The Oak Island Treasure Maps Explained

An Oak Island Geometry

Oak Island Treasure Maps

Figure 1: The Oak Island Treasure Maps


Oak Island, Nova Scotia, has been much in the news in recent years through the efforts of two brothers, Rick and Marty Lagina, who have been searching for a treasure presumed to have been buried there.

Contrary to a widely held belief, it can be demonstrated that a number of treasure maps reported on, or published by, the author Harold T. Wilkins pertain to Oak Island. While the items themselves may be copies of copies and the outlines of the islands concerned may be modern depictions, and very likely inaccurate, the instructions they contain can be shown to act in conjunction with the ground markers at the east of Oak Island to pinpoint seven locations in a regular ‘W’ pattern, as shown.
Oak Island Maps Plot

Figure 2: The Pattern of Map Points.
The Map Points

No maps are known for the locations labelled B and G, but the latter is very likely the site of the Cave-In Pit, an old excavation some eight feet wide and about 18 feet deep, the compacted surface of which collapsed under the weight of a plough team in 1878.
John S Rough Map

Figure 3: John S's Rough Map as Oak Island.
The Island

Harold T. Wilkins published a map of the island to which the instructions actually applied, but passed it off as the map of a presumed pirate by the name of ‘John S’, and asks, “Where is this pirate island?” It is clearly Oak island as this appears in The Atlantic Neptune, compiled by J.F.W. Des Barres, under the name of ‘Gloucester Isle’.

The two letters ‘X’ appear to be positioned to represent locations on Nolan’s Cross, a pattern of six large stones forming a cross 867 feet by 360 feet at the centre of the island. A composite of the six key published maps is shown below.
Composite Treasure Map

Figure 4: A Composite Treasure Map with the Instructions from the Five Maps.
A Composite Treasure Map

The instructions on the treasure maps came from a file, held by a group of dilettante treasure hunters, that surfaced in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Wilkins obtained sight of three of the maps plus the island outline through an associate who had been called in by the group as a consultant.

The individual maps in the order they apply to points on the extended rhombus now follow.
Treasure Map A

Figure 5: Treasure Map with Instructions for Map Point A.
Oak Island Treasure Map A

From the endpapers of Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island.

The text reads:

18 NE by 71 W on Rock
26 ENE by 18 SW Tree
7 feet by 7 feet by 8
Treasure Map C

Figure 6: Treasure Map with Instructions for Map Point C.
Oak Island Treasure Map C

From a 1940 edition of The American Weekly.

The text reads:

50 feet N by 8 feet W on Rock
20 feet NE on Tree
5 feet by 4 feet by 5
Treasure Map D

Figure 7: Treasure Map with Instructions for Map Point D.
Oak Island Treasure Map D

From Rupert Furneaux The Money Pit Mystery.

The text reads:

515 SE and by 50 N,
36 NE 36 NE. Rocks
3 feet by 3 feet by FOUR
Treasure Map E

Figure 8: Treasure Map with Instructions for Map Point E.
Oak Island Treasure Map E

From an inside page of Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island.

The text reads:

18 W and by 7 E on Rock
30 SW 14 N Tree.
7 x 8 x 4
Treasure Map F

Figure 9: Treasure Map with Instructions for Map Point F.
Oak Island Treasure Map F

From Rupert Furneaux The Money Pit Mystery.

The text reads:

360 yards V.R NORTH: 3 stumps: 55 feet.
From centre of triangle betwixt Rocks
20 feet E.

Lat: 9.16 N & Long + 31.36 E
Oak Island Ground Markers

Figure 10: Relative Positions of the Oak Island Ground Markers.
An Oak Island Geometry

The instructions are to be found on what many erroneously declare to be bogus maps. This appears not to be so, and it would be no mere chance that they work individually and in conjunction with each other.

The key to the working of the maps lies in the positions of the ground markers at the east of the island: the Money Pit (Tree), the Drilled Rocks, the Welling Triangle and the Mallon Triangle.
The Roper Survey

Figure 11: The Main Features of the Roper Survey.
The Roper Survey

A sound indication of the distances between the Drilled Rocks and the Welling Triangle is provided by the Roper Survey of 1937. In that year, the attention of Gilbert Hedden, who was excavating on the island, was drawn to a treasure map on the inside pages of Harold Wilkins’ book Captain Kidd and his Skeleton Island (refer to Map E, above).

Hedden was struck by the many similarities to Oak Island and the mention of prominent Rocks and a Tree. Having measured the distance between the Rocks and finding this to be about 25 rods (412.5 feet), the sum of 7 and 18 on the first line, he measured a distance of 30 rods southwest and re-discovered the Welling Triangle on the south shore.

He then called in a Provincial surveyor, Charles Roper, to conduct a survey of the Rocks and the Triangle to determine the exact measurements concerned.
The Angle of Magnetic Variation

Figure 12: The Angle of Magnetic Variation.
The Angle of Magnetic Variation

In 1972, Rupert Furneaux suggested that the originator of the Oak island enterprise would have excavated his tunnels using a magnetic compass underground and, thus, the bearing of the Flood Tunnel from the Money Pit to Smith’s Cove would betray the angle of magnetic variation (the amount the compass varies from true north). He considered that this would thus have been about 14 degrees west of north.

Based on an assumption that all the ground features are connected by a geometrical construct and given the reported distances between them it appears that the angle of magnetic variation was actually 13 degrees west of north. This is the angle represented by twice the tangent of the angle of tilt of the Welling Triangle. This raises the possibility that the triangle is so tilted to provide this clue, or confirmation.
The Eastern Geometry

Figure 13: The Eastern Geometry.
The Eastern Geometry

The line of the Flood Tunnel from the Money Pit to the Cove Point is 30 rods (495 feet) and bears at 13 degrees north of east (az. 77 degrees). The other main constructional angles are 60 degrees and 30 degrees. Thus, the Mallon Triangle lies at the third point of an equilateral triangle upon the line of the Flood Tunnel. The Drilled Rocks lie at the conjunction of lines set on both true north and magnetic north (at 30 degrees from the Magnetic Baseline 45 rods in length).

The key feature of this plan is the extended rhombus and Rhombus Rectangle between the rocks that emerges quite naturally from the construction.

Assuming that the reconstruction is correct, it is then possible to investigate the possibility that the instructions on the maps are genuine and apply to Oak Island and using the ground markers as placed. It is then possible to establish what the instructions mean and the points on the island they identify.
The Key to the Maps

Figure 14: The Working of the Maps.
The Key to the Map Instructions

The instructions on the maps are a straightforward extension to the geometry shown above and are designed to indicate the points marked upon the extended rhombus. The most significant feature is the forming of a triangle and the taking of an offset from its centre (median).

These instructions can clearly be seen to work in conjunction with this specific construction, and their operation conforms to a single set of rules governing all, as shown.

This key is applied to the instructions as follows.
The Working of Map A

Figure 15: The Working of Map A.
The Working of Map A

The unit of measure on the first two lines is the fathom. What is more, the lines are reversed, and so read:

Rock 71 W and by 18 NE
Tree 18 SW 26 ENE

Mark a point 71 fathoms west of the East Rock and another 18 fathoms northeast of the West Rock. The first offset is always from the East Rock. Then, mark a point 18 fathoms southeast of the Money Pit (Tree) followed by a point 26 fathoms east-northeast from there. Locate the centre of the triangle thus formed and take an offset due east of 7 feet plus 7 feet plus 8 times 7 feet being 70 feet in all. The offset is always towards the centre of the line between the Drilled Rocks except where stated otherwise.

The derived point is less than a foot away from point A on the extended rhombus.

A point 25 fathoms ENE is more accurate than 26 fathoms. It could be that the text was faded and copied incorrectly at some time.
The Working of Map C

Figure 16: The Working of Map C.
The Working of Map C

Once more, the first two lines of the instructions have been reversed and the offset from the East Rock is specified first. The unit of measure is as specified (feet).

Rock 8 feet W by 50 feet N
Tree 20 feet NE

Mark a point 8 feet west of the East Rock and another 50 feet north of the West Rock. Then mark a point 20 feet northeast of the Money Pit (Tree).

Locate the centre of the triangle thus formed and take an offset due east of 5 feet plus 4 feet plus 5 times 5 feet being 34 feet in all. The designated point is within one foot of Map Point C.

A point 8 feet south of the East Rock is more accurate that 8 feet west, and is shown thus on the diagram. Again, there may have been fading and an error in transcription.
The Working of Map D

Figure 17: The Working of Map D.
The Working of Map D

As with Map A, the unit of measure on the first two lines of this map is the fathom. The starting point of the instructions is near the beginning of the ancient Roadway and is shown more precisely on later diagrams. This start point is twenty inches in excess of 3090 feet (515 fathoms) from a point due south of the Welling Triangle.

Thence, from this point on the extended line of the Roadway, the Money Pit (Tree) lies just inches in excess of 300 feet (50 fathoms). From here, the East Rock lies 432 feet (72 fathoms) northeast, and thus the centre of the line can be identified as 36 fathoms northeast plus another 36 fathoms northeast.

Form a triangle from this central point and the two rocks and locate its centre. Then, take an offset due north (towards the centre of the Rocks) of 3 feet plus 3 feet plus 4 times 3 feet for a total of 18 feet. The designated spot is within inches of Map Point D.
The Working of Map E

Figure 18: The Working of Map E.
The Working of Map E

As with maps A and C, the first two lines have been reversed. However, in this case, the bearings have also been reversed. Thus, we have:

Rock 7 W and by 18 E
Tree 14 S, 30 NE

Note that, in his interpretation of these instructions, Gilbert Hedden himself reversed the bearings on the first line. The unit of measure is the rod, as Hedden surmised. Mark a point 7 rods due west of the East Rock and another 18 rods due east of the West Rock. Then, mark a spot 14 rods due south of the Money Pit (Tree) and locate a point 30 rods northeast of there. Locate the centre of the triangle thus formed.

There is no unit of measure specified in the offset: 7 x 8 x 4. Rupert Furneaux observed that these are the approximate dimensions of a right angled triangle with an internal angle of 30 degrees (a well-known near-Pythagorean triangle). This angle is also used extensively in the Oak Island geometry.

Construct a 30 degree right angled triangle with hypotenuse of 8 rods with its base bearing due west of the centre of the locator triangle. Locate the centre of this triangle, which is less than a foot from Map Point E.
The Working of Map F

Figure 19: The Working of Map F.
The Working of Map F

This is the key map of the collection in that it specifically states that the bearer is to take an offset from the centre of a triangle - in this case, 20 feet east. In this sense, the map opens up all the others, because, clearly, one would in all cases be looking to define three points offset from the specified ground markers. Furthermore, the map contains an illustration of the instructions, and also shows the Welling Triangle (turn the map so that compass East is North).

The first part of the instructions will be discussed in detail below, but suffice to say that the starting point is the base of the Mallon Triangle, that the two rocks are two points of the required triangle (as with Map D) and the third point is due east of the Money Pit (Tree) and due north of the Mallon Triangle. This third point is in the vicinity of where Dan Blankenship is reported to have found the ‘G’ Stone.

Locate the centre of the triangle thus formed and take an offset of 20 feet east. This is within inches of Map Point F.

The first part of the instructions spans the distance between the base of the Mallon Triangle and identifies the third point of the locating triangle, that is, the lower ‘stump’ or, potentially, the ‘G’ Stone. The distance to be spanned is 370.5 feet. It is infuriating that this stone has been removed, but, unfortunately, the ground markers on Oak Island have never been protected.

The calculation takes into account the latitude and longitude specified on the map, using it as a trigonometrical ratio. There is a triangle from the Mallon Triangle that has sides of 30 rods, 9.16 rods and 31.36 rods - the latitude and longitude (assuming that 31.30 is the result of the tail of the 6 having faded). The text ‘V.R.’ stands for Vmbra Recta from the Shadow Scale of the Astrolabe which, in effect, represents the tangent ratio.

The calculation is, therefore, 360 yards multiplied by 9.16 divided by 31.36 plus 55 feet = the required 370.5 feet.
Map Point G

Figure 20: Map Point G and the Cave-In Pit.
Point G: The Cave-In Pit

There is no known published map identifying Map Point G, but It becomes clear from a description of the location of the Cave-In Pit, as reported by Gilbert Hedden to the author Rupert Furneaux, that this was very likely located at this point.

Hedden's instructions to locate the Cave-In Pit lead to a point within a foot of Map Point G.
The Northern Rhombus

Figure 21: The Northern Rhombus.
The Northern Rhombus Rectangle

Two of the maps (D and F) suggest that there is a second extended rhombus north of the first. This is suggested by the points representing the ground markers and the trail on Map D, reportedly in red ink, leading northwards. The maps should be aligned with the east of the compass rose bearing north.

Key indicators in this are the Greek letters marking the Rocks: an omega representing the West Rock and a gamma representing the East Rock. In times past, these substituted for Libra and Aries representing west and east respectively.

It appears, then, that there may be Rock equivalents, here named Locators, magnetic north of the Rocks themselves.
Placing the Locators

Figure 22: Placing the Locators.
Placing the Locators

In the figure, the Rock equivalents (Locators) are placed by an extension of the mechanism whereby the Rocks themselves are positioned.

In the case shown, termed here cross-location, the east Locator is positioned from the West Rock and the West Locator is positioned from the East Rock.
Rhombus Differeces

Figure 23: Rhombus Differences.
Rhombus Comparison

The northern Extended Rhombus turns out to be marginally narrower than the original which may suggest why the variances from target seem larger than might be expected on the southernmost figure.

The southern Rhombus Rectangle is in green, the northern in blue.
Map Point Variances

Figure 24: Map Point Variances.
Map Point Variances

The variances of the map points from target, based on the northern rhombus, are shown in the figure.

The map points may be locations at which the treasure hunter is expected to dig (as somebody may have done at the Cave-In Pit, Point G), but they could be directing attention to the centre of the rhombus feature, marked on the diagram above by an ‘X’.

This duality can be seen in diagrams depicting the geometry of the centre of the island.
The Central Geometry

Figure 25: The Central Geometry.
The Central Geometry

The eastern geometry extends into the centre of the island and incorporates Nolan’s Cross. The significance of this feature is assumed to be that the mid-point between the Head Stone and Cone D is connected to the centre of the Rhombus Rectangle by a distance of 75 rods (1237.5 feet), for which see also Figure 3.

Also shown is a feature reported by Bill Crooker in Oak Island Gold consisting of three piles of stones, termed here the Pirates’ Stones Triangle (after a description on an old tourist map of the island.). Crooker reports that this points into the centre of the swamp.

In this respect, one further feature of the central geometry is a potential Geometrical Swamp, the centre of which might provide a back door to the assumed treasure location at the centre of the northernmost rhombus.
The Back Door

Figure 26: A Potential Back Door.
A Potential Back Door and La Formule Cipher

Many doubt the validity of the cipher stone found in the Money Pit at 90 feet and would doubtless have been equally dubious when the La Formule cipher made its appearance, particularly as it seems there is no proof that it pertains to Oak Island, and no saying that it couldn’t be a fake.

There is also some question about what it might be revealing. The following seems to be a fair translation of the text as widely presented:

“Halt, don’t be timid. Dig at 40 feet with the angle 45 degrees. The shaft at 522 feet at your entry. The corridor at 1065 feet reaches the chamber.”

In French: "La Formule. Halte. Ne terrer pas. Creuser a quarante pied avec a angle de quarante cinq degre. La hampe a cinq cent vingt deus pied a vous entre. Le correidor a un mil soisante cinq pied atteinte la chambre. ... la valeur".

The above French language solution is by Kevin Knight and Nadda Aldarrab. See:

Blockhouse Blog: La Formule Cipher Investigation

One test could be whether the plaintext as above might fit with the suggested Oak Island ground plan (geometry). It does, though this could be coincidence.

One significant feature of this plan is the suggestion of a Geometrical Swamp and the possibility that the deposit was made by a tunnel from its centre. The origin of the tunnel is marked ‘A’ and extends magnetic eastwards for a length of precisely 60 rods (990 feet) to the point marked ‘D’, and from this point to the ‘X’ that might mark the spot is 5 rods (82.5 feet) bearing magnetic south.
La Formule

Figure 27: La Formule Interpretation.
La Formule Cipher Interpretation

It so happens that were such a passage broken into precisely mid-way (at point 'B' in the figure) by tunnelling at 45 degrees then the distance to the chamber entrance from the point the corridor is breached (at point 'C') would be 522 feet, and the corridor length to the centre of the chamber would be 1065 feet (the distances in feet being rounded up).

Note that 790 links is 521.4 feet (522 feet) and 1612.5 links is 1064.25 feet (1065 feet).

I imagine that the La Formule cipher, if genuine, would be an indicator that the ‘X’ is at the right spot rather than being instructions for accessing the deposit. A tunnel at 45 degrees would not provide an easy incline to remove a sizeable and potentially heavy deposit.

Note that digging at the ‘X’ would not bring the digger crashing through the roof of the chamber onto the treasure but slightly overlapping it, at the rear, by the radius of the shaft being dug.
Nolan's Cross

Figure 28: Nolan's Cross.
Nolan's Cross as a Construction

Nolan’s Cross is here taken to be based upon a geometrical construction that combines the square and the equilateral triangle.

The construct is based on a Trunk section measuring 429 feet (26 rods). The measurements are all inter-related. A change to one affects them all. For instance, the length of the Arms is equal to half the length of the Trunk plus the length of the Head.

It is assumed that the lengths have been rounded up to the nearest foot. For instance, the Head is actually 144.5 feet, but rounding this to 145 feet would make the Foot 293 feet and the Arms 359.5 feet - potentially then rounded up to 360 feet.
Tree of Life

Figure 29: The Tree of Life.
Nolan's Cross and the Tree of Life

The existence of a pure construction for Nolan's Cross would have repercussions on the representation of the Tree of Life as suggested by Petter Amundsen who modified the lengths of the Head and Foot.

As an alternative, the surveyed measurements are retained and the lemgth is twice the distance between Cones A and D (points 1 and 6).
An Oak Island Geometry

A suggested overall Oak Island geometry is shown below. The line of the Roadway and its continuation (from Point 0 to Point 10) is 250 rods in length (1375 yards, 1.257 Km). The Roadway physically ends at its mid-point. From point 11 to Point 12 is 225 rods, the geometry effectively being in three sections of 75 rods.

The point near the beginning of the Roadway marked DXV, which is magnetic south of Point 12, is the starting point of Map D.
Overall Geometry

Figure 30: An Oak Island Geometry.

Figure 31: A Simplified Plan of the Island.
A Simplified Plan of Oak Island Geometry

A much simpler plan showing the main features of the island.
The Period of the Enterprise

If the reconstruction shown here be correct then it contains pointers to a potential timeframe for the Oak Island undertaking.

If the use of the link be correct then a date after 1620 would be indicated. Dating by the angle of magnetic variation is imprecise, but an angle of 13 degrees west of north would seem to be applicable to the mid-17th century or during the middle of the 18th century (1650 or 1750). There appear to be no records of compass declination prior to 1600. A reference to the astrolabe (as in Vmbra Recta) might suggest an originator born sometime during the 17th century or late 16th.
Other Maps

Harold T. Wilkins published two other maps with instructions similar to those on the maps above. These are named Plum Island and Moose Island, as follows.
Plum Island Treasure Map

Figure 32: Plum Island Treasure Map with Similar Instructions.
Plum Island Treasure Map

From Harold Wilkins A Modern Treasure Hunter.

The text reads:

8 Rods Fire Place N
80 Steps SE
Pine 150 Steps N
Cave in Hill
Moose Island Treasure Map

Figure 33: Moose Island Treasure Map.
Moose Island Treasure Map

From Harold Wilkins A Modern Treasure Hunter.

The text concludes with two apparent offsets:

10 by 4 by 6
8 by 8 Mark 8

The latter is in the same style of writing as the Plum Island map.


The maps were first presented in publications between 1935 and 1972, viz:
Wilkins, Harold T. Captain Kidd and His Skeleton Island, Cassell & Co. 1935
Wilkins, Harold T. On the Treasure Trail of the Wicked Old Pirates, The American Weekly, February 18, 1940
Furneaux, Rupert. The Money Pit Mystery, Tom Stacey Ltd., 1972
A work containing other maps and detail that may be relevant to Oak Island is:
Wilkins, Harold T. A Modern Treasure Hunter, C & J Temple, 1948

Source: Bath G.J. Maps, Mystery and Interpretation Vol 3. Sizing Up the Money Pit. KeyPress 2013.

© G.J. Bath

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