Oak Island, Nova Scotia
|Location||Nova Scotia, Canada|
|Area||57 ha (140 acres)|
|Highest elevation||11 m (36 ft)|
Oak Island is a 57-hectare (140-acre) privately owned island in Lunenburg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of about 360 small islands in Mahone Bay and rises to a maximum of 11 metres (36 feet) above sea level. The island is located 200 metres (660 feet) from shore and connected to the mainland by a causeway and gate. The nearest community is the rural community of Western Shore which faces the island, while the nearest village is Chester. The island is best known for various theories about possible buried treasure or historical artifacts, and the associated exploration.
The majority of Nova Scotia is a Humid continental climate with hot and humid summers, and cold or frigid winters. While there is no weather station on the island, or along Mahone Bay, there is one towards the west in the town of Bridgewater. The average annual temperature given in Bridgewater is 7.1 °C (44.8 °F), while the precipitation runs at 1,536.7 millimetres (60.50 in). The ocean has an effect on Oak Island in terms of visibility, as the southern coasts of Nova Scotia can be hidden in fog for as many as 90 days a year. These coasts are also vulnerable to powerful storms which include nor'easters and hurricanes.
Oak Island is made up of a temperate broadleaf and mixed forest, known regionally as the New England/Acadian forests. Wildlife in the Mahone Bay area includes great blue herons, black guillemots, osprey, Leach's storm petrels, and razorbills. In addition, non-specific eagles and puffins are also mentioned. On a particular note is the Roseate tern, which is considered an endangered species in the area that is protected by the Canadian government. Efforts to restore their habitat such as curbing the population of other bird species have been undertaken.
The geology of Oak Island was first mapped in 1924, which found a composite of four drumlins (two large and two small) forming the Island. These drumlins are "elongated hills" which consist of multiple layers of till resting on bedrock, and are from different phases of glacial advance that span the past 75,000 years. The layers on top of the bedrock are mainly made up of "Lawrencetown" and slate till. The former of these two is considered a type of clay till which is made up of 50% sand, 30% silt, and 20% clay. In the main area that has been searched for treasure along with the till lie bits of anhydrite, which become more competent deeper down. Researchers Les MacPhie, and John Wonnacott concluded that the deep deposits at the east end of the Island make up the drumlin formations. There are two types of bedrock that lie under Oak Island; the southeastern portion consists of "Mississippian Windsor Group limestone" and gypsum, while the northwestern part is Cambro-Ordovician Halifax Formation slate. Oak Island and the area that is now Mahone Bay was once a lagoon 8,000 years BP, before the sea level rose with the melting glaciers.
The first major indigenous people to Nova Scotia were the Mi'kmaq, who formed an Indian nation in present-day Canada several thousand years ago. The area that encompasses Oak Island was once known as the "Segepenegatig" region. While it is unknown when Oak Island was first discovered, the tribe had a presence in the overall area which included the entire island of Newfoundland. The earliest confirmed European residents date back to the 1750s in the form of French fishermen, who had by this time built a few houses on the future site of the nearby village of Chester, Nova Scotia. Following the Expulsion of the Acadians during the Seven Years' War, the British government of Nova Scotia enacted a series of measures to encourage settlement of the area by the European-descended New Englanders. Land was made available to settlers in 1759 through the Shorham grant, and Chester was officially founded that same year.
The first major group of settlers arrived in the Chester area from Massachusetts in 1761, and Oak Island was officially surveyed and divided into 32 four-acre lots in the following year. A large part of island was owned at the time by the Monro, Lynch, Seacombe and Young families who had been granted the land in 1759. In the early days of British settlement, the Island was known locally as "Smith's Island," after an early settler of the area named Edward Smith. Cartographer Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres renamed the Island "Gloucester Isle" in 1778. Shortly thereafter, the locally used name "Oak Island" was officially adopted for the Island. Early residents included Edward Smith in the 1760s and Anthony Vaughn Sr. in the early 1770s. In 1784, the government made additional land grants, this time to former soldiers, which included parts of Oak Island. It wasn't until July 6, 1818 that the original lot owners' names were mapped for the Nova Scotia Crown Lands office.
Oak Island has been intermittently owned by treasure hunters ever since early settler stories started appearing in the late 1700s. The hunt for treasure got so extensive that in 1965 a causeway was built from the western end of the island to Crandall's Point on the mainland, two hundred metres away in order to bring heavy machinery onto the island. Oak Island has had several different recent owners which include a treasure hunter named Dan Blankenship, who initially partnered with "Oak Island Tours Inc." run by David Tobias. Oak Island Tours eventually dissolved, and in February 2019, it was announced that a new partnership had been formed with a company called the "Michigan Group". This group consists of brothers Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Alan Kostrzewa who had been purchasing lots from Tobias. It is unclear who is involved to what degree as Blankenship only revealed Kostrzewa's name to the press saying he was "on board". Blankenship owned 78% of the island with the Michigan Group, until his death on March 17, 2019 at the age of 95. Oak Island is also privately owned by seasonal residents, who make up the remaining 22%. In total there are two permanent homes and two cottages occupied part-time on the island.
The Oak Island mystery
Oak Island has been a subject for treasure hunters ever since the late 1700s, with rumours that Captain Kidd's treasure was buried there. While there is little evidence to support what went on during the early excavations, stories began to be published and documented as early as 1856. Since that time there have been many theories that extend beyond that of Captain Kidd which include among others religious artifacts, manuscripts, and Marie Antoinette's jewels. The "treasure" has also been prone to criticism by those who have dismissed search areas as natural phenomena. Areas of interest on the island with regard to treasure hunters include a location known as the "Money Pit", which is allegedly the original searchers’ spot. There is also a formation of boulders called "Nolan's Cross", named after a former treasure hunter with a theory on it, and a triangle-shaped swamp. Lastly, there has been searcher activity on a beach at a place called "Smith's Cove". Various objects including non-native coconut fibre have been found there. More recent archaeological discoveries in the 'Smith's Cove" area have included a pre-15th century lead cross and various unknown wooden earthworks. 
More than fifty books have been published recounting the island's history and exploring competing theories. Several works of fiction have also been based upon the Money Pit, including The Money Pit Mystery, Riptide, The Hand of Robin Squires, and Betrayed: The Legend of Oak Island. The History Channel aired a reality TV show called The Curse of Oak Island starting in January 2014 about a group of modern treasure hunters. These hunters include brothers Rick and Marty Lagina of the "Michigan Group". The series has documented finds such as centuries-old coins, an antique brooch, and a lead cross that was made between 1200 and 1600 A.D.
- "David Blankenship". History Channel. Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Dan Blankenship". www.oakislandtreasure.co.uk. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
- Ricardo Minesotor (January 14, 2019). "Alex Lagina, a member of Lagina family and a treasure hunter". foreignpolicyi.org. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Bridgewater, Nova Scotia". www.weatherbase.com. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe, Lee Lamb (Mar 4, 2014). The Unsolved Oak Island Mystery 3-Book Bundle. Dundurn. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
- "The Islands Today: Overview". Mahone Islands Conservation Association. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
- Environment Canada. "Deterring Gull Nesting at Mahone Bay Tern Colonies". Canadian Environment Assessment Agency. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
- "The Islands Today: Challenges". Mahone Islands Conservation Association. Retrieved February 11, 2019.
- Gordon B. J. Fader and Robert C. Courtney. "Bathymetry Analysis of the Oak Island area". www.criticalenquiry.org. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- Les MacPhie and John Wonnacott (August 12, 2006). "Review of Explorations, Archaeological Findings and Original Workings at Smith's Cove Oak Island, Nova Scotia" (PDF). www.oakislandtours.ca. p. 7, 10, 12, 13, 17. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
- Jeddore, John Nick (August 25, 2011). ""There were no Indians here ..."". TheIndependent.ca.
- DesBrisay, Mather Byles. History of the county of Lunenburg. Toronto: W. Briggs. p. 619. LCCN 01022095. OCLC 04067460.
- Sora, Steven (1 February 1999). The Lost Treasure of the Knights Templar: Solving the Oak Island Mystery. Simon and Schuster. p. 304. ISBN 0-89281-710-0.
- DesBrisay, Mather Byles (1895). History of the county of Lunenburg (2 ed.). Toronto: William Briggs. p. 300.
- Whipps, Heather (7 November 2005). "For Sale: Island with Mysterious Money Pit". Live Science. Purch. Retrieved 5 December 2005.
- The History Channel, Decoding the Past: The Templar Code, video documentary, November 7, 2005, written by Marcy Marzuni
- Angie Zinck (February 3, 2019). "Dan Blankenship confirms new treasure hunting partners". Oak Island Society. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Evan Perry (January 31, 2014). "Q&A with Oak Island's Marty Lagina & Craig Tester". My North. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Aly Thomson (March 26, 2019). "Famed N.S. treasure hunter brought about new era in Oak Island mystery". CBC. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Explore Oak Island Display". Chester Municipal Heritage Society. Archived from the original on 28 May 2016.
- Nickell, Joe (March 2000). "The Secrets of Oak Island". Skeptical Inquirer. 24.2.
- "The Curse of Oak Island breakthrough: Lead cross is pre-15th century and could have Knights Templar connection". Monsters and Critics. 2018-12-19. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
- "The Curse of Oak Island recap: Team discover a second mysterious structure at Smith's Cove". Monsters and Critics. 2019-01-23. Retrieved 2019-04-11.
- Conlin, Dan (16 October 2009). Pirates of the Atlantic: Robbery, Murder and Mayhem off the Canadian East Coast. Halifax: Formac Publishing Company Limited. p. 86. ISBN 9780887807411.
- Kenyon, J Douglas (1 February 2016). Missing Connections: Challenging the Consensus. Atlantis Rising. p. 57. ISBN 9780990690429.
- Joseph, Frank (12 June 2018). Power Places and the Master Builders of Antiquity: Unexplained Mysteries of the Past. Simon and Schuster. p. 63. ISBN 9781591433149.
- Blouin, Lou (27 June 2016). "Rick and Marty Lagina: The Last Treasure Hunters". MyNorth. Prism Publications. Retrieved 28 August 2018.
- Amber Garrett. "Do They Ever Find Anything on Oak Island? Plus, How to Visit". distractify.com. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- Google. "Satellite image of Oak Island" (Map). Google Maps. Google.
- "The Oak Island Treasure". MMM Group. Archived from the original on Aug 4, 2002.
- Friends of Oak Island Society, successor to Oak Island Tourism Society, focusing on summer tours
- Oak Island Money Pit, Detailed resource covering the money pit's history