Rick and Marty Lagina

Digging for treasure.

As Rick remembers it, he was 11 years old when he discovered the classic story of buried treasure inside a 1965 copy of Reader’s Digest he’d checked out from the school library. According to the article, a century’s worth of treasure hunters had tried and failed to excavate a mysterious depression on Oak Island rumored to be hiding something of great significance.

Oak Island is a privately owned island in Lunenburg County on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. The tree-covered island is one of several islands in Mahone Bay and is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The nearest community is the rural community of Western Shore which faces the island, while the nearest village is Chester.

The island is best known for various theories about buried treasure or historical artifacts, and the associated attempts to explore the site. The legend had everything two kids who grew up devouring Hardy Boys books could ask for, and they both fell hard for the story. After reading it, Marty remembers they’d play out various versions of their own Oak Island mysteries—stomping around the woods near Iron Mountain, spending the better part of three summers digging for “Indian treasure” under one particularly immovable Upper Peninsula boulder.

But though they came to the legend as children, their fascination proved to have surprising durability. As young adults, they found themselves still discussing it at holiday family gatherings. They talked about making a visit to the island someday. Rick (born January 25, 1952) and Marty (born August 26, 1955) were born in Kingsford, Michigan. Marty studied Science and Mechanical Engineering at Michigan Tech.

After graduating in 1977, he went on to work for the Amoco Production Company, a major oil firm. Whilst working as an engineer for them he gained a degree in law from the University of Michigan in 1982. He then went on to found his own company, Terra Energy Ltd, which became a pioneer in natural gas extraction. As a result, the company became one of the biggest shale gas operators in Michigan State.

Rick Lagina would become a U.S. postal worker before retiring and taking up the hunt on Oak Island. Rick even made a habit of following the latest developments of Dan Blankenship—a rough-and-tumble Florida man who retired from a construction business to devote himself full-time to hunting the Oak Island treasure. .

In the storied lineage of those who have pursued the treasure, Blankenship stands out as a folk-hero type figure. Starting in the 1970s, he excavated a whole new 200-plus-foot-deep “back door” into the Money Pit with not much more than pickaxes and muscle—reinforcing his mine’s walls with a system of railroad tank cars with the ends sawn off. To Rick, it was a feat of armchair engineering worthy of its own damn legend

In the early 1990s, Rick even reached out to Blankenship, who he heard had run out of money and was looking for investors to continue the search. They drove the 1400 miles to Nova Scotia and met with Dan.

When we got to the causeway, both of us were so nervous, we were each trying to get the other to be the one to drive across. And then, when we finally got the nerve to do it, we drove over, and who’s there but Mr. Blankenship. This very imposing man that we’ve read about is actually standing there at the other end of the causeway clearing trees. And we got out of the car, and he looked up, and he didn’t say a word.

Rick Lagina

They helped him with the trees he was clearing and that, and the bottle of whiskey they brought as a gift, got them invited up to Dan’s house. No deals came out of that initial meeting. The brothers quibble over which one of them spotted the real estate ad in Islands magazine.

Marty’s version of the story is that he was thumbing through the pages, killing time while on a trip to Florida. Rick thinks it might have been him. Either way, they both have the same memory of the most important details: More than a dozen years after their initial visit to see Dan Blankenship, Oak Island, of all places, was for sale.

Further Reading


My North
Sky History
Monsters & Critics

Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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