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Treasure Island

I’m sure many of you are fans of the Discovery Channel, History Channel and the various other science/history/exploration channels available through most cable television packages. For years, my family would be glued to the screen each Tuesday night watching Sig, Johnathan, Andy, Phil, and Keith battle the Bering Sea in search of crab on The Deadliest Catch. I have seen numerous episodes of many other reality staples – Swamp People, American Pickers, MythBusters, to name just a few. The latest show that has caught my attention is The Curse of Oak Island.

What’s typical of this type of reality show is you never get as much information as you want, there’s a commercial every two minutes, and everything is rehashed to make up a one-hour time slot. How it differs for me, though, is that I’ve been there.

In 1994, my family went on a road trip to Nova Scotia. My dad drove us up to Portland, Maine, where we boarded an overnight ferry to the island. My biggest memories from the ferry ride were 1) seeing seals and 2) being seasick. After about forever, we landed on Nova Scotia and drove off. Our first stop on our way to Halifax was Oak Island. My dad had heard of the legend of the treasure and we took a tour.

Many searchers over many years have tried to find the treasure of Oak Island. One area is referred to as the “money pit” – it is here that much of the digging has taken place. When looking for the treasure, levels of timber have been found and a stone inscribed with symbols (now missing). In my opinion, what is most convincing about something being buried there are drains that were created to flood the shaft after a certain depth had been reached. Even if it’s not treasure, I would like to know their purpose. The “curse” of Oak Island states that seven must die before the treasure is found. The memorial stone on the island shows six names of those who have perished in the hunt.

Oak Island is reached by driving over a narrow causeway. We and a few other tourists met up with the tour guide, who told us the history of the search for the treasure and showed us a few places on the island where digging had occurred. It all ended in the Oak Island museum/gift shop. I bought a parchment map. My photos don’t look like much – it was the idea of a real treasure and real treasure hunters that made the place magical. Fast forward to 2014 – the History Channel premieres The Curse of Oak Island. Rick and Marty Lagina and their partners have brought a good deal of perseverance - and heavy equipment - to look for the treasure. Amazingly, they have found various items that point to something having happened on the island, treasure-related or not.

Rick Lagina became fascinated by Oak Island in 1965 when he was eleven years old. During his weekly visit to the library, he read an article in the Reader’s Digest entitled “Treasure Hunt: The Mystery of Oak Island” and was obsessed from that point on.

Touring Oak Island isn’t as easy today as it was when I went – 2020’s tours were already sold out in March! – but you can enjoy your own treasure hunt through reading (and watching):

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson – While going through the possessions of a deceased guest who owed them money, the mistress of the inn and her son find a treasure map that leads to a pirate fortune as well as great danger. (Also available through hoopla and eLibraryNJ)

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson – “Pirate Hunters' is a gripping account of two courageous divers' quest to uncover the shipwrecked vessel of Joseph Bannister, one of history's most infamous pirates"– Provided by publisher.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – A different type of treasure hunt. At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut-- part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

Detectorists – series 1-3 (DVD) – The charming comedy-drama from BBC Four tells the story of Andy and Lance, members of the Danebury Metal Detectors Club. As Andy pursues a degree in archaeology and Lance considers being a musician, they spend their days searching through fields with their metal detectors, dreaming of finding a fortune.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (DVD) – The dying words of a thief spark a madcap cross-country rush to find buried treasure. The most grandly harebrained movie ever made, a pileup of slapstick and borscht-belt-y one-liners performed by an all-star cast.

Many novels by Clive Cussler deal with finding treasure, often related to history. (Also available through eLibraryNJ with The Sea Hunters reality television series on hoopla).

These are just a fraction of the treasure-related fiction and nonfiction books, movies and documentaries you can find at the Mercer County Library System. For help digging up your personal version of treasure, ask a librarian at your local branch or try our NoveList Plus database for books. Just search with the keywords “treasure hunters” or “treasure hunting” to get a list of titles that you can then use to focus your search even more.

-- by Andrea, Hopewell Branch

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