|Treasure hunter solves Oak Island puzzle|
The Halifax Herald
After 38 years of searching, Oak Island's most famous treasure hunter believes he's solved the mystery of the famous Mahone Bay island.
In an exclusive interview with this newspaper, Dan Blankenship said he has uncovered evidence that proves the 32-hectare island is the repository for millions in silver and gold left behind by marauding Spaniards in the mid-16th century.
"I've never spoken publicly before because I didn't want to have put in this much work and end up being wrong," he said.
"But in the last six weeks, I've been able to confirm all my suspicions and I can say definitively who did it, how they did it and where they did it. But until I get down there, I can't say exactly what is there."
Mr. Blankenship was 42 when he gave up a Miami-based contracting business and brought his family to the province's South Shore, confident he could solve the mystery that had eluded searchers for more than 165 years.
For three decades, he's toiled in the mud, the snow and the heat of summer, drilling tunnels and trying to make connections between a series of unusually shaped rocks scattered about the rocky island.
In 1971 he was almost killed when a steel-reinforced shaft in which he was working buckled, nearly trapping him more than 45 metres below the surface.
He's never recovered a dime's worth of treasure, but the robust 80-year-old said that with the new information he's gathered, the riches could be brought to the surface within seven months.
The early story of Oak Island is well-known around the world. Three boys from the area were exploring the island in 1795 when they came across a depression in the ground near an oak tree.
They dug in the dirt in hopes of finding treasure but hit a wooden platform. They lifted it and continued to dig, only to find another platform a few metres deeper.
Subsequent efforts by everyone from locals to John Wayne and Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned up tantalizing items like bits of chain, parchment and coconut husks, but all were defeated by what seemed to be an intricate series of flood tunnels designed to protect whatever was at the bottom of the pit.
When Mr. Blankenship began as director of field work for the treasure-hunting syndicate headed by Montreal businessman David Tobias, he started his search at the famed money pit site, but his interest in other parts of the island grew as the years passed.
In the interview he dismissed the money pit on the eastern end of the island as "an elaborate decoy" and suggested the bulk of the treasure was located in a series of tunnels running deep beneath the western end of the island.
Mr. Blankenship has long suspected there were tunnels deep beneath the island, but he didn't have the proof until he came across evidence of three metre-wide holes that he says once served as air shafts for the tunnels.
He located the shaft based on measurements taken from the position of a series of oddly shaped multi-tonne stones. First discovered by rival treasure hunter Fred Nolan of Bedford, the rocks form the shape of a giant cross and Mr. Blankenship now believes they serve as a key to the mystery.
He was prompted to look for the shafts after the previously unreported discovery of stone icons by a small Norwegian exploration team that worked on the island in June. He believes the European team was hoping to confirm that the island was the repository for the Shakespearean works of Francis Bacon, but he believes his subsequent find points to the Spanish treasure.
Quoting from a book that details 1,500 years of mining experience in Spain, Mr. Blankenship hinted that many of the surface icons are markers that mirror something happening deep below the surface.
The veteran treasure hunter's problem is that he doesn't have a treasure trove licence giving him permission to pursue his effort.
All exploration requires a licence from the the province, and all licences for searches in the area expired in July, said Rick Ratcliffe, the province's registrar of mineral and petroleum titles. New requests have not been approved.
Under the Treasure Trove Act, the province is entitled to one-tenth of the find or the equivalent monetary value.
Four people have applications before government for the five-year permits.
They include Oak Island Exploration, the company headed by Mr. Tobias and of which Mr. Blankenship is a dissident member; Mr. Nolan, owner of five lots of the island; art gallery operator and Upper Kennetcook resident Robert Young, owner of a single lot; and Mahone Bay Exploration Inc., owned by Mr. Blankenship.
Mr. Blankenship's application is the only one that covers property he doesn't own.
In an effort to bolster his case for a new licence, Mr. Blankenship met with Natural Resources Minister Richard Hurlburt recently and laid out his findings.
"I turned 80 in May and won't get another chance," he said. "If they give Tobias a licence for property he's never been interested in, it will be a very sad day."
Mr. Ratcliffe said the department is still reviewing documentation accompanying the applications. When the review is complete it will be turned over to the minister who will then take the issue to cabinet.
If Mr. Blankenship is granted a licence, he said that he could use a rotary drill to confirm the presence of the tunnels and within seven months could recover the treasure.
If he is proven correct, he said Oak Island could become a tourism draw attracting 100,000 people or more a year.
Mr. Ratcliffe would not comment on decisions about the permits but said he expected it would be spring before the next exploration season would begin.
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