Next morning the hole had 65 feet of water in it. For the rest of that summer they tried to bail and pump it out, but it flowed in faster than they could remove it. The water was salty and obviously came through some tunnel which had been dug at the time the original hole had been sunk. The party returned next summer with heavy pumping equipment and a new strategy. Digging another hole alongside the old one, they then branched across to drain off the water. Both holes filled. Three men were drowned. The partners gave up.
Almost half a century went by. Dr. Lynds and Vaughan came back to try once more. They brought with them some mine-drilling equipment, rigged a platform over the hole and sent an auger down through the water into the solid earth and planks below. It came up with three gold links wound around it.
Other drillings indicated that beneath that last big oaken wall lay a number of chests full of loose metal, undoubtedly gold and silver. But the problem remained: how to get down through those 65 feet of water.
They investigated and found the tunnel. It went from the treasure hole to a cove 500 feet away, where it branched out into half a dozen openings. So they sank a shaft 120 feet deep to divert the water pouring through the tunnel. No luck; there was plenty of water for the diverting hole, the treasure hole and the tunnel. Old, weary, now broke, Dr. Lynds and Vaughan quit for the last time.
A third try was made by another group in 1863. Heavy-duty pumps did lower the water to 100 feet, but the long-soaked sides of the hole began to cave in down at that level, and the project had to be abandoned again.
Other attacks on this treasure were made—in 1865, in 1874, in 1893. The diggings and drillings unearthed further evidence that treasure was buried there: deposits on augers that showed there was a subterranean room encased in wood and cement. Then, in 1934, came the most ambitious try of all.
Gilbert Hedden, a retired steel manufacturer from Newark, N.J., bought the section of the island and hired a mining and drilling firm to go after the treasure. Electric cables were strung out to the island. A number of pits were dug, one as deep as 150 feet, in an attempt to channel off the flow of water into the treasure hole. All failed. After five summers of trying with the most modern equipment, the mining firm gave up.
At least half a dozen digging parties have tried since. None has succeeded. At this writing another big expedition is at work on Oak Island. If its members manage to raise the treasure, they will succeed where 22 predecessor expeditions have failed. The island is shot through with tunnels and shafts dug in attempts to hold back the tide of water sweeping into the treasure hole. Almost $2 million has so far been spent in vain. How so perfect an engineering feat was performed three centuries ago is difficult to understand. No doubt the sea level has risen just enough in 300 years so that the treasure is infinitely more difficult to dig up than it was to bury. In any case, whoever put it there has so far defied the best attempts of modern engineers.
What lies below this water in this perfectly protected subterranean vault? The planks, the marks of block and tackle, the bits of evidence so far unearthed and the complicated tunnels bear all the earmarks of pirates. What it is no one will know until it is finally dug up. The best indication so far is the tablet which the original partners uncovered in 1802. No one could decipher it then. But in the year 1928 the Rev. A. T. Kempton, of Cambridge, Mass., an expert at such hieroglyphics, translated the markings. They mean, says the Rev. Kempton: "Forty feet below, �2 million are buried."