The Curse of Oak Island

The Curse of Oak Island

Carleen Dekarski Using archives

Archives and treasure?

It has to be many people’s dream to go on an adventurous trip to a far away land in search of secret treasure? No? Just me? Surely not.

The Curse of Oak Island follows the life long dream of Rick and Marty Lagina as they search to reveal the 220 year old Oak Island treasure mystery.

With the use of Archivists, Historians, Scientists and a whole lot of mechanical muscle the mystery of the island is slowly un-raveled then slips away again when more questions come from partial answers revealed.

In 1965 an article in the Readers Digest appeared on The Money Pit which is said to be located on Oak Island. Oak Island is a 140 acre privately owned island which is curiously shaped like an elephant. It is located in Mahone Bay of Novia Scotia, Canada.

It is believed that a hidden treasure is buried deep underground in, what is referred to as, the Money Pit. It is said that in 1795 some teenagers wandering over the island came across a circular depression in the ground and what looked like a pulley system above. Having been aware of past tales of pirate booty on the island the teenagers decided to investigate further. At intervals of uncovering the earth they came across flagstone pavers, then oak logs spanning a pit. They arrived at 30 feet where there were more logs but they could not progress further without some significant assistance. This was to happen 8 years later.

Joining them in the search was the Onslow Company. After getting back to the original depth the teenagers had uncovered 8 years earlier they managed to get down to 90 feet. It was here that a stone inscribed with strange symbols. It was later apparently translated to read “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried”. At The stone has long since disappeared. Later in the dig to glory a booby trap was sprung and all the hard work was lost.

Many others have come after to search, lives lost, mountains of money spent and yet not one hint of gold is yet to be found. Famous names can also be listed under those taken by the Oak Island dream (or curse?) including Franklin D Roosevelt in his younger days well before his Presidency. However, even during his Presidency he maintained an interest in any progress made.

Today the Oak Island search for treasure is continued by the Lagina brothers along with long time subject matter experts and explorers on the island, the Blankenship and Nolan families.

There are a number of theories as to the treasure thought to be hidden below. From Knights Templar involvement with The Ark of the Covenant, through to Spanish galleons with Aztec gold to French jewels belonging to Marie Antoinette.

So where does the curse come into it?

Legend tells that 7 must die who are involved in the pursuit of the treasure before the island will reveal its bounty. To date, 6 lives have been taken in the hunt.

Why is an Archivist interested in the hunt?

Who doesn’t love a great treasure story! And even if you don’t love treasure then surely one must love the hunt for evidence and the story that unfolds. The History Channel series takes us with the Lagina brothers into the FDR Archives, on a hunt with genealogical societies, charts and maps abound and evidence leads us from one mystery to the next. I can smell the aged paper now. Bliss.

For many people who do not know what an archive is and the value of the records contained in them I can only hope that this reality show will provide an avenue for more archival conversations. One of the key lines that Rick Lagina has mentioned again and again in the show is  – this is not just a treasure hunt it is an information hunt. Rick appears to be just as interested in the how, why and who as to the what and where. There are stories to be told in archives, you just need to find them.


FDR on Oak Island with fellow treasure hunters (Photo courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum)


Oak Island Money Pit levels diagram (Courtesy of Mysteries of Canada)

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About the Author

Carleen Dekarski

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I have worked in the quality management, information management and archival field over the last 15 years across Australia, England and New Zealand. The progression from information management to archives was a self taught journey and one that is not unfamiliar in many businesses and communities today. My daily expertise is grounded in local government archives however the principles of archiving apply to all. I am a member of the ICA and ARANZ.