HALIFAX -- After 38 years of searching, an Oak Island treasure hunter believes he's solved the mystery of the famous Nova Scotia island. Dan Blankenship says 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."
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 has 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 hasn't recovered a dime's worth of treasure, but the robust 80-year-old said with the new information he has 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 such as 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 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.
Blankenship now dismisses the money pit as "an elaborate decoy" and suggests the bulk of the treasure is located in a series of tunnels running deep beneath one end of the island.
He has long suspected there were tunnels deep beneath the island, but had no proof until he came across evidence of three, metre-wide holes he claims once served as air shafts for the tunnels.
He located the shafts 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, N.S., the rocks form the shape of a giant cross that Blankenship believes is 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 the island was the repository for the Shakespearean works of Francis Bacon, but he believes his subsequent find points to Spanish treasure.
The veteran treasure hunter's problem is he doesn't have a treasure trove licence giving him permission to pursue his effort.
All exploration requires a licence from 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-10th of the find or the equivalent monetary value.
Four people, including Blankenship, have applied to the government for the five-year permits.