Kingsford natives search for treasures on Canadian island


Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – Two Kingsford natives have been leading efforts to uncover the mysteries of a legendary treasure island.

Brothers Rick and Marty Lagina and their colleagues spent the summer searching the infamous Money Pit on Oak Island in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

Rick and Marty graduated from Kingsford High School in 1970 and 1973, respectively. Rick still lives in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area, as do their sisters Marianne Gardner and Terese Fornetti.

The Lagina brothers’ adventures will be featured in a new History Channel series, “The Curse of Oak Island,” which premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. Central time.

For the Lagina brothers, Oak Island has been a subject of intrigue since they were young. Marty said that it all started when Rick read a Reader’s Digest article about the island when he was 11 years old.

“He was fascinated by it,” Marty added. “And he talked me into it too, since I was the little brother.”

The story of Oak Island began back in 1795.

According to various accounts, a teenage boy saw strange lights on the island and proceeded to investigate. While exploring, he found a large depression in the ground.

The boy and two friends began digging at the site, supposedly motivated by the hope of finding a pirate’s buried treasure.

What they did find was puzzling. At two feet, they uncovered a layer of flagstone. They then discovered wooden platforms or other marks at every 10 feet thereafter.

The boys eventually abandoned their quest, but more excavations at the so-called Money Pit were to come.

A crew digging in the early 1800s found a tablet with an inscription of strange symbols at the 90-foot mark. Years later, a professor claimed to have translated the symbols to read: “Forty feet down, two million pounds are buried.”

Throughout the rest of the 1800s and well into the 1900s, more and more crews attempted to excavate the site in hope of finding riches. Among those who sought treasure were a young Franklin D. Roosevelt and actors John Wayne and Errol Flynn.

Unfortunately, crews’ efforts were hindered by continual seawater flooding and the deaths of six workers.

The Lagina brothers followed any new developments on Oak Island for years. In the meantime, Marty became profitable in the oil and wind energy businesses.

Then, about 10 years ago, Marty, Rick, and several other investors from the Traverse City, Mich. area purchased part of the island. Their group owns one half of about 80 percent of the island.

Marty said that progress was rocky at first, due to some legal issues with the Canadian government and disputes with one of the other owners.

However, Marty noted that they were able to get a treasure trove license, which allows them to keep 90 percent of anything they find as long as they give 10 percent to the Canadian government. He added that they have developed a good working relationship between all island owners.

With all of the pieces in place, the Lagina brothers were set to begin explorations in 2013. That was when the History Channel contacted Rick with an interest to film the proceedings for a series.

Rick and Marty accepted.

“We started in the summer, drilling holes, running pumps, and searching,” said Marty. “We’re bringing some new technology there that hasn’t been used before.”

Did they find anything? Marty said that viewers will need to watch the series to find out.

“Since 1795, people have been searching there,” he said. “You don’t know quite what you’re looking for.”

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