One of the most common questions asked about the Oak Island treasure hunt today is 'why isn't anything happening?!'
To hunt for treasure in Nova Scotia, one must hold a valid Treasure Trove License (TTL) issued by the Nova Scotian government. Oak Island Tours Inc (comprising Dan Blankenship and the Michigan investors) held a TTL for the initial year of their explorations but this is pending renewal after it expired in June 2008.
The following update is offered with thanks to D'Arcy O'Connor who has doggedly kept us up to date with the bureaucracy surrounding the TTL renewal.
In 2008, the Department of Natural Resources had received renewal applications for Lot 5 and Plum Island for Robert Young; Lots 9 through 14 for Fred Nolan; and Lots 1 to 4, 6 to 8, 15 to 22, 24, and 26 to 32, plus "surrounding waters" for Oak Island Tours (Dan and the Michigan group). These applications are to replace the five-year TTLs that expired June 30th 2008.
A change in the regulations now means that before the TTL applications can be processed, they must first have in hand a letter from the NS Museum (of Natural History) either waiving the need for a Heritage Research Permit (which was the norm over the past 25 or 30 years), or else the applicants must first have "an archaeological reconnaissance done on their property" and submit the results with their application.
Until this is approved, the applicants can conduct top line explorations including historical research, surface surveys and mapping, feasibility studies, and lining up prospective drilling and excavation contractors. But technically they cannot drill down an inch or scoop a shovelful of earth on the lots in question without the requisite TTL's in hand.
The TTL's will be issued for a period of 5 years, although they will be back-dated to July 1st 2008. So in reality, once the entire process is completed, the applicants will have lost three or four months of their licensed time.
"In the future (i.e. after July 1, 2013) the Oak Island TTLs will most likely be limited to a two-year term (as they currently are for searching for and diving on NS offshore wrecks). Another problem I'm told of is that right now it is rather hard to find qualified archaeologists that are approved by the NS Museum for the preliminary "archaeological reconnaissance", since most such archaeologists are back to teaching at their respective universities.
"My guess is that we won't be seeing any major excavation work on any of the three applicants' properties until late this year, if even by then. All of this is obviously most frustrating for OI Tours, Fred Nolan, and Robert Young. But, as has been pointed out, we won't ever again be seeing some of the horrific helter-skelter amateur work that has ravaged the island in the past. As one Nova Scotia archaeologist said to me today, "Had such restrictions existed 200 years ago, Oak Island's mystery would have long ago been solved, either with or without a recovered treasure."
The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and Petroleum Titles (which vets TTL applications) has received the official letter (dated January 6th) from Robert Ogilvy of the Nova Scotia Museum, saying they are satisfied with the archeologist's report regarding the Oak Island Tours Inc. application for a Heritage Research Permit, and that such permit has thus been granted.
All that remains is for the Natural Resources department to submit the TTL application to the NS Cabinet for their consideration, a process which, D'Arcy tells us, normally takes about six weeks.
It looks hopeful that Oak Island Tours Inc will be able to start drilling and/or digging as early as this March or April 2009.
So, I hope that adds some context for all those people so keen to know exactly what is happening with the dig on Oak Island. Looking ahead to the spring of 2009, we can hope that Oak Island Tours Inc have their shovels ready!