So, while staying at Atlantica Hotel & Marina Oak Island with a group of travel writers, Charlie Barkhouse a historian for the mysterious Oak Island told us the legend that had led to the History Channel series, Curse of Oak Island. “I am surprised by how popular it is,” Charlie said.
When he spoke to us he had just came from filming an upcoming episode for the next season. It was easy to listen to the stories while sitting down by the water next to a fire enjoying Chef Konrad’s mussels then later listening over the lure of fresh seafood. Whether you are a cynic or not, I admit that the mystery or at least the story of those that have pursued the treasure that is supposed to be on the island catches attention.
Dubbed the world’s longest and costliest treasure hunt Charlie said that it all began 219 years ago in 1795 when three boys from the fishing village of Chester found a depression and started digging. They dug down, found a layer of wooden planks, tore them out and dug some more finding additional layers of planks every ten feet or so.
The legend has lasted for over 200 years, there is a great question about who left treasure, Knights Templar, Captain Kid, Spanish captain’s taking a bit of treasure off the top for themselves, no one knows for sure, but over time, items like chain links, coins, and so on has been found with enough items out of place to keep the hunt on track. The items found many have disappeared over the years, however, recreations of those items or the ones that remain are in a museum on the island and a mini museum at the Atlantica Hotel that I sought out and took a glimpse at.
Treasure hunters thing the island was booby trapped. When one crew hit 90 feet in the shaft they were digging in they hit something. “They could see pick marks,” Charlie said. “Later that Saturday night, the men were exhausted and quit till Monday. Being good Presbyterians they went to church and came back to 60’ of water.”
On another part of the island called Smith’s Cove in 1849 bubbling action was noted on the beach. After digging Charlie said they excavated coconut fiber which he said, “was the packing material of the day.”
The fiber has been sent for analysis and has been dated pre-1660. Dan Blankenship, a former Miami builder has been on the island and involved with the hunt Charlie said, “Since 1966.”
“Fred Nolan who owns the center part of the island found a megalithic cross, just the points, it is a sandstone monument and we believe it was a marking system” Charlie added.
These are the kind of things that have happened over the years sometimes with tragic results. The legend of the island is that seven men will die and when the oaks are gone the treasure will be found. To date, six men have died and the canvas oaks are gone. For me, mystery or not, after reading about the article from the Chronicle Herald dated Wednesday, August 18, 1965, I would have headed home.
The story reads, “Treasure hunter Robert Restall centre and two unidentified members of the treasure hunting party were photographed Sunday afternoon as they discussed soil samples. Mr. Restall and three others died Tuesday after being overcome by gas in a 25’ shaft.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the stories that go on of men seeking the treasure of the island. What is fascinating to me is lengths treasure hunters have gone to find treasure and the money they have spent on the area dubbed “the money pit”.
If you are into treasure hunting, the island is open for tours by the Friends of Oak Island Society. Charlie has led many of these tours. They have a museum on the island and plans to expand it continue along with the hunt that is now chronicled on the history channel. Come stay at the lovely Atlantica Hotel & Marian Oak Island and let the beauty of the shore of Nova Scotia lull you in. While there book a tour of the island and make up your own mind about the mystery that is Oak Island. The island is a private island and access is only through a tour. You can go online at www.friendsofoakisland.com to book a tour. While there is no phone number on the website, the Atlantica will be glad to answer questions, call them at 902-627-2600.