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Dave’s Oak Island theory

[12/20/19 Note: As the story usually goes, I decided to condense this lengthy blog into something more readable.]

Here is another subject that has peaked my interest in the past and present. Like the Lagina brothers, who currently star in a reality series titled The Curse of Oak Island, my own grandmother had a subscription to Reader’s Digest, and I remember reading the 1965 Oak Island article at an early age. Then, in 1976, my grandfather received a Sept, 76 issue of Popular Mechanics that had a brief article—still have it, to this day. Sometime in the 1980s I discovered D’arcy O’Connor’s book The Big Dig in a bookstore, so when the reality series premiered, I had a little bit of a head start on the subject.

This spring (2016), after doing a Google image search, I discovered some of the old survey maps and diagrams that have been posted on the Internet. So with all the new info at hand, I drew up the following diagram in an attempt to form a mental picture of what the underground structure around the money pit might be like, and in doing so, arrived at a theory as to what might have happened on Oak Island during the big collapse of 1861.

As the new season of Curse approaches (season 4), I decided to post the diagram—just for kicks—and see if I get anything right. I do not claim it to be fact; just a guess and nothing more. Of course, I’m sure something will go wrong, and they will never get far enough to settle the issue anyway, but . . . Obviously, I am skeptical that there was ever anything more to the construction of the money pit other than a 150' deep pit and a flood tunnel: I am of the opinion that the amount of labor involved in excavating the money pit and constructing a cofferdam at Smith’s Cove was probably an intentional deterrent for any particular individual returning and digging up the “loot” for himself.


4/22/17: A new diagram (#2), based more on what is known rather than theory. If the following diagram differs from everything else on the web, it is in the fact that it at least depicts everything to scale from top to bottom. While based on a certain amount of educated guesswork, I will admit, of special note is the dip in the bedrock about 15' north of the Chappel shaft, which—I think—is directly under the caisson known as V-3 (looks like a very good place, to me anyhow, to look for loose coins or gold bars).

As you will note, I included a few things learned from the last season (season 4) of Curse, such as the general size and shape cavity found by C-1 north of the money pit. As mentioned, I am not 100% certain as to the exact location of the holes that the Laginas and company have dug, and although the show did describe features in the cavern similar to my diagram, I don’t know the N-S E-W orientation of those features, at present, so that part is complete guesswork. The distance of the money pit from the Chappell shaft is based on Blair’s money pit.

Studying the Becker drilling records posted by John Wonnacott and Les MacPhie on, there is one hole that Becker drilled in 1969 labeled B37 (164' from -20' level), that supports my hunch that there is indeed a significant dip in the bedrock under Dunfield’s money pit.


3/14/18: Since I’m already in the business; yet another diagram (#3). Given all the holes the Oak Island team drilled in the money pit area last season (S5) the Laginas and company should probably have a better understanding of the subsurface topography than anyone. But when you study something long enough, you are bound to gain a better understanding, so perhaps there are a few insightful things I can offer. I came to the realization that the various layers, or levels, of rock under the money pit area are probably much flatter than I first surmised. About 23’ below the upper limestone layer, there appears to be a layer of shale (or shale-like rock) at 165’ from the 1795-1909 surface level. And in places, this shale is either thin or weak, allowing drill heads to pass through and drop about 11.5 feet or so through a silty layer to a relatively flat surface of sound anhydrite.

But under the flat surface, the so-called sound anhydrite is obviously riddled with natural cavities; and it stands to reason that in places, the roof of these cavities must be thin. The jest of my original theory was that the weight of the collapsing debris from the 1861 collapse caused a cascade that broke through the upper limestone layer, depositing the vault lower than its original location. But now I’m not so sure that the collapse did not involve deeper layers of rock. I am also wondering if a second collapse might not have occurred somewhere deep in the money pit sometime between 1909 and 1931, perhaps involving the roof of a water-filled void.

At any rate, the layers appear to be flat and solid except for an area with a roughly pear-shaped outline extending from under Dunfield’s money pit over to and under the Chappel shaft’s onetime surface location. As to just how far down the money pit was originally dug, it is anyone’s guess, of course. Some contend that the deep cavern (referred to as the deep-rock area by MacPhie and Wannacott) located under the Chappel shaft’s surface location was part of the original work, but I just cannot imagine why someone would purposely dig such a wide hole into the bedrock—even if the original entrance was much smaller than it is now. So if indeed ever occupied by man, my bet is, it was a discovered cavern that was taken advantage of.

Other: For this diagram, I chose Dunfield’s location for the original money pit for two reasons: one, it gets it out of the way, and two, it may explain what the Chappels were thinking as they were digging their shaft back in 1931, although--beyond all the interesting finds made there last year--there are compelling reasons why the money pit might have been farther south. Who knows?, perhaps there were two shafts about six feet apart, one used to ventilate the other.

One more thing regarding the money pit: Not being personally involved in the dig, there are a lot of technical details I am missing, of course. For example, although the show is constantly giving depth assessments, the depth of fill added in 2016 has never been mentioned on the show, and the money pit ground water level mentioned—I believe for the first time in the series—in S5, E18 does not jive with the notion that the original ground level was 10 feet higher than the 1930s level. But here is something interesting that I doubt the Oak Island team even noticed: The Chappels reported running into a layer of shale-like rock at 155’ back in 1931 while searching for the vault. In season 4 episode 14, the T-1 caisson hits the same thing at 156’. And in season 5, episode 3, a hole is drilled near the Chappel shaft (H-3.5) that hits an iron obstruction at 162’. Now, assuming for the sake of argument that ground level was indeed 10 feet higher in 1897 than in 1931, and the shale layer is relatively flat (as one would expect), then the iron obstruction at 162’ (as well as the human bone fragments) would be at precisely the same depth—to the inch—as the iron or steel obstruction William Chappel struck at 171’. 

The Curse of Oak Island, Season 5, A.K.A. How many goofy questions can be posed in an hour’s time: I was a bit dumbfounded when it was announced in the first episode that a series of 38 holes would be drilled in the money pit area before anyone bothered to send the GAL-1 or V-3 caisson farther down. Then there was a bit of an “oh, crap,” moment during the second episode when I realized what they were referring to as the “Geo-tech system” was my idea. I’m referring to a brief email I sent to Marty Lagina and the Oak Island team back on Feb 10th, 2015.

Excerpt: [Just a thought I had: I will have to pose the first part of it in the form of a question: First of all, is there any sort of plastic pipe strong enough to be used as well casing, such as schedule 30 PVC, for example? Next, if that were possible, seems like there should be a way--by lowering separate emitter and collector coils down separate holes--of getting a three dimension cross section of the metal content of a sizable area of earth, down to considerable depth--as far as the casings will go. The process would no-doubt require the creation of an entirely new computer algorithm, but seems feasible to me, anyway. Stu Auerbach is probably the person you would want ask about all this, of course.]

(I meant schedule 40 PVC, of course, although I recently learned that they make a schedule 80, with walls about twice as thick. Plumbing is not really my area of expertise, anyhow.)

My initial thought was, how unfortunate they implemented my idea after they had sunk a series of huge metal objects into the ground. And this, after old accounts of drill pipes breaking off deep in the money pit area, to complicate matters. I personally would have focused more on the area from the Chappel shaft to Dunfield’s money pit, but that is all “water under the money pit” now, I suppose.

The show, of course, attributed the Geo-tech system to everyone but the person who actually suggested the concept—namely me—and that is plagiaristic. I realize that the Laginas and company do not produce the TV show, and I sympathize with their disappointments and personal tragedies, but I would hold them responsible for its content to a degree; and they could at least have mentioned that the concept was sent in by a viewer. Even so, I will refrain from calling them names, for the time being, and give them a chance to put things right.

So, Dave where is the treasure? Well, it’s unfortunate that drill pipes tend to deviate, and it remains to be seen if my pvc pipe idea is going to lead to treasure, but the fact that the new caissons sent down last season found so little is foreboding: It makes one wonder if whatever (and whoever) was buried there is not scattered over a wide area and range of depth, and just how things ended up that way (cave ins and water circulation are at the top of my list).

One last thing: An episode of “Curse of” every now and then that got away from the dig, the usual hype, and the fifty goofy questions and focused more on the technical aspects of the dig would be a definite “groove.” I am referring to the various historic reasons why the money pit might be in this or that location, the present theory as to where the original surface level was located, and a much more detailed look at what the underground topography probably looks like based on all of the exploration to date.

6/05/18: On 3/14/18, I once again contacted Marty Lagina and Craig Tester at the same email address as the 2/10/15 email, and have not received a reply. Anyone reading this article knows as much about it as I, but it looks to me as though there has been some decision made on their part to perpetuate a lie regarding the whole Geo-tech thing. For me, anyhow, this throws the integrity of their entire operation and all discovered artifacts into question. After all, if someone will lie about one thing, they will lie about another. I think it is high time someone pressed this issue with them and got a yes or no answer from them regarding the origin of the Geo-tech concept.

5/10/19: Since last spring, I have learned a few more things and have created what is probably the most informative vertical-cross-section diagram of the money pit to date (#4), although I think the last diagram that I posted (#3) is fairly accurate, generally speaking. And after six years of reading and studying everything I could find regarding the money pit itself (old documents, maps, books etc.)—on top of the limited knowledge I had to begin with regarding Oak Island—I had an epiphany one day as to where the original money pit might be located. I created a map (a surface map), and on further study, a number of things seemed to fall into place—not vaguely, mind you, rather “dead on,” so to speak. Bear in mind, this is not an “X marks the spot” based on star maps or the direction the wind blew last Tuesday; the map is entirely based on Oak Island history of the dig site. I would never profess to know anything about Oak Island with absolute certainty; all I can say is that the map is very, very interesting. And if I’m right, the Oak Island team has been digging in all the wrong places.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that an idea of mine was taken to heart without credit given where it was due, let alone a thank you or even acknowledgement of my existence, I will not be posting anything more that might somehow assist the present treasure hunters on Oak Island. And I probably won’t be following the show very closely from now on, as I don’t think I can take another season of the show’s endless repetition, stupid questions, and inconsistent attention to the digging operation, anyway.

Who knows where the Oak Island treasure hunt will go from here: Maybe I’m wrong and the team is indeed closing in on the money pit. Perhaps a member of the team will receive a bump on the head (like Stan Laurel in A Chump at Oxford) and have the same epiphany as I. Or perhaps they will go on digging in all the wrong places until they stumble upon the money pit by the sheer number of holes they have dug. Well, if the present group ever gives up and someone else takes over, all I can say is, look me up. I would recommend it before you go spending millions of dollars digging any holes.

One last note: As the story goes, before season six even aired, I modified my last diagram (#3) to do away with the dip in the bedrock directly under Dunfield’s money pit. (I had come to the conclusion that the "hole" that both Greene and Dunfield drilled through down to 182’ was most likely about midway along the western side of the Heddon shaft). So I replaced the dip with a gradual slope from where C-1 entered sound bedrock. Note: The sound bedrock I am referring to is erroneously annotated "sound anhydrite" in diagram 3 (the first 11 feet, or so, is actually limestone). Skip to Curse S6, E3; the team travels to Calgary to view some of the results from the seismic study. During the session, they are shown a vertical cross section of the money pit area, which depicts what is described as a void from about 160-175’ (most likely soft ground between a shale layer and the bottom of a pit in the limestone bedrock). Imagine my dismay when the cross section turns out to be an almost exact match to my diagram, except for the void's profile being completely backwards in a north-south direction. In other words, the seismic results depicted a void that was a mirror image of my new diagram. Then a hole is drilled that supposedly does not find a void. And on top of everything, back in S3, E12, the drill at C-1 supposedly went through 11’ of rock before entering the water-filled cavern. (The 11’ feet of rock would appear to be the same place where the seismic results are showing the "deep end" of the void.) Later, in S6, E12, the team sends a tiny ROV down H-8 to the same depth as the void, which might have provided a better idea of the void’s general shape. But wouldn’t you know it, the ROV fills with water before much is learned about the void’s shape. I have no explanation for the discrepancies, of course; you the reader now know as much as I do. (rev 12/20/19, 1-19-20)

6/30/20: Not going to delve into the subject, but I’ll share a couple observations I made upon viewing some of season 7: First off, I noticed there are two dates that keep popping up in regards to pre-searcher construction at the money pit and Smith’s Cove—1706 and 1771. And if one would choose to assume these are the only two periods where anything major took place at the two locations, I do believe the various carbon-dated objects would support the theory. However, that is my unprofessional opinion on the subject.

Observation two: In S7, E21, an 8’ caisson (RF-1) is sunk over a tear-drop-shaped seismic anomaly at 160’. On its way down, some pretty interesting items are pulled from the shaft: an old pickax, and some large hand-hewn timbers put together with dowels and inscribed with Roman numerals. Members of the team exclaim, “We’ve never seen anything like that before.” But something about that didn’t seem right to me, so I did a search and sure enough . . . A wood beam with a dowel pin sticking out of it was brought up from the very first caisson sunk (V-3) back in S4, E5. It looks as though RF-1 probably overlaps V-3, so most likely the team is going in circles and is rediscovering what they have already found.

6/01/21: Again, I only viewed a handful of episodes from season 8, and I was a bit dumbfounded when the team began drilling holes close to the C-1 caisson and declaring they had likely found a tunnel at around 90’. I don’t know where they came from, but I have a couple diagrams on my computer: one depicts the surface border of Robert Dunfield’s 1965 excavation, and the other depicts a cross section of the pit. And according to the diagrams, anyhow, one hole, dubbed BC-3, is only several feet or so from the center of Dunfield’s pit. And the “tunnel” struck at 90’ ends up about 50’ higher than the bottom of Dunfield’s pit, which was reportedly dug to 140’ (about 139’ from the current surface, per my best guess). Admittedly, Dunfield’s pit was steep walled, but not that steep! So it would appear very unlikely that Dunfield could have missed such a tunnel, but I heard no mention at all of this important fact in any of the episodes that I watched.

But the old wood they found is interesting, in that it suggests the possibility that Dunfield dug into some of the original works somewhere and then unknowingly backfilled the pit with pieces he had dug out.

Lastly, I noticed that while Rick Lagina often mentions his faith in science, his hunch about the swamp has probably turned up more items of interest than any scientific study of the island, except, of course, this new finding of dissolved metals. Does this mean the Laginas and co. might finally find more treasure on Oak Island than I did under my couch cushions last week? In regards to those gold-colored objects in the wall of the C-1, though, I would bet money they are nothing more than iron pyrite deposits, otherwise known as fool’s gold.

mysteries, commentary, sci-fi

11-10-16, last rev = 6-01-21
2016-21 Dave Conklin