Corner Post
Quarterly Newsletter of the Saskatchewan
Land Surveyors

The Mystery of Oak Island

Wayne W. W. Stockton

SLS, P. Surv., CLS

For the past couple of years I have been watching a reality TV show on the History network titled “The Curse of Oak Island”. As most of you may know Oak Island is an island off the coast of Nova Scotia where it is believed that persons unknown buried a considerable amount of treasure sometime in the 18th century or earlier. The location of the “Money Pit”, as it has been termed, was first discovered in 1795 by 3 young boys who found a curious depression in the ground and they set out to dig to find out what was below. At each 10 foot depth they found platforms made of aged oak logs. After 30 feet digging became too difficult so the boys gave up. Since that time there have been numerous treasure hunters who have attempted to carry on the search but each attempt has ended in failure. At 90 feet treasure hunters found a stone tablet with strange symbols carved in it. When digging below that point however, the shaft flooded with water from apparently constructed flood tunnels. This has baffled treasure hunters to this day. I first got interested in Oak Island after reading an article about it in the Reader’s Digest in January, 1965 and have had an ongoing interest ever since. If anyone is interested the Reader’s Digest article is on line and can be found with a Google search.


One of the land owners on Oak Island and a treasure hunter himself, was a Nova Scotia Land Surveyor by the name of Fred Nolan. Fred Nolan’s next door neighbor was another treasure hunter by the name of Dan Blankenship. Mr. Nolan and Mr. Blankenship engaged in something of a feud over a number of years. As a Land Surveyor, Mr. Nolan did something that really took me by surprise. The following is an article reprinted from the Halifax Chronicle Herald, dated February 18, 2006.


“A Bedford Land Surveyor who deliberately mispositioned survey markers to protect evidence he believed could help to solve the mystery of Oak Island has been found guilty of professional misconduct by the provincial surveyors association and suspended for three months.


Fred Nolan was also ordered to pay $2,000 for the cost of the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors disciplinary hearing and $1,200 for a failed bid before the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to get the decision set aside. In a written decision released Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the Appeal Court upheld the findings of the survey committee which found Mr. Nolan had knowingly altered a property boundary line by over 10 meters during a 2001 survey on the famed Mahone Bay island.


For more than 200 years treasure hunters have been drilling and digging on the 10 hectare island in an attempt to find treasure reputed to be buried there. The search has attracted the attention of engineers, psychics and amateur archaeologists like former American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is listed in many places as one of the top 10 unsolved mysteries on the planet. Mr. Nolan has been looking for treasure on the island since the early 1960’s. In 1987, he went to court with a treasure-hunting company headed by Montreal businessman David Tobias and won ownership of six island lots.


Mr. Nolan has kept most of his efforts secret but has had on-again, off-again friendship with Dan Blankenship, a fellow treasure hunter, who served as the field manager for the treasure-hunting company. The pair were on the outs in the summer of 2001 when Mr. Nolan carried out a survey on the line between Mr. Blankenship’s property and his own. 


In testimony before the disciplinary hearing Mr. Nolan said he altered the position of the line to protect evidence of ancient markers he believed Mr. Blankenship might destroy. He said Oak Island was built on secrecy and when he placed survey markers on his property “it was like a game.” At the time he was not acting as a professional surveyor but as a land owner, he said. The committee found Mr. Nolan guilty of professional misconduct because he used his position to disadvantage a neighbor, failed to avoid the appearance of professional impropriety and failed to exercise unbiased independent professional judgement. When contacted Wednesday, Mr. Nolan said he did what he thought was correct but others didn’t see it that way so he is prepared to live with the consequences.”


Just a few years ago a new treasure hunting group was formed by the Lagina brothers of Michigan and included Dave Blankenship, Dan Blankenship’s son, as a partner. The new group were able to convince Fred Nolan to join them and he went on to share his maps and other findings. Unfortunately, Fred Nolan passed away on June 4, 2016 without ever realizing any return from his 50 year quest. He was just one month short of his 89th birthday. The Lagina brothers, Rick and Marty, acquired their interest in Oak Island after reading that same Reader’s Digest article when they were just kids. The reality TV show will carry on and you wonder what the final outcome will be.