Dan Blankenship confirms new treasure hunting partners
By ANGIE ZINCK
WESTERN SHORE — Let the hunt begin. Long-time treasure hunter Dan Blankenship confirms that his Oak Island Tours Inc. business partner, David Tobias, has sold his shares of the company to a group of oil and gas moguls from Michigan.
Oak Island Tours Inc. announced last summer that the company was dissolving. As
equal partners, Mr. Blankenship said he either had to find a new partner to buy out Mr. Tobias’ shares or sell their lots, which amount to 78 per cent of the island.
All the partners of the “Michigan Group,” as they’re currently called, were
not revealed to the press, but Mr. Blankenship did confirm that Allan Kostrzewa, who bought lot number 25 from Mr. Tobias last ear, is on board.
“What has happened is that I tried for a long time to get local participants to buy my partner out and without success,” says Mr. Blankenship from his home on the island.
Mr. Blankenship says Mr. Kostrzewa and the rest of the Michigan partners contacted him about the sale. “We had a few meetings and eventually they agreed to buy David Tobias out, his interests out in Oak Island Tours Inc.,” he says. Had this deal not gone through, then Mr. Blankenship would have been forced into agreeing that Oak Island would be turned over to a localreal estate office to be sold on the open market.
When it was announced last summer that Oak Island Tours Inc. was dissolving, many thought the time had come for Mr. Blankenship and Mr. Tobias to give up their pursuit. Mr. Blankenship says he was never ready to throw in the towel on the longest running treasure hunt in the known world. “I was a very reluctant one to sell the island because I had tried very different ways of working it,” he says. “I had no choice except to either go out and get new partners that would purchase out Mr. Tobias’ interests or agree that it would go on the open market.”
Now that this deal has been made, Oak Island will remain a privately owned island and the treasure hunting will resume on the lots owned by Mr. Blankenship and the Michigan crew. “The purpose of the purchase for these new partners is to continue the search,” he says. “It is not to try and sell off any of our property for promoters or anything like that. These people are not promoters.” Mr. Blankenship says he was approached by developers one year ago, but he didn’t want to see the island lined with condominiums. “I said absolutely not,” he says. “I would not have any part in it.” Although the Michigan partners have never hunted for treasure before, Mr. Blankenship says they will be active and on site. They are hoping to start exploring by June. The treasure trove licence is in Mr. Tobias’ name, but the new group will be looking to transfer the licence, which is valid until July of 2008.
“I can’t answer anything about that yet,” says Mr. Blankenship. “Of course we will be attempting to get the licence changed over to the new company, that goes without saying, that is the purpose.” Mr. Blankenship began his hunt for the Oak Island treasure in 1965. In the past four decades he has found artifacts and groundwork he believes are key to unlocking the island’s secrets. “Our immediate plans, once the treasure trove licence is in place, is to go back over some of the exploration work that has been done in the past,” he says. “Way back in 1973, I hit certain things, no treasure, but I hit certain evidence that these people had worked down quite deep in the ground,” he adds, about a site located away from the famous Money Pit. “This is a spot removed from the Money Pit, probably 600 feet away,” he says. “Our first attempt is going to be following up leads we have already come up with,” adds Mr. Blankenship. “That eventually will lead us back to the site we call 10 x. We will be attempting to clean out the bottom of 10 x, which is filled now with, I’m only guessing, 20 odd feet of silt and mud. We will be attempting to clean that out this summer so that we can get a camera down there and get a clear, unobstructed view of whatever is down at that level.”
Although camera technology has improved, sonar or ground probing radar is limited. Mr. Blankenship believes some answers lie as deep as 160 feet and the radar only works to a depth of about 80 feet. Funding such work over the years has always been difficult, until now. “It has been the major stumbling block,” says Mr. Blankenship, adding that the new partners will “adequately fund” the project until the treasure is found. This announcement comes just days after local MLA and Minister of Tourism Judy Streatch confirmed to Lighthouse Publishing that the province was looking into buying the island. The Tourism Department and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had been talking to the company, WBLI Incorporated, which was overseeing the dissolving of Oak Island Tours Inc.
“I’m disappointed that Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians in general won’t have the opportunity to have ownership of the island,” says Ms Streatch. “Certainly we were negotiating in good faith all along with the receiver and would have liked to have had the opportunity. At the end of the day, I hope Oak Island would be opened up for public access and for the whole world to share. “Certainly, I believe the best interest for everyone would have been for the province to have ownership of the island but obviously that was taken out of my hands by Mr. Blankenship and Mr. Tobias, who at the end of the day were the legal owners and continue to maintain ownership,” she adds. As recently as last week, Ms Streatch says that Joanne Himmelman, a land acquisition officer with DNR, was talking to WBLI Incorporated. Ms Himmelman confirms that she knew of the Michigan Group and their interest in the island. Ms Streatch says no one feels slighted by the sale, but there is disappointment. “I feel disappointed that the province will not be able to call itself the owners of Oak Island,” she says. “I am pleased that Mr. Blankenship is able to continue with his love of this treasure hunt,” she adds. “I certainly will be cautiously optimistic, I certainly hope these investors from Michigan will respect the nature of the island and we won’t see development and we won’t see the island turned into something that wouldn’t be able to be enjoyed by everyone.”
For his part, Mr. Blankenship says that he is going to request a meeting with Ms Streatch. He would like to present the province with a number of proposals so that the government may be able to assist the Oak Island Tourism Society’s attempt to make the island more accessible to the interested public. For Mr. Blankenship, this is a new day in treasure hunting. “It’s not only a new page,” he says. “It’s a new book.”