TEXT 2: THE MYSTERY OF OAK ISLAND
by Dale Titler
Every buried treasure has a strange history, and the Oak Island treasure is one of the most mysterious. Tiny Oak Island lies just beyond Nova Scotia’s coast. Oak Island is one of the 365 islands in Mahone Bay.
The secret of Oak Island has cost seven lives and wasted over six million dollars. Every search for the treasure for the past 182 years has failed. Even today, no one knows just what is buried there: pirate gold, the French crown jewels, Viking supplies, or the remains of a lost civilization. Many people agree that it is the most perfectly buried treasure in the world.
The place of the treasure was first discovered in 1795, when three teen-age boys beached their canoe on Oak Island. On a hill near the shore, they found a giant oak tree with a sawed-off sticking out from its trunk. The limb had been dead for a long time. But it still showed signs of deep cuts – perhaps from a heavy rope. Under the sawed-off limb, the boys discovered a round hollow in the ground. It looked as if the earth had settled after something had been buried there. These clues could mean only one thing: Something heavy had been lowered into the ground with a rope wrapped around the limb. Was it a pirate chest?
The next day, the boys returned to the island with shovels and picks. Ten feet down, they hit something hard. It was a platform of rough oak boards, six inches thick. Did it protect the treasure? They removed the boards and dug on, day after day. At twenty feet and at thirty feet, they found the wooden boards again.
The boys were very tired from their long hard work, and an early winter sent them back home to Nova Scotia. When they asked old-timers about Oak Island, they were told a story of bad luck. Fifty years ago, ships had landed there, and strange noises had sounded across Mahone Bay. One night, two men who were out fishing rowed close enough to the island to see people outlined by the light of roaring bonfires. The men went ashore to find out what was happening and were never seen again.
This tale fired the boys’ hopes of recovering the treasure, but they could find no one to help them. Years later, one of them interested a local doctor, John Lynds, in the undertaking. As the Oak Island Treasure Company, they raised money, hired a small crew, and brought tools to the island. In 1803, the crew began digging.
Every ten feet, oak boards delayed the digging. The crew also found layers of coconut matting, charcoal, and ship’s putty. At ninety feet, they uncovered a new puzzle. They found a flat stone, a yard long and sixteen inches wide, covered with strange markings. No one at that time could understand the markings, and the stone passed from hand to hand. Over one hundred years later, a teacher of languages was able to break the code. The markings on the stone said, “Beneath this stone, two million pounds are buried.” In 1928, the stone was used as a doorstop in a Halifax office. But since that time, no one has seen it.
Lynds’s crew, excited by the discovery, dug deeper. At ninety-seven feet below the surface, a worker pushed a metal rod three feet into the wet ground and struck wood. Lynds was sure that this was the last set of oak boards before the treasure. Also, it was getting dark. So he ordered the work stopped until the next workday. But when the crew returned to work, they found that water had filled the hole! They pumped out the water for weeks, but an underground stream filled the pit as fast as they emptied it. Winter came and all work stopped.
The next summer, Lynds’s crew dug a new hole to the north of the flooded “treasure pit.” At one hundred ten feet into the second hole, three workers began to tunnel across toward the treasure. They hoped to reach the treasure and be below the water line. As their shovels broke through the last few feet of dirt, tons of water burst suddenly into the new hole. The workers escaped, and the water rose to sixty feet. Lynds’s crew had to give up the search.
About forty years later, still remembering his near success, Lynds tried again. His crew used a crude horsepower pod drill and hit a wooden container at one hundred feet. When they raised the drill, they found three pieces of gold chain in its pod, or bit. A shout went up. They had hit the treasure!
When the crew looked closely at the gold pieces and wood shavings, they felt sure that the treasure was stored in oak chests or barrels. Only seventy-five feet of water separated them from the treasure now!
Because the flood water was salty, the workers believed that the pits were connected to the ocean. They searched the northern cove, which was about five hundred feet away. There they found five well-hidden intakes that let the Atlantic Ocean flow into the pits. Now the crew was certain a wonderful treasure was buried. Why else would anyone go to so much trouble to protect it?
Lynds’s workers built a dam to hold the ocean back. But the strong tide forced it apart. Then they dug a hole over one hundred feet deep on the south side of the treasure pit. But as the workers tunneled toward the treasure, water again burst through. Lynds and his crew gave up again.
A few years later, a third company tried to recover the treasure by blocking the tunnels that flooded the treasure pit, but that company failed also. Over the next ten years, two more companies lost over seventy thousand dollars trying to reach the treasure.
In 1893, Frederic Blair, a Nova Scotia merchant, formed a new Oak Island Treasure Company. Blair’s workers reopened the first hole and widened it. A steam drill reached deep into the hole and found a “room” seven feet deep and five feet square. The samples of material that the drill brought up were looked at closely. Blair’s crew learned that the material was an early kind of hand-mixed cement.
They continued to drill and discovered such unusual things as a tiny ball of parchment with w and i written in black ink and a tiny, carved-bone bosun’s whistle, shaped like a violin.
But the water coming from the intakes at the northern cove still kept the workers from the big treasure. They tried to stop the water from coming into the treasure pit. Blair’s crew drilled fifty holes near the edge of the water. Then they made the holes larger with dynamite. The crew hoped that the holes would fill with water but that the treasure pit would dry out. But all the holes filled with water, and the stream of water began, Blair poured red dye into the treasure pit. When no dye appeared at the northern cove, the workers were puzzled. But on the south side of the island, at Smith’s Cove, the red dye stained the beach. There was not one tunnel guarding the treasure – there were two!
The work went on for four more years. New pits were dug, one as deep as one hundred sixty feet. When Blair’s company folded in 1897, he was still sure that he could reach the treasure. He bought out his partners, raised more money, and kept digging – all for nothing. Finally, in 1903, he gave up.
In 1909, young Franklin Roosevelt, who was to become the President of the United States, and three friends raised five thousand dollars to dig on Oak Island. They believed the pit contained the crown jewels of France. But when winter came, they, too, went home defeated.
Fifteen years later, Gilbert Heddon, from New Jersey, decided to recover the treasure. He bought land on the island and hired a mining and drilling company. His crew laid underwater electric cables from the mainland for their lighting and high-speed pumps. They cleared out the treasure pit to one hundred fifty-five feet, but after five years, they had to give up.
World War II put a stop to treasure hunts, but when it was over, new treasure seekers arrived at Oak Island every summer. Since the first pit was begun 182 years ago, over six million dollars have been poured into more than fifty water-filled holes on the island. More than twenty well-planned hunts for the treasure have failed.
Who thought of this grand puzzle? No one really knows. The people who buried the treasure, hidden so perfectly that present-day tools can’t uncover it, still hold the secret.
I. Using Context to Get Word Meaning
In each of the following sentences, a word is underlined. Below the sentence, there are three words or groups of words. Read each sentence. Choose the letter of the word or word group that has the same meaning as the underlined word.
1. The mysterious light was seen again last night in the empty house.
a. easy to explain b. flashing c. hard to explain
2. We can learn things about a civilization by studying its tools.
a. society b. movie c. business
3. Building the space ship was an exciting undertaking.
a. thought b. project c. sight
4. The hikers built a crude shelter for protection from the storm.
a. waterproof b. roughly made c. well-designed
5. Air was drawn into the engine through several intakes.
a. dams b. openings c. streams
II. Recognizing Main Ideas and Supporting Details
Quickly reread the sections of the article “The Mystery of Oak Island” as listed below. After reading each section, read the sentences that are given. One of the sentences states the main idea of that part of the article. The other sentences give supporting details. Write M.I. in if it is the main idea and S.D. if it is a supporting detail.
1. Millions of dollars and many lives have been lost on mysterious Oak Island.
2. Something mysterious has been hidden on Oak Island so perfectly that every search for it has failed.
3. Searches for the treasure have gone on for over 182 years.
4. Even today, nobody knows what is buried on Oak Island.
5. The limb of dead tree showed marks that might have been made by a heavy rope.
6. Three teen-age boys went to Oak Island in 1795.
7. Under the sawed-off limb, the ground had settled into a round hollow.
8. In 1795, a place was discovered on Oak Island where treasure might have been buried.
9. Dr. Lynds’s crew dug two holes to try to reach the treasure, but both were flooded with water.
10. When the crew returned to work on the first pit, they found it had filled with water during the night.
11. When the workers dug toward the treasure from the second pit, water burst through and rose to sixty feet.
III. Applying Reading Skills
Choose the ending that completes each sentence correctly according to the article “The Mystery of Oak Island.”.
1. The treasure on Oak Island was probably buried
a. around 1745.
b. after 1795.
- before 1700.
2. From the fact that coconut matting was found on the hole, you can infer that the people who buried the treasure had been
a. in the Arctic; b) in the West; c) in the tropic.
3. According to markings on an old stone found in the hole,
a. chests of pirate gold and silver were buried there.
b. precious jewels were the treasure.
- two million pounds were buried in the hole.
4. Digging crews were never able to reach the treasure because
a. the sides of the pit kept caving in.
b. drills could not go deep enough.
- water kept flooding the treasure pit.
5. The people who buried the treasure protected it by
a. building intakes that let the ocean water into the pits.
b. burying it in several different places on the island.
- leaving false clues to the location of the treasure.
6. Because of the way the treasure was protected, people concluded
a. that it must be very dangerous.
b. that something unusual must be there.
- that it was extremely valuable.
7. Another title that expresses the main idea of this article is
a. “Every buried Treasure Has a Strange History.”
b. “The World’s Most Perfectly Hidden Treasure Is on Oak Island.”
- “Oak Island Is a Good Place to Search for Buried Treasure.”
Give your reasoning.