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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 7

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 7

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 6.

The Massacre of Fort Michilimackinac

Alexander Henry spent the spring of 1763 at Sault Ste. Marie, during which time he assisted the resident soldiers in producing maple syrup. He returned to Michilimackinac on May 20th, accompanied by a travelling English gentleman named Sir Robert Dovers. In addition to the British soldiers who had taken up residence there two years prior, he found the fort occupied by a number of French fur traders who had travelled there from different parts of the Great Lakes.

At that time, there was a rumour floating around the fort that the local Ojibwa Indians planned to launch an attack on the garrison and kill all the Englishmen therein. About four hundred of these natives were camped around the fort, and although they appeared perfectly friendly when they brought in their furs to trade, Henry warned the fort’s commander not to trust them.

On June 3rd, Henry was visited by his Ojibwa blood brother, Wawatam, who seemed uncharacteristically depressed. The chief told Henry that he was sorry to see him at Michilimackinac, and expressed his hope that his adopted brother would accompany him to Sault Ste. Marie. Although he never explicitly said as much, the chief implied that something evil was about to befall the fort, and hinted that the Ojibwa camped nearby would have a hand in it. Henry thanked his adopted brother for the information but informed him that he would not leave the fort until he had concluded some unfinished business.

“I had made…” wrote Henry, “so much progress in the language in which Wawatam addressed me as to be able to hold an ordinary conversation in it; but the Indian manner of speech is so extravagantly figurative that it is only for a very perfect master to follow and comprehend it entirely.” Unfortunately, Henry had not sufficiently mastered the language at that time and failed to interpret Wawatam’s message as a dire warning to leave at the earliest opportunity. When the chief realized that he would not persuade Henry to leave the fort, he departed with visibly low spirits.

Ominously, Henry spent the rest of the day selling tomahawks to Ojibwa warriors and, at their request, showing the braves an inventory of the items he had for sale.

The following day was June 4th, the birthday of King George III. In honour of the great English chief, the local Ojibwa warriors decided to play a game of lacrosse against a neighbouring band of the Sauk Nation. The Ojibwa declared that the game would be played outside the fort’s walls, and invited the resident Englishmen to watch it.

Many of the English soldiers, including Major George Etherington, who commanded the garrison, accepted the Ojibwa’s offer and filed out of the fort to watch the game, leaving their weapons inside. Alexander Henry, on the other hand, used the opportunity to write letters to distant friends.

Unbeknownst to the hapless English soldiers who lounged in the field outside the fort as the game commenced, the Ojibwa had concocted a brilliant plan to capture the fort by surprise. While the soldiers were distracted by the Indian athletics, a handful of Ojibwa women inconspicuously made their way towards the fort’s open gates, concealing bundles of tomahawks and scalping knives beneath the blankets they wore around their shoulders.  When the women were in place, one of the native athletes lobbed the lacrosse ball over the fort’s walls, ostensibly in an effort to keep it from falling into the hands of his Sauk opponents. The Ojibwa athletes subsequently raced into the fort, where they seized the weapons that the women had smuggled inside.

While he sat composing in his cabin, Henry heard a cacophony of Indian war cries erupt outside. “Going instantly to my window,” he wrote, “I saw a crowd of Indians within the fort furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found.” Henry seized a flintlock shotgun and contemplated stepping outside to help his fellow countrymen, some of whom were being scalped alive before his eyes. To do so, he quickly realized, would be suicidal. With little thought now but to hide and wait out the storm, Henry frantically scanned the surrounding courtyard for refuge. His eyes fell on a handful of French-Canadian fur traders who calmly watched the slaughter unfold from the safety of their cabins, apparently secure in the knowledge that the Indians would not harm them.

Henry snuck out the back door of his cabin and jumped the fence that separated his residence from that of his neighbour, a French-Canadian trader named Langlade. He peered through Langlade’s back door and saw that the trader’s whole family had gathered by the window to watch the massacre unfold. He called out to the Frenchman and asked if he could hide in his home. Langlade shrugged his shoulders, indicating that he was powerless to help the Englishman, before turning back to the window.

Fortunately, Henry’s entreaty attracted the attention of a Pawnee Indian slave woman who served in the Langlade household. Without her master’s knowledge, the servant beckoned for Henry to follow her and guided him to a tiny attic in the Langlade cabin. Once the Englishman was safely inside, the Pawnee locked the door behind him and took away the key.

Through a crack in the wall, Henry watched the Ojibwa warriors go about their grisly work. “The dead were scalped and mangled,” he wrote, “the dying were writhing and shrieking under the unsatiated knife and tomahawk; and from the bodies of some, ripped open, their butchers were drinking the blood, scooped up in the hollow of joined hands and quaffed amid shouts of rage and victory.”

When the slaughter was complete, a number of bloodstained Ojibwa braves entered the Langlade home. The warriors asked the fur trader whether any Englishmen were hiding in his house, to which Langlade replied that they were welcome to search the place to their satisfaction. The warriors immediately pulled on the door to the attic and found it locked. His heart hammering in his chest, Henry crawled to the corner of the room and covered himself with birch bark baskets sticky with maple sap.

No sooner had the Englishmen concealed himself than the attic door was unlocked. “An instant after,” Henry wrote, “four Indians entered the room, all armed with tomahawks, and all besmeared with blood upon every part of their bodies. The die appeared to be cast. I could scarcely breathe; but I thought that the throbbing of my heart occasioned a noise loud enough to betray me. The Indians walked in every direction about the garret, and one of them approached me so closely that at a particular moment, had he put forth his hand, he must have touched me.” Somehow the Indians failed to find the Englishman, shrouded as he was by the darkness, and eventually left the attic, leaving Henry “with sensations not to be expressed.”

Exhausted from fear, Henry crawled over to a feather bed nearby and collapsed into a deep sleep. He was discovered the following day by Langlade’s wife, who agreed to keep his presence a secret.

The next day, a party of Ojibwa warriors, all of them roaring drunk, stormed into the Langlade home and informed the fur trader that Henry’s body had not been accounted for, and that they suspected that either Langlade or another French-Canadian fur trader was hiding him. His wife, speaking in French, which the Indians did not understand, implored her husband to give up Henry, of whose presence she had previously informed him despite her promise to the Englishman, so that their children would not suffer retribution in the event that the Indians discovered him themselves. Langlade acquiesced and led the Indians to the attic, delivering Henry into their hands.

Henry was captured by a warrior named Wenniway, who, after some contemplation, decided to adopt him as his brother rather than kill him on the spot. After surviving a murder attempt by an Indian who owed him a trading debt, Henry was brought to a cabin in which the Ojibwa chiefs had lodged Major George Etherington and two other high-ranking officers, these prisoners having been spared the slaughter in the hope that they could be ransomed. There, Henry learned that the Ojibwa had killed seventy Englishmen and imprisoned about twenty.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 8.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 6

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 6

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 5.

Winter at Mackinac

Before chronicling his winter at Mackinac, Alexander Henry described the provisions on which the French-Canadian voyageurs subsisted during their long voyages into the heart of Indian country. Specifically, the voyageurs from Mackinac were supplied with maize, or Indian corn, grown in the southwesterly village of L’Arbre Croche, home of the Ottawa natives with whom Henry and his men just had their uncomfortable brush. “This species of grain,” Henry wrote, “is prepared for use by boiling it in a strong lye, after which the husk may be easily removed; and it is next mashed and dried. In this state it is soft and friable like rice.” This process, known today as “nixtamalization”, not only makes the corn more nutritious and palatable, but also destroys potentially dangerous toxins which sometimes contaminate untreated maize. Henry wrote that the French-Canadian voyageurs subsisted almost entirely on this substance, along with pure rendered fat, during their 14-month-long journeys into the Canadian wilderness, each man being allotted 30 quarts of nixtamilized corn and two pounds of fat per month. Henry speculated that the unique ability of French-Canadian voyageurs to stomach and survive indefinitely upon this bland fare was a major factor behind the French’s hitherto monopoly of the fur trade in the region.

Fort Mackinac’s new British commander allowed Alexander Henry and the men who remained with him to spend that winter at the fort. The adventurers combatted the winter’s monotony with hunting partridges and hares, and ice-fishing for lake trout, whitefish, and sturgeon. Henry wrote that his men and the fort’s occupants dined chiefly on trout.

Although few natives visited the fort that winter, a certain Ottawa chief and his family came often to sell beaver meat. This chief, Henry wrote, had been taken prisoner by Sir William Johnson, a celebrated British commander, during the recent Battle of Fort Niagara. Johnson had granted the chief his freedom, and given him a silver medal and a British flag. Very pleased with these unexpected gifts, the chief became sympathetic to the British cause and began displaying the Union Jack atop his wigwam. This act angered many of his compatriots who remained loyal to the French, some of whom destroyed his home and tore his flag to pieces. Thereafter, the chief often came to the fort and showed the tattered remains of his British flag to the soldiers, who would then supply him with “as much liquor as he said was necessary to make him cry over the misfortune of losing his flag.”

Sault Ste. Marie

On May 15, 1762, about a month and a half after the ice broke upon on Lake Huron, Alexander Henry set out in one of his canoes for the northerly village of Sault de Sainte Marie, the site of a Jesuit mission and one of the oldest French fur trading forts in North America, nestled in the strait which separates Lake Huron from Lake Superior. Henry paddled past what he called “Le Detour” (the site of present-day DeTour Village, Michigan), the tip of the peninsula which separates Lake Huron from St. Mary’s River, the latter being the ribbon of water separating Huron from Superior, on which Sault de Sainte Marie is situated.

Henry reached Sault Ste. Marie on May 19th, after a four-day journey, and paid a visit to the fort. He described the complex as consisting of four houses enclosed within a square of wooden palisades. Encamped nearby were bands of both Ojibwa Indians and members of a peaceful nomadic tribe which Henry called the O’pimittish Ininiwac (literally “Men of the Woods”) and the Gens de Terre (French for “Earth Men”)- probably the Mississauga Indians.

Hoping to become fluent in the Ojibwa language, Henry spent more than half a year at Sault Ste. Marie, spending his time fishing, smoking his catch in the Indian fashion, conversing with the fort’s interpreter, a Metis named Jean Baptiste Cadotte, whose family spoke only Ojibwa under their roof. During his stay, a troop of British soldiers arrived at the fort and garrisoned themselves within it.

On December 22nd, a fire broke out in the fort, consuming the commander’s residence and destroying much of the soldiers’ supplies and provisions. The soldiers managed to sustain themselves for some time by snaring hares, hunting partridges, and spearfishing via holes cut through the ice. In February, Henry, the garrison’s commander, and a handful of Ojibwa hunters and French-Canadian voyageurs made the journey to Michilimackinac, where they purchased provisions for the soldiers at Sault Ste. Marie.

During his stay in Michilimackinac, Henry befriended an Ojibwa chief named Wawatam, who often came to the fort to visit him. During one of his calls, he brought his entire family with him, along with a gift of skins, maple sugar, and dried meat, which he presented to Henry. The native then informed the Englishman that, years prior, he had spent several days fasting alone in the wilderness in the hope of receiving a vision from the Great Spirit. During this spiritual retreat, he had a dream in which he adopted an Englishman as his brother. Wawatam believed that Henry must be the Englishman he saw in his dream, and proposed that they become blood brothers. Henry accepted Wawatam’s proposal and gave the Ojibwa a present of his own, much to Wawatam’s pleasure.

Henry stayed on the island until March 10th, whereupon he snowshoed back to Sault Ste. Marie via the Saint Martin Bay, which he called the “Bay of Boutchitaouy”. During this trek, Henry suffered from what he called “snowshoe evil”- an inflammation of the tendons of the lower leg which locals cured by pressing burning touchwood to the affected site and burning the flesh to the nerve. “This experiment,” Henry wrote, “though I had frequently seen it attended with success in others, I did not think proper to make upon myself.”

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 7.

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 17: To Boulderly Go

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 17: To Boulderly Go

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 17 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick Lagina takes Dr. Ian Spooner to the Eye of the Swamp, where a stack of boulders was uncovered at the end of the previous episode. As the geoscientist examines the feature, Rick remarks that formation bears great resemblance to the subterranean makeup of the so-called “Paved Wharf”, beneath which layers of large rocks were discovered in Season 7, Episode 12. Spooner concurs with his assessment, and concludes that the formation must be artificial. The treasure hunters are soon joined by Laird Niven, who observes that the feature resembles filled-in cellars that he has examined in the past.

Meanwhile, at Mari Vineyards in Traverse City, Michigan, Marty Lagina has a video call with Mike Monahan of Irving Equipment Ltd. Marty reveals that Oak Island Tours Inc.’s cofferdam permit will expire in about a month, and asks Monahan whether Irving will be able to dismantle the cofferdam and restore Smith’s Cove to its original condition in accordance with provincial environmental law. Monahan replies that his team is capable of such an operation and will require three weeks to complete it.

The next day, Billy Gerhardt, under Rick Lagina’s direction, reopens the Uplands pit abandoned the previous episode in the hopes of intersecting the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. About six feet below the surface, Billy uncovers a handful of wooden planks and boards which Rick suggests might be the remains of a shaft wall, the shaft presumably being Shaft 5.

Later, Alex Lagina and Peter Fornetti head to Oak Island’s Lot 21, where Laird Niven and conservator Kelly Bourassa are busy digging archaeological trenches around the foundations of the McGinnis family cabin, in the areas where the GPR scan conducted in Season 7, Episode 5 indicated the presence of underground anomalies. Laird shows the cousins the remains of a stone wall which he discovered in one of the trenches, which old photographs indicate constitute the foundation of a shed.

That evening, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room to learn the results of a laser ablation test to which the lump of lead discovered on the beach of Lot 18 in the previous episode was subjected. The crew members call up geochemistry professor Dr. Chris McFarlane, who performed the test. McFarlane informs the team that the lead contains mercury and tin, and opines that the mercury must have been introduced after smelting. “Mercury is one of the most volatile elements,” he explains, “so if you heat it up to 8[00 or] 900 degrees to smelt it, the mercury would be gone. So it had to have been introduced by some other process. I’ve never seen anything like it, honestly.” Jack Begley then remarks that mercury features in Petter Amundsen’s Oak Island theory, presented back in Season 1, Episode 4, which contends that Elizabethan-Jacobean scientist and nobleman Sir Francis Bacon is the man behind the Oak Island mystery. Jack explains that, in his 1626 book Sylva Sylvarum, Bacon described a preservation technique in which the object to be preserved is dipped in mercury. Interestingly, a number of artifacts discovered on Oak Island over the years, including fragments of broken

pottery found in 1937 on Joudrey’s Cove and a fragment of parchment brought up from the Money Pit area in 1897, are said to have borne traces of mercury. After Jack’s exposition, Dr. McFarlane, in response to a question from Doug Crowell, states that the artifact’s isotopic signature suggests that the lead was mined in the Greek mainland, the Aegean Islands, Cyprus, or Turkey. Gary Drayton remarks that each of the places that McFarlane mentioned were known to have been frequented by the Knights Templar.

The next day, Rick Lagina and Craig Tester head to the foundations of the McGinnis cabin on Lot 21, where Laird Niven is busy excavating by hand. The archaeologist shows the treasure hunters evidence of what he believes might be a trap door in the cellar. He also shows Rick and Craig a decorated bone handle of a knife which he discovered in the cellar area, which he dates to the latter half of the 18th Century. The narrator then informs us that Laird will be unable to excavate the foundations further without first acquiring another permit from the Nova Scotian government.

That afternoon, Rick Lagina and Terry Matheson stand by as Billy Gerhardt excavates the Uplands pit. Billy brings up several large timbers bearing notches which Terry observes appear to have been fashioned with an axe. Terry also notices a hole drilled in one of the notches, which he remarks bears great resemblance to drilled holes found in the U-Shaped structure.

When Billy Gerhardt uncovers potential evidence of a tunnel, Rick Lagina decides to examine the supposed structure with his own eyes. He climbs into the bucket of the excavator and Billy Gerhardt lowers him into the hole, much to the consternation of Terry Matheson, who expresses some concern that the hole could cave in. Rick is unable to tell whether truly constitutes a tunnel or not, and Billy brings him back to the surface.

The next day, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester join the rest of the crew at the Uplands pit. There, Rick Lagina shows his younger brother the notched and drilled beam recently recovered from the hole. Marty expresses his belief that the beam is at least two hundred years old and suggests that they have it dendrochronologically tested.

Billy Gerhardt proceeds to remove several more buckets of earth from the hole and hits what he believes to be a boulder. In order to verify the nature of the obstruction, Marty Lagina peers over the edge of the pit, secured to the surface by a rope and harness. Marty spies the opening of what he suspects might be an underground tunnel near the bottom of the hole. In order to get a better look at the feature, the treasure hunters attach a camera to the excavator bucket and lower it into the pit. The feature proves to be a large indentation in the side of the pit surrounded by planks running in all directions, apparently having been torn from their original positions by the excavator. Lodged in the middle of the cavity are what appear to be several large boulders. Marty expresses his opinion that the feature is indeed a tunnel.

That evening, the treasure hunters convene in the War Room, where they review the footage taken in the Uplands pit. Marty Lagina, Paul Troutman, and Billy Gerhardt all express their opinion that the aforementioned feature appears to be the remains of an underground tunnel. Marty remarks that a dendrochronological test of the wood removed from the pit will shed light on the nature of the structure.

The next day, Rick Lagina and Scott Barlow meet at Smith’s Cove with Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. The treasure hunters watch as Jardine’s crew begins to dismantle the cofferdam, ending this season’s excavations at Smith’s Cove.

 

Analysis

The Mercury-Tinged Lead

In this episode, Dr. Chris McFarlane of the University of New Brunswick released the results of the laser ablation test of the lead blob discovered on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 18 in Season 7, Episode 16. McFarlane disclosed that the artifact contains significant quantities of tin and mercury, and postulated that the latter was somehow introduced after the ore from which the lead derives was smelted. He also opined that the ore from which the lead derives was likely mined on the Greek mainland, the Aegean Islands, Cyprus, or Turkey.

After learning the results of the laser ablation tests, Jack Begley remarked that the presence of mercury in the lead artifact evokes Petter Amundsen’s theory, mercury immersion being one of the conservational techniques described in the writings of Sir Francis Bacon, who features prominently in Amundsen’s theory.

The Tunnel in the Uplands Pit

In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc. reopened the Uplands pit which was backfilled in the previous episode. In addition to unearthing a variety of timbers, one of them reminiscent of the U-Shaped structure, the crew discovered the remains of what appears to be an underground tunnel. Several crewmembers suggested that the feature might be the remains of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, and all agreed that a dendrochronological test of the timbers of which it is comprised is in order.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 16: Water Logged

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 16: Water Logged

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 16 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

The episode begins in the Uplands area between Smith’s Cove and the Money Pit, where Billy Gerhardt is busy uncovering what is believed to be the remains of Shaft 5. While the heavy equipment operator goes about his job, Gary Drayton scans the fresh spoils with a metal detector. Gary quickly comes across two large iron spikes, both of which he dates to the 1700s. The narrator remarks that, if the artifacts indeed date to the 18th Century, they were probably left by the builders of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel rather than members of the Truro Company, who constructed Shaft 5 in 1850.

Later that day, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype. Marty and Craig inform the team that they recently met with Jeremy Church, a geophysicist employed by the seismic exploration company Eagle Canada who appeared on the show in Season 6, Episodes 1 and 3. Church and the rest of the Eagle Canada crew have finally processed the data from the massive seismic scan of the eastern half of Oak Island which they performed back in Season 7, Episode 6. The data indicates the presence of an underground anomaly near the southeastern end of the Cave-In Pit at a depth of about 60 feet. The anomaly is linear and appears to run in the direction of the Money Pit, strongly evoking the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Recall that GPR experts Steve Watson and Don Johnston, back in Season 7, Episode 2, also discovered some underground anomalies near the Cave-In Pit during their ground penetrating radar scan of the area, one of them lying at a depth of 82 feet and the other lying at a depth of 91 feet. A subsequent exploratory drilling operation (conducted in Season 7, Episode 5) revealed the presence of four feet of sand somewhere between 99-109 feet below the surface- deeper, it must be mentioned, than either of the two GPR anomalies.

The narrator then reminds us that, back in Season 7, Episode 4, the team discovered fragments of wood at a depth of around 52 feet in Borehole OITC-6, located on Smith’s Cove’s upper beach. These fragments were later dated from 1735-1784. The narrator suggests that these pieces of wood and the 60-foot-deep seismic anomaly located southeast of the Cave-in Pit may both be part of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Two days later, Devin Matchett of Delway Enterprises delivers an enormous long-armed excavator to the island. Matchett explains to Rick and Marty Lagina that this piece of equipment differs from other excavators in that its boom is 60 feet long, while those on regular excavators rarely exceed a length of 35 feet. Once the machine is unloaded, Marty Lagina jumps in the cab and drives to the Uplands pit, which Billy Gerhardt then proceeds to excavate. After several bucket-loads of earth are removed, water begins pouring into the pit. While the treasure hunters admire the spectacle, a huge wall of earth breaks free from the side of the pit and crashes into the water below. The hole slowly starts to cave in, prompting the treasure hunters to backfill it for safety purposes and agree to abandon the excavation for the time being.

The next day, members of the Oak Island team meet at the Eye of the Swamp, determined to investigate the stones that encircle its perimeter, around each of which Gary Drayton discovered the presence of some mysterious iron objects in Season 7, Episode 3. The treasure hunters begin draining the pond with pumps, and Marty Lagina and Billy Gerhardt supplement the effort by removing water with their new excavator.

While the Eye of the Swamp is being drained, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton do some metal detecting on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 17. There, they come across a large misshapen chunk of scrap lead. Rick suggests that they subject the artifact to a laser ablation test similar to those previously conducted on the lead cross and the cloisonné).

The next morning, the Oak Island team resumes the excavation of the Eye of the Swamp, which is not yet completely dry. One of the first buckets of sludge which Marty Lagina removes from the feature with the excavator contains a rock, which Jack Begley and Gary Drayton proceed to examine. The show neglects to inform us whether this rock contains any trace of the mysterious iron which Gary discovered back in Episode 3 of this season. While liberating the rock from the muck surrounding it, Jack Begley observes that the mud is mixed with what appears to be blue clay- a substance of which other sections of the swamp are devoid.

Shortly thereafter, the treasure hunters uncover the remains of three large tree stumps rooted to the swamp floor, reminiscent of the various oak stumps discovered in the swamp over the years, including those dredged up in Season 2, Episode 1; and Season 4, Episode 3. “These stumps should not be there,” says Rick Lagina in a later interview, “unless there was a transition from dry to wet conditions.” Marty Lagina then elaborates on his elder brother’s remark, stating, “It just is so obvious that something changed radically between when those trees were growing and today, and if that’s a natural process, OK. Doesn’t mean anything. If it’s man-made, it sure means something.”

Gary Drayton examines one of the stump with his metal detector and discovers an iron rod embedded in the wood. This find evokes another discovery made in Season 4, Episode 3, when Tony Sampson discovered a metal object encased in a large stump rooted to the floor of the Mercy Point area in the Oak Island swamp. Sampson pried the object loose, revealing it to be a survey marker placed decades ago by treasure hunter Fred Nolan.

The next day, Craig Tester, Alex Lagina, and Charles Barkhouse head to St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they present Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Christa Brosseau with the iron spikes recently discovered in the Uplands pit. With the help of research instrument technician Dr. Xiang Yang, Dr. Brosseau examines the nails under an electron microscope and finds that they both contain phosphorus, which she says is an indication that they were forged sometime prior to the 1840s. She also states that old iron objects rich in phosphorus are commonly found in Britain and Northern Europe. Alex Lagina then remarks that, if the artifacts were indeed manufactured prior to 1840, they may have been left by the builders of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Later, the Fellowship of the Dig meets at the Mug & Anchor Pub in the town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. There, Alex Lagina presents his fellow treasure hunters with the nails from the Upland pit and informs them of Dr. Brosseau’s analysis. In light of the news that the spikes might have been left by the original depositors, the treasure hunters agree that they ought to resume the excavation of the Uplands pit.

The next day, Tom Nolan assists Rick Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Billy Gerhardt in their excavation of the Eye of the Swamp. While digging at the centre of the feature, Billy Gerhardt uncovers a stack of enormous boulder comparable in size to those which comprise Nolan’s Cross. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to have the boulders analyzed by geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner.

 

Analysis

The Cave-In Pit Anomaly

Near the beginning of this episode, we learned that the seismic survey of the eastern half of Oak Island carried out in Season 7, Episode 6, indicated the presence of a tantalizing anomaly southeast of the Cave-In Pit at a depth of 60 feet. The anomaly is linear and runs towards the Money Pit area, evoking the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

This discovery is reminiscent of the anomalies discovered by GPR experts Steve Watson and Don Johnston during their ground penetrating radar scan of the Cave-In Pit area in Season 7, Episode 2. Specifically, these anomalies were located at depths of 82 and 91 feet, respectively. A subsequent exploratory drilling operation failed to determine the nature of these anomalies, although it did yield four feet of sand somewhere between the depth of 99 and 109 feet.

As the narrator mentioned in this episode, the 60-foot-deep anomaly indicated by the seismic survey data also calls to mind the fragments of wood discovered between 50-53 feet in Borehole OITC-6- an exploratory drillhole punched at Smith’s Cove’s upper beach in Season 7, Episode 4. These fragments were later carbon dated from 1735-1784.

Metal Rods in Stumps in the Swamp

In this episode, the Oak Island team uncovered several large tree stumps on the outer perimeter of the Eye of the Swamp. While examining the area with a metal detector, Gary Drayton discovered what appeared to be an iron rod embedded in one of these stumps.

This find evokes another discovery made in Season 4, Episode 3, when diver Tony Sampson discovered a swamp in the Mercy Point area in the swamp. Sampson discovered the presence of some sort of metal object in the swamp which proved to be an iron survey marker placed decades ago by treasure hunter Fred Nolan.

Nails from the Uplands Pit

In this episode, the crew discovers two square-shanked rosehead nails (S5E2) in their exploratory pit in the Uplands area. At the end of the episode, Dr. Christa Brosseau and Dr. Xiang Yang of St. Mary’s University in Halifax examine the artifacts under an electron microscope and find that both of them contain significant quantities of phosphorus. Dr. Brosseau explains that this is an indication that the nails were crafted prior to 1840, and that they were probably made in either England or Northern Europe.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 15: Surely Templar

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 15: Surely Templar

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 15 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

In light of Gary Drayton’s discovery of an iron bracket in the swamp in the previous episode, the Oak Island crew members return their attention towards the so-called Ship Anomaly, hoping once again that this feature might be the site of a buried ship. The narrator reveals that the depth of the Ship Anomaly is not uniform, with the northern end lying at a depth of 15 feet and the southern end lying at a depth of 55 feet. Accordingly, the crew decides to dig a fifteen-foot-deep exploratory trench at the Anomaly’s northern end. Several feet below the surface, they discovers an axe-cut wooden stake similar to those discovered in Season 7, Episode 11.

Meanwhile, in Traverse City, Michigan, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester have a Skype meeting with Vanessa Lucido of ROC Equipment, during which they ask the CEO the dimensions of the largest caisson ROC is capable of sinking. Lucido replies that, although the previous custom-made caisson used on Oak Island throughout Seasons 5 and 6 measured 50 inches in diameter, the ROC oscillator is capable of handling 8-foot (96-inch) caissons. The treasure hunters arrange for Lucido to bring the larger caisson to Oak Island.

Back in the swamp, while heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt is busy digging the trench at the tip of the Ship Anomaly, Gary Drayton conducts a metal detecting operation in the surrounding area. He quickly comes across a metallic object buried beside a cone-shaped rock. This artifact proves to be a pointy metal cone in which a broken wooden dowel appears to be embedded. “Initially,” says Rick Lagina in a later interview, “it looked like a spear point… or a lance point, rather. But then we turn it about, and it appears hollow…”

Meanwhile, Gerhardt is precluded from digging his trench to the planned depth of 15 feet due to the hardness of the clay. Fearful that they might damage their backhoe if they persist, the crew decides to terminate the operation.

That night, the crew congregates in the War Room, where they meet with author James McQuiston, who presented his Oak Island theory back in Season 6, Episode 20. In his previous War Room meeting with the Oak Island team, McQuiston had put forth the theory that members of the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia- a 17th Century Scottish chivalric order associated with the short-lived Scottish colony of Nova Scotia- had buried the treasure of the Knights Templar on Oak Island sometime in the 1630s. In this episode, he expands on that theory by claiming that Sir William Alexander, the founder of the Nova Scotian colony, was the leader of a secret proto-Masonic society. “The bottom line,” he summarizes, “is that it’s more than apparent that the Scottish clan leaders who became the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia had a lot of links to the Freemasons,” Freemasonic symbolism having been associated with a number of discoveries made on Oak Island over the past two centuries. McQuiston goes on to point out that John Smith, one of the co-discoverers of the Money Pit, was related to one James McLean, whom he claims succeeded William Alexander as the leader of aforementioned secret society. He further suggests that John Smith knew about the existence of the Money Pit through his connection to James McLean and deliberately searched for it on Oak Island.

The next day, Marty Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Laird Niven, Steve Guptill, and Peter Fornetti head to the foundation of the McGinnis family home on Oak Island’s Lot 21. The narrator informs us that the team has acquired a permit to excavate the anomalies surrounding the foundation, these anomalies having been discovered by GPR experts Steve Watson and Don Johnston back in Season 7, Episode 5. Under Niven’s direction, the treasure hunters use pins and string to mark off the locations of the test pits which they plan to dig and begin to excavate these sections with trowels. Each load of earth removed is then filtered on a sifting screen and minutely scrutinized. “Under Laird’s supervision,” Rick explains in a later interview, “we will conduct a proper archaeological dig of the foundation and the surrounding area…”

Later, Billy Gerhardt, Jack Begley, and Gary Drayton resume the excavation of the trench in the Uplands area between Smith’s Cove and the Money Pit area, in which several large timbers were discovered in the previous episode. They soon intersect what appears to be the collapsed remains of a wood-shored shaft or tunnel. Near the structure, Jack Begley discovers a wad of what appears to be coconut fibre. The treasure hunters find more of the substance nearby and collect it for future analysis.

The next day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Gary Drayton drive to the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they show blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge the conical metal object they discovered in the swamp near the northern tip of the Ship Anomaly. “Well,” says Legge while turning the object over in his hands, “it’s a hollow point. Two rivets on each side. Obviously it would have a wooden handle inserted in there and riveted into place.” After dating the artifact from 1710 to 1790, the blacksmithing expert identifies the object as the tip of a pike pole and declares that it must have come off a sailing ship. “I know that they use a lot of these on ships,” he explains, “to maneuver ships in really, really close spaces.” Following Legge’s analysis, some of the treasure hunters take the artifact as evidence of the theory that a ship, burnt or otherwise, lies interred within the Oak Island swamp.

Following their meeting with Carmen Legge, the treasure hunters resume their excavation of the trench in the Uplands. While incrementally picking away at the recently-discovered wooden structure with his backhoe, Billy Gerhardt intersects a vein of water. Immediately, the trench begins to flood. The water flow quickly slows to a trickle, allowing the treasure hunters to examine the area from which the water erupted. Curiously, the water appears to have issued from the space between two large boulders which, as Jack Begley remarks, bear great resemblance to those discovered on Smith’s Cove in Season 6, Episode 10, which Doug Crowell suspected might be the remains of one of the box drains. Rick Lagina inserts the end of his shovel into the cavity and finds it to be oriented vertically, and to be deeper than the shaft of his spade. Jack Begley voices his opinion that the boulders might constitute the remains of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, and that the wooden structure nearby might constitute the remains of a searcher shaft called Shaft 5. The narrator then explains that Shaft 5 was sank by members of the Truro Company in the summer of 1850 about 100 feet from the Smith’s Cove beach for the purpose of intersecting the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. At depth of about 35 feet, labourers had encountered a boulder. When they removed it, water began to flood the pit. The 19th Century treasure hunters, suspecting that they had indeed intersected the flood tunnel, promptly clogged the booby trap with clay and wood pilings before fruitlessly attempting to bail water from the Money Pit.

The next day, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room and calls up Dr. Ian Spooner, who has had a chance to examine the supposed coconut fibre found in the Uplands trench. The geoscientist confirms that the substance is indeed coconut fibre, as suspected.

 

Analysis

The Pike Pole Point

In this episode, Gary Drayton discovered a conical metal object buried beside a cone-shaped rock near the northern tip of the Ship Anomaly in the Oak Island swamp. Embedded within the object was a broken wooden dowel held in place by two rivets. Later, blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge examined the artifact and identified it as the tip of a pike pole- a tool used maneuver large wooden objects- and dated it from 1710 to 1790, similar to the bracket found in the previous episode. He further opined that the object was used to finely maneuver a sailing ship, bolstering the theory that the remains of a ship lie buried in the swamp.

The Uplands Structure: Shaft 5?

Near the end of this episode, members of the Oak Island team resumed the excavation of the trench in the Uplands area between Smith’s Cove and the Money Pit area which commenced at the end of the previous episode. The treasure hunters uncovered the remains of some sort of shaft or tunnel. Nearby, the came across several wads of what was later determined to be coconut fibre. Further below, they uncovered two large boulders between which issued a stream of water. Following that discovery, some of the treasure hunters theorized that the wooden timbers in the trench constitute the remains of Shaft 5- a shaft dug by members of the Truro Syndicate in 1850 for the purpose of intersecting the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. At a depth of 35 feet, the Truro treasure hunters encountered a boulder which, when removed, allowed water from below to rise up and flood the shaft. Believing that they had indeed intersected the flood tunnel, they attempted to clog the supposed booby trap with clay and wood pilings. That accomplished, they tried to bail water from the Money Pit, but to no avail, leading some of the treasure hunters to believe that they had not completely plugged the flood tunnel, and others to suspect that there might be more than one flood tunnel feeding the Money Pit.

 

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Nautical Mysteries of Canada’s Great Lakes

Nautical Mysteries of Canada’s Great Lakes

For centuries, North America’s five Great Lakes have served as the setting for a host of legends, folktales, and nautical mysteries. The local Ojibwa First Nations, for example, tell stories of fabulous monsters which inhabit the depths, shores, and skies of these inland seas, from the Mishipeshu, a huge horned aquatic creature imbued with mystical powers; to the Thunderbird, the enemy of the Mishipeshu, responsible for the creation of lightning storms; to the Memogovissiouis– long-haired sirens who reside within the coldest, deepest recesses of these freshwater oceans. French-Canadian voyageurs who paddled their birch-bark canoes across these waters during the days of the North American fur trade had their own tales of haunted spots and curious locales, like the Pictured Rocks on the shores of Lake Superior- a series of colourful sandstone bluffs pitted with dark caverns which were said to be home to a mischievous spirit called Menni-boujou; and La Cloche– a strange rock on an island in Lake Huron which, when struck, rang like a bell across the water. More modern Michigan lore is replete with stories of bottomless subterranean outlets which connect these massive bodies of water with smaller adjacent lakes and waterways. Legend has it that underwater currents draw the corpses of drowned fishermen into these outlets, engendering another popular folktale which contends that the Great Lakes never give up their dead.

 

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Of all the strange stories and legends surrounding the Great Lakes, perhaps the most chilling are those pertaining to the host of ships and sailors that the Lakes have swallowed over the years. Undoubtedly, the most famous of these is the tale of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, a massive Great Lakes freighter whose mysterious and untimely demise was immortalized in Canadian folksinger Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 hit song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.

The story of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald begins in 1957, when an American insurance company called Northwestern Mutual commissioned the ship’s construction and named it after its president. With a length of 729 feet (222 metres) and a gross registered tonnage of 13,632, it was, at the time of its launch, the largest vessel to ever ply the waters of the Great Lakes.

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald began its career on an ominous note. During its christening in Detroit, Michigan, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the wife of the businessman after whom the freighter was named, tried three times to smash a champagne bottle over the ship’s bow, succeeding on the last. When the ropes securing the ship to the shore were subsequently severed, the freighter slid down a ramp into the Detroit River and hit the water at an awkward angle, sending up an enormous wave that doused all who attended the ceremony. The shock of the cold water sent one of the onlookers into cardiac arrest; the fifty-eight-year-old attendee, who had travelled from Toledo, Ohio, to witness the launch, died on the scene.

Despite its inauspicious inauguration, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald went on to enjoy a brief but prosperous career hauling taconite (processed pellets of iron ore) across the Great Lakes. Due to its speed and cargo capacity, the freighter routinely set hauling records during the 748 trips it completed throughout its lifetime.

On the afternoon of November 9, 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald left Superior, Wisconsin, for a steel mill near Detroit, its cargo hold filled with 26,000 tons of taconite. She was captained by Ernest McSorley, a heavy-weather Canadian-born mariner known for his quiet stoicism and his willingness to sail through rough waters, and was crewed by 28 veteran sailors. About three hours into her voyage, she overtook and was subsequently trailed by another taconite-laden cargo ship called the SS Arthur M. Anderson whose captain, Jesse “Bernie” Cooper, agreed to accompany the Edmund Fitzgerald across Lake Superior.

At that time, a winter severe storm was making its way across the lake. Fueled by the collision of cold Arctic winds with warm fronts from the Gulf of Mexico, these ferocious cyclonic gales are referred to colloquially as the “Witch of November”. Trusting in the experience of their crews and the integrity of the vessels they commanded, neither McSorley nor Cooper thought twice about steering their freighters into the heart of this rapidly-intensifying tempest.

The prudent captains adopted a course along Lake Superior’s northern Canadian shore, which would offer them some protection from the storm, and kept in regular contact with each other via radio. The Edmund Fitzgerald and the Arthur M. Anderson pushed on throughout the night, weathering what Captain McSorley described as “the worst sea [he had] ever been in”. The freighters were whipped by 60-mile-per-hour winds and battered by ten-foot-tall waves which gradually wore down the Edmund Fitzgerald. By 3:30 A.M., the freighter had begun to lean to one side. By 5:30, the ship had lost both its radars to the wind and was taking heavy waves over her decks.

At 7:10 that evening, when the Edmund Fitzgerald was about fifteen nautical miles from Whitefish Bay and the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie beyond, Captain Cooper’s first mate, Morgan Clark, radioed Captain McSorley to inform him of the presence of a ship which lay ahead of him. He concluded the transmission by asking how the Edmund Fitzgerald was faring. “We’re holding our own,” was McSorey’s reply.

That was the last anyone ever heard from Ernest McSorey or his crew. Mere moments later, the Edmund Fitzgerald suddenly and mysterious plummeted 530 feet down to the bottom of Lake Superior, twisting in half in the process and entombing Captain McSorey and his crew of 28 in a frigid watery grave. There were no witnesses of the disaster; the crew members of the Arthur M. Anderson only realized that something was amiss when McSorey failed to respond to their radio queries and when they found that they were unable to see any of the Edmund Fitzgerald’s lights in the distance when the fog cleared.

When the enormous freighter failed to appear on his radar screen, Captain Cooper called the Canadian Coastguard and informed them of the situation. An hour later, the American and Canadian Coast Guards launched a joint aerial search for the missing vessel and its crew. The rescue team’s efforts were soon supplemented by those of the crews of the Arthur M. Anderson and the William Clay Ford, the latter a freighter anchored nearby, which left the relative safety of Whitefish Bay and joined the search for the Edmund Fitzgerald. Despite a thorough and concerted search, the only trace of the freighter that the rescue team managed to find that day were the remains of a lifeboat shattered beyond repair.

The following day, as news of the missing freighter began to circulate throughout the Great Lakes region, Father Richard Ingalls of the Mariner’s Church of Detroit rang his church’s bell 29 times, each toll representing a lost crewmember of the Edmund Fitzgerald. For thirty one years, the reverent of the Mariner’s Church would continue to perform this ritual on the anniversary of the freighter’s disappearance.

Three days later, a U.S. Navy aircraft equipped with a metal detection device discovered the wreck SS Edmund Fitzgerald lying to two pieces at the bottom of Lake Superior about fifteen nautical miles from the mouth of Whitefish Bay. Subsequent diving operations, one of them conducted by marine explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau (the son of the celebrated French explorer Jacques Cousteau), failed to recover any of the bodies of the 29 sailors who went down with the ship.

Throughout the next two decades, many different theories were put forth as to the cause of the freighter’s demise. Some believed that the Edmund Fitzgerald had sustained fatal damage while bottoming out on the Six Fathom Shoal northwest Caribou Island, not far from its final destination. Others maintained that the freighter had been buried by twin rogue waves measuring about 35 feet in height, which the crew of the Arthur M. Anderson had encountered at 6:40 A.M. on the morning of November 10th. Others still suggested that the ship’s cargo hold was flooded due to the crew’s failure to properly close that hatches that sealed it from the elements. To date, authorities disagree on the specific factors which contributed to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and to this day, the true cause of the freighter’s capsizal remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the Great Lakes.

In the summer of 1995, Canadian explorer Dr. Joseph B. MacInnes led a series of dives on the sunken ship, during which he salvaged the freighter’s bell- an artifact which some writers have described as the symbolic heart of the ship. MacInnes later replaced the bell with a replica on which was inscribed the names of the 29 sailors who went down with the freighter- a headstone marking the final resting place of the sailors who lie interred within the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

 

Le Griffon

Although the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the largest ship ever claimed by the Great Lakes, she was neither the first nor the only. Over the past four centuries, over 6,000 ships have come to rest beneath the waves of these five inland seas. Notwithstanding the scores of native birch bark canoes and French bateaus which must have foundered in these freshwater oceans in centuries past, the first real ship to disappear in the Great Lakes was a French barque called Le Griffon, or “The Griffon”.

Le Griffon was constructed in the year 1679 by Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, an ambitious French adventurer remembered today for his establishment of a vast bygone province known as French Louisiana. Trained in France as a Jesuit priest, La Salle left the Jesuit Order in 1667 to pursue fame and fortune in Canada- at that time, a French colony called New France. After acquiring some land on the Island of Montreal, he had led an unsuccessful expedition in search of the Northwest Passage- the legendary waterway through North America connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific. In 1672, he allied himself with Louis de Buade, Compte de Frontenac, the newly-appointed Governor of New France. Frontenac hoped to expand the colony westward from its confines in the valley in the St. Lawrence River and bring the fur trade to the Great Lakes- a wild region populated at that time by warring native tribes, a handful of Jesuit missionaries, and independent fur traders called coureurs des bois, or “runners of the woods”. In 1673, La Salle helped the Governor establish Fort Frontenac at the junction of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario- the colony’s first real incursion into the Great Lakes.

In 1677, La Salle sailed to France for the purpose of convincing King Louis XIV to grant him permission to establish two more forts on the Great Lakes- one of them at the mouth of the Niagara River, and the other at the southern end of Lake Michigan. He also requested a license to build a sailing ship on Lake Erie, at the end of the Niagara River opposite Lake Ontario. The king granted his request, and La Salle sailed for Canada with thirty shipwrights, carpenters, blacksmiths, and soldiers, as well as an abundance of supplies.

La Salle began his enterprise by splitting his party into three groups. One disembarked in canoes and paddled ahead to Lake Michigan to establish a trading relationship with the natives there. Another, headed by a Recollect friar named Father Louis Hennepin and a French Royal Army officer named Dominique la Motte de Luciere, set out in a small sailing vessel for the Niagara River, where they were to choose the location of a new fort. La Salle himself, accompanied by a French maritime pilot and a one-handed Italian soldier named Henri de Tonti, took a small sailing ship to a native village on the shores of Lake Ontario to secure winter provisions for his crew.

The enterprise began with a rocky start. Unbeknownst to La Salle, most of the men sent to Lake Michigan squandered their trade goods and deserted. The ship headed by Hennepin and La Motte became encased in ice near present-day Toronto, and had to be liberated with axes before its occupants could make their way across Lake Ontario to the mouth of the Niagara River. And although La Salle and Tonti managed to obtain provisions at a native village, they lost everything in an accident on Lake Ontario.

The party headed by Hennepin and La Motte managed to reach the mouth of the Niagara River and choose a suitable building site for the fort, which was to be named ‘Fort Conti’ after one of La Salle’s aristocratic Parisian friends. A few of them decided to head further up the river to the base of what is now Queenston Heights. Excepting, perhaps, a few earlier Jesuit missionaries who failed to write about the experience, Hennepin and his companions thus became the first white men to see the Niagara Falls.

That accomplished, Hennepin, La Motte, and company struck out westward through the forest to a newly-established Seneca Iroquois village, where they hoped to have their enterprise sanctioned by the local chief. Back in the 1640s and ‘50s, the warlike Iroquois Confederacy had left their haunts in the forests of upstate New York to launch a massive offensive against the Huron, Erie, Neutral, and Petun Nations of the Great Lakes. Armed with muskets and steel tomahawks supplied by their Dutch and English allies to the southeast, they wiped out entire nations and drove others from their traditional hunting grounds. In the 1660s, the colonists of New France found themselves drawn into the conflict, obliged to defend their allies from the Iroquois invaders. After a series of bloody skirmishes and counteroffensives, New France made a tentative peace with the Iroquois Confederacy in 1666, allowing the invaders to settle the lands of the First Nations they had conquered. Ever since, a shaky tranquility had reigned over the eastern Great Lakes. Eager to maintain the status quo, Hennepin and La Motte were dismayed when the Seneca chief failed to give his blessing to their enterprise.

Fortunately, La Salle had better luck than his subordinates. Upon arriving from his misadventure on Lake Ontario, the explorer personally paid a visit to the chief and convinced him that the Iroquois would benefit from their undertaking. Finally, with the chief’s tentative approval, the Frenchmen commenced the construction of Fort Conti. In addition to the fort, they also began building a 45-ton barque, or sailing ship, above the Niagara Falls.

The construction of this vessel was an unpleasant task for La Salle’s men, who began the project by hauling deck spikes, rigging, and other equipment up the portage trail to the riverbank above Niagara Falls. Throughout the winter, spring, and early summer, they labored with frozen fingers and empty stomachs, all the while wary of the sullen Iroquois braves who often loitered around the worksite, fingering their tomahawks and war clubs. While his men worked on the ship and the fort, La Salle himself, accompanied by two of his employees, travelled by snowshoe through the forest and across Lake Ontario to Fort Frontenac, where he hoped to replenish the provisions he had lost in the lake.

During La Salle’s absence, the men on the Niagara River completed both the fort and the 45-ton ship. The latter was christened Le Griffon, or “The Griffon”, that mythical monster being the primary ornament on Count Frontenac’s coat of arms. Its prow bore a wooden carving of the legendary half-lion/half-eagle for which it was named, and its decks bristled with seven small cannons which were fired at its christening.

La Salle finally returned to the Niagara River in early August, this time accompanied by three Flemish friars. Eager to make use of the new ship, he and all his men embarked on Le Griffon and set out on her maiden voyage across Lake Erie.

For three days, the explorers sailed down the length of the lake. On the fourth day, they turned north and sailed up the Detroit River. They crossed Lake St. Clair beyond and proceeded up the St. Clair River into Lake Huron. There, the explorers were beset by a ferocious gale which threatened to capsize their vessel. Praying to St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of mariners, the sailors managed to make their way up Lake Huron to the Island of Michilimackinac, home to Indian villages and a Jesuit mission, and a haven for coureurs des bois.

La Salle and his crew received a cool welcome from the Jesuits, in whose chapel they celebrated mass. They explorers were also greeted by the local Huron and Ottawa Indians who were amazed at the size of their ship. During their visit, they received the disheartening news that most of the fifteen men whom La Salle had previously sent to establish a trading relationship with the Indians of Lake Michigan had squandered his trading goods and abandoned their mission.

In early September, La Salle and the crew of Le Griffon sailed west from Michilimackinac into Lake Michigan and further southwest into Green Bay. There, on an island, he found the few members of his advance party who had remained loyal to him, discovering to his pleasure that they had acquired a small fortune in furs from their trade with the natives. La Salle then had these furs loaded into the cargo hold of Le Griffon and ordered a handful of his men to transport them to Fort Conti, asking the ship’s pilot to return to Lake Michigan as soon as the cargo was unloaded. Le Griffon departed on September 18th, 1679, just as a storm began to brew.

Aside from the vessel’s own crew, La Salle and his explorers were the last men to set eyes on Le Griffon. The vessel disappeared on her homeward voyage somewhere in the waters of Lakes Michigan, Huron, or Erie. Most assumed that the ship had foundered in a storm and was lost with all hands. This theory is supported by the discoveries of Albert Cullis, who manned the Mississagi Strait Lighthouse on Manitoulin Island in the 19th Century; in the late 1890s, Cullis reputedly discovered a watch chain, three 17th Century coins, and five human skeletons in and around a cave on Manitoulin Island. Another theory regarding the fate of Le Griffon contends that the ship was boarded by hostile Indians who murdered her crew before setting her ablaze; La Salle and his crew certainly had their fair share of rivals who would stop at nothing to protect their own interests in the fur trade. La Salle himself suspected that the ship’s occupants had intentionally scuttled Le Griffon and made off with the furs she contained; in letters to Count Frontenac, the explorer wrote about an Indian rumour which held that, in 1680, white men matching the description of the crew of Le Griffon had been captured by Indians on the Mississippi River paddling canoes filled with valuable goods. The natives killed every crew member but the captain, whom they took prisoner. La Salle believed that these unfortunates constituted his ship’s crew, who had intentionally sank his vessel and made off with his furs with the intention of joining a famous coureurs des bois named Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut. Whatever the case, Le Griffon’s undiscovered wreck is considered today to be the Holy Grail of Great Lakes shipwreck hunters.

 

The Hamilton and the Scourge

Over a hundred and thirty years after Le Griffon’s disappearance, half a century after France ceded Canada to Great Britain and nearly four decades after Britain ceded her Thirteen Colonies to the United States, the Great Lakes resounded with the thunder of cannons and the rattle of musketry in a conflict known today as the War of 1812.

Angered by the British Royal Navy’s practice of impressing American citizens into service, and insulted by King George III’s attempts to prevent American merchants from trading with Napoleonic France, with whom Britain was at war, the United States Congress declared war on Great Britain, initiating the War of 1812. Throughout the summer and autumn of that year, the Great Lakes bore witness to a number of deadly clashes between American and British-Canadian forces, including the successful British Siege of Detroit and a failed American invasion of Upper Canada- the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.

On April 27, 1813, the U.S. Army and Navy launched an attack on the British city of York (present-day Toronto), situated on the western shores of Lake Ontario. The American soldiers successfully captured the city, only to be killed and maimed by the detonation of the fort’s powder magazine, this tremendous explosion having been orchestrated by the retreating British. The Americans avenged this act by plundering the town and setting many of its buildings on fire.

The U.S. troops went on to attack and capture the southeasterly Fort George, situated at the mouth of the Niagara River. Later that summer, they attempted to besiege a British garrison at present-day Burlington, Ontario, southwest of York. The British Royal Navy sailed out to stop them, and thus, on the morning of August 7th, 1813, the British and American Great Lakes fleets found themselves face to face, just beyond cannon range of one another, unable to engage due to an uncharacteristic absence of wind which settled over Lake Ontario.

One of the vessels in the U.S. fleet during this spell was a Canadian merchant schooner-turned-American war ship called the USS Scourge, and one of the sailors aboard that vessel was a Canadian expat named Ned Myers. Many years later, Myers would tell his story to celebrated American novelist James Fennimore Cooper, who put his tale into print in his 1843 biography of him entitled Life Before the Mast. Myers, via Cooper’s book, wrote:

“It was a lovely evening, not a cloud visible, and the lake being as smooth as a looking-glass. The English fleet was but a short distance to the northward of us; so near, indeed, that we could almost count their ports. They were becalmed, like ourselves, and a little shattered.”

After having their supper, Myers and the crew of the USS Scourge bedded down next to the cannons. Myers wrote:

“I was soon asleep, as if lying in the bed of a king. How long my nap lasted, or what took place in the interval, I cannot say. I awoke, however, in consequence of large drops of rain falling on my face… When I opened my eyes, it was so dark I could not see the length of the deck…”

As Myers snuck away from his post to retrieve a bottle of grog, the schooner on which he served was suddenly beset by a violent storm. The Scourge quickly took on water and, in less than a minute, began to sink.

“The flashes of lightning were incessant, and nearly blinded me. Our decks seemed on fire, and yet I could see nothing. I heard no hail, no order, no call; but the schooner was filled with the shrieks and cries of the men to leeward, who were lying jammed under the guns, shot-boxes, shot and other heavy things that had gone down as the vessel fell over…

“I now crawled aft, on the upper side of the bulwarks, amid a most awful and infernal din of thunder, and shrieks, and dazzling flashes of lightning; the wind blowing all the while like a tornado… It now came across me that if the schooner should right, she was filled, and must go down, and that she might carry me with her in the suction. I made a spring, therefore, and fell into the water several feet from the place where I had stood. It is my opinion the schooner sank as I left her.”

Myers began to swim for the first time in his life. By chance, he bumped into a lifeboat, into which he managed to climb. Through an oppressive darkness punctuated by blinding flashes of lightning, he searched for survivors and managed to drag seven fellow soldiers into the tiny craft. Myers and his shipmates were later rescued by American sailors whose ship had survived the tempest.

In addition to the Scourge, the storm claimed another U.S. Navy schooner called the USS Hamilton.  Of the 102 sailors aboard these vessels at the time of the squall, only sixteen survived their capsizing, many of them having been trapped inside the ships during their 300-foot descent to the bottom of the lake.

Legend has it that on foggy nights in the waters outside Burlington, Ontario, sailors sometimes spy two old-fashioned square-sailed vessels, with their gun ports open and their decks illuminated by the eerie glow of lanterns hanging in the rigging. As soon as they are spotted, these phantasmal vessels shake as if buffeted by unearthly winds before sinking beneath the surface, all the while accompanied by the faint shrieks of drowning sailors whose skeletons lie below, entombed within the wrecks of the USS Scourge and the USS Hamilton.

 

Old Whitey and the Ghosts of the SS Kamloops

Another of the thousands of ships devoured by the Great Lakes over the past four centuries is the SS Kamloops, a steam-powered freighter which sank with all hands off Isle Royal in Lake Superior just south of Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1927. What distinguishes the SS Kamloops from other Great Lakes wrecks are the crewmembers, both corporeal and ethereal, who are said to still wander its decks at the bottom of the lake.

The SS Kamloops began her life in 1924, in a shipyard in North East England. Commissioned by the Montreal-based shipping company Canada Steamship Lines, she had a length of 250 feet and a gross tonnage of 2,402, making her one of the smaller freighters on the Great Lakes at that time. Her limited size allowed her to traverse the Welland Canal, an artificial waterway connecting Lake Ontario with Lake Erie.

After steaming across the Atlantic Ocean and up the St. Lawrence River to her home on the Great Lakes, the SS Kamloops was put to work hauling manufactured goods, many of them destined for the rapidly-developing Prairie Provinces, from the St. Lawrence to Lake Superior. Due to the hazardous Great Lakes freighting practice of shipping as late as possible prior to winter freeze-up, the steamer and her crew had a few close calls. In 1926, for example, the freighter became trapped in ice in the St. Mary’s River, the waterway which connects Lake Huron with Lake Superior.

In late November, 1927, the SS Kamloops, under the command of Captain William Brian, was tasked with hauling a mixed cargo from Montreal to Fort William, Ontario- a district of what is now Thunder Bay. On this journey, it trailed the wake of the SS Quedoc, an empty grain carrier also bound for Fort William. The Kamloops passed through the Soo Locks, a water lift on the St. Mary’s River, on December 4th, when it was beset by a howling northern gale.

On the night of December 6th, in the waters off Isle Royale, the captain of the SS Quedoc spied a dark misshapen mass looming before him through the fog. He and his crew frantically maneouvered their vessel to avoid the mysterious obstacle and narrowly avoided what promised to be catastrophic collision. They sounded their foghorn to warn Captain Brian and the crew of the Kamloops and continued onto Fort William. Disturbingly, the SS Kamloops failed to make it into port that night.

In the days that followed the storm, search and rescue crews scoured the surrounding area for a number of different ships that had failed to arrive at their destinations. Most of these were found stranded in different areas of the lake, having been blown off course during the gale. Only the SS Kamloops remained unaccounted for.

Canadian winter hit the Great Lakes shortly after the freighter’s disappearance and the waters of Superior began to freeze. It soon became apparent to even the most hopeful friends and family members that there was virtually no chance that any of the SS Kamloops’ crew of twenty-two had survived the mysterious calamity that befell their ship.

In the spring of 1928, fishermen plying their trade off the coast of Isle Royale discovered two half-frozen corpses washed up on the island’s shore. The bodies were identified as crew members of the SS Kamloops. Several months later, in early June, fishermen found six more bodies on the island, five of them huddled together as if for warmth. One of the corpses was identified as 22-year-old Alice Bettridge, one of the two women serving aboard the SS Kamloops on the night of its disappearance. Half a year later, a trapper discovered a handwritten note in a pickle jar near the mouth of the Agawa River, across Lake Superior from Isle Royal, which Alice had apparently scrawled in her final moments. The message reads, “I am the last one left alive, freezing and starving to death on Isle Royale. I just want mom and dad to know my fate.” The letter was signed, “Al, who is dead.”

On August 21st, 1977, Minneapolis-based recreational diver Ken Engelbrecht discovered the wreck of the SS Kamloops while searching for the vessel off the northern shore of Isle Royale. The steamboat lay on her starboard side 270 feet below the water’s surface. Inside the ship’s engine room floated two human corpses with snow-white skin, both of them in excellent condition due to the preservative effects of the ice-cold water in which they were immersed and the relative absence of aquatic life at that depth. One of these bodies evidently belonged to Netty Grafton, the ship’s stewardess and Alice Bettridge’s only female companion during the SS Kamloops’ final voyage. The other was an unidentified man wearing a wedding ring, whom future divers nicknamed “Grandpa” and “Old Whitey”.

A number of divers who have explored the wreck of the SS Kamloops following her discovery in 1977 have reported an eerie phenomenon endemic to that underwater graveyard. The body of Old Whitey, they say, moved about the ship throughout the course of their aqueous escapades as if on its own accord. Some divers swear that they were approached by the chalk-white corpse while examining the perfectly-preserved candy wrappers that lay about the wreckage. Others claim to have witnessed the colorless cadaver float towards their hapless diving partners while the latter’s attention were diverted. Many of those who have written on the subject have dismissed Old Whitey’s alarming antics as the result of underwater currents unconsciously produced by the divers themselves. Others have ascribed the corpse’s uncanny animation to the spirit of the sailor who once inhabited it, doomed to wander the decks of ship whose violent and untimely demise coincided with his own. Whatever the case, the nature of Old Whitey’s activity remains one of the many secrets held by the SS Kamloops, which sank quickly and mysteriously nearly a century ago.

 

SS Bannockburn– The Flying Dutchman of the Great Lakes

No compilation of the nautical mysteries of Canada’s Great Lakes would be complete without a nod to the SS Bannockburn, a steamship which disappeared somewhere in Lake Superior on a snowy November day in 1902. To this day, the wreck of the SS Bannockburn remains undiscovered despite, some say, the efforts of her ghostly crew, who are said to appear to sailors from time to time on the decks of their phantom vessel, perhaps in the vicinity of their final resting place, before vanishing into thin air.

The SS Bannockburn was constructed in 1893 by the British shipbuilding magnate Sir Raylton Dixon. The 245 steamer was designed to fit through the Welland Canal and equipped with a steel hull for added protection. She was launched that same year and sent across the Atlantic and up the St. Lawrence to her new home on the Great Lakes.

Throughout the course of her life, the SS Bannockburn was plagued by misfortune. In April 1897, she ran into a cluster of sea rocks near the Snake Island Lighthouse on Lake Ontario southwest of Kingston. She began to take on water, forcing her crew to dump much her cargo onto the lake in order to keep her afloat. The ship was subsequently patched up and put back into service, only to suffer another mishap several months later. In October 1897, while hauling a load of grain from Chicago to Kingston, the SS Bannockburn hit the wall of the Welland Canal and foundered in that shallow waterway.

The SS Bannockburn began what would be her final earthly voyage on November 20th, 1902, leaving Fort William with 85,000 bushels of wheat in her hold. While leaving port, she grounded in shallow water. Although the accident did not appear to damage the ship in any way, it was decided that the voyage would be postponed until the following day.

On November 21st, the SS Bannockburn set out once again for Georgian Bay, at the eastern end of Lake Huron, skirting the northern shores of Lake Superior. Her 21-man crew sailed her without incident to a point about 40 miles northeast of Isle Royale, where she was spotted by the captain of another Great Lakes freighter named James McMaugh. Using his binoculars, the captain checked on the ship periodically as he passed her. After attending to some business on his own vessel, McMaugh raised his binoculars once again and discovered, to his surprise, that the Bannockburn was nowhere to be seen. Before he could relocate the ship, a heavy fog rolled in and obscured his vision. Captain McMaugh supposed that the mist must have shrouded the Bannockburn and continued on his way.

That night, the Witch of November reared her ugly head and swept across Lake Superior, whipping up waves and buffeting boats. At about 11:00 p.m., through a haze of windblown snow, the crew of a passenger steamer called the SS Huronic spied a pattern of ship lights which they recognized as the Bannockburn’s. The freighter did not appear to be in distress, and the two vessels passed each other without incident.

The crew of the SS Huronic were perhaps the last men to set eyes on the SS Bannockburn, at least in physical form. When the freighter missed her appointment at Soo Locks, few were overly concerned, assuming that her crew had taken shelter somewhere to wait out the storm. When the Bannockburn failed to show up the following day, it became clear that some mishap had befallen her. When a week and a half had elapsed, the ship was presumed lost with all hands. As the Kingston-based newspaper the British Whig put it in their December 2nd, 1902 issue:

“It is generally conceded that the missing steamer is not within earthly hailing distance, that she has found an everlasting berth in the unexplored depths of Lake Superior, and that the facts of her foundering will never be known. It is asserted by mariners that the Bannockburn’s boilers must have exploded, causing her to sink immediately, without giving those aboard a moment in which to seek escape. If this theory is correct, then the big steamer quickly sank beneath the waves of that great lake, carrying down her crew to a quick and sure death. It is sad to know that so many lives were lost, but the sorrow strikes home the deeper when it is known that the greater part of the crew were well known in this city.”

The only trace of the steamer to ever surface was a blood-stained life preserver made from cork, which washed up on the shores of Grand Marais, Michigan, at the western end of Lake Superior, on December 15th, 1902. Throughout the winter, divers searched in vain for the wreck of the SS Bannockburn. To date, the ship’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Legend has it that, every so often, sailors will spot the ghost of Bannockburn ploughing her way through the waves of Lake Superior, her lamps flickering and her pilothouse dark, before vanishing into the spray. This legend has become so well-known throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Northern Ontario that the ghost of the Bannockburn has acquired the nickname “The Flying Dutchman of the Great Lakes”, the Dutchman being a legendary ghost ship doomed to perpetually sail the turbulent waters off South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Some say that the crew of the Bannockburn willingly endures a similar fate, routinely returning from the Great Beyond to sail the frigid waters of Lake Superior in the hope that their final resting place will one day be discovered and accorded the respect it deserves.

 

Sources

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

  • Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (2005), by Michael Schumacher
  • Shipwreck: The Mystery of the Edmund Fitzgerald (1995), by Christopher Rowley and the Discovery Channel

 

Le Griffon

  • The Discovery of the Great West (1869), by Francis Parkman
  • The Fighting Governor: A Chronicle of Fronenac (1915), by Charles William Colby
  • Cavelier de la Salle, Rene-Robert (1966), by Celine Dupre in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Volume I
  • The White Whale for Great Lakes Shipwreck Hunters: Inside the Consuming Obsession with Finding the 300-year-old Griffon, by Sarah Kramer, Bryce Gray, Lizz Giordano, and Anne Arnston in the May 30, 2017 issue of AtlasObscura.com

 

The Hamilton and the Scourge

  • Haunted Lakes: Great Lakes Ghost Stories, Superstitions and Sea Serpents (1997), by Frederick Stonehouse
  • Life Before the Mast (1843), by James Fennimore Cooper
  • http://www.hamilton-scourge.city.hamilton.on.ca

 

Old Whitey and the Ghosts of the SS Kamloops

  • The History of the Kamloops, on SuperiorTrips.com
  • All Hands Lost: Kamloops, by Curt Bowen in the August 13, 2010 issue of the Advanced Diver Magazine
  • Meet Old Whitey, the Preserved Corpse of the SS Kamloops, Lake Superior’s Most Haunted Shipwreck, by Greg Newkirk in the November 27, 2016 issue of WeekInWeird.com

 

SS Bannockburn- The Flying Dutchman of the Great Lakes

  • Likely Lost: No Tidings of the Steamer Bannockburn: Sorrow Here, in the December 2nd, 1902 issue of the British Whig
  • Halloween on the Great Lakes: The Ghost Ship S.S Bannockburn, on JaysSeaArchaeology.Wordpress.com
  • “The Great Lakes Triangle”- Season 3, Episode 8 of In Search of… (1978)
  • SS Bannockburn: The Flying Dutchman of the Great Lake, by Jess Carpenter in the April 2018 issue of GreatLakesBoating.com
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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 14: Burnt Offerings

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 14: Burnt Offerings

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 14 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

In a continuation of the last scene of the previous episode, this episode begins in the War Room, where Craig Tester has just revealed that the 106-foot-deep wood found in Borehole FG-12 in Season 7, Episode 11 was carbon dated from 1626-1680. The crew members agree that this discovery warrants the sinking of the first caisson of the season overtop of FG-12. In an aside, the narrator informs us that FG-12 is located 25 feet northwest of Borehole H8, which yielded fragments of parchment and human bone back in Season 5.

Later that day, several members of the Oak Island team meet at Smith’s Cove with Laird Niven. The archaeologist tells the treasure hunters that the box-like structure discovered in the bump-out area back in Season 7, Episode 9 is probably not of cultural significance, implying that it was likely built by previous treasure hunters rather than the builders of the slipway, and gives them the green light to excavate the structure as they please. Billy Gerhardt proceeds to expose one side of the structure with his backhoe while Craig Tester and Jack Begley strip away the remaining dirt by hand. During this process, Jack has a brush with the island’s curse when a large rock breaks free from some nearby dirt and slams into his shoulder. Shortly thereafter, half of the structure collapses.

The next day, Rick Lagina and Jack Begley stand by as Gary Drayton conducts a metal detecting operation in the northern section of the swamp. After finding a modern nail, Gary comes across a hefty strip of iron with a sharp 90 degree bend at one end, which he tentatively identifies as some sort of bracket or a strap “that went around a chest or a box”. The artifact reminds Rick of the wrought iron hinge which Gary discovered near the Smith’s Cove slipway back in Season 6, Episode 16. The treasure hunters phone up Laird Niven and inform him of the discovery. Shortly thereafter, the archaeologist arrives on the scene and examines the piece. “It is old, isn’t it?” he remarks. He goes on to suggest that it might have been used to reinforce a large timber, and advises the treasure hunters to show it to blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge.

Later, Marty and Alex Lagina accompany Gary Drayton to the so-called Uplands- the area between Smith’s Cove and the Money Pit, beneath which the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel is believed to lie. Hoping that they might intercept the flood tunnel, the treasure hunters begin to excavate and examine the area, Marty removing earth with a backhoe and Alex assisting Gary as he sifts through the spoils with a metal detector. Several feet below the surface, the boys discover a handful of square timbers which appear to be part of some sort of shaft or tunnel.

The treasure hunters are soon joined by other members of the team. While Steve Guptill determines the coordinates of the newly-discovered structure, Marty Lagina remarks that the find evokes the wooden shafts discovered nearby, beneath the erstwhile Smith’s Cove crane pad, in Season 6, Episodes 19 and 20. These structures are believed to be the exploratory shafts which Robert and Bobby Restall sank at Smith’s Cove in the mid-1960s.

The following day, Marty Lagina shows Rick Lagina and Laird Niven the structure he unearthed. There, the treasure hunters meet with Gary Drayton, Billy Gerhardt, and Alex Lagina, who have since excavated more of the structure, uncovering a log which bears some resemblance to those which comprised the U-Shaped structure. The boys keep digging, unearthing an old square nail which Drayton tentatively dates to the early 1800s. Charles Barkhouse then appears on the scene and, when shown the nail, suggests that the structure might constitute undocumented work by the Truro Syndicate. Below the nail, the treasure hunters come across a massive log which rivals the diameter of any of the logs discovered at Smith’s Cove.

Later that day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Gary Daryton drive to the Ross Farm Museum, where they meet with Carmen Legge. The treasure hunters show the blacksmithing expert the metal strap they found in the swamp, as well as the pick and spade head that Jack Begley and Gary Drayton discovered near the Eye of the Swamp in the previous episode. Legge opines that the spade head is not a spade head at all, but rather a piece of sheet metal which might have been used to cover the inside of a wall or box. He declares the pickaxe head to be hand-wrought, says that it was intended for mining or tunneling, and dates it form the mid to late 1700s. Finally, Legge identifies the metal strap as a piece of a sailing ship used to hold timbers together, much to the pleasure of Gary Drayton. He measures the artifact and finds it to be nine inches long- a length, he says, which was common for such items between 1710 and 1790. He concludes his assessment by declaring that the strap was subjected to a hot sustained fire, finding charred material embedded in the fibre of the iron. The treasure hunters take this as potential evidence that the ship which they hope lies in the swamp was burned in an effort to conceal its presence.

Later, the Oak Island crew meets at the Mug & Anchor Pub in the town of Mahone Bay. There, Marty, Alex, and Gary inform their fellow treasure hunters of Carmen Legge’s assessment of the artifacts they discovered. In light of the blacksmithing expert’s interesting analysis, the crew members discuss the theory that the Oak Island treasure consists of the contents of a treasure ship which ran aground at the site of the Oak Island swamp. According to this theory, the ship’s crew hastily constructed the Paved Wharf, unloaded their treasure, and buried it on the island. In order to hide the evidence of their work, they either burned or blew up their ship.

 

Analysis

The Bracket

In this episode, Gary Drayton discovered a wrought-iron metal bracket in the northern section of the Oak Island swamp. Blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge later measured this artifact, found it to be nine inches in length, and subsequently identified it as a strap used to hold together the timbers of a ship. He dated the artifact from 1710 to 1790, and added that it bore evidence of having been subjected to a hot and sustained fire.

Following Legge’s interpretation, several members of the Oak Island team took this artifact as potential proof of the theory that a ship once existed in the swamp. Legge’s statement that the bracket was subjected to fire implies a new twist on this theory, namely that the ship in the swamp was burned, perhaps in an attempt to conceal evidence of its existence.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 13: Bromancing the Stones

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 13: Bromancing the Stones

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 12 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick Lagina takes Tom Nolan to Oak Island’s recently-drained swamp and shows him the stones that make up the Paved Wharf. “Oh, there’s no way that’s natural, Rick,” Nolan says. “Look at it. It’s just layered right on top… It’s like you’re standing on a paved road in the middle of a bog.”

Later, the Oak Island crew congregates in the War Room. There, Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell show their fellow treasure hunters photos of the casements and the countermine tunnel at the Fortress of Louisbourg, which they visited the previous episode, and discuss their evocation of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Crowell then shows the crew an old photo given to him by a Louisbourg historian which depicts a stratum of rocks lying on top of a layer of earth. This structure, which Crowell says is an original piece of Louisbourg flooring, bears remarkable resemblance to the Paved Wharf in the swamp.

Later, Rick Lagina and Billy Gerhardt meet Dr. Ian Spooner at the Paved Wharf. Upon examining the formation, the geoscientist finds a stick crushed between two rocks, which he claims to be an indication that the feature could not have been formed by a glacier. When Rick asks Dr. Spooner to estimate the date at which the stones were laid down, the geoscientist suggests that the carbon date the stick he found between the rocks.

The next day, Billy Gerhardt excavates more of the swamp in the area of the Paved Wharf in an effort to define the extent of the structure. As the heavy duty equipment operator goes about his work, Jack Begley and Gary Drayton search for metallic objects in the spoils that he removes. After digging through dirt and detritus for some time, Gerhardt uncovers another layer of rocks nearby, which Gary suggests might constitute an extension of the Paved Wharf. The treasure hunters are then joined by Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and Steve Guptill, the former of whom task the latter with determining the depth of this new rock layer and comparing it with that of the Paved Wharf. The new rocks prove to lie one foot below sea level- a foot higher than the Paved Wharf.

Later that day, Craig Tester, Charles Barkhouse, the Terry Matheson meet at the Money Pit area, where the Choice Drilling crew is busy sinking exploratory boreholes in the area at which the team now believes the original Money Pit once lay. While extracting a core sample from a depth of 109-119 feet, drillers Mike Tedford and Colton Robinson claim that their drill fell into some sort of subterranean void. The core sample appears to contain undisturbed soil and crumbly limestone, which Craig interprets as an indication that the drill failed to intercept the original Money Pit. Craig suggests that they sink another hole about a foot and a half away.

The next day, Rick Lagina, Billy Gerhardt, and Laird Niven drive to the Dartmouth Heritage Museum in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, having acquired a permit to excavate the museum’s yard in search of the supposed 90-foot stone which they learned might be buried there in Season 7, Episode 7. Billy Gerhardt begins digging 20’x20’ hole in the yard with a backhoe. Despite finding a number of bricks and a large boulder, he fails to unearth anything resembling the legendary 90-foot-stone. The boys are then joined by Kevin Rideout, the area local who had previously informed them of the stone’s existence, a tour guide having pointed it out to him decades before. Rideout says that he believes the treasure hunters are looking in the right place, but notes that the surrounding area is more elevated than he remembered it to be in the past, suggesting that the stone may have been covered up in some sort of landscaping project carried out years ago. Accordingly, Billy Gerhardt digs the hole a little deeper, yet fails to unearth anything of interest.

Meanwhile, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting on the shores of the Eye of the Swamp. The treasure hunters quickly unearth the iron head of a pickaxe, which Gary suggests is an old pick used for tunneling. Several feet away, they find what appears to be the rusted head of a round point shovel.

Later that night, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room to learn the results of the carbon dating of the 106-foot-deep wood found in Borehole FG-12 in Season 7, Episode 11, which some of the crew members suspected might be a fragment of the original Money Pit. Craig Tester reveals that the wood was dated from 1626-1680- a date range which roughly corresponds with many of the artifacts discovered in the Money Pit area throughout Season 5. Marty Lagina remarks that the upper range of the wood’s carbon dating is also consistent with that of the twigs which Dr. Ian Spooner and his graduate students discovered in core samples taken from the Eye of the Swamp in Season 7, Episode 9.

“I wonder what was happening in the area [in the] late 1600s, early 1700s,” muses Gary Drayton.

“Yeah, that’s the question,” Marty replies.

 

Analysis

Follow-Up on the Stone at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum

In this episode, Rick Lagina, Billy Gerhardt, and Laird Niven followed the lead introduced by Kevin Rideout introduced in Season 7, Episode 7, indicating that Oak Island’s legendary 90-foot-stone might lie in the yard of the Evergreen House in Darmouth, Nova Scotia- now the home of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum. Despite digging a deep 20-foot by 20-foot hole in the spot at which Rideout believed the stone once lay, the treasure hunters were unable to unearth anything of interest.

Carbon Dating of the Wood from the Money Pit

In this video, we learn that the wood brought up from Borehole FG-12 in Season 7, Episode 11, which some of the crew members suspected might be a piece of the original Money Pit, was carbon dated from 1626-1680. This date range corresponds with a number of Oak Island theories, including the French theory, the English theory, the Spanish theory, and the notion that New English treasure hunter and later politician Sir William Phips is the man behind the Oak Island mystery.

The Acadian Theatre of the Nine-Years-War

In this episode, the wood from the Money Pit area brought up from Borehole FG-12 in Season 7, Episode 11 was carbon dated from 1626-1680, prompting Gary Drayton and Marty Lagina to wonder aloud what was happening in the area in the late 1600s. The answer is that the Atlantic Northeast was teetering precariously on the precipice of war- namely the Nine Years’ War, known as King William’s War in Canada and the United States, the outbreak and early stages of which I outlined in the following articles: Setting; the 1689 Acadian Theatre; and the 1690 Acadian Theatre.

The first few years of King William’s War were characterized by Wabanaki and French-Canadian raids against New English settlements, many of these led by Jean Vincent de Saint-Castin and a French Sulpician missionary named Father Louis-Pierre Thury. In 1690, the New Englanders began to hit back, launching their own counteroffensives into Acadia. The first of these campaigns was led by Benjamin Church, a veteran of King Philip’s War who trained his own soldiers in the guerilla tactics of the East Coast Native Americans, forming his own united of special light infantrymen who constituted the first regiment of what would one day become the U.S. Army Rangers. Church’s first expedition into Acadia culminated in a battle near what is now Portland, Maine.

The second New English offensive against Acadia was led by Sir William Phips, a character who features in an interesting Oak Island theory presented by engineers Graham Harris and Les MacPhie in their book Oak Island and its Lost Treasure.

William Phips was considered something of a homegrown hero in New England. A lowborn shipwright and lumber merchant from the colony of MAssachussets, he had allowed his hard-won livelihood to literally go up in flames in order to save the lives of the residents of a particular village during a Wabanaki raid that took place during King Philip’s War. More recently, he had been awarded a knighthood from King William III for salvaging the contents of a sunken Spanish treasure galleon in the Caribbean, a portion of which Harris and MacPhie contend lies at the bottom of the Money Pit. Despite Phips’ complete lack of military experience, the Massachusetts militia promoted him to the rank of Major General in the spring of 1690 and gave him command of the naval expedition against New France.

First, Phips launched an attack against Port Royal, the capital of Acadia, situated on the southwestern shores of the Acadian Peninsula. To his delight, Phips found that Port Royal’s ninety soldiers were actually in the process of dismantling their fortifications so that stronger ones could be built in their place. None of the fort’s cannons were presently functional, and to top it off, the village’s armory housed a total of nineteen muskets at that time. The garrison surrendered without a fight.

About a month after his capture of Port Royal, Sir William Phips tasked one of his officers with raiding the Acadian village of Chedabucto, situated at the tip of the Acadian Peninsula just across the Chedabucto Bay from Ile Royale, or Cape Breton Island. In addition to housing a French military post called Fort Saint Louis, Chedabucto served as the headquarters of the Company of Acadia, an important French fishing company.

On June 3rd, 1690, Phips’ captain and eighty-eight New English soldiers stormed Fort Saint Louis. Although they were heavily outnumbered, the twelve Acadian soldiers who manned the fort put up a fierce six-hour defense. When the New Englanders began to firebomb the fort, the French defenders realized that future resistance would be futile. They surrendered to the New English captain, who allowed them to retreat across the Gulf of St Lawrence to the French colony of Plaisance, on the island of Newfoundland.

That fall, Phips launched a third offensive against the French, this one targeting the city of Quebec, the heart of New France. Accompanied by 2,300 Massachusetts militiamen, Phips sailed from Boston up the Atlantic Coast and further up the St. Lawrence River. The New English army reached the New French capital on October 16th, 1690, whereupon Phips sent an envoy into the city to deliver his terms of surrender. The French commander, Governor Frontenac, had the emissary blindfolded and brought to his residence, the Chateau St. Louis, where his war council was assembled. There, the envoy delivered Phips terms of surrender, telling Frontenac that he had one hour to reply. The enraged Governor famously retorted that the only reply Phips would receive would be from the mouths of his cannons.

That evening, the New Englanders launched their assault on Quebec. From the very start, it was clear that their enterprise was doomed to fail. Members of the 1,200-man landing party were prevented from disembarking on the wooded shores outside the city by French-Canadian soldiers and First Nations warriors who fired at them from concealment in the trees. Meanwhile, Phips’ three main warships barraged the city with cannon fire, only to be pounded in turn by Quebec’s shore batteries which exceeded them in firepower. Following a futile attempt to overcome the French shore defensives, the besiegers returned to Boston in defeat.

In the years that followed Phips’ failed assault on Quebec, a number of battles between the French and the English and their respective First Nations allies took place in the borderlands between Acadia and New England. Benjamin Church launched two more offensives into what is now Maine, New English sailors made another assault on Port Royal, and French and English mariners engaged in a naval battle in the Bay of Fundy.

In 1696, the French and their native allies captured Fort William Henry, a large stone fortress situated near what is now Bristol, Maine, which had been built on the orders of Sir William Phips. The attackers returned up the Atlantic Coast and preceded to destroy nearly every English settlement in Newfoundland. In response, Benjamin Church led a number of brutal raids on Mi’kmaq and Acadian settlements throughout what is now the province of New Brunswick.

The Nine Years War finally ended in 1697, and its belligerents signed the Treaty of Ryswick- a document which, among other things, restored the pre-war borders in North America. Peace would reign in Acadia for another four years, until the death of the heirless Spanish king and the subsequent War of Spanish success, but that’s a story for another time.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 12: Fortified

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 12: Fortified

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 12 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick Lagina and Chris Barlow pay a visit to the Oak Island swamp, which Hurricane Dorian refilled with water the previous episode. Rick estimates that it will take two or three days to re-drain the swamp and resume their excavations of the areas of interest therein, and suggests that they ought to prioritize the excavation of the Paved Wharf.

Later that day, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room. There, Craig Tester reveals the results of the dendrochronological testing of the wharf in Smith’s Cove, samples from which were extracted in the previous episode. According to dendrochronologist Dr. Colin Laroque, who analyzed one of the samples, the wharf is made of red spruce felled in 1741. The treasure hunters express some surprise at this result, as many of them had expected the wharf to be contemporaneous with the nearby slipway, which is believed to have been constructed around 1769. Doug Crowell observes that the most momentous event to take place in the area proximate to the year 1741 was the first Siege of Louisbourg, which lasted throughout the spring and summer of 1745. This prompts Marty Lagina to remark that the wood’s date evokes Naval historian Chipp Reid’s theory, introduced back in Season 7, Episode 5, that the wooden structures beneath Smith’s Cove constitute the remains of an early 18th Century French artillery battery. The treasure hunters all agree that, in light of this most recent piece of evidence, a trip to the Fortress of Louisbourg is in order.

The next day, Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell drive to the Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. On the way, the treasure hunters discuss the tunnels which run beneath Louisbourg, which evoke the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, and the fact that the body of the Duc d’Anville– a French military leader associated with another Oak Island theory- lies buried beneath Louisbourg, having been moved from its previous resting place on an island in Halifax Harbour.

Meanwhile, Jack Begley, Peter Fornetti, and Gary Drayton go metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 27, where the three of them discovered a rusted iron chisel back in Season 7, Episode 5. In this episode, the treasure hunters unearth a lead artifact which Drayton identifies as scrap metal from a sprue- a channel by which molten metal enters a mold. In this case, the sprue appears to be from a musket ball mold. The treasure hunters work their way from the forest down to the beach, where they unearth what appears to be an axe head encased in an agglomerate of rocks and sediment. Drayton suspects that the artifact might be the remains of a rigging axe, or a hatchet with a hammer on the blunt end, and dates it to the 18th Century or earlier.

Meanwhile, Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell arrive at the Fortress of Louisbourg- a living history museum revolving around a reconstruction of a quarter of the original French fortress. There, they meet with historian Sarah MacInnes, who takes them to the Louisbourg chapel, the final resting place of the Duc d’Anville. Inside the chapel, MacInnes explains that in 1749, following the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which returned the fortress to the French, d’Anville’s corpse was exhumed from its grave on Georges Island in Halifax Harbour and reinterred beneath the altar in the Louisbourg chapel.

MacInnes then takes the treasure hunters to Louisbourg’s bomb-proof casements, one of the only original French structures that survived Britain’s systematic destruction of the fortress from 1760-1768. Inside one of the casements is a stone drain system which reminds Doug Crowell of Oak Island’s flood tunnels.

MacInnes proceeds to show Rick and Doug the countermine tunnel, another original French structure consisting of an underground tunnel with stone walls and a vaulted stone roof, which was intended to intercept any British mines that were dug beneath the fortress’ walls during an invasion. The historian informs the treasure hunters that the tunnel was dug through marshy terrain, and that its builders would have needed to manipulate the surrounding water during its construction.  “Could it be,” the narrator asks, “that the same engineering knowledge used to build the countermine tunnel in the surrounding swamp at Louisbourg was also employed in the construction of Oak Island’s elaborate network of booby-trapped flood tunnels?”

At Doug Crowell’s suggestion, Sarah MacInnes and her associate, Ruby Fougere, show Rick and Doug the blueprints of the Fortress of Louisbourg. They point out the plans for the countermine tunnel, which is revealed to be 180 feet long and shaped like a cross. Doug then draws a parallel between the cross-shaped tunnel and Nolan’s Cross on Oak Island, suggesting that there might be some sort of connection between the two. MacInnes then shows the treasure hunters a photo taken inside the tunnel, revealing a perfectly straight arched passageway lined with rough masonry.

The next day, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Billy Gerhardt resume the excavation of the Paved Wharf in the freshly re-drained swamp. After uncovering the boulders of which the structure is comprised, the crew is joined by Terry Matheson. The geologist identifies the boulders as clastic rocks, making a point to distinguish them from limestone and gypsum bedrock. “I’m surprised,” he says, “to see what I think I would not encounter until about 120 feet down in the Money Pit area”.

The following day, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Dr. Ian Spooner stand by as Billy Gerhardt washes the Paved Wharf with buckets of swamp water. Dr. Spooner states that the mass of rocks of which the feature is composed is not characteristic of wetland environments, suggesting that “it’s almost as if the rocks were brought in.” The geoscientist later elaborates on his analysis, saying “There’s these layers of stone above the till that have no clay around them and yet have swamp sediment around them. It has to be manipulated. I can’t find a natural process that would have led to this. It’s a manipulated site.” The treasure hunters are then joined by archaeologist Laird Niven, who states that the rocks do not seem to be naturally arranged, and appear to have “been introduced”. Rick phones up Marty Lagina and informs him of the find. When Marty asks what purpose might have been fulfilled by such a structure, Dr. Spooner observes that the Eye of the Swamp, the Paved Wharf, and the deepest part of the swamp all align, suggesting that the swamp was once an inlet connected to the ocean, and that the Paved Wharf was a work surface used for unloading material from ships which entered this inlet.

 

Analysis

Dendrochronological Dating of the Wharf

In this episode, we learned that the wood from the wharf discovered at Smith’s Cove in Season 7, Episode 9 was dendrochronologically dated to 1741, predating the wood from the nearby slipway by about three decades. Interestingly, this date corresponds best with the theory that the Oak Island treasure consists of the contents of a French pay ship bound for the Fortress of Louisbourg around the time of the First Siege of Louisbourg in 1745.

The Rigging Axe

In this episode, Jack Begley, Peter Fornetti, and Gary Drayton discovered a rusted axe head on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 27, which Drayton suggested might be the remains of a rigging axe.

This is not the first axe to be found on Oak Island. In 1931, Chappells Limited discovered an axe in the Chappell Shaft at a depth of around 116 feet with a wide blade and a three-foot-long wooden handle. Treasure hunter Frederick Blair observed that this artifact resembled a 17th Century Acadian axe head that he had seen at the museum at Annapolis Royal. Others identified the artifact as an “old Anglo-American felling axe”. On his website, Gary Drayton claimed to have discovered the heads of two early 18th Century iron trade axes in the Money Pit area in the summer of 2014. In Season 5, Episode 1, Gary Drayton and Peter Fornetti discovered a woodcutter’s axe at Isaac’s Point, at the easternmost end of Oak Island.

Louisbourg Connections

In this episode, Rick Lagina and Doug Crowell paid a visit to the Fortress of Louisbourg, where they learned about several feats of French engineering which prove that the 18th Century French Royal Army were capable of constructing Oak Island’s supposed underground workings. The first of these are stone casements, or bomb-proof storage rooms, which contain a stone drainage system evocative of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Another structure reminiscent of the flood tunnel is Louisbourg’s stone countermine tunnel, which was intended to prevent British sappers from tunneling beneath the fortress. Interestingly, this tunnel was built through marshy terrain, evoking the Oak Island swamp and the alleged construction projects associated with it. Even more intriguingly, the tunnel was built in the shape of a cross, evoking Nolan’s Cross.

Another interesting piece of trivia imparted in this episode is that Jean-Baptiste de la Rochefoucault- a French military commander connected with a related Oak Island theory- is buried beneath the altar of the Louisbourg chapel.

Paved Wharf Analysis

In this episode, the Oak Island crew fully uncovered the Paved Wharf in the Oak Island swamp. Geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner, geologist Terry Matheson, and archaeologist Laird Niven all agreed that the rocks of which the feature was comprised must have been placed there by man.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 11: The Eye of the Storm

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 11: The Eye of the Storm

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 11 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

The episode begins at the freshly-drained swamp, where Marty Lagina and Billy Gerhardt are using the swamp excavator to dig up the “paved wharf”– a pattern of stones on the swamp floor discovered by Tony Sampson in Season 7, Episode 1. While the treasure hunters work, the narrator informs us that Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, is expected to hit Oak Island in several days.

Marty and Billy uncover a large boulder with the swamp excavator and decide to leave it where it lies. Rick Lagina, who had been hitherto observing the operation, asks his younger brother to stop digging in order to allow him to search through the spoils that Marty has already removed. Rick quickly discovers a wooden stake lying in the muck and finds that its point had been sharpened with six cuts. The treasure hunters agree that this artifact must be one of the line of wooden survey markers which Fred Nolan found during his own swamp excavation in 1969. Marty resumes the excavation and unearths another wooden stake nearly identical to the first.

Meanwhile, Jack Begley and Gary Drayton do some metal detecting in the area surrounding the wharf-like structure at Smith’s Cove, where Drayton discovered a lead tag the previous episode. The pair soon uncovers a thin wrought-iron rod which Drayton tentatively identifies as a crib spike on account of its resemblance to similar artifacts found nearby in Season 7, Episode 8, and Season 6, Episode 16. Despite this interesting find, the treasure hunters both express some disappointment at the relative scarcity of artifacts in the bump-out area.

Meanwhile, at the Money Pit area, various members of the Oak Island team stand by as Choice Drilling sinks borehole FG-12 in search of a third piece of the Shaft 2 tunnel. The treasure hunters inexplicably decide to inspect a core sample taken from a depth of 18.5 feet. As might be reasonably expected, the core sample contains disturbed earth interspersed with bits of wood.

Back at the swamp, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Scott Barlow, in order to allow the swamp excavator (operated by Billy Gerhardt) access to another section of the ‘paved wharf’, remove a succession of plywood sheets which had previously served as a walkway from the swamp shore to that particular area of interest. That accomplished, Gerhardt drives the excavator into the area and proceeds to dig a large hole in search of the rocks that Sampson had discovered. Since the bottom of the hole is obscured by a rapidly-growing puddle of muddy water, Rick and Craig decide to examine it manually; they slide into the hole and find that its bottom is indeed lined with what feel like flat rocks. In order to remove the water so that they might better observe the rocks beneath, the treasure hunters dig a trench nearby, create a channel connecting the two holes, and begin pumping water from the trench.

Back at the Money Pit area, the treasure hunters dissect several more core samples from FG-12, finding large chunks of wood at depths of 74 and 106 feet, respectively. The 106-foot-deep wood appears to be older than the other, and bears markings which appear to have been made with an axe. Although its depth roughly corresponds with that of the Shaft 2 tunnel, Doug Crowell and Marty Lagina speculate that the 106-foot-deep wood might be a part of the original Money Pit.

The next day, Alex Lagina and Gary Drayton drive to the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they show blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge several of the wrought-iron rods they discovered in the area of the Smith’s Cove slipway, including the artifact they found earlier this episode, the tapered spike unearthed in Season 7, Episode 8, and the mysterious curved artifact unearthed in the same area in Season 7, Episode 6. Legge identifies the artifacts as pins which would have been “inserted near a post or a heavy rod to make a heavy, thick wall”, and dates them from 1600-1820. He then elaborates on the artifacts’ function, saying that they would have been formed around anchor pins driven into bedrock and then covered with clay, limestone, or cement, serving as primitive rebar for the concrete base of a dry dock at which ships would have been repaired. “Best guess,” he concludes, “is it’s for reinforcing a wall that was built along the edge of the water.”

Later, various members of the Oak Island team dismantle and dismember the newly-discovered Smith’s Cove wharf for the purpose of subjecting it to dendrochronological testing.

Meanwhile, the Fellowship of the Dig heads to the ‘paved wharf’ hole in the Oak Island swamp, which is now relatively dry and exposed. Marty Lagina examines the stones which lie on the hole’s floor and decides that they are too round to be flagstones, as some of the treasure hunters had hoped they might be. The stones are still too deeply buried in the muck for the treasure hunters to confidently diagnose their nature, and Marty Lagina laments that it seems unlikely that the crew will be able to adequately uncover them before Hurricane Dorian reaches Oak Island. Resigned to this reality, the treasure hunters begin gathering up plywood and moving pieces of equipment in preparation for the upcoming storm.

By 6:05 P.M., Hurricane Dorian has arrived at Oak Island. Footage of the Island beset by high winds and pouring rain is interposed with clips of Global News Halifax’ coverage of the storm. In an interview, Marty Lagina suggests that the inopportune timing of the hurricane brings to mind the supposed curse said to hang over Oak Island and its treasure.

Two days after the storm, Rick Lagina, Scott Barlow, and Billy Gerhardt drive to Oak Island to assess the damage. They find that the edge of the causeway connecting Oak Island with the mainland has been severely eroded, precluding the transportation of any heavy equipment to the Island until its repair. Further down the road, they find that the swamp has refilled entirely with water. Mercifully, the hurricane appears to have inflicted minimal damage on Smith’s Cove and its cofferdam. Rick tasks Billy with clearing some of the damaged trees and assigns Scott and himself the task of re-draining the swamp. The episode ends as the clean-up operation commences.

 

Analysis

The Stake in the Swamp

Near the beginning of the episode, Rick Lagina, Marty Lagina, and Billy Gerhardt discovered two wooden stakes in the ‘paved wharf’ area of the Oak Island swamp. The stake bore six cut marks which appeared to have been made with an axe. The crew agreed that these artifacts must be members of the line of survey markers discovered by Fred Nolan in 1969. Nolan had one of these stakes carbon dated to 1550, while Dan Blankenship had another carbon dated from 1490-1660.

This is not the first time that Oak Island Tours Inc. unearthed a wooden stake matching the description of the mysterious survey markers that Nolan first discovered in 1969. Back in Season 5, Episode 13, while metal detecting in the northern section of the swamp, Rick Lagina discovered a similar axe-sharpened wooden stake. Although it likely has little connection with the stakes in the swamp, it is interesting to note that, back in Season 3, Episode 7, Marty Lagina discovered a thick, saw-cut spruce stake about 10 feet underground at a point dubbed the ‘Nolan Site’, where Fred Nolan had previously discovered what he believed to be a subterranean cave.

Primitive Rebar

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley unearthed a thin wrought-iron rod near the wharf-like structure discovered in the bump-out area of the Smith’s Cove cofferdam back in Season 7, Episode 9. Later, Drayton and Alex Lagina presented this artifact- along with the tapered wrought-iron spike discovered at Smith’s Cove in Season 7, Episode 8; the mysterious curved artifact unearthed in the same area in Season 7, Episode 6; and other similar artifacts presumably discovered nearby off-screen- to blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge. Legge identified the artifacts as piece of primitive rebar used to reinforce the cement base of a dry dock at which ships would have been repaired.

Borehole FG-12

At the Money Pit area, the Fellowship of the Dig stands by as Choice Drilling sinks borehole FG-12 in search of a third piece of the Shaft 2 tunnel. The treasure hunters dissect a number of core samples and find large chunks of wood at depths of 74 and 106 feet, respectively. The 106-foot-deep wood appears to be older than the 74-foot piece, and bears markings which appear to have been made with an axe. Although its depth roughly corresponds with that of the Shaft 2 tunnel, Doug Crowell and Marty Lagina speculate that the 106-foot-deep wood might have been a part of the original Money Pit, namely a piece of one of the wooden platforms which lay in the Pit at 10-foot intervals or undiscovered cribbing which initially lay below the 100-foot level. If the wood is indeed a part of the original Money Pit, then its depth and precise location are irrelevant; since treasure hunter Robert Dunfield destroyed the Money Pit while digging his infamous 140-foot-deep crater in the area, any fragment of the Money Pit found at a depth of 106 feet would constitute loose backfill.

Hurricane Dorian

At the very beginning of the episode, we were informed of the impending arrival of Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. The rest of the episode was punctuated by clips of Global News Halifax’ coverage of the storm’s progress. The hurricane finally hit the Island near the end of the episode, flooding the swamp and damaging the causeway, yet failing to do any serious damage to either the Money Pit area or the Smith’s Cove cofferdam.

Hurricane Dorian is the second major storm to hit Oak Island during the lifetime of this TV show. In the winter of 2016/17, which separated Season 4 from Season 5, the Island was ravaged by a series of violent windstorms which uprooted trees and all but obliterated the South Shore road which skirts the Oak Island swamp.

 

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