Carolina Squirrel and The Money Pit


Since I was young, I was always fascinated by mysteries.  They are like reading stories for which the ending has not been written yet.  Frustrating but also intriguing.  After all these years, there are still a handful of mysteries that I am still fond of.   One of the mysteries that I came across earliest is the mystery of the “Money Pit of Oak Island”.  Carolina Squirrel investigates.

Mysterious Oak Island

The story begins in 1797 when a teenager, Daniel McGinnis, was exploring Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada when he came across a depression in the ground.  Directly above the depression was a block and tackle hanging from a tree branch.  Intrigued and suspecting perhaps that this could be a site of buried pirate’s treasure, he got a couple of friends to come back with him to excavate the hole.

About two feet below the surface, they found flagstones.  Digging deeper they found a layer of oak logs at 10 feet intervals until they reached about 30 feet down when they were forced to stop.  Over the years, a number of different explorers and even treasure hunting companies have tried to excavate the money pit.

In 1803, the Onslow Company excavated to a depth of 90 feet before they were stopped by seawater flooding the pit.  The oak logs continued to appear at 10 feet intervals but they also discovered a layer of charcoal at 40 feet, putty at 50 feet and coconut fiber at 60 feet.  Even more surprising,  at 90 feet, a stone inscribed with mysterious symbols was found.

One well known translation of the stone’s inscription is  “Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried.” but many doubt the accuracy of the translation.

The flooding was believed to have been caused by the excavators triggering a booby trap which opened a 500 foot flood tunnel to nearby Smith’s Cove.  If true, this makes this money pit incredibly sophisticated as an engineering project.

In support of  this claim,  investigations at Smith’s Cove show that there is an 145 foot length of beach which has been altered.  It was discovered that there were five channels dug into the clay below the sand.  There channels converge into one and are filled with rocks and covered with eel grass and several inches of coconut fiber.  This functions like a filter which allows the channels to remain unblocked by sediment and is believed to draw seawater into the money pit some 500 feet away.  When tested by carbon dating, the coconut fibers were found to be at least 770 years old.   Who carried out this amazing engineering feat all that long time ago?

Unable to excavate further due to the flooding, a later company tried collecting drill samples to find out what lied beyond.  At 98 feet, they found a layer of spruce pine, followed by  a layer of scrap metal until about 104 feet deep where there was another layer of spruce.

And so the discoveries continued and so did the mystery deepen.  Over the years, the picture of the pit developed.   The entrance of the flood tunnel from Smith’s Cove was found. In 1899, a second flood tunnel originating from the South Shore Cove was found.  At about 120 feet a layer of oak and iron was found at a haphazard angle.  It is believed that this layer actually fell down from a higher level of the pit.

At about 16o feet down, a cement vault  7 feet tall and 7 inch thick was found by drilling which also pulled up fragments of a sheep skin parchment with writing on it.  Below that were more layers of soft metal.  Despite all efforts and a number of deaths, no one has succeeded in going further.

The mystery remains.  Who built it?  How on earth did they manage to build something so large and sophisticated all those centuries ago?  What really lies at the bottom of the pit?

If you haven’t got any summer plans yet, you might consider trying going treasure hunting and solve this mystery.

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20 thoughts on “Carolina Squirrel and The Money Pit”

  1. If someone could engineer pyramids and great Gothic cathedrals i don’t find it inescapable to believe someone was able to engineer this. I think the question is, with all we have learned from the 18th century to this day we still haven’t been able to defeat the engineering of whomever drilled this pit. That I find amusing.

  2. At my age I will let others figure this mystery out if possible. I will concentrate on the relative easy day to day mysteries of living life.

  3. geewits,
    I just read up on the Voynich Manuscript. Fascinating. I had not heard of it before. Thanks for introducing it to me. So this interest in mysteries is yet another thing we share.

    Mark,
    I agree that the engineering know how at that time would not be surprising but it would have been still a very major endeavour to build this. What was worth all that effort? For example, at a time when sailing around the world was still a major effort, who took the trouble to bring all that coconut fiber to a remote island off Canada’s east coast? But like you, I am amused that no one has been able to beat the puzzle yet. The latest attempt was in 2010.

  4. cabcree,
    That so much effort was put into building this puzzling pit, makes me wonder why? What lies at the bottom that such an elaborate system was put in place to hide it?

    Sy,
    It’s what I feel is a real mystery and not just some legend.

  5. Joyce,
    Ah, the mysteries of modern life. True. True. Like why do so many people eat junk food or pay so much for their coffee at trendy franchise cafes.

    Laura,
    Really. I thought it would be known in Canada. Nova Scotia government has made a decision that from 2011, they will not allow any further digging at the site and leave it as a tourist attraction.

  6. I can’t believe you live in Malaysia and still know more about my country than I do! What a tale though – the coconut fiber really has me puzzled – and fragments of sheepskin parchment – gosh the plot thickens doesn’t it…

  7. Janice,
    I just read widely but have always enjoyed Canadian tales. They were somewhat different from what I was reading from elsewhere and they made an impression. But truly, I know a handful of Canadian stories and you will probably see me exhaust them here on this blog.

  8. I see I am pretty late on this. Most posts were in January. I have been interested in this ever since I saw it on the History Channel. Since then I have viewed several videos on you-tube about it.
    Out of all the theories Iv read so far, I’m leaning most toward this being from a Spanish Galleon or Pirate treasure.
    For example a Spanish Galleon returning with gold and jewels from Central or South America could have been forced off course. Badly damaged, then stopped at Oak Island, hid the treasure while repairing the ship, and limped home with plans to return later with a more sea-worthy ship to retrieve their cargo.
    Also, some think Oak Island acted as a communal bank for pirates. And before his death Captain Kidd claimed he buried his treasure -“where none but Satan and myself can find it.”

  9. In 1971, Professor Ross J. Wilhelm, of the University of Michigan Graduate School of Business Administration, decoded the stone. (He had been a cryptographer during WWII) He was brought to Nova Scotia and received by locals, in appreciation of his work. The Spanish message that he decoded explained how to prevent the flooding. For some reason, his contribution is completely ignored when the history of the money pit is presented anywhere. I guess people don’t want reality intruding on the fantasy.

  10. Addfacts,
    Thanks for your input. It does seem that Prof. Wilhelm’s achievement has been under-reported but I guess there will always be some dispute over any of the proposed decoded messages. As you said, perhaps some never want the mystery solved.

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