- After 38 years of searching, Oak Island's most famous
treasure hunter believes he's solved the mystery of the famous Mahone Bay
- In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Dan Blankenship
said he has uncovered evidence that proves the 32-hectare island is the
repository for millions in silver and gold left behind by marauding Spaniards
in the mid-16th century.
- "I've never spoken publicly before because I didn't
want to have put in this much work and end up being wrong," he said.
- "But in the last six weeks, I've been able to confirm
all my suspicions and I can say definitively who did it, how they did it
and where they did it. But until I get down there, I can't say exactly
what is there."
- Mr. Blankenship was 42 when he gave up a Miami-based
contracting business and brought his family to the province's South Shore,
confident he could solve the mystery that had eluded searchers for more
than 165 years.
- For three decades, he's toiled in the mud, the snow and
the heat of summer, drilling tunnels and trying to make connections between
a series of unusually shaped rocks scattered about the rocky island.
- In 1971 he was almost killed when a steel-reinforced
shaft in which he was working buckled, nearly trapping him more than 45
metres below the surface.
- He's never recovered a dime's worth of treasure, but
the robust 80-year-old said that with the new information he's gathered,
the riches could be brought to the surface within seven months.
- The early story of Oak Island is well-known around the
world. Three boys from the area were exploring the island in 1795 when
they came across a depression in the ground near an oak tree.
- They dug in the dirt in hopes of finding treasure but
hit a wooden platform. They lifted it and continued to dig, only to find
another platform a few metres deeper.
- Subsequent efforts by everyone from locals to John Wayne
and Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned up tantalizing items like bits of
chain, parchment and coconut husks, but all were defeated by what seemed
to be an intricate series of flood tunnels designed to protect whatever
was at the bottom of the pit.
- When Mr. Blankenship began as director of field work
for the treasure-hunting syndicate headed by Montreal businessman David
Tobias, he started his search at the famed money pit site, but his interest
in other parts of the island grew as the years passed.
- In the interview he dismissed the money pit on the eastern
end of the island as "an elaborate decoy" and suggested the bulk
of the treasure was located in a series of tunnels running deep beneath
the western end of the island.
- Mr. Blankenship has long suspected there were tunnels
deep beneath the island, but he didn't have the proof until he came across
evidence of three metre-wide holes that he says once served as air shafts
for the tunnels.
- He located the shaft based on measurements taken from
the position of a series of oddly shaped multi-tonne stones. First discovered
by rival treasure hunter Fred Nolan of Bedford, the rocks form the shape
of a giant cross and Mr. Blankenship now believes they serve as a key to
- He was prompted to look for the shafts after the previously
unreported discovery of stone icons by a small Norwegian exploration team
that worked on the island in June. He believes the European team was hoping
to confirm that the island was the repository for the Shakespearean works
of Francis Bacon, but he believes his subsequent find points to the Spanish
- Quoting from a book that details 1,500 years of mining
experience in Spain, Mr. Blankenship hinted that many of the surface icons
are markers that mirror something happening deep below the surface.
- The veteran treasure hunter's problem is that he doesn't
have a treasure trove licence giving him permission to pursue his effort.
- All exploration requires a licence from the the province,
and all licences for searches in the area expired in July, said Rick Ratcliffe,
the province's registrar of mineral and petroleum titles. New requests
have not been approved.
- Under the Treasure Trove Act, the province is entitled
to one-tenth of the find or the equivalent monetary value.
- Four people have applications before government for the
- They include Oak Island Exploration, the company headed
by Mr. Tobias and of which Mr. Blankenship is a dissident member; Mr. Nolan,
owner of five lots of the island; art gallery operator and Upper Kennetcook
resident Robert Young, owner of a single lot; and Mahone Bay Exploration
Inc., owned by Mr. Blankenship.
- Mr. Blankenship's application is the only one that covers
property he doesn't own.
- In an effort to bolster his case for a new licence, Mr.
Blankenship met with Natural Resources Minister Richard Hurlburt recently
and laid out his findings.
- "I turned 80 in May and won't get another chance,"
he said. "If they give Tobias a licence for property he's never been
interested in, it will be a very sad day."
- Mr. Ratcliffe said the department is still reviewing
documentation accompanying the applications. When the review is complete
it will be turned over to the minister who will then take the issue to
- If Mr. Blankenship is granted a licence, he said that
he could use a rotary drill to confirm the presence of the tunnels and
within seven months could recover the treasure.
- If he is proven correct, he said Oak Island could become
a tourism draw attracting 100,000 people or more a year.
- Mr. Ratcliffe would not comment on decisions about the
permits but said he expected it would be spring before the next exploration
season would begin.