Just off the rugged southeast shore of Nova Scotia lies a tiny island fashioned somewhat like a question mark. The shape is appropriate, for little Oak Island is the scene of a baffling whodunit that has defied solution for over two centuries. Here, ever since 1795-not long after pirates prowled the Atlantic coast and left glittering legends of buried gold in their wake-people have been trying to find out what lies at the bottom of a mysterious shaft dubbed, hopefully, the “Money Pit.”
Using picks and shovels, divining rods and drilling rigs, treasure hunters poured about $1.5 million into the Money Pit. Despite more than 20 attempts, no one has yet reached bottom: each time a digging crew has seemed close to success, torrents of water have suddenly surged into the shaft to drown their hopes. Although it’s now known that the Money Pit is protected by an ingenious system of man-made flood tunnels that use the sea as a watchdog, no one knows who dug the pit, or why.
One legend makes the pit the hiding place for the plunder of Captain Kidd, who was hanged for piracy in 1701. Other theories favour the booty of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan, both notorious buccaneers; or the French crown jewels that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were said to be carrying when they attempted to flee during the French Revolution; or Shakespeare’s missing manuscripts. Whatever the pit may contain, few other treasures have been sought so avidly.