Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 29, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
40 TOE LETHBftlDGE HERALD Wednesday, November 79, 1971 The Money Pil shaft rested atop two 500-foot protection tunnels which were connected to the bay. At high tide, the tunnels filled with water but were kept from the shaft Itself by an air lock formed by the alternating layers of plat- form sealings.' Treasure hunters dig Oak Island By TOM TIEDE OAK ISLAND, Nova BOWia (NEA) The story probably began In 1795. Probably. Koth- ing about the story is sure. Nothing. History has it that three young men were explor- ing the eastern edge of this lonely cay when they stumbled into a curious clearing. In tho middle of the clearing was a large tree with a branch lopped off. On that branch was an an- cient rigging of maritime ball and tackle. And below the rig- ging- in the spongy earth, was an elaborate, bizarre, damnable hole which has excited and con- founded adventurers for the nearly two centuries eince. The hole on Oak Island was determined to be about 10 feet In diameter and 200 or more feet deep. Manmade, with out question. Someone, some time, for some reason, had fitted the shaft with at least a dozen log platforms at 10-foot intervals. MESSAGE On one of the levels, so it's said, there rested a reward fit for royalty. Shortly after the shaft was discovered a team of sweaty excavators was sun- posed to have unearthed a crudely nritlen (etched in flag- stone) announce m e n t, left by the original diggers no doubt, which read: "Forty feet below two million pounds are buried." Thus began the mystery of Oak Island. A tiny spot of scrub- by vegetation, a few hundred yards into Mahone Bay, 45 miles southwest of Halifax, tha land Pirates' booty or plenty of nothing? Whatever lies at the bottom of the Money Pit, it has made a tiny corner of Nova Scotia very popular with a certain type of visitor for almost 200 years. has a death traP for some and a delight for others. Beneath this wind blown 130 acres is interred either pirate booty, Inca gold, a king's ran- som or nothing but the giggling eehos of some long ago prank- ster. But whatever it is- men have now spent more than million over 177 years to fira it, and this search makes the cay one of the oldest, most ex asperating "treasure islands" in the world. By any measure, the years o hunting have been marked with incompetence, naivete and ha bitual ign o r a n e e. Everybody ThelimelsNow The New Pastels are soft. Femjnily returns In the gentle pales-of our softly brushed acrylic alpine knitters. OK While, Light Pink, Light Blue, Yellow Iwin set or the ever-new argyles in Light Blue, Pink, Grey and pale Yellow combinations. They're-in sizes S-M-L and you can hand wash them yourself. a-sleeveless V-neck plus cardigan. b-Short-sleeved smocked style. c-'Dolman1 sleeved turtle pullover. d-Shorty with V-neck shirt collar. from trespassing children well heeled consortiums ha taken turns picking away what has become known as th island's "Money Pit." In the pr cess sin men have died (tour a one time, in self interes has made legend of reality an reality of legend, and the treas ure itself "burled by men much more clever than Is perhaps no nearer the sur face now than ever. TUNNELS Part of the reason for the Is- land's unlocked secret Is the in genious engineering ability whomever first laid it to res (observers agree the task must have taken at least 200 men a least two The Money Pi shaft rested atop two 500 foot "protection" tunnels which were connected to the bay. At hig tide, the tunnels filled wit water, but were kept from the shaft itself (it's believed) by an airlock formed by the altema ing buyers of platform sealings When early explorers, in thcl eagerness, broke through the platforms, the pressure dropped and the shaft filled with the sea. Diggers in 1804 barely es SIMPSONS bears Qnalfly (losls INo More al Simpsons-Scars STORE HOURS: Opon Daily 9 a.m. Id p.m. Thurlday and Friday 9 a.m. 10 9 p.m. Cinlrl Village, 311-9131 caped the first floods with their lives. But the lust of humankind too, Is to blame for the dec- ades of largely unproductive search here. In their haste to get the goods, generations of ex plorers have all but obliterated much of the island's earl iromise. In the 1840s, accord ing to some versions, eicava 'an came within a few yards of what was believed to be ilatform containing several pi rate chests, then blew the boun- ty with carelessness. The shaft caved In and the chests, if that's what they were, fell to new ant even more impenetrable depths Since then the island has been dug and redug to an extent that old landmarks have been de- stroyed, old maps are now use- ss, old leads now dead. ;VIDENCE Still, there remains the mag- netic, almost mystical lure. And some tantalizing bits of evi- dence. Gold links were found In he teeth of one excavation drill n 1849, ancient parchment was uncovered in 1897 and leart shaped- hand-crafted tone which was dug out in 931 was determined by the Smithsonian Institution to be dentical to those found at en- rances to buccaneer "commu- lal banks" in Haiti and Mada- gascar. Tr.aeed. It's all very tantaliz- ing. "Something is buried out insists Ivan Shortliffe, a collector of Oak Island memor- abilia. And if it's treasure, It wouldn't be the first found in the area. says sit area ragpicker, earlier this cen- tury, suddenly stopped working one day and lived for the rest of his life in suspicious splen- dor. Children who approached his property, on the shore, were chased away. Questions about his Income were ignored. "When he says Shortliffe, "the old man left a trust fund that still buys a grave for anyone here who wants to be buried for free. Yes, yes, many people feel the old man found a So It Is here, despite repeated Oak Island failures- the entice- ment, continues. Franklin De- lano Roosevelt put some money Into one cxped 111 o n in the 1330s. Texas oil companies have sunk exploratory shafts. People with divining rods and radar contrivances have given It a go. "I am on the trail of great snld 56-ycnr-old circus performer Robert Rcstall here In I960. Few mentis later he fell mri died In his shaft; 10 did his son wxl two others who Jumped In to pull him out. And the (Tigging goes on. Presently (he operation Is un- der the control of 68-year-old, ODB Umc well-to-do Miami con- struction contractor Da n 1 e 1 Blankenship. He heard about Oak Island in 1965, then read "every pirate book in the County Library." With that as start, Blankenship wound up his Florida business, got in a car and drove to Nova Scotia. "I was bit. That's all. Maybe I was a fool I made In my last year in Miami and I've spent a lot of it here. But what could I do? It was a mountain: I saw It and had to climb." Blankenship has d o n c pre- cious little climbing here, nat- urally Oak cay Is as flat is a coat of paint. But he has ap- parently reached a level of vis- Ion, and opportunity, few ol his predecessors enjoyed. Financed by i patient group of million- aires (who've spent In six he has gone about his experiment scientifically is well as expensively. He early abandoned ideas about the orig- inal Money Pit (like many oth- ers- he feels that the shaft was merely a and has re- cently been concentrating on hole of his own, 200 feet closer to the water. Using diving two way radios, record- ers and even TV cameras hi has bet his entire wad that "Whatever It is, and I'm not saying what It Is, is right below our feet. I know something Is down there. I've seen It with my own two eyes." TELEVISION What Blankenship has seen, via a watertight TV eye, has Ken both grotesque snd tntri- niing. On one occasion, looking 200 feet down, he saw what >eared to be a human hand loafing lazily in the murky wa- ter. To verify the image he called in his men, one by one, a m a k e independent u d g- ments. "When I said to one guy hat it could be a glove- he said, Glove hell, that's s goddamn land.' Blankenship speculates hat his drill cut the hand away rom its body, and adds: "It's a well known fact that pirates often buried their diggers with heir treasure. That way there were no witnesses." As for thi land ilself, still fleshy, Blan- kenship says: "I've had patholo- n'sts tell me that if people wert luried so far down, they could till have ell their flesh and uir. Because there's no oxygen hat deep lo eat it away." Be sides the hand Image, 'hldi was never permanently ecorded, Blankenship has t wrtfolio of photographs of such ling] as chests, human heads, ootprints, etc. At least, he sees as such. The photos an oggy. Tlie images clear u iud. Even Blankenship admits hat "After all this time, I may be seeing what I want to see." EXAGGERATION Certainly BlanJtenshlp- like m many other Oak Island prospec- ors, could be forgiven some onest exaggeration. His lot for x years (six days a week) has wen much more frustration han fruition. "So many e says, "we have been close, ut then something happens." ome years ago, whllo drilling, m Blankenship crew hit hing so hard it stopped a dla- rand bit. "It has lo be Iron they decided. Then, af- cr applying full power, the rill went through. knew mt whatever It was had to be jdgcd In the drill casing. So we tnrtcd lo pull the casing up, in foot sections. I wnmed the icn (hat wo were going too st. But wo were nil eager. lien, finally, when we got to he last casing, we all heard Is loud noise. Whatever was dgcd broke loose nnd fell all K way back down. My God. lint n disappointment. I felt ic g o I n g out find getting one drunk."