added bibliographic entries, text of a letter from a woman (who wishes to remain anonymous) whose father was intimately involved in the project).
update: -- Mar. 1998 (added bibliographic entries).
update: -- Oct. 1998 (added Bathymetry article, geological information)
update: -- July 1999 (added new text and bibliographic entries)
update -- December 1999 (more bibliographic entries, additional date-related analysis)
update -- May 2000 (references to Nickell article, miscellaneous corrections to text.)
update -- July 2000 (added section - "Just A Hole?" and new documents - "Variants," and "Theories")
update -- Nov. 2000 (new document - "Conspiracy Theory and Oak Island")
update -- March 2001 (new documents - "Media Coverage" and "Feedback")
update -- Jan. 2002 (cleaned up text, expanded "Theories" document)
update -- March 2003 (new document - "The Woods Hole Material")
update -- Jan 2004 (more text cleanup, bibliography update, "acknowledgements" document added)
update -- Nov 2004 (added Sherwood document)
Postscript: as evidenced above, I do not believe the treasure exists. I became involved in this topic as a result of repeated inquiries on the sci.archaeology and alt.folklore.urban newsgroups in 1990-92 and produced a bibliography and fact sheet. My research led me to believe the legend false and little more than a typical tale of pirates, mystery, and deception; I published the results, primarily as a means of dissuading long and protracted discussions on the subject. As a result of the Web and services such as DejaNews I have received numerous queries on the topic; hence the presence of this Web site.
I am perfectly willing to conduct discussions on the subject with anyone as long as they are rational and capable of intelligent argument.
I would be happy to be proved wrong as well.
Note: All material on these pages is © 1995-2002 Richard E. Joltes. All rights reserved. Short excerpts may be used as long as proper credit is given and advance permission is obtained.