KENTVILLE, NS - He’s arguably the most prolific diver in the 223-year-long search for treasure on Oak Island – and it’s possible that his days as a TV star have only just begun.
Professional diver Mike Huntley of Kentville got involved with diving boreholes in the Money Pit area on Oak Island as part of the ongoing treasure hunt after being contacted by a very good friend, Tony Sampson. Fans of the History Channel show The Curse of Oak Island will recognize Sampson as the diver who worked in the island’s swamp.
Huntley’s gig started about three years ago with some small boat work and air lifting involving a six-inch hole in the Money Pit area. This progressed to assisting John Chatterton with a dive down the legendary 10X, the borehole dug in the 1970s by now 95-year-old Dan Blankenship with the help of his son, Dave Blankenship, Dan Henskee and others.
When Huntley learned he would be assisting Chatterton, he was a little star struck - Huntley used to watch Chatterton’s TV show, Deep Sea Detectives, all the time.
Huntley has also completed dives down borehole C1, named after Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse, and DMT, named after Drake Maxwell Tester, the late son of treasure hunt team member Craig Tester. Huntley and his crew have become the go-to divers for treasure hunt team leaders Rick and Marty Lagina.
“It’s been great. It’s a great process to go through all that and it gives good exposure, too,” Huntley said.
When asked what the most challenging aspect of the dives into the boreholes has been, Huntley said, “Not coming up with what we thought was there.”
The dive down DMT, featured on the Season 5 finale, was to determine what was obstructing progress of the drilling caisson at approximately 77 feet. It was thought at first to be a steel plate or pipe.
“We had welding gear, cutting gear, we were prepared to actually cut through it and get through it but it wasn’t. From what we could tell it was a rock - a really big, really hard rock. That was frustrating,” Huntley said.
The borehole had been treated with flocculant to help clear the water and increase visibility by making particles clump together and sink to the bottom. The material was so buoyant that Huntley couldn’t stand on the bottom of the hole even though he was weighed down with 60 to 70 pounds of lead.
“I couldn’t get through it, I was just there bouncing off bottom,” Huntley said. “You couldn’t bend over, you just couldn’t do it, it just pushed you back up again.”
Fellow diver Nick Perry was “completely over-weighted” and he had a little better luck staying on the bottom but still wasn’t able to work comfortably.
Huntley isn’t able to divulge any information on the new season of The Curse of Oak Island, currently under production, but it’s possible that he could be making more dives before filming wraps up in the fall.
Huntley says he has no idea when it comes to who is behind the mystery of Oak Island but wonders if it has something to do with the Knights of Templar. He said this is the best story and the one that perhaps fits the nicest.
He recognizes that “there’s something strange happening there” and “there’s a weird vibe” to the place. He bases this statement on inexplicable, anomalous equipment malfunctions he has experienced exclusively on Oak Island.
New TV project
Huntley is now working on another TV project. He’s remaining mum on the details – he isn’t even saying which channel will be carrying it – but did say it involves the legendary Cousteau family of oceanography fame. He says the experience was fantastic. Huntley and the crew were given red toques, the iconic hat worn by family patriarch Jacques Cousteau.
“I got to be the supervisor on two of the Cousteau family member’s five or six dives,” Huntley said. “You don’t get much better than that as far as I’m concerned.”
Somewhat ironically, those involved with the new TV project had no idea going in that Huntley has appeared on several episodes of The Curse of Oak Island. They were staying at the same hotel when an episode featuring Huntley aired and they saw him on TV for the first time.
Huntley is hopeful that his ongoing TV appearances will be beneficial to his diving career. He hopes to do more TV in the future and to carry on with his other professional diving endeavours.
Huntley was in his mid-twenties when he realized diving was something he could make money doing. He dove for sea urchins for four years, then started helping train other sea urchin divers and went on to work at a diving shop, in addition to working another full-time job.
In 2000, Huntley opened his own diving shop in Kentville at the corner of Main Street and Chester Avenue, a business he ran for nearly a decade, and another just outside of Digby in Marshalltown.
In 2009, Huntley was commercial diving five days a week and found that he didn’t have time to teach every weekend. He had difficulty finding other instructors so he ended up closing the Kentville shop.
Now, he and his wife are working toward opening another S.C.U.B.A. shop in town, on the other side of Main Street just a few doors down from the original location. They remain incredibly busy with other endeavours through Huntley’s Sub Aqua Construction. The shop is open on occasion, but Huntley said full-time operation will just “happen when it happens.”
Currently, he’s busy with under water construction projects and with providing marine services, such as deploying and recovering scientific equipment and towing and recovering boats. The company has two work vessels and a couple of smaller boats.
Huntley’s business does everything from water sampling to placing and picking up six to 10 tonne pieces of equipment from the ocean floor with its biggest boat. The construction business is also heavily involved with companies working on tidal power generation. His sub water construction projects also include welding and wharf construction and inspections.