Oak Island is a privately-owned island in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, Canada. It spreads across 140 acres, and is one of the 360 tree-covered islands in Mahone Bay. Oak Island is mostly popular for various stories and theories about a buried treasure somewhere on it, as well as about a curse related to the treasure. The first people who lived there were the Mi’kmaq, while it’s believed that the island used by Frenchmen in the 1750s. It was settled by British people in 1759, but since the first legends about the Oak Island treasure started in 1857, the island has been owned by many treasure hunters.
- 1 The mystery of Oak Island
- 2 The death of Maynard Kaiser
- 3 Death of four treasure hunters in 1965
- 4 The reality TV show “The Curse of Oak Island”
- 5 Dan Blankenship’s death
- 6 The death of the professional Nova Scotia surveyor Fred Nolan
- 7 The death of Drake Tester
- 8 The death of Chris Donah
- 9 Some of the most significant discoveries on Oak Island
The mystery of Oak Island
Over 50 books have been published about the island’s history and the treasure, including “The Hand of Robin Squires”, “Riptide” and “The Money Pit Mystery”. The curse of the treasure says that seven people will die before the treasure can be found.
The dig begins… tonight at 9/8c. Don't miss the brand new episode of The Curse of Oak Island. pic.twitter.com/tSdre11uLn
— Curse of Oak Island (@CurseOfOak) February 8, 2022
The main treasure legend has it that the pirate Captain William Kidd had hidden his vast treasure on the island before he was executed in London in 1701, for piracy and murder, but other stories pre-date this. It was in 1856 that the stories of first treasure hunters on Oak Island reached the newspapers, and there have since been various speculation about what the treasure could actually contain. It’s widely believed that it comprises the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette’s jewels, manuscripts and many golden religious artifacts.
The first place searched by the hunters was The Money Pit, located on the east side of the island; it is a shaft over 100ft (30m) deep. Stories say that a teenager found the location indented in 1975, and that he then found a man-made shaft after having dug with his friends; the boys then found wooden platforms every 10ft down.
Nolan’s Cross is another popular searching place for hunters, as well as Smith’s Cove where various small objects have already been found.
Death’s prior to the show “The Curse of Oak Island” – First death
The first accidental death on Oak Island is reported to have been in the fall of 1861, when a worker was killed after a pump engine boiler burst. The man’s identity remains unknown, and his death wasn’t reported until two years later, when it was written about in the novel “Rambles Among the Blue-noses”, and only five years later was it covered by newspapers.
Today, a memorial stands on Oak Island to six people who’ve accidentally died while digging on it, which reads – ‘In memory of those who lost their lives while pursuing the Oak Island Quest’.
The death of Maynard Kaiser
Maynard Kaiser died on 26 March 1987, while he was working on re-excavating The Money Pit; he was in charge of taking care of containers of dirt on top of one of the pits, when he fell to his death because his rope had slipped off the hoisting pulley. Work on The Money Pit had to be halted for a week, because none of the workers wanted to recover Maynard’s body.
The dig then continued, and after reaching a depth of 110ft (35m), the team found a tunnel network which had previously been built by Eldorado/Halifax Company; they thus realized that they had been excavating the wrong shaft, and had to move 10ft (3m) to reach The Money Pit.
Death of four treasure hunters in 1965
Various newspapers reported in August 1965 that four treasure hunters had died while searching for the Oak Island treasure. The digging had started six years earlier, and had cost the team more than $200,000.
One more piece to the puzzle was discovered. #CurseOfOakIsland
The four men, Robert Restall Sr., his son Robert Jr., Cyril Hiltz, and Karl Graeser died on a Tuesday, after a gas leak in a shaft 27ft (8m) below ground level. Two treasure hunters managed to escape, and they believed that the four men were killed by ‘swamp gas’, while others claimed that a gasoline pump engine, which stood close to the pit, had filled it with carbon monoxide. Two other men also managed to escape, while another was saved by his colleagues who had pulled him unconscious from the pit.
A night prior to the accident, Restall spoke to his friend Peter Beamish, convinced that he had found out how to access the network of tunnels built by Captain Kidd’s men, and where he had hidden his treasure of between $30 and $200 million. According to Peter, Restall was highly excited ,and was certain that he had it right.
The reality TV show “The Curse of Oak Island”
“The Curse of Oak Island” began airing on History network on 5 January 2014, documenting various teams searching for the legendary Captain Kidd’s treasure.
The series centers on the brothers Rick and Marty Lagina from Kingsford, Michigan while they’re struggling to find the treasure, but the show also covers facts and other legends about the island, former treasure hunters, and other people who are currently searching for the treasure.
The cast also included Dan Blankenship and his son Dave, who are credited with digging the deepest hole on the island (235ft – 72m). Dan had spent over 50 years searching for the treasure, and is one of the first people from the show to die on the island, but he passed away aged 95 in 2019, during the shooting of the series’ seventh season. His son Dave is one of only three permanent residents of the island – one side of his body has been paralyzed since an industrial accident.
Some of the other cast members include the Marty Lagina’s business partner Craig Tester, his step-son Jack Begley, Marty’s son Alex Lagina, and the treasure hunter Dan Henskee. who has been searching for the treasure for decades.
Dan Blankenship’s death
It’s said that a total of 14 people have died on the island since 1795, and that at least seven of these were treasure hunters. This is why even more people are searching for the supposed Captain Kidd’s treasure nowadays, believing that the curse of seven deaths has been lifted, and that the treasure could be found anytime soon.
Dan Blankenship was amongst the first treasure hunters and cast members of “The Curse of Oak Island” who died. He was rarely seen close to digging spots, as he was not much of a physical worker, but was the brain behind the operation; his crew often searched for him around the island when they were in need of direction.
Dan was also the oldest man on the show, and had been starring since its premiere. Following his death, the show’s cast held a memorial in his honor at Borehole 10-X, the location at which Dan had found various valuable artifacts.
He was working as a contractor in Florida when he first heard about the treasure, and was so intrigued by it that he decided to come and search for it himself. He is survived by his son Dave, and daughter Linda Flowers.
The death of the professional Nova Scotia surveyor Fred Nolan
Fred Nolan was a passionate treasure hunter who might not be that familiar to the public, because he had spent minimal time in front of the camera. He was 89 when he passed away peacefully of old age on 4 June 2016, survived by his wife Ora and their son Thomas, two granddaughters, Fred’s brother Frank, nephew and three nieces.
According to various articles and documents about Fred’s life, he was one of the first of Nova Scotia’s professional surveyors.
He was fascinated with history, especially that of Oak Island, and was into learning all that he could about the myths surrounding the island. He began studying Spanish maps at an early age, and had spent decades walking and investigating the island, both alone and with other treasure hunters.
Even though Fred was given little time in front of the camera, mostly because he wanted it that way, he was still a highly respected treasure hunter, as he was the main consultant behind the scenes.
The death of Drake Tester
Similar to Fred Nolan, Drake appeared on the show only a couple of times, but was often there to help his father Craig Tester and his treasure hunting crew. He was mostly seen in the third season of the show, talking with his father and discussing the possibilities of other dig locations.
Drake occasionally appeared in “The Curse of Oak Island” alongside his paternal half-brother Jack Begley, who is still today an important part of the show, as he’s a prospector who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, and doing physical work together with Craig Tester’s team.
Drake’s death remains the most tragic amongst all which have occurred during the shooting of the show, because he was only 16 when he passed away. His death was covered by the show “9 & 10 News”, which revealed that he’d been suffering from a seizure disorder since he was a baby. He passed away in the spring of 2017, and his peers from Traverse City Central High held a memorial in his honor, talking about his smile and energy which they had all admired, and about his beat-boxing skills and other unique talents. Drake’s death was also revealed during the premiere of the Oak Island show’s fifth season.
The death of Chris Donah
Chris Donah’s death is also the most recent, as he passed away on 14 September 2021, only a couple of days after having turned 55. He was a teacher at A. A. Kingston Middle School in Potsdam, New York State, but was also a treasure hunter fascinated by Oak Island. Chris appeared in the episode “Seismic Matters” of the sixth season of “The Curse of Oak Island” in 2019, helping Rick Lagina’s treasure hunting team. Chris had previously spoken about the importance of astronomy in locating the treasure, and although he had been filmed for a previous episode, that one never made it to the screen.
The cause of Chris’ death remains unknown, but many fans of the show believe that it was a heart attack. Cast members honored him in an episode, and netizens (citizens of the internet) have stated that it was sweet that Chris was honored that way.
Chris’ main interests were astronomy, early Freemasons to the Oak Island, and the Knights Templar.
Some of the most significant discoveries on Oak Island
The most significant discovery on Oak Island is perhaps still The Money Pit, which was found in 1795 by then 16 years old Daniel McGuiness when he went fishing there.
The following important discovery came more than 200 years later, when Rick and Marty Lagina found a jeweled brooch, and this was followed by their finding of a granite stone, 90ft (27m) down The Money Pit; no one has been able to authoritatively decipher the code written on it, but one attempt at translation reads ‘Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried’.
Coconut fibre has been found 60ft (18m) below the surface, which is strange because the nearest coconut trees are more than 1,500 miles (2,400km) away; it’s believed that these fibres were used to craft ropes.
Rick and Marty Lagina have also found two iron objects in Lot 21, and it’s been reported that these were swages, blacksmith tools crafted back in the 14th century. The Laginas then found two bone fragments, which were identified as human – one of Middle Eastern ancestry, and the other European. They also found a Templar Coin near The Money Pit, while a Templar Cross was discovered close to Smith’s Cove.
So the reality or more likely myth about Oak Island continues; unlikely as it may seem, after hundreds of years of searching on a small island, there are still those with enough belief to carry on the search – well, maybe it does make for intriguing television.