By Sabrina Doyle, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal
SAINT JOHN, N.B. — In a renewed bid to uncover the elusive treasure believed by many to be buried deep within Oak Island off Nova Scotia's South Shore, a group of treasure hunters have used electrical currents in a bid to detect secret underground tunnels.
For the past six years, Rick Lagina and four others — including Dan Blankenship, whose lifetime dedication to the island is almost as legendary as the place itself — have been searching for the hidden treasure.
This summer, they put their hopes in technology.
On a hot, cloudless day in early July, in the middle of the island, they placed a device that miners, archeologists and environmentalists often use to map underground structures.
Powered by a car battery, the square, greyish-green box zapped 800-volt bursts of energy through attached cords to various points on the island, to depths sometimes the length of a football field.
The method, called electrical resistivity, pulsed electric currents through the earth and recorded how much each area repelled the charge.
Lagina said he hoped to pinpoint spots that were particularly resistant or unexpectedly conductive compared to their surroundings — anything out of the ordinary.
Lagina has been dreaming about the fabled Nova Scotia island ever since he was an 11-year-old living in Michigan. He read a magazine article about the 200-year-old search for the money pit some believe was buried on Oak Island by pirates.
Now 59 years old, Lagina is still dreaming.
After two weeks of gathering data, the team sent the numbers to a geological analyst in Montreal. Lagina said he got the results back three weeks ago.
When asked if there was anything interesting, he paused.
"There are interesting anomalies, yes," he said. He later added, "There are more than several sites that we are very excited about."
But the island has a well-documented history of thwarting discovery efforts, Lagina said.
While they were cutting through the brush to make way for their line grid, everything that could go wrong did, he said. The truck's engine blew, tools went missing, and the resistivity device itself stopped working more than once.
When they phoned the manufacturer in France, the woman on the line said, "'Can't happen, never happened, not in the history of the instrument. The unit is incapable of shutting down.'
"Five times it shut down," Lagina said.
Legend has it that the Oak Island treasure will not be found until seven humans have died trying to find it and all the oak trees on the island are gone. So far, the island's native umbrella oaks have all wilted away, and the treasure hunt has claimed six lives — none of them from Lagina's crew.
Ever since a teenage Daniel McGinnis came across a curious depression in the ground in 1795, there have been many excavations of the Money Pit — all of which have been fruitless except for the discovery of various booby traps and suggestive bits of metal.
Theories abound as to what might be hidden there, from pirate booty to knights Templar treasure to Shakespeare's manuscripts.
But Lagina said that for him, it's more about filling in the blanks of the story and solving the mystery.
"What really happened on Oak Island?"
For the rest of the summer, Lagina said he and the others will assess which anomalies show the most promise and warrant further investigation with drilling. They have to be selective because wherever they drill needs to be worth the cash, he said.
They've already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, exploring Oak Island (Lagina's brother Marty — who's also in on the search — did well in the oil and gas industry).
They must do the drilling soon, though; their government-granted treasure trove licence expires in December.
"I wish I had an X-marks-the-spot, but alas, I have no 'X.'"
While Lagina acknowledged they might not find anything, he said they're excited about their chances.
"I believe that it will be a fairly rich, to use the word, story of what happened there."
However, not everyone is so sure.
Alex Storm got into the Nova Scotian treasure hunting business in the 1960s and has had substantial success, finding famous wrecks, such as the French treasure ship Le Chameau. He said he bases all his searching on documentation and verifiable data — something he said Oak Island lacks.
"I don't think it will work out to anything. It's just people keeping busy and trying to keep a dream alive."
Courtesy The Gazette