Even if they really found it, what's it worth? Week of November 3, 2011

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By Bill Horner

  Even if they found it, what’s it really worth?


“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).

A good mystery intrigues me, especially if it’s true. Throw in a treasure, a cast of characters, and a number of good theories, and you have a fascinating mix. The Oak Island Money Pit contains all of the above.

I first read about the odd discovery at Oak Island, Nova Scotia, in Reader’s Digest decades ago. It all began in 1795 when a young man named Daniel McGinnis spied an unusual-looking depression in the ground below an overhanging limb, scarred by a block and tackle.  Assuming pirates had buried a treasure, McGinnis and two friends eagerly dug to retrieve it. At five feet they discovered a layer of flagstones. Excitedly they removed them, only to find a platform of oak logs underneath. Thirty feet and two more platforms later, they gave up their search.

After nine years they returned, with a large labor force and heavy financial backing. As they dug further, they came upon more layers of oak logs, as well as coconut fiber and putty. At a depth of 84 feet, they found a stone with an inscription, later translated, “Forty feet below two million pounds are buried.” Ceasing their labors for the day, they anticipated finding their treasure sometime the next day.

However, the following morning brought a rude surprise. The shaft was now filled with water almost to the top. And no amount of pumping would lower the level. Red dye injected into the water eventually showed up on a nearby beach. They determined that the clever treasure hiders had constructed one or more side tunnels to the ocean as a booby trap. Eventually they gave up the search in discouragement.

In the intervening years speculation on just what’s in the pit has run rampant. Some think pirate treasure, Spanish naval treasure, or even Marie Antoinette’s jewels. Others suggest the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail.

Several groups have endeavored in vain to retrieve the treasure. And although there have been claims of everything from a scrap of parchment to pieces of gold recovered from deep in the pit, no substantiated proof of any real treasure has ever appeared. The cost, however, has been great. Six men have died trying to reach the gold, and millions of dollars have been poured down what is now called the Money Pit. 

The grandest irony of all is a quite plausible theory, embraced by investigators from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and others as well. They believe the pit is really just a sinkhole, that the tunnels are in reality naturally-formed caves, and that there never was any treasure.

Many treasure hunters have dreamed of finding the gold in this pit and striking it rich.  But for all their efforts they have nothing to show but wasted money and lives and a big muddy hole in a small island.

Contrast them with the stranger who approached Marcia and me the morning after we were married in 1975. He was a Christian from Alabama who spotted our “Just Married” car at the motel near Nashville and offered us a post card with Scriptures written on the back. One Scripture was from Romans 10 and deals directly with salvation. The other was from Matthew 6 and reminds the believer that not only will the Lord take care of His own but that the only lasting treasure is that which is deposited in the “Bank of Heaven.” Many times in our marriage we have taken comfort in those verses.

I don’t even remember the gentleman’s name, but whether I see him again in this life or the next, I plan to thank him for sharing his faith with two impressionable newlyweds. This man has treasure awaiting him in heaven. And I doubt he has ever even seen Oak Island.

“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.   For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20).