“Borrowing” from the past: The return of Hurd and Adelia Applegate! Hurd showed up in the first Hardy Boys mystery, The Tower Treasure, where he and his sister, Adelia, have been robbed of valuable jewels and securities. He blames the father of one of the boys’ friends, they investigate, Hurd thinks they’re incompetent fools, etc. You know how it goes — a story as old as the hills. He pops up again among the auto thefts in The Shore Road Mystery (#6). In his next appearance in the series, The Great Airport Mystery (#9), he and Elroy Jefferson bail the boys out of jail. His last appearance was in While the Clock Ticked (#11); Hurd gets mixed up in their investigation of death threats to Raymond Dalrymple when he claimed Dalrymple stole his stamps. Hurd saves the boys from a bomb, and the boys find Hurd’s missing stamps. A good time was had by all.
The Hardy Boys also return to Tower Mansion, the site of their first mystery (the theft of $40,000 worth of Applegate’s jewels and securities). In Island Treasure, Frank even mentions Joe falling off the stairs up the tower. Before this story begins, Applegate has sold the mansion, and it’s being turned into condos. Hurd reveals his father, Major Applegate, was the mansion’s first owner.
The Tower Treasure was also the basis for a serial on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1957, titled “The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure.” In that case, the boys (played by Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine) were looking for a pirate treasure, as they are in Island Treasure. The introductory song mentions Applegate’s treasure as “gold doubloons and pieces of eight”; while speculating what the treasure might be in Secret, Joe asks, “Gold? Jewels? Old Spanish doubloons?”
Just as in The Mystery of Cabin Island (#8) and The Secret of the Lost Tunnel (#29), when there’s a simple substitution cipher to be solved, Frank’s your man. Frank manages to decipher a code on a dug-up stone for the location of the treasure.
History is just one fictional thing happening after another: There is a lot of Bayport’s maritime history in this one, and all of it is made up out of whole cloth. Damien, the archaeologist along with the expedition, tells the boys Barmet Bay was discovered by Dutch explorer — fictional, of course — Henrik Schuusten in 1574. (Possibly a play on the name of publisher Simon & Schuster?) Chet chimes in that Schuusten named it Baarmuter Bay, after some important person in the Netherlands. That seems to be fictional as well. (Also: Chet gets to know something neither Frank or Joe knows? Shocking!) Also, as far as I can tell, the Dutch made no major North American expeditions to the New World until the early 17th century, when Henry Hudson claimed New York for the Netherlands.
Damien also says the ocean near Barmet Bay was extensively patrolled by pirates in the 17th century. As for the pirate who left the treasure on Granite Cay, he lists the fictional Henry Dafoe as the chief suspect, although he also mentions Captain Kidd.
Damn teenagers: Frank, Joe, and Chet are told to report to the marina “bright and early” for a day of treasure hunting. Although Joe does arise, chipper, at 7 a.m., they don’t arrive at the marina until 9. That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, bright and early. That’s when bankers show up for work.
Pot. Kettle. Black: Frank nearly gives himself a hernia while trying to throw an anchor overboard, evidently surprised that an anchor would be heavy, even though, as Joe says, “It’s supposed to hold the boat in place.” Frank then calls Joe a “dipstick,” which, although inaccurate, I find charming.
Weirdly, it seems Chet has stolen some of the brothers’ intelligence. Besides knowing about Barmet Bay’s history, he also has timely survival advice: when Joe falls in quicksand and complains that the harder he tries to escape, the more he gets sucked in, Chet tells him, “Then stop trying to get out.” I find this inversion of roles both disturbing and strangely alluring.
Why does Franklin W. Dixon hate Joe?: Maybe it’s an alliance of Franks, but the worst thing that happens to Frank is that he almost falls down the stairs in the tower. Joe falls into quicksand, gets knocked out and almost drowns when the mining pit floods, is the one who almost gets caught by a partially severed rope trap, and is the one who falls unconscious when the pirate poison gas attack is sprung.
Your edumacation for the day: The island treasure plot is largely stolen from the real-world treasure hunt on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. In many ways, that’s fitting, since many parts of the Oak Island story are probably legends rather than fact.
It’s also fitting since the story begins with three teenage friends in 1795. The three discovered a depression in the dirt on Oak Island beneath a tree with a tackle block on one of the branches, suggesting someone had hoisted something into a hole that had since been filled and settled. The walls of the pit had visible pick marks, there was a layer of flagstones just below the surface, and every ten feet, there was a layer of logs. The boys gave up at 30 feet, which is a hell of a feat for three boys. Remarkably, there are no records of this attempt until 60 years later.
About a decade later, another attempt was made by different hands; this time they dug down to 90 feet, finding logs every ten feet and a layer of charcoal, putty, and coconut fiber at 40, 50, and 60 feet. Before they gave up, they found a stone (since lost) with a coded description translated to say, “Forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried.” The pit flooded before more digging could be attempted; it was believed a channel (never found) lined with coconut fibers between Mahone Bay and the pit allowed the pit to flood when the protective seals (putty, charcoal, and coconut fiber) were removed. No one has ever gotten closer, and the bottom of the pit collapsed (either through a booby trap or natural means) in 1861. More modern technologies have given tantalizing glimpses below, but no one has actually found anything of value on the island.
In Island Treasure, many of those details are kept. The diggers find flagstones, one of which has a coded message that says, “Twenty feet below lies the greatest treasure of them all.” The flooding trap is unsealed when they open a door, but Damien quickly defeats it with cement at the source of the channel. There’s also a wooden platform (albeit one with a door in its middle.) On the other hand, they didn’t find the skeletons of pirates on Oak Island, so Island Treasure is one up on them there. They also didn’t find a treasure chest booby-trapped with poison gas, but exhaust from pumps in the pits tended to have the same — albeit more deadly — results. Four members of the Restall family excavation died from fumes in the 1960s.
Bad archaeology is what he needs: It’s obvious Damien has sold out to the Man on this one. When the Hardys, Chet, and other workers start unearthing skeletons at the bottom of the pit, Damien doesn’t even try to do any real archaeology work. Just put them in the bucket and keep using those big shovels to get to the bottom, boys! Don’t worry about spade marks on skeletons or disturbing artifacts! Get the treasure!
Read more in the Pansy-atic Adventure Series!: At the end of the novel, Hurd tries to interest the boys in finding a hidden South American silver mine. Uncharacteristically, Chet is gung-ho about finding it, but even more uncharacteristically, Frank and Joe want absolutely nothing to do with it. Cowards!
Opinions: When you’re going to steal, steal from the best, I always say. The Oak Island Treasure is a story worth adapting to the Hardy Boys, especially as the generally hemi-glutteal attempts made at finding the treasure in the 19th century matches up with the general standard of competence in the Hardy Boys. Using characters from The Tower Treasure for the 100th book is also a great idea; Hurd and Adelia should show up more often, but of course, they don’t. Not hip, those old people.
The actual treasure hunting is done briskly, taking a total of 60 pages (and three days) to get from ground breaking to GOLD! There’s not much mystery here — the culprits are kinda obvious if you care about such things, and I can totally understand if you don’t — but that’s not a problem when you’re digging up trapped treasure chests and pirate skeletons every few pages. I could have done without the hurricane threat, but it wouldn’t be a Hardy Boys book without some sort of natural disaster; besides, hurricanes follow the boys around (see Hurricane Joe, #11 in the Undercover Brothers series, Typhoon Island, #180, The Hidden Harbor Mystery, #14 revised, The Secret Warning, #17 revised, and The Four-Headed Dragon, #69). Hurricane Celia is supposed to be the worst to hit Bayport in 20 years, but, eh, who knows? It just sort of blows in one evening and out the next, as did the storm in Hurricane Joe.
Grade: A. Nostalgia + excitement = one of the best, if not the best, digests.