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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 12: A Key to the Mystery

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 12: A Key to the Mystery


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 12 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Oak Island crew members meet in the War Room, where they phone up Gary Glover, an expert on the Knights Templar who, in Episode 9 earlier this season, gave Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti a tour of the Templar prison in Domme, France. We learn that the team has sent Glover images of the mysterious lead cross found on Smith’s Cove in Episode 10, and have inquired as to his opinion on the artifact. Glover agrees with the team that the lead cross bears close resemblance to a particular crucifix carved on a wall in Domme prison by incarcerated Templar knights, and reveals that a similar shape was carved on a pillar in the nave of a 13th Century church in the village of Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire, England. Glover further discloses that a Jerusalem cross nearly identical to one carved on the walls of Domme prison was also carved into the church pillar at Whitchurch. When Marty remarks that the graffiti at Whitchurch, which is being projected onto a screen in the War Room, includes strange triangular-based crosses evocative of some of the carvings at Domme, Glover informs him that there is a possibility that Whitchurch carvings, like the carvings at Domme, were made by Templars.

Glover further affirms that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove “has a 13th Century look about it,” and suggests that it could have been worn by “anyone in Christendom [Christian Europe], from an ordinary person, to a knight, [to a] clergyman… it’s made for personal use.” The narrator then suggests that the cross is a mortuary cross, which, he claims, was generally worn to ward off sickness in times of plague. After the narrator’s interjection, Glover states that the cross will need to be examined by an expert before a definitive connection can be established between it and the Knights Templar.

Later, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse travel to Waverley, Nova Scotia, where they meet with construction contractor Tom Nolan, the son of the late Fred Nolan. Tom expresses his willingness to share his father’s work with the Oak Island team in order to solve the Oak Island mystery once and for all, and proceeds to show the treasure hunters the detailed survey maps Fred Nolan drew of the island. While Rick and Charles examine the maps, Tom directs their attention to the line of survey stakes his father discovered in the Oak Island swamp, which the narrator reveals were “carbon dated to as early as the 1500’s.”

Just as the treasure hunters prepare to leave Tom Nolan’s office, the latter shows them a folding skeleton key which his father found on Oak Island, in the tooth of which is an ornamental cross-shaped hole. The narrator then gives us a lesson on the history of skeleton keys, stating that “the use of skeleton keys dates back to the 8th Century B.C., with the invention of the first bronze and iron keys during the Roman Empire.”

The next day, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse travel to Dave Blankenship’s home on Oak Island. There, they present Dave with Fred Nolan’s maps before spreading the documents out on the floor and examining them. The treasure hunters remark upon the tremendous quantity of survey lines on the maps and marvel at the time and effort that evidently went into the documents’ creation. Although there are a many items of interest indicated on the maps, Fred Nolan did not label them nor provide a legend by which they might be interpreted. Without the late treasure hunter’s guidance, Rick and Charles are forced to speculate as to the nature of these objects. “If only he were here,” Rick laments. “I would do anything for time with him again.” He then suggests that he and the team ought to do some survey work of their own and compare their findings with Nolan’s maps in order to contextualize them.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 12, now owned by Fred Nolan’s family. The narrator reveals that Tom Nolan has allowed Oak Island Tours Inc. to explore his late father’s Oak Island property- land which has been off limits to Dan Blankenship and his ilk since the early days of the Blankenship-Nolan rivalry in the 1970’s. With the help of Tom’s associate, Jim Meagher, the treasure hunters excavate an area on Lot 12 at which Fred Nolan’s maps indicate an ancient dump site is buried. When prompted by Rick, Charles Barkhouse explains that this dump is the site at which former Oak Island treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden found “shards of pottery with traces of mercury in them” in 1936, giving rise to the Francis Bacon theory.

After Meagher finishes digging a trench at the site in question with a backhoe, Gary Drayton examines the exposed earth with a metal detector. In time, he recovers fragments of pottery- almost certainly the same sort of artifacts discovered by Gilbert Hedden in the 1930’s.

Meanwhile, Alex Lagina and Jack Begley have traveled to the Dawson Print Shop at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. There, they meet with Joe Landry, an expert on medieval book binding, and show him and his apprentice the piece of leather book binding and scrap of parchment retrieved from the spoils of drillhole H8 in Season 5, Episode 7. Landry confirms that the scrap of suspected parchment is, indeed, parchment, and that the book binding appears to be composed of very durable vegetable-tanned leather.

Jack Begley then presents Landry with a shard of purple-stained wood, which the narrator reveals was discovered in H8 along with the pieces

of parchment and book binding. Landry examines the artifact and remarks that the purple dye with which it was stained resembles Tyrian purple, an extremely valuable dye secreted by a particular sea snail which was traditionally used by royalty and the Catholic Church. Landry explains that Tyrian purple has been around for millennia, showing the treasure hunters a 2000-year-old Egyptian parchment scroll in which it was employed. He goes on to state that, while the wood shard’s colour strongly evokes Tyrian purple, he believes that it was more likely stained by a vegetable dye, such as “rich red wine”. He also suggests that the wood fragment might have been part of a book board- ostensibly a piece of the same manuscript of which the piece of book binding and parchment fragment were parts- and that it might have attained its purple colour when the purple-dyed leather in which it was wrapped got wet deep within the Money Pit.

Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton visit Dan Blankenship in his Oak Island home. There, they show the veteran treasure hunter the lead cross they found on Smith’s Cove, and highlight its resemblance to the carving in Domme prison. Drayton tells Blankenship that although he had initially been skeptical of the theory that the Knights Templar were connected in some way with Oak Island, the discovery of the lead cross changed his mind. Blankenship agrees that the lead cross certainly lends credence to the Knights Templar theory.

Later, at the Money Pit area, the Oak Island team stands by as the excavation of DMT, a new shaft named after the late Drake Tester, commences.


Graffiti at Whitchurch, Buckinghamshire

In this episode, Knights Templar expert Jerry Glover reveals that the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove is congruent with not only a particular crucifix carved into the wall of a Templar prison in Domme, France, but also with a design carved onto a pillar in the nave of a 13th Century church in Whitchurch, Buckhinghamshire, England. He points out further similarities between the Templar graffiti at Domme and the graffiti in the Whitchurch chapel, and suggests that the Whitchurch graffiti may also have been created by members of the Knights Templar.

In an article on his website, Glover reveals that the Whitchurch chapel introduced in the show is “the 13th Century church of St. John the Baptist.” Further research, however, suggests that Glover may have assigned the wrong “Saint John” to this chapel; although the village of Whitchurch does not appear to have a “church of St. John the Baptist,” it does boast a “Parish of Saint John the Evangelist,” an Anglican parish church built in the 13th Century.

Further on in his article, Glover points out another Whitchurch graffito “strongly reminiscent of the double-armed cross at Domme, even down to the triangular [form] at [its base].” He concludes his commentary on Whitchurch by stating that, although the similarities between the graffiti at Domme and Whitchurch may or may not be coincidental, it is interesting that the Whitchurch chapel “stands half-a-mile away from Creslow Manor, which was a Knights Templar preceptory before being turned over to the Knights Hospitallers after the Templars’ suppression.”

Mortuary Cross

In this episode, the narrator states that the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove bears the characteristics of a mortuary cross, a simple cross worn around the neck in times of plague to protect the wearer from disease.

Although the term “mortuary cross” has been used to denote surficial cross-shaped grave markers (ex. cross-shaped tombstones), it has also been used by archaeologists as a name for small, crude crosses, many of them evidently designed to be worn around the neck, recovered during burial excavations in medieval monasteries. Archaeologists are divided on the intended purpose of these artifacts, which’s presence inside old graves appears to be a predominantly English phenom

enon. Some scholars, similar to the narrator in this episode, believe that these crosses were worn in an effort to ward off disease, as many of them have been found inside the graves of plague victims. This theory is bolstered by the fact that most mortuary crosses have been found inside graves dug during plague epidemics, from the devastating 14th Century Black Death to the 17th Century Great Plague of London. Other archaeologists suspect mortuary crosses were attached to the shrouds of monks, clerics, and nuns, while others still suspect that they were placed inside the coffins of the deceased by friends and relatives.

One particularly interesting mortuary cross in the context of the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove is one allegedly found along with the bones of the legendary British King Arthur and his queen Guinevere in the late 12th Century A.D. According to legend, the abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, a monastery in Southwest England, commissioned an excavation beneath the abbey floor in the year 1191. Although different versions of the legend disagree on the reason behind this excavation, most maintain that, at a depth of 7 feet, the excavators discovered a massive stone slab. Immediately beneath this stone was a lead cross bearing the inscription, “HIC IACET SEPVLTVS INLITVS REX ARTVRVS IN INSVLA AVALONIA“- Latin for “HERE LIES INTERRED THE FAMOUS KING ARTHUR ON THE ISLE OF AVALON.” Nine feet beneath this leaden mortuary cross was the trunk of a massive oak tree which had been hollowed out and converted into a coffin, and inside this treetrunk coffin were two human skeletons, the larger one presumably the remains of the legendary defender of Christian Britain, and the smaller one ostensibly his queen.

Glastonbury Abbey, the site at which this grave and the accompanying mortuary cross were allegedly unearthed, is located in the shadow of an ancient hill called Glastonbury Tor, which has historically been associated not only with the Isle of Avalon, a legendary island which features in the Arthurian legend, but also with the Holy Grail, an artifact which some believe lies beneath Oak Island. According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea, an early disciple of Christ, brought the Holy Grail from Jerusalem to England following the Crucifixion and buried it beneath a spring sacred to the local Druids, located at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. As soon as he had buried it, the spring water turned blood red. This spring, known as Chalice Well Spring, issues red-hued water stained with hematite to this very day.

Purple Wood

In this episode, we learn that a shard of purple-dyed wood was brought up from the spoils of drillhole H8 along with the piece of leather bookbinding and the scrap of parchment introduced in Season 5, Episode 7. Joe Landry, a

Halifax-based medieval book binding expert, voices his suspicion that this wood fragment was once part of the book board of the manuscript from which the scrap of leather and piece of parchment also came, and that it likely acquired its purple colour when the purple-dyed leather in which it was wrapped got wet deep within the Money Pit.

Although Landry believes that the purple dye with which the wood was stained is likely plant-based, he remarks upon its similarity to Tyrian purple, a dye extracted from the glands of certain predatory sea snails. Many historians believe that this dye was first used by the Phoenicians, an ancient Eastern Mediterranean mariner civilization based around the city of Tyre in present-day Lebanon (the word ‘Tyrian’ derives from ‘Tyre’). The Phoenicians were so renowned for their exportation of purple textiles and pigment that, according to some etymologists, ancient Greeks called their territory “Phoinike”, or the “Purple Country.”

The notion that the shard of purple wood brought up from H8 was stained with Tyrian purple fits in well with the theory that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to ancient Phoenician mariners. The Phoenicians, however, were not the only people to make use of this substance. As Tyrian purple yields a rich, vibrant colour which only improves with age, as a very large number of snails are required to produce a very small amount of it, and as its manufacture is an extremely unpleasant process, this purple pigment fetched an exorbitant price. As a result, purple-dyed clothing was a luxury only afforded by the very wealthy, and served as symbols of status in Classical Antiquity. The Romans similarly adopted Tyrian purple as symbols of power and prestige, as did the Byzantines and the Roman Catholic Church.





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Famous Black Canadians: 1/10: Harry Jerome

Harry Jerome

If you walk along the seawall in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, you’ll come to a bronze sculpture of Harry Jerome, one of Canada’s greatest track stars. Back in the 1960’s, this Canadian icon shattered several world records in sprinting. Although Jerome was a great runner, he is remembered today for more than just his athletic ability. Like Terry Fox, another beloved Canadian track athlete, he embodied the great Canadian virtue of perseverance in the face of adversity.

North Vancouver

Henry “Harry” Jerome was born on September 30, 1940, in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. After living for a brief time in Winnipeg, Manitoba, his family moved to North Vancouver, BC, in 1951.

Harry and his sister Valerie were both shy and soft spoken. Initially, they were the only black students in their North Vancouver schools. That all changed when Paul Winn, a black student from Toronto, moved to North Van. Winn soon became fast friends with the Jerome siblings and, in time, convinced Harry and Valerie to join their school track teams with him.

Harry and Valerie quickly discovered that they were natural sprinters. This fact probably did not come as a complete surprise to them, as their maternal grandfather, John Armstrong “Army” Howard, had dominated the Canadian sprinting world from 1912 to 1915. In fact, Howard represented Canada in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, becoming Canada’s first black Olympic athlete. Little did Harry know that, like his grandfather, he, too, would go down in Canadian athletic history.

Vancouver Optimist Striders

Harry, Valerie, and Paul proved themselves to be excellent runners on their high school track teams. Soon, they were noticed by John Minichiello, the coach of the Vancouver Optimist Striders. At his invitation, all three black Canadians joined his track team in 1959.

Under Minichiello’s direction, Harry’s performance improved. In no time, his times rivaled those of Percy Williams, a Canadian sprinter who held the world record for the 100 metre dash. Back in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Williams had ran the 100 metre sprint in 10 seconds flat.

At the 1960 Olympic trails in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 19-year-old Harry Jerome ran the 100 metre dash in 9.9 seconds, beating Williams’ world record. The incredulous judges thought that the stopwatch operator had made a mistake, however, and rounded Harry’s time up to 10 seconds. Officially, Harry Jerome had tied the world record holder for the 100 metre dash.

Rome 1960

Of course, Harry’s times at the Olympic trails in Saskatoon earned him a place in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. That summer, he and his sister Valerie, who had similarly earned herself a place on the Canadian women’s Olympic track team, traveled to Italy.

As fate would have it, Harry Jerome found himself stuck in a traffic jam on the way to the semi-finals of the 100 metre dash. As the minutes crawled by, the young Canadian realized, with a growing sense of dread, that he was going to be late for the event if he didn’t do something about his situation. Accordingly, he got out of the cab and jogged to the stadium. He arrived just in time.

Tragically, Harry Jerome was unable to show the world what he was made of that day. Shortly after leaving the blocks, he pulled his hamstring. Harry collapsed on the side of the track, unable to finish the race.

Following his failure, Canadian media outlets, particularly the Toronto Star, lambasted Harry Jerome as a quitter who was unable to compete under pressure. Journalists redoubled their efforts when Jerome brusquely refused to submit to their interviews, interpreting his soft-spoken dismissals as displays of quiet arrogance.

University of Oregon

After recovering from his injury, Harry Jerome attended the University of Oregon on an NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) scholarship. As a member of the university track team, he shattered record after sprinting record. Some of his accomplishments included:

  • May 20, 1961: Breaking the 100 yard dash world record in Carvallis, Oregon. Jerome clocked in at 9.3 seconds.
  • May 28, 1962: Being a member of the University of Oregon 440 metre relay team which tied the world record of 40.0 seconds in Modesto, California.
  • September 3, 1962: Beating his own 100 yard dash world record in Toronto, Ontario. Jerome completed the race in 9.2 seconds.

Perth 1962

In 1962, Harry Jerome qualified for the 1962 British Empire Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. As was the case in Rome, however, Jerome’s experience in Perth was overshadowed by misfortune. While running the 100 metre dash, he tore his left quad severely and, as in Rome, was unable to finish the race. He flew back to Portland for an experimental surgery. Doctors expected that Jerome would be crippled for life, telling him that he would certainly never run competitively again. It seemed that Jerome’s once-promising athletic career was at an end.

The Comeback

Harry Jerome, however, was no quitter. In spite of the scorn the Canadian press continued to heap on him in the aftermath of his injury, he was determined to return to the track. That summer, he and his new bride, Wendy, moved to North Vancouver, British Columbia. Wendy was a native of Edmonton, Alberta, whom he had met at the University of Oregon and who, at that time, was preparing for the birth of their first child. While the wounded athlete recovered from his injury, the City of North Vancouver took care of the couple’s rent and grocery bills.

When his cast finally came off, Harry Jerome, under the guidance of his former coach, John Minichiello, worked to build back his severely-atrophied leg muscles. Against all odds, the runner made an almost-full recovery. He returned to Portland, and, to the amazement of his detractors, started running again. That fall, he ran a 60 yard sprint in 6.0 seconds, tying the world record, and prompting his coach, Bill Bowerman, to suggest that he had made “the greatest comeback in track and field history.”

Incidentally, during his final year on the University of Oregon track team, Harry Jerome invested $1,000 into Blue Ribbon Sports, a burgeoning shoe company founded by his coach, Bill Bowerman. Bowerman, who started out making running shoe soles with his wife’s waffle iron, eventually transformed his small business into Nike Inc., the famous American multinational sportswear corporation. This made Jerome, along with 26 of his teammates who similarly invested, millionaires many times over.

Medals and Honours

Harry went on to compete and place in a number of international competitions. His accomplishments included:

  • Being the first man in history to simultaneously hold the world record for both the 100 metre and 100 yard dash.
  • Winning bronze for Canada at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo in the 100 metre dash.
  • Securing bronze at the 1965 Summer Universiade in Budapest, Hungary.
  • Winning gold at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • Winning gold at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Representing Canada in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico.

Jerome eventually retired from the track in 1969 and secured a position as a physical education teacher at Templeton Secondary School in the east side of Vancouver. That same year, at the behest of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, he helped form Canada’s new Ministry of Sport. In 1970, he became an Officer of the Order of Canada. The following year, he was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Harry Jerome passed away quite suddenly on December 7, 1982, due to complications resultant of an epileptic seizure. One of the last people to see him alive was his good friend Paul Winn, his old schoolmate and fellow athlete from North Vancouver, with whom he had lunch on the day of his death.



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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 11: Moving Targets

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 11: Moving Targets


The following is a Plot Summary of Season 5, Episode 11 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The episode begins in the War Room, where the Oak Island team, with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype, meets with Laird Niven. There, the archaeologist examines the small lead cross found on Smith’s Cove by Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton the previous episode, and declares that he has never seen anything like it before. He also states that the chain hole in the top of the cross was almost certainly made by a square nail. When prompted by Gary Drayton and Marty Lagina, Niven agrees the cross appears to have had little exposure to the air, as it displays only a small degree of oxidation, and that it was likely unintentionally unearthed the previous year, when the Oak Island team exposed what they believed to be a French drain beneath Smith’s Cove. He suggests that the team have the artifact appraised by an expert specializing in European antiquities.

Two days later, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Vanessa Lucido at the H8 Shaft, where contractors are in the process of sinking a smaller inner caisson within the wider custom-built caisson first used to sink the shaft. At the same time, Jack Begley, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton sift through the last bit of H8 spoils at a wash table. Drayton quickly picks out a piece of pottery decorated with a raised floral pattern in a sample taken from a depth of 150 feet.

Shortly thereafter, Vanessa Lucido approaches the treasure hunters to inform them that their caisson appears to have encountered an underground void from the depths of 162-172 feet, evocative of the Chappell Vault. Mysteriously, the flat layer situated at a depth of 170 feet, which was encountered in the previous episode, is no longer there. Marty suggests that the flat layer might have slipped into a natural void below, which much of the treasure is believed by some to have slid into during the two 18th Century collapses of the Money Pit.

Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton go metal detecting at Smith’s Cove. They quickly unearth what appears to be a lead spoon handle reminiscent of the recently-discovered lead cross. Later on, they uncover a strip of brass, which Drayton suggests was once part of a boat.

After their metal detecting excursion, Rick and Gary rejoin the rest of the team at the Money Pit area, where the excavation of H8 is still underway. At the wash table, where debris from H8 is sifted through, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley discover a piece of what appears to be leather brought up from a depth of 162 feet, reminiscent of the fragment of leather book binding discovered in Season 5, Episode 7. Shortly thereafter, they find a large piece of bone brought up from the same depth, evocative of the fragments of human bones found in the H8 spoils in Season 5, Episodes 5 and 6 (both of them found at a similar depth).

As the last few feet of H8 are excavated, the Oak Island crew members express their frustration that the shaft, which had initially seemed so promising, has yielded so little of interest. Marty Lagina summarizes the sentiments of the crew in a later interview, saying, “I can’t explain, in H8, how we got so many significant artifacts out of a small borehole- 6 inch borehole- and then we run a great big giant six-foot caisson down there and we get, really, marginally more. I don’t know why.”

After Marty’s aside, Vanessa Lucido of ROC Equipment Ltd. informs the treasure hunters that the caisson has hit bedrock, implying that the H8 shaft is complete. The Lagina brothers and Craig Tester, disappointed at the development, discuss the reasons for the shaft’s negligible productivity. Craig suggests that perhaps the caisson pushed the hypothetical treasure vault down or to the side during its descent.

That night, the crew meets in the War Room with geophysicist Mike West of GEMTEC Ltd., an Ontario-based engineering consulting company. West, who ran a dual induction device down each drillhole of the GeoTech grid in Season 5, Episode 6, shows the team a visual representation of the data he gathered, pointing out a cluster of data points which indicate, as Marty puts it in a later interview, “that there is a significant anomaly about 150 feet” deep in the area of the H8 shaft. The crew members agree that West’s information serves to verify that the original Money Pit is indeed located somewhere in the vicinity of H8.

The following day, the Oak Island crew meet in the War Room again, this time with geologist Terry Matheson and historian Doug Crowell. Marty Lagina informs the crew that they must decide whether to sink another shaft in the Money Pit area or leave the island for the season. Crowell opines that the crew ought to explore an area south of the H8 shaft, where the team has not yet drilled.

While the crew members discuss their next course of action, Craig Tester declares that he will leave the decision-making up to the other treasure hunters, disclosing that he will not be returning to Oak Island the following season. In a later interview, the engineer states that the Oak Island quest has helped “to take [his] focus off losing [his son] Drake,” who passed away the previous summer due to complications resultant of an epileptic seizure. Although Tester does not explicitly state the reasons behind his decision to take a break from the treasure hunt, it is strongly implied that they have something do to with the loss of his son.

The crew members agree to carry on the search in Tester’s absence, and decide to sink another shaft at a particular site which Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, and Charles Barkhouse all agree is suitable. At Jack Begley’s insistence, the team decides to name the shaft after Drake Tester, dubbing it “DMT”- Drake Maxwell Tester’s initials.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 10: The Signs of a Cross

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 10: The Signs of a Cross

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 10 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

At the Money Pit area, Rick and Marty Lagina and Charles Barkhouse stand by as Irving Equipment Ltd. slowly sinks the H8 shaft. Rick is unsurprised when the hammergrab repeatedly emerges from the caisson bearing load upon load of old timbers, saying, “it’s almost certainly the Chappell Shaft.” The narrator follows up on that statement by reminding us of Doug Crowell’s discovery, presented in Season 5, Episode 5, that the Chappell Shaft was not constructed in perfect vertical alignment, its bottom lying 10-12 feet north of its top. Perhaps, the narrator suggest, H8 will intersect the elusive Chappell Vault, which the Chappell Shaft apparently bypassed.

Later, the Oak Island team meets in the War Room with Doug Crowell. Crowell informs the team that he has discovered eight pages constituting what appears to be a ship’s log in the Nova Scotia Archives in Halifax. “What’s really interesting,” says Crowell, “is it appears to be a ship’s log that indicates that [the ship’s crew was] here in advance of the French fleet that was coming over in 1746 to take back Acadia.” The narrator then gives us a history lesson on the failed Duc d’Anville Expedition of 1746, during which “the French launched an armada of 97 ships and 13,000 men… in an attempt to seize Nova Scotia and parts of the northern American colonies from the British,” only to be thwarted by typhus, scurvy, and violent Atlantic storms. Crowell then discloses that leader of this expedition, the Duc d’Anville, was named Jean-Baptiste Louis Frederic de La Rochefoucauld, and was a member of the La Rochefoucauld family introduced in Season 5, Episode 8.

Crowell then reads the following passage in the log:

“September 6

“Enter a deep bay. Southwesterly of Chebucto Bay [the original French name for Halifax Harbour, located 59 km (37 miles) northeast of Oak Island, as the crow flies]. Still no word of D’Anville, and the weather being clear, we set sail, turning southwesterly along the coast, passing many rocky islands. At midday, we reached a deep bay with several hundred small islands, wooded to the shore. The wind dying down, we anchored for the night. The great quantity of treasure on this vessel makes it unwise to jeopardize it in any engagement with the enemy.

“September 8

“It has been agreed that a deep pit be dug and treasure securely buried. The pit do have a secret entrance by a tunnel from the shore.

“September 13

“Down 67 feet. Pit seems damp from seepage of seawater. Have decided to go deeper to dry soil.”

“In my mind,” concludes Crowell, after he has finished reading, “there’s no doubt that they’re pointing right to Oak Island.” Marty Lagina, however, expresses his concern that the narrative’s obvious parallel with the Oak Island mystery is almost too perfect. Heedless of Marty’s concern, Crowell further suggests that perhaps Zena Halpern’s map, addressed to “Francois de La Rochefoucauld,” was drawn up by a member of the the Duc d’Anville Expedition who learned of the events described in the ship’s log and decided to send word to a member of the Duc’s family; Jean-Baptiste de La Rochefoucauld, Duc d’Anville, died of typhus on George’s Island in Chebucto Bay on September 16, 1746, along with many of his men.

Later, at the Money Pit area, Vanessa Lucido of ROC equipment informs Rick Lagina that the H8 shaft has been cased to a depth of 155 feet and excavated to a depth of 150 feet. Rick reminds Lucido that the anomaly they hope to investigate, first discovered in Season 5, Episode 6, is located at a depth of around 160 feet. He cautions her that the next 10 feet ought to be excavated with extreme care.

As the excavation proceeds, the narrator informs us that the subsequent spoils brought up from H8 will be scanned with a metal detector before being carefully sifted through by hand at a wash table. In the first batch of spoils, Gary Drayton discovers a small metal spike. Shortly thereafter, he recovers a much larger wrought-iron spike coated with what Marty Lagina suggests might be concrete, evoking the description of the core sample retrieved from the Chappell Vault. When these same spoils are later sifted through at a wash table, Jack Begley discovers a fragment of what is almost certainly bone, evocative the human bone shards brought up from H8’s 160-165-foot depths in Season 5, Episode 5.

Suddenly, Vanessa Lucido informs the crew that the caisson has encountered a hard object at the 170-foot depth, and is almost certainly “sitting on something” of significance. “It don’t feel like metal,” says oscillator operator Danny Smith. “It feels like I’m on a whole bunch of wood at once now.” The narrator suggests that this potential mass of wood beneath the caisson might be the fabled Chappell Vault.

Rick and Marty discuss how best to proceed, both of them desirous of maintaining the integrity of whatever lies beneath the caisson. Unfortunately, there is very little caisson left to grind into the earth, as Oak Island Tours Inc. had ordered their custom caisson with the intention of sinking a 170-foot shaft.  To make matters worse, a thoroughly begrimed Jack Begley informs the crew that he used up all of the water reserved for washing the H8 spoils. With that, the crew decides to call it a day and meet in the War Room. There, later that night, the crew decides to install a permanent inner casing inside the H8 shaft and continue digging with a smaller hammergrab.

The following day, while a permanent inner casing is being installed inside the H8 shaft, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton go metal detecting on a particular stretch of Smith’s Cove. After finding a bottle cap, the treasure hunters unearth a small lead cross with a large chain hole on the top, which a very excited Drayton suspects was crafted anywhere from 1200-1600 A.D. Rick suggests that the cross, with its large chain hole, closely resembles the shape of one of the crucifixes carved into the walls of Domme prison by members of the Knights Templar, which he and his nephews Alex Lagina and Peter Fornetti visited the previous episode. Gary encourages Rick to have the artifact examined by an expert as the latter phones up Marty Lagina and Craig Tester to inform them of the find.



The Ship’s Log

In this episode, Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell presents an eight-page document he unearthed in the Nova Scotia Archives in Halifax. This document is supposed to be the log of an 18th Century French treasure ship which constituted the vanguard of the Duc d’Anville Expedition, a 1746 French assault on British holdings in Acadia and New England which never came to fruition. The author of the log describes sailing southwest down the Acadian coast from Chebucto Bay (a.k.a. Halifax Harbour) to what was either Mahone Bay or St. Margarets Bay (St. Margarets Bay lies immediately northeast of Mahone Bay on the other side of the Aspotogan Peninsula) when the Duc d’Anville’s fleet failed to arrive on schedule. On one of the islands in this bay, the ship’s crew purportedly dug a deep pit in which it hoped to bury the treasure with which it was entrusted, as well as a “secret entrance” to the pit “by a tunnel from the shore”- structures strongly evocative of Oak Island’s Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, respectively. The log’s last entry, dated September 13 [1746], indicates that the crew members dug their pit to a depth of 67 feet that day, whereupon they encountered seawater. Although the author states the crew’s bizarre intention to continue digging in an effort to reach “dry soil” further below, there are no further entries in the log. We are left to speculate as to the cause for this abrupt ending.

If these eight pages truly constitute the log of an 18th century French ship, and if the events recorded in the log truly took place, it is likely that Doug Crowell has solved much of the Oak Island mystery; the chance that there is more than one island in or very near to Mahone Bay on which a deep treasure pit and an adjoining hidden seaward tunnel was secretly constructed seems slim. However, there is at least one detail which casts some doubt on the authenticity of the document in question. In the show, while Crowell reads from a transcript of the ship’s log, we are shown images of handwriting which correspond with Crowell’s narration, ostensibly taken from a photocopy of the original manuscript. This handwriting, like Crowell’s narration, is in English. If Crowell’s document truly constitutes the log of an 18th century French ship as purported, however, it would almost certainly have been written in French. Fortunately, Crowell addresses this potential problem on social media in spite of his non-disclosure agreement with the producers of The Curse of Oak Island, which precludes him from prematurely revealing some of his research discoveries with the general public. In a Facebook post, Crowell indicated that the eight pages he presented in this episode constitute a handwritten English translation of the original French log, which a certain Oak Island researcher donated to the Nova Scotia archives in 1968. In accordance with his NDA agreement, Crowell refrained from commenting on the original French log and the identity of the researcher who supposedly discovered it.

The Duc d’Anville Expedition

The aforementioned ship’s log presented by Doug Crowell in this episode was allegedly written by a member of the 1746 Duc d’Anville Expedition, a French military operation conducted in King George’s War, the North American theatre of the War of Austrian Succession.

From a North American perspective, King George’s War was but one of six military conflicts fought between the British and French and their First Nation allies in their respective New World colonies, New England and New France. These wars, dubbed the “French and Indian Wars,” were all sub-conflicts of much larger pan-European wars fought on the European continent.

In order to understand King George’s War and the larger conflict of which it was a part, the War of Austrian Succession, we must know a little about the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire (800-1806) was an agglomeration of Germanic kingdoms revolving around what is now Germany, which also included present-day northern Italy, eastern France, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, western Poland, and sometimes parts of the Netherlands. Founded in the early 9th Century A.D. (according to some historians) by the Dark Age Frankish warlord Charlemagne, it purported to be the successor of the once-mighty (Western) Roman Empire. In truth, however, it was, as French Enlightenment writer Voltaire is said to have quipped, “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire,” as it’s relationship with the Vatican was often rocky, it was essentially German, and it was more of a loose confederation of kingdoms than a centrally-organized empire.

In 1438, a member of an Austrian family known as the House of Habsburg was elected Holy Roman Emperor. The Habsburgs would hold this position for the next three centuries, retaining and expanding their influence through strategic, often inter-familial marriages. Ironically, these inter-House marriages which initially brought the Habsburgs so much success would eventually prove to be their undoing.

In the late 1400’s, Philip the Fair of the House of Habsburg married Juana de Castille, heiress to the young and flourishing kingdom of Spain. In the late 1510’s, Philip and Juana’s son Charles succeeded his paternal grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor (becoming Charles V), and his maternal grandparents as King of Spain (becoming Carlos I). In this way, the House of Hapsburg gained control of both the Spanish and Holy Roman Empires. Although this mega-empire separated when Charles was succeeded in Spain by his son, Philip II, and in the Holy Roman Empire by his younger brother, Ferdinand I, Spain (under the rule of the Spanish branch of the Habsburg family) and the Holy Roman Empire (under the rule of the Viennese branch of the Habsburg family) remained close allies for the remainder of their existences.

As mentioned, the Habsburgs consistently intermarried with each other in order to keep power within the family. Over time, this remote inbreeding had an

increasingly deleterious effect on the genetic health of the family, and within a few generations, the House of Habsburg was plagued by genetic disorders. By the late 1600’s, it became clear that the severely-inbred Charles II of Spain, known as “the Bewitched” for his physical and mental disabilities, was incapable of producing an heir, and would be the last of the Spanish Habsburgs to rule Spain.

Following the death of Charles II in 1700, various European powers fought to put their preferred candidates on the vacant Spanish throne. In this conflict, known as the War of Spanish Succession, France and its allies fought to crown Philip of the French House of Bourbon (the grandson of the French “Sun” King Louis XIV) King Philip V of Spain, while the Holy Roman Empire and its allies supported the claim of Charles, Archduke of Austria, a relative of the late King Charles II of Spain who would one day become Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor. France ultimately won this war, and Spain was ruled by French Bourbon monarchs for the next century and a half.

In 1740, the losing candidate of the War of Spanish Succession and the last of the Viennese Habsburg line, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, died after eating poisonous mushrooms on a hunting trip. Like Charles II’s death in Spain, Charles VI’s death in the Holy Roman Empire spurred a war of succession. At the time of his death,

Charles VI was survived by several daughters who, according to Salic law (an ancient Frankish code to which many Germanic states adhered), were unable to inherit his throne. The remaining Habsburg family and their allies disregarded this ancient statute and supported the claim of Charles’ eldest daughter Maria Theresa (the future mother of Marie Antoinette). France, Bourbon Spain, and their allies, on the other hand, contested Maria Theresa’s claim.

It must be mentioned that, by this time, the Holy Roman Empire was a mere shell of its former self, having fractured into independent Catholic and Protestant kingdoms in the aftermath of the 30 Years’ War, a devastating religious-turned-political pan-European war fought between pro and anti Habsburg nations from 1618-1648. Although Charles VI, at the time of his death, was nominally the “Holy Roman Emperor,” he actually only controlled a handful of kingdoms referred to collectively as “Austria”. For this reason, the war that followed Charles VI’s death was called the War of Austrian Succession.

One of Maria Theresa’s supporters during this conflict was King George II of Great Britain, who is mentioned in connection with Oak Island in Season 4, Episode 8 and the Season 4 Finale of The Curse of Oak Island. George II’s father, George I, was the first “Hanoverian” king of Great Britain. For most of his life, he served as the leader of Hanover, a Protestant German state which was once a part of the Holy Roman Empire and a long-time ally of the Habsburg family. In 1714, however, following the death of the childless Queen Anne of Great Britain, British Parliament invited him to rule as king of Britain, as they were desperate to keep a Protestant on the throne (as opposed to a Catholic). George readily accepted the offer, and was crowned King George I of Great Britain. When the War of Austrian Succession erupted, his son and successor, King George II, decided to support the claim of Maria Theresa due to the long-time alliance between Hanover, his ancestral home, and the Habsburg family. In 1743, George led a joint British-Hanoverian army against French forces at the Battle of Dettingen, becoming the last British monarch to lead his troops in battle. The following year, France formally declared war on Great Britain.

Once war was officially declared, colonists in New France attempted to retake peninsular Nova Scotia, which France had lost to the British during Queen Anne’s War (the North American theatre of the War of Spanish Succession). First, French soldiers stationed at the formidable Fortress of Louisbourg (located on the eastern shore of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia), accompanied by their Wabanaki First Nations allies, attacked and utterly destroyed the British outpost of Fort William Augustus (located on the northeastern tip of mainland Nova Scotia), in doing so touching off what is known as King George’s War, the North American theatre of the War of Austrian Succession. Shortly thereafter, a militant French missionary named Jean-Louis Le Loutre led a force of Acadian colonists and a huge war party of Mi’kmaq warriors in a failed attack on Annapolis Royal, a French-turned-British settlement founded in the early 1600’s by Pierre Du Gua de Monts and Samuel de Champlain and taken by the British during Queen Anne’s War. Two months later, French forces besieged Annapolis Royal a second time, only to retreat with the arrival of a ruthless war party of Wampanoag and Nauset braves loyal to New England.

In 1745, the British retaliated by launching an assault on the Fortress of Louisbourg. After a grueling month-and-a-half-long siege during which 900 redcoats died of disease, the beleaguered French defenders surrendered the fortress to the British.

While their Wabanaki allies took their revenge on the British by raiding New English settlements along the coast of present-day Maine, the French planned a massive expedition to recapture Louisbourg and Annapolis Royal, ravage New England, and raze Boston to the ground. This enterprise, headed by Admiral Jean-Baptiste Louis Frederic de La Rochefoucauld, the Duc d’Anville, is known as the Duc D’Anville Expedition.

On June 22, 1746, the Duc D’Anville set out from France with 73 ships, 800 cannons, and 13,000 soldiers- the largest military force ever to set sail for the New World. On its way across the Atlantic, the French fleet was beset by a series of terrible storms, during which several ships were struck by lightning. To make matters worse, epidemics of typhus and scurvy rippled through the troops. By the time the ragged remains of d’Anville’s once-formidable fleet limped into Chebucto Bay, Nova Scotia (present-day Halifax Harbour) on September 10, 1746, nearly 2,500 Frenchmen were dead. Only six days after his arrival, D’Anville himself died quite suddenly and mysteriously. Although D’Anville’s doctor believed the admiral died of a stroke, some historians believe that he succumbed to disease, while others suspect that he took his own life.

After recovering and taking on fresh supplies in the Bedford Basin, the survivors of the French fleet made a feeble attempt at attacking Annapolis Royal. Again, they were thwarted by violent Atlantic storms, and at last decided to return home to France, utterly defeated by the elements.

The Identity of the Ship

In light of the ship’s log presented in this episode, one of the most interesting elements of the Duc d’Anville expedition is the arrival of two French scouting ships in Chebucto Bay several months in advance of the main fleet. These vessels include l’Aurore, which left France on April 9, 1746, and le Castor, which departed several weeks after. Both ships had arrived in Chebucto Bay by June, whereupon they patrolled the coastline for sometime before heading back to France on August 12 (a full month before the final entry in the ship’s log presented in this episode), when the Duc D’Anville’s fleet failed to arrive on schedule. Both vessels arrived in France on September 22.

Behind schedule, the Duc d’Anville, upon approaching the Acadian coast, tasked the crew of one of his frigates, called Renommee, with sailing ahead of the main armada to intercept l’Aurore and le Castor ; the admiral correctly suspected that the two scouting ships would depart for France when he failed to arrive on time. En route to Chebucto Bay, the Renommee encountered and was subsequently hounded by an English vessel, and only managed to arrive at Chebucto after D’Anville’s fleet. This puts the Renommee in the waters off the Acadian coast in the time frame indicated by the aforementioned ship’s log. Is it possible that the eight pages presented by Doug Crowell in this episode come from the log of the Renommee?

One potential problem with this suggestion is the fact that there are no indications that the Renommee was carrying any sort of treasure during the Duc d’Anville Expedition, unlike the ship who’s log Crowell presented in this episode. There were, however, several other French vessels associated with the Expedition which were definitely laden with treasure. In the summer of 1746, in accordance with an earlier arrangement, an aristocratic French naval officer named Hubert de Brienne, Chevalier de Conflans, set out for Chebucto Bay from the Caribbean with four warships: le Terrible, le Neptune, Valcyon, and la Gloire. After exchanging cannon fire with a squadron of English men-of-war off the coast of Hispaniola and incurring significant damage to his ships, the Chevalier de Conflans dutifully made his way to the Acadian coast. Upon his arrival, however, he could find neither Chebucto Bay nor any trace of d’Anville’s fleet; unbeknownst to him, d’Anville’s fleet was still inbound, and had yet to arrive. Several days before d’Anville’s arrival on September 10, 1746, Conflans decided to return to France. The date of his departure is eerily similar to that of Crowell’s mystery ship, which left Chebucto Bay for what is presumably Oak Island on September 6, 1746.

On their way home, Conflans and his crew captured an English ship called the Convener, from which they appropriated an estimated 100, 000 livres-worth of treasure. In this way, at least one ship associated with the Duc d’Anville Expedition is known to have carried treasure in its hold. Where the Ronommee fails to accord with Crowell’s mystery ship due to its lack of treasure, however,  Conflans’ ships similarly fail to accord on account of the fact that they acquired their treasure after their departure from the Acadian coast. In spite of this, no ships of which this author is aware correspond more closely with Doug Crowell’s mystery ship than the Chevalier de Conflans’ men-of-war.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 9: The French Connection

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 9: The French Connection

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 9 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

Dave Blankenship and Jack Begley meet with Vanessa Lucido of ROC Equipment at the now-embryonic H8 Shaft, which has been sunk to a depth of 10 feet. The narrator reveals that Irving Equipment Ltd. expects to complete the shaft within four days.

Meanwhile, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti travel to Paris, France. There, the three treasure hunters meet with French researcher and translator Nichola Lewis, who has agreed to take them to Sonia Matossian, a member of the La Rochefoucauld family and the current owner of Chateau de La Rochefoucaul (first mentioned in the previous episode). Lewis and the treasure hunters board a train bound for Charente, the department of Southwestern France in which the castle is located.

On the way to Charente, Lewis describes the Chateau de La Rochefoucauld to her American charges, telling them about chambers and tunnels beneath the castle which boast remarkable carvings. When Alex Lagina expresses a desire to find “a more solid connection between the Templars and Oak Island” at the chateau, Lewis reveals that she may have made such a connection already. She proceeds to tell the treasure hunters about two Templar chapels located in Charente, inside one of which hangs a painting depicting a mounted, battle-ready Templar knight with a particular symbol painted on his shield. Lewis points out that this symbol on the knight’s shield- a cross with a dot in each quadrant- is the same symbol inscribed on Oak Island’s famous H/O stone.

She goes on to address the other two symbols which flank the cross, namely the ‘H’ and ‘O’ of the H/O stone, and suggests that they represent the Greek letters theta and eta, respectively. Lewis theorizes that together, the three symbols form a Christogram, an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ, which, the narrator informs us, were “commonly used in the Byzantine and Medieval eras.” Specifically, Lewis hypothesizes that the inscription H/O stone is an abbreviation for Theos, the Greek word for God.

Back on Oak Island, Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Gary Drayton, and archaeologist Laird Niven head to a shallow pit on Oak Island’s Lot 24 in which a tree was once rooted. The Oak Island crew had first started excavating this pit in Season 5, Episode 3. only to abandon the project shortly thereafter when Niven decided that some of the stones they uncovered might be culturally significant. The team, having since secured a digging permit for the site, proceeds to excavate the area in a manner prescribed by the archaeologist.

Meanwhile, in France, Lewis and the three Laginas arrive at Chateau de La Rochefoucauld, where they are greeted by Sonia Matossian. After inviting her guests inside, Matossian informs them that the castle was built on a rock, and has no artificial foundation. “That’s where our name comes from,” she says. “Foucauld’s Rock. La Roche Foucauld.”

The narrator then informs us of the castle’s history, saying: “Chateau de La Rochefoucauld began as a large wooden fortification built in the year 980 as a means of protecting its inhabitants from Viking invaders. Over the next 500 years, it would continue to grow in size, and is now considered one of the greatest achievements of the French Renaissance.”

Later, Rick Lagina presents Sonia Matossian with one of Zena Halpern’s maps, in the top right-hand corner of which are written the words, “Cette dessun pour M. Francois de Rochefaucauld, un petite verre d’appre Neustria,” roughly translated as, “This drawing for M. Francois Rochfoucauld, a little drink learned from Neustria.” After Matossian states that the map obviously has a connection with the La Rochefoucauld family, Rick asks her if her family had any connections with the Knights Templar. “I’ve never heard of Templars in the family,” she replies. “Doesn’t mean that there weren’t any… I have heard of the Crusades. They all went to the Crusades.” Matossian goes on to suggest that it was entirely possible that her La Rochefoucauld ancestors met Templar knights in the Holy Land. The narrator expands on that notion by suggesting that members of the Knights Templar might have entrusted the secret location of their fabled treasure to members of the La Rochefoucauld family.

When prompted by Rick, Matossian opines that the strange form of French in which the map’s notes and labels were written is a slang dialect unique to the author’s home region, indicating that the author was a commoner who spoke some variety of Old French. “The nobility,” on the other hand, she says, “knew how to speak French perfectly.” Matossian scrutinizes the map more closely, and suggests that the aforementioned passage scrawled on Halpern’s map was translated incorrectly, and actually means, “This sketch for Mr. La Rochefoucauld, a little towards the west.”

Following that revelation, Matossian encourages her guests to pay a visit to ‘Foucauld’s Rock’ beneath the castle, entrusting Rick with the keys to the place.

Back on Oak Island, Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Gary Drayton, and Laird Niven continue to excavate the site at Lot 22. Bit by bit, Niven brushes debris away from the stones beneath, hoping to uncover in intact structure, while Marty and Gary sift through the debris that he has removed. When questioned by Marty, Niven speculates that the stones he is uncovering might comprise the floor of a house.

Soon afterwards, Drayon discovers a small piece of pottery in the spoils which Niven believes might be a fragment of Staffordshire slipware, a type of English pottery fashionable from the mid 1700’s  until the 1770’s.

The narrator reveals in an aside that the potential foundation proved to be too small to be that of a house, suggesting that it might have served as a base for a smaller structure like a lookout post.

Back in France, beneath the Chateau de La Rochefoucauld, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Nichola Lewis explore the caves and tunnels within Foucauld’s Rock which, the narrator explains, owes its name to a man named Fucaldus who first employed the landmark as a building site in 980 A.D. Unfortunately, the explorers are unable to find any carvings within the labyrinth, Templar or otherwise. When they return to the surface and relate their experience to their host, Sonia Matossian informs them that most of the carvings that the caves once boasted likely faded into obscurity due to the degenerative effects of a river which local tanners diverted beneath the castle in the 18th Century. With that, the treasure hunters thank Matossian for all her help and take their leave of Chateau de La Rochefoucauld.

The following day, Rick, Alex, and Peter head southeast to the village of Domme, France, where they meet with Templar expert Jerry Glover. Glover takes the treasure hunters to the town’s fortress, where a number of Templar knights were imprisoned following the suppression of their Order in 1307. Inside the fortress’ guardhouse, where the Templars were held, Glover directs the treasure hunters’ attention towards various religiously-themed carvings which cover the prison’s walls- graffiti created by the monastic knights during the course of their imprisonment. These carvings include a detailed depiction of the Crucifixion, in which Jesus is flanked by a woman on the left and a man on the right, a number of less detailed crucifixes, all manner of stylized crosses, several depictions of the Madonna and Child, and a number of mysterious symbols.

Rick asks Glover if one of the most frequently-carved motifs- a large cross with smaller crosses on each end- is exclusively a Templar cross, to which Glover replies that the symbol in question was one adopted by a number of Crusading Orders including the Knights Templar.

Glover then points out a strange symbol, dubbed the “Grail,” which he interprets as a chalice topped by an octagon bisected by a vertical line and containing three vertically-stacked V’s. The three treasure hunters observe that the three V’s inside the octagon atop the chalice evoke the three red chevrons that adorn the La Rochefoucauld coat of arms.

Next, Glover points out what he calls the “special Domme Cross,” a strange fractalized cross which he claims is unique to the prison. “It’s so unusual,” Glover says of the symbol, “that you have to think of what other sources of inspiration there could have been for this. And I think it’s possible, given [the Knights Templar’s] contacts in the Holy Land, that this might have been inspired by the Kabbalistic Tree of Life,” which features prominently in Petter Amunden’s theory.

Next, Glover shows the treasure hunters a carving of another large cross with a small cross on each of the three top ends. Like many of the other crosses carved onto the walls, the bottom branch of this cross is set into a triangle. This cross is different from the others, however, in that each of the small crosses at the end of its three top arms have four dots in each quadrant, strongly evoking the middle symbol carved on the H/O stone, believed by many to be a Jerusalem Cross. At the end of the top three arms of the main cross is a fifth dot, similar to the cross pattee carved on the Overton Stone near Overton, Nova Scotia.

At the conclusion of their tour of the Templar prison, the three treasure hunters express their astonishment at the number of potential ties between the Templar graffiti and various carvings found on or near Oak Island. With that, they thank Glover for his help, leave the fortress, and ostensibly return to Oak Island.

Sometime later, the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room, where Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti detail the discoveries they made in France. Marty Lagina remarks that the alleged Tree of Life carved on the walls of the Domme prison is stylistically different from the Tree of Life which some believe Nolan’s Cross represents. Rick suggests that this dissimilarity might be due to the Domme carving’s being an early depiction of the symbol, and expresses his belief that the Oak Island swamp, in accordance with Petter Amundsen’s ‘Tree of Life’ theory, might hold the key to the Oak Island mystery.


The Knight with the Shield

During the train ride to Charente, French researcher and translator Nichola Lewis shows Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti a photo of an illustration of a Templar knight riding into battle, which she claimed adorns one of the walls of two “Templar chapels” located in Charente. On the knight’s shield is a cross with four dots in each quadrant, a symbol reminiscent of one of the carvings on the H/O stone.

This particular image, painted around 1175 A.D., is part of a fresco (restored in 2013) which adorns the North Wall of the Chapelle des Templiers, a Knights Templar chapel located in the Charente countryside near the town of Cressac-Saint-Genis and the last remains of a Templar Commandery. The entire fresco depicts a battle fought during the First Crusade, the most likely candidates for this conflict being the Battle of Antioch (fought in 1098 A.D.), which is associated with the discovery of the Holy Lance (the spear used to pierce the side of the Jesus on the Cross; one of the Knights Templar’s alleged treasures) and the Battle of al-Buqaia (fought in 1163 A.D.), in which Hugh VIII de Lusignan, the father of Guy de Lusignan (a Crusader king associated with the La Rochefoucauld family), led an army of French pilgrims. The knight in question, shown charging into battle on horseback with a couched lance, appears to be a Frankish commander. Some believe that he is Saint George, a 3rd Century tribune in the Praetorian Guard (an elite unit of the Imperial Roman Army) and Greek Christian martyr whom legend says posthumously intervened at the Battle of Antioch, while others maintain that he is a Templar knight.


En route to Charente, Nichola Lewis presents her theory that the ‘H’ and ‘O’ symbols carved on the H/O stone represent the Greek letters theta and eta, respectively, and that that, together, three symbols inscribed on the stone form a Christogram, or an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ. Specifically, she believes the symbols are an abbreviation for Theos, the Greek word for God.

One of the oldest Christograms is the Chi-Rho, which consists of the Greek letter ‘X’ superimposed on the Greek letter ‘P’, a conflation the first two letters of the Greek word Christos, or Christ. According to Roman historians Eusebius and Lactantius, Constantine the Great, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, used the Chi-Rho as his battle standard after seeing a vision of it in the sky, accompanied by the Greek words, “En touto nika,” or “In this sign conquer.”

Other common Christograms include ‘IHS’, the Latinized version of the first three letters of the Greek name ‘Iesous’ (‘Jesus’); and ‘INRI’, a acronym of the Latin phrase: ‘Iesvs Nazarenvs, Rex Ivdaeorvm’ ( ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’).

Origin of the Surname La Rochefoucauld

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Sonia Matossian claims that the family name La Rochefoucauld derives from the rock upon which the Chateau de La Rochefoucauld was built, also known as ‘la Roche a Foucauld,” or ‘Foucauld’s Rock.’

History shows that Foucauld’s Rock owes its name to a man named Fucaldus, the younger brother of an local Early Medieval Frankish feudal lord. In 980 A.D., Fucaldus established a fortified camp on the rock, thereafter known as Fucaldus in Rupe (which is Latin for ‘Fucaldus’ Rock’). Perhaps because of this, Fucaldus bore the surname ‘de La Roche’, or ‘of The Rock’ (not to be confused with the younger northeastern French noble family De la Roche). However, according to at least one source, Fucaldus bore the surname ‘de La Roche’ on account of his father’s lordship over a small town in the county of Angounois called ‘La Roche,’ and not on account of the rock upon which he built his camp. Whatever the case, Fucaldus de La Roche’s children decided to adopt a surname which merged a Gallicized version their father’s Christian name- Foucauld- with his family name- de La Roche. In this way, the House of La Rochefoucauld was born.

Old French

In this episode, Sonia Matossian suggests that the labels and messages on Zena Halpern’s map of Oak Island were written in a dialect of Old French, an umbrella term for a variety of dialects spoken in what is now France from the 8th Century to the 14th Century A.D.

The various dialects of Old French are linguistic descendants of Vulgar Latin, the language spoken throughout the Roman Empire (which existed from roughly 27 B.C.-395 A.D., encompassing, at its height, a vast area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, from what is now northern Morocco, to the British Isles, to the Crimean Peninsula, to southern Egypt). In what is now France, Vulgar Latin was influenced by Gaulish, the language spoken by local Celts who lived there under Roman rule.

Following the 5th Century Fall of the western half of the Roman Empire and the subsequent Migration Period, during which various Germanic and Central Asian tribes migrated into Western Europe, Gaulish-influenced Vulgar Latin was further influenced by Old Frankish, the language spoken by the Franks (Germanic newcomers who settled in what is now France, Holland, Belgium, and Western Germany). By the 8th Century A.D., this linguistic amalgam had fractured into a variety of dialects known collectively as Old French which, in time, split into two main branches: the langues d’oil, spoken in Northern France, and the Occitan dialects, or the lenga d’oc, spoken in Southern France (‘oil’ and ‘oc’ being the words for ‘yes’ in the langues d’oil and lenga d’oc, respectively (incidentally, Languedoc, a region of Southern France associated with a number of Oak Island theories, gets its name from the langa d’oc)).

In the 1300’s, one particular langue d’oil spoken in Ile-de-France, an area surrounding the city of Paris, evolved into what is known today as Middle French. In 1539, this dialect became the official language of the Kingdom of France. Middle French evolved into Classical French, spoken throughout the 1600’s and 1700’s, which, in turn, developed into Modern French, the language spoken in France today.

Templar Graffiti

In this episode, Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti examine graffiti carved by members of the Knights Templar onto the walls of the fortress of Domme, France, where they were imprisoned following the suppression of their Order in 1307. These carvings include a detailed crucifix flanked by two onlookers, several other crucifixes, all

manner of stylized crosses, a number of depictions of the Madonna and Child, and other mysterious symbols.

Arguably, the most mysterious of the carvings is a seven-armed symbol which Jerry Glover, the Templar expert who serves as the Laginas’ guide

in the prison at Domme, calls the “special Domme Cross.” In an article on Glover’s website, first published in the magazine Fortean Times, the author remarks that the symbol is somewhat reminiscent of the Menorah, the seven-armed lampstand of pure gold crafted during the Exodus which was once housed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (an ancient symbol of Judaism which some believe lies beneath Oak Island, having been interred by the Knights Templar or one of its derivatives). The author also suggests the carving’s resemblance to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, an observation made in this episode. Finally, the author presents his own theory that the symbol bears strong a resemblance to elaborately-stylized crosses carved on khachkars– Medieval Christian Armenian memorial stones crafted most frequently during the Crusades- and opines that the Domme cross was inspired by a particular khachkar at Geghard, an Armenian monastery incidentally associated the aforementioned Holy Lance.

Another strange carving at Domme is an alleged depiction of the Holy Grail, which the author of the article on Glover’s website calls the ‘Graal de Domme’. The author suggests that the octagonal emblem atop the triangle in which three ‘V’s are encapsulated is what he calls the “Lapis Exilis“, or “the stone that fell from Heaven” (presumably, the author is referring to the heavenly jewel which, according to medieval German myth, fell from the rebellious angel Lucifer’s crown when he was cast out of Heaven). He further suggests that the three ‘V’s inside the octagonal symbol represent the wings of a phoenix, a mythological bird also associated with the mth of the Lapis Exilis.

The author goes on to comment on another piece of graffiti, not shown in this episode, which he claims depicts Pope Clement V (who, in 1307, at the behest of King Philip IV of France, issued a Papal Bull instructing European Christian monarchs to arrest members of the Knights Templar and seize their assets) “as a serpent being speared by the Archangel Michael… clearly an angry satirical swipe at the man who betrayed the Templars, equating the pope with Satan.”

Others interesting Domme carvings mentioned by the author include “a pentagram and several suns and crescents above the scene of a Eucharist… life-size hands, a Nine-Men’s-Morris gameboard [an ancient strategy boardgame somewhat similar to checkers]… angels… a St. Christopher, [and] text in medieval French.”

Interestingly, the carvings that adorn the wall of the prison at Domme are not necessarily the only examples of post-suppression Templar prison graffiti. Other alleged Templar carvings can be found on the walls of the dungeons of England’s Warwick Castle and Royston Cave, and France’s Chateau de Chinon and Chateau de Gisors. Some of the most interesting of these carvings, in the context of Oak Island, are found at the Chateau de Gisors, where several high-ranking Templar knights, including the Order’s last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, were imprisoned. One of the carvings at Gisors depicts a covered wagon evocative of the legend of the Templar treasure, allegedly smuggled out of France immediately prior to the Templar suppression, while three more carvings depict figures with strange headdresses which some have interpreted as North American Indians.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 8: Dan’s Breakthrough

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 8: Dan’s Breakthrough


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 8 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The Oak Island crew touches base with the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. at Drillhole H8, through which, the narrator explains, the contractors have been tasked with sinking a shaft. Similar to their previous excavations in the Money Pit area, Irving Equipment Ltd. intends to accomplish this task through the use of oscillating caissons and a hammergrab. This time, however, the caisson they will use has a diameter of 50 inches, which will make the H8 Shaft the widest of its kind ever sank by Oak Island Tours Inc. For good luck, Marty Lagina drops a coin down the H8’s PVC casing, saying, “Go find your brother.”

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Dan Blankenship, Craig Tester, and Jack Begley meet in the War Room, where Craig reveals the results of the carbon dating analysis of the two human bones brought up from H8. The bone which DNA analysis indicated belonged to a person of Middle Eastern ancestry was carbon dated from 1682 to 1736, while the bone belonging to a person of European descent was dated from 1678 to 1764. Marty Lagina and Dan Blankenship express their astonishment at the dates, and the fact that the bones of two different people were recovered from the Money Pit.

Later, the Oak Island team meets with Doug Crowell at the Mug & Anchor Pub in Mahone Bay. Crowell brings up the mysterious map and documents introduced in the Season 4 Premiere of The Curse of Oak Island and, upon being prompted by Rick Lagina, reminds the crew that New York-based researcher Zena Halpern claimed to have found these documents hidden between the pages of an old book. He goes on to inform us of a sentence inscribed in the corner of one of Zena’s documents- French words loosely translated as “a small gift for Francois de La Rochefoucauld”- and states that further research into the surname ‘La Rochefoucauld’ indicates that the man for which Halpern’s documents were apparently intended as a gift had  a familial connection with Crusader kings. “Dating back to the 10th Century,” the narrator explains, “the French noble family La Rochefoucauld were a powerful house from the ancient region of Neustria. Their lineage can also be traced to the Lusignan family, who were among the ruling class in the Holy City of Jerusalem during the Crusades. Their bloodline also extended to George Washington, Winston Churchill, and even Prince Charles of England [the current heir apparent to the British throne].” In order to follow up on this lead, Crowell claims that he will search through some old historical books in the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, where he works, and invites the Oak Island crew to join him. Alex Lagina agrees to take Crowell up on his offer.

The following day, Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Gary Drayton embark upon a metal detecting excursion on Oak Island’s Lot 16, where two 17th Century British coins were discovered in Season 5, Episode 3. Drayton quickly unearths part of a small horseshoe, which he suggests is a relic of Oak Island’s agricultural past.

After resuming the search, Drayton remarks upon the abundance of ‘wells’ in the area- depressions in the soil which Marty suggests are actually the remains of old ‘search pits’. The conversation soon turns to tales of phantom digging noises various treasure hunters have reported hearing at night on Oak Island throughout the years. Rick then relates a ghost story told by the late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan. According to this story, one night, some treasure hunters heard digging sounds in the forest on Oak Island and went to investigate. At the site at which the noise seemed to have emanated, they discovered a hole in the earth, along with indications that something had been dragged from the hole towards the beach. They followed the trail through the woods and arrived on the beach just in time to see men finish loading a chest into a ship. Too afraid to make their presence known to the looters, the treasure hunters watched in horror as the ship disembarked and vanished into the night.

“Well,” says Gary Drayton in response, “let’s see if they missed something good.” With that, he heads deeper into the woods, where he unearths an egg-sized ball of iron which he suggested is a piece of grapeshot intended as cannon ammunition. Close by, he discovers an irregularly-shaped coin with severely faded features, which he suggests was struck in the 17th Century.

While the four men continue their metal detecting operation, Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Charles Barkhouse travel to COGS in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, where they meet with Doug Crowell. The four men proceed to search through a number of old history books in the hope that they might come across some sort of connection between the La Rochefoucauld family and Oak Island. Soon, Crowell comes across an old map of the Acadian coast drawn up by 16th/17th Century French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Crowell and Barkhouse discuss the potential implications de Champlain’s curious omission of Mahone Bay (in which Oak Island is located) in this map. Both historians speculate that the omission was deliberate, implying that de Champlain might be connected in some way to the Oak Island mystery.

Later, at Drillhole H8, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester inspect the hammergrabs which will be used to excavate the H8 shaft. The narrator then informs us that the 50-inch-wide caisson which will be used in conjunction with the hammergrab, and which has yet to arrive on the island, was custom built in South Korea.

Back at COGS, Doug Crowell shows Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Charles Barkhouse a biography of Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, a 16th/17th Century French explorer who founded the first permanent French settlement in Canada, and for whom Samuel de Champlain worked as a cartographer. On the first page of this book is a family tree depicting Pierre Dugua’s genealogy, which indicates that a man named “Francois de La Rochefoucauld”- who bears the same name as that which appears in the margins of Zena Halpern’s aforementioned map- married into the Degua family. The narrator then speculates that Samuel de Champlain might have neglected to include Oak Island in his map of the Acadian coast on the orders of this mysterious relative of his superior.

Later, in the War Room, Rick Lagina meets with his nephew Alex Lagina. There, Rick informs Alex that he has hired a French researcher and translator named Nichola Lewis to get in touch with members of the La Rochefoucauld family who own Chateau de La Rochefoucauld, a castle in southwestern France and the historic seat of the La Rochefoucauld family. The two Laginas then contact Lewis via video chat. The French researcher informs the treasure hunters that she has indeed secured an invitation to Chateau de La Rochefoucauld for the Oak Island team from Sonia Matossian, the castle’s owner and a member of the La Rochefoucauld family. Rick and Alex accept the invitation and decide to head to France with Peter Fornetti in order to meet Sonia Matossian and get to the bottom of the La Rochefoucauld mystery.

Later, the Oak Island crew meets with Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. at Drillhole H8. There, the treasure hunters and contractors stand by as the enormous custom-made caisson sections are delivered to the Money Pit area and the toothed starter caisson erected over top of H8. On a whim, Marty Lagina jumps up onto the work platform and writes “DAN’S BREAKTHROUGH” on the starter caisson, his inscription being a reference to the hope that the H8 shaft will yield “breakthrough” artifacts of historical significance, thereby justifying Dan Blankenship’s 50-year-long treasure hunt. Following that, Jack Begley similarly climbs up onto the platform and writes “FOREVER FAMILY -DT” on the caisson- the same words, an emotional Begley explains in a later interview, which his late step-brother Drake Tester inscribed on the GAL1 caisson the previous year. That accomplished, the crew stands by as Dan Blankenship presses the button which sets the oscillator into motion.


Carbon Dating of the Human Bones

In this episode, the human bones found in Drillhole H8 were carbon dated from the late 17th to the early-mid 18th Century. Specifically, the bone belonging to a person of Middle Eastern ancestry was carbon dated from 1682 to 1736, while the bone belonging to a person of European descent was dated from 1678 to 1764.

Both ranges of dates are congruent with a number of Oak Island theories, including the Captain Kidd theory, the William Phips theory, and the Freemasonic Theory.

The ‘La Rochefoucauld’ Inscription

In this episode, we are introduced to a note scribbled in the margins of one of Zena Halpern’s maps in what appears to be some sort of antiquated form of French. The message is somewhat difficult to decipher, partly due to artistic effects that the show’s creators have applied to it. Fortunately, Halpern’s 2017 book The Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond: Search for Ancient Secrets: The Shocking Revelations of a 12th Century Manuscript contains a copy of this note which is a little clearer and more complete than the one displayed in the show. This message appears to read:

”  Cette dessun pour M. Francois de

Rochefoucauld, un petite verre

d’appre Neustria 

In her book, Halpern translated this message as: “This drawing for M. Francois Rochfaucauld, a little drink learned from Neustria.” Interestingly, the words “d’appre Neustria” (“d’appre” is not actually a French word, modern or otherwise) are situated in close proximity to one another, suggesting that they comprise a single compound word consisting of “apprendre” (“to learn”) and “Neustria”, the western part of the Dark Age Merovingian/Carolingian Kingdom of the Franks, located in what is now Northern France.

In addition to the note, this particular document contains a labelled map of what is presumed to be Oak Island, first shown in Season 4 of The Curse of Oak Island. 

The map also includes a depiction of a section of the Nova Scotian mainland and what appears to be Frog Island, a small isle located a short distance northeast of Oak Island. Halpern translated the old French labels attached to Frog Island as: “The Landing; One Thousand three hundred forty seven [1347]”; and “Do not go there with the boat,” respectively.

Two messages scrawled across the bottom of the document in the same strange variety of French respectively translate to: “The south Indians work very good”; and “The Young Lion of Talmont”, which is accompanied by the symbol of a fish, apparently denoting the ocean.

Samuel de Champlain’s Map

In this episode, Doug Crowell and Charles Barkhouse discuss the curious fact that French explorer Samuel de Champlain neglected to include Mahone Bay, in which Oak Island resides, in one of his maps of the North Atlantic coast. The two historians speculate that Champlain’s conspicuous omission might be an indication that Samuel de Champlain was connected in some way to the Oak Island mystery.

In order to put this map into context, we must have a general understanding of the New World exploits of Samuel de Champlain, and in order to contextualize those exploits, we must have a general understanding of the great explorer’s place in French history.

Samuel de Champlain’s early life is shrouded in mystery. Most historians agree that he was probably born around 1574 (give or take six years) in the town of Brouage on the southwestern coast of France (at that time, a Protestant stronghold) and that his father was a French mariner. Several respected historians have hypothesized, basing their theory on circumstantial evidence, that Champlain was, in fact, an illegitimate son of the man who would become King Henry IV of France, and that his mariner father had adopted and raised him.

Similar to his childhood, little is known of Champlain’s adolescence and young adulthood. It is supposed that he apprenticed as a mariner, learning navigational and cartographic skills from his father and uncle. He also became proficient in reading and writing, as evidenced by the large body of written work he would later produce on the subject of his New World adventures.

Although the details of Champlain’s early life are obscure, we know that he grew up during a particularly turbulent period of French history known as the French Wars of Religion. Like the English Civil War, this 36-year-long period characterized by bloody battles and massacres had its roots in the Protestant Reformation, a series of 16th Century schisms in the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout the reign of King Francis I of France (1515-1547), about 10% of the French populace, including nearly half of the country’s nobles, converted from Catholicism to Calvinism. King Francis I began to persecute these French Protestants, called Huguenots, when anti-Catholic placards began to appear in public places in Paris and other major French cities. His son and heir, King Henry II, continued this anti-Huguenot policy upon his ascension to the French throne in 1547. Throughout the course of his reign, tensions between French Catholics and Huguenots grew.

On June, 30, 1559, King Henry II of France was killed in a jousting tournament held to commemorate France’s new peace with the Austrian House of Hapsburg and the marriage of the French Princess Elisabeth to King Philip II of Spain. King Henry II was succeeded by his eldest son and heir, 15-year-old King Francis II. Although technically an adult and therefore eligible to rule independently, the teenage king decided to delegate his power to two regents, both of them uncles of his wife, Mary, Queen of Scots, and members of the French House of Guise.

The following year, the young king succumbed to an ear infection and was succeeded by his 10-year-old brother, who became Charles IX, King of France. Due to his age, the boy-king was required to take on a regent. Instead of the Guise brothers, however, his mother, Catherine de’ Medici- a daughter of the powerful Italian House of Medici- was assigned this position. The Guise brothers were loathe to relinquish their power to the Queen Regent and looked for an opportunity to retake the throne.

This aristocratic rivalry between Catherine de’ Medici and the House of Guise coincided with a surge of Catholic-Huguenot animosity, and after a religiously-motivated massacre perpetrated by the Guise brothers, France plunged into a three-way religious civil war. The first of the three factions involved in this conflict was headed by the staunchly Catholic House of Guise, which received support from King Philip II of Spain and the Catholic League, a coalition of French Catholic fraternities. The second faction was headed by the Catholic Queen Regent Catherine de’ Medici, who ruled France through her sons King Charles IX and King Henry III (the latter ascended the throne in 1574 after Charles died of tuberculosis). The third faction, the Huguenots, were led by King Henry of Navarre (Navarre being  small Basque kingdom situated between France and Spain), the son-in-law of Catherine de’ Medici (Henry of Navarre married Catherine’s daughter, Margaret of Valois, in 1572) and the man whom some historians suspect might have been the true father of Samuel de Champlain.

After a series of brutal civil wars and massacres, known collectively as the French Wars of Religion, King Henry of Navarre found himself in possession of the French throne, and was crowned King Henry IV of France in 1589. In order to consolidate his kingdom, he went to war with the governor of the French province of Brittany, a leader of the Catholic League who endeavoured to separate Brittany from France. One of the soldiers who fought for King Henry IV in this war against Brittany was twenty-year-old (more or less) Samuel de Champlain, who picked up an array of martial skills throughout the course of his service. One of the battles in which Champlain is believed to have participated is the 1595 Siege of Chateau de Comper, a castle situated in the Paimpont Forest incidentally associated with the Arthurian Romance and the legend of the Holy Grail (which some believe lies within Oak Island’s Money Pit). Records indicate that, during the war with Brittany, Champlain went on a “secret voyage” on behalf of King Henry IV, about which very little is known today.

In 1598, following Henry IV’s victory in Brittany and the end of the French Wars of Religion, Samuel de Champlain joined the crew of his uncle, a wealthy corsair named Guillaume Hellaine, and sailed to Cadiz, Spain. There, Champlain was given command of his own ship. In this vessel, he accompanied a Spanish fleet on a journey to the Caribbean, where he remained for two years. During this time, Champlain acted as a spy for the French king, collecting information of Spain’s New World colonies before eventually returning to France and delivering his report to King Henry IV.

In 1603, Champlain made his first voyage to North America, serving as an observer in the crew of another of his uncles, navigator and merchant Francois Grave Du Pont. Du Pont was a veteran of trans-Atlantic travel, having already made a number of fur trading expeditions to the land that Breton explorer Jacques Cartier had claimed for King Francis I of France 68 years prior. On their 1603 expedition, Champlain and Du Pont, accompanied by two native guides, sailed up the enormous St. Lawrence River to Tadoussac, a fur trading post establish by Du Pont in 1600, situated near the head of the St. Lawrence Delta, where they encountered and established positive relationships with a chief of the Montagnais Indians. They continued to explore the Saguenay River and other parts of the Laurentian Valley before heading home to France. During this expedition, Champlain produced a map of the Saint Lawrence River, as well as an account of his observations entitled “Des Sauvages,” or “Of the Savages”.

No sooner had Champlain returned to France than he embarked upon another expedition to the New World, joining the crew of explorer Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, whom King Henry IV had granted the exclusive right to colonize and establish a fur trade in the area that would one day become known as Acadia (in this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, it is speculated that Pierre Dugua connects Champlain, and by extension Oak Island, to the Holy Land through his relation by marriage to the La Rochefoucauld family, descendants of Crusader kings). After exploring the Bay of Fundy (situated between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), Dugua’s crew established a settlement on what became known as Ile Saint-Croix, an island located in an inlet off the Bay in present-day state of Maine. Of the 79 adventurers who had set out on this expedition, 35 succumbed to scurvy and other ailments that winter.

When spring arrived, Dugua, Champlain, and the rest of the survivors sailed across the Bay of Fundy to what is now the west coast of Nova Scotia, where they established the settlement of Port Royal. Out of this small settlement, Champlain spent the following two years exploring and mapping the coast of what would one day become New England. In 1606, Dugua sailed back to France in the hope of securing additional capital for his venture. He was unsuccessful, and sent word to Champlain that their colonial experiment was at an end. In 1607, Champlain and the rest of the colonists returned to France.

With him, Champlain brought a map he had drawn of the Bay of Fundy and the New English Coast down to Cape Cod (Massachusetts). Although this map includes the southern section of the Nova Scotia peninsula, the area it depicts is not large enough to encompass Mahone Bay (which Dugua’s company certainly sailed past en route to the Bay of Fundy); the northernmost landmark on the eastern coast of Nova Scotia depicted in the map is the site of what is now the town of Liverpool (located about 60 km, or 37 miles, southwest of Oak Island), which Champlain labelled “Port Au Rossignal”.

The following year, Dugua, at his own expense, financed a New World fur trading expedition. Instead of leading the expedition himself, however, he entrusted Champlain with the task. That summer, Champlain, accompanied by a number of adventurers, among whom was his uncle and former sailing companion Francois Grave Du Pont, led a three-ship fleet across the Atlantic and up the Saint Lawrence River to Du Pont’s old fur trading post, Tadoussac. From there, Champlain traveled further upriver to a flat stretch of shoreline overlooked by a cliff, which, he decided, was a perfect place for a fortified trading post. There, Champlain and his men set about constructing a fort at the base of the cliff, which they dubbed “Quebec”- the Gallicised form of “Kebec,” the Algonquin name for the place, meaning “where the river narrows.” In time, the site of Champlain’s fort would become Quebec (today, Quebec City), the heart of New France, earning Champlain the epithet “The Father of New France.”

After a tough winter which claimed the lives of 20 French colonists, Champlain and his crew formed a trading alliance with three Indian tribes which controlled the territory north of the Saint Lawrence River: the Huron, Algonquin, and the Montagnais. The natives only agreed to this alliance on the condition that the Frenchmen help them fight the powerful, warlike Iroquois Confederacy, which controlled the territory south of the great river. Champlain agreed to the condition, and the Frenchmen soon found themselves on the war path with their First Nations allies.

That summer, Champlain and nine of his men accompanied 300 Algonquin warriors up the Saint Lawrence to the mouth of what would become the Richelieu River. The war party followed this waterway south into Iroquois territory. By the time they reached what would become Lake Champlain, seven of Champlain’s men and all but 60 Algonquins turned back on account of the fact that they had not yet encountered any Iroquois. Champlain, his two remaining French companions, and the 60 remaining Algonquin braves continued on to a place near what is now either Fort Ticonderoga or Crown Point, New York. There, they stumbled upon a 200-man Iroquois war party. During the battle that ensued, an Algonquin warrior pointed out three Iroquois chiefs to the Frenchmen, these leaders wearing headdresess that bore taller feathers than those worn by the other braves. Champlain shot two of these chiefs dead with his arquebus- a long matchlock firearm. One of his companions followed suit, killing the last of the Iroquois’ chieftains with his own arquebus. Dismayed at this display of power, the Iroquois broke off the attack and retreated into the woods.

A woodcut depicting this engagement with the Iroquois bears the only surviving contemporary likeness of Samuel de Champlain.

That fall, Champlain sailed to France. He returned to New France in 1610, arriving just in time to participate in another military engagement against the Iroquois. That summer, Champlain and five of his men, all of them equipped with firearms, accompanied 500 Algonquin, Montagnais, and Huron warriors to the mouth of the Richelieu River, where a 100-man Iroquois war party had constructed makeshift fort. The French and Indian force prevailed against the Iroquois in the ensuing battle, further cementing their trade alliance. Following the skirmish, Champlain sent one of the men under his command- a young Frenchman named Etienne Brule– to live with the Algonquins in order to learn their language and develop a better understanding of their culture and customs.

The following year, Samuel de Champlain traveled up the St. Lawrence to a large island on which he established a fur trading post called “La Place Royale.” Throughout the 1600’s, this post would evolve into a thriving colony, and in the 18th and 19th Centuries into the city of Montreal, Quebec.

Champlain returned to France that fall, where he learned that King Henry IV had been assassinated by a zealous Catholic servant who resented his policy of tolerance towards Huguenots. The king, who had been a great supporter of Champlain, was succeeded by his second wife, Marie de’ Medici (a distant cousin of Catherine), who had little interest in New France. Aware that he needed to make new new allies in the French royal court if he hoped to continue his business in the New World, Champlain married 12-year-old Helene Boulle, the daughter of a powerful French courtier.

During his visit to the Old Country, Champlain also had an engraving made of one of his maps of New France- the map introduced in this episode of The Curse of Oak Island. As Doug Crowell and Charles Barkhouse correctly observed, Champlain failed to include Mahone Bay in this map- a glaring omission, on the surface. This mistake, however, is but one of many errors which one can easily identify by comparing Champlain’s map to a satellite image of the depicted area.

Champlain returned to New France in 1613, whereupon he explored part of the Great Lakes, the Georgian Bay, and the Ottawa River areas. That year, he published an account of his travels, entitled “Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain”, or “The Voyages of Sir Champlain.” In 1615, he led another military expedition against the Iroquois alongside his First Nations allies, and was wounded in the process, receiving two arrows in his leg. At the behest of his allies, he spent the following winter with the Huron.

Champlain spent the rest of his life serving as de facto Governor of New France, although he never officially held that title. In 1632, the middle-aged explorer published his last map, which included parts of New France that he had personally visited, as well as areas of the country described to him by his Indian allies, Etienne Brule, Jesuit missionaries,and other European explorers.

On December 25, 1635, the “Father of New France” passed away in Quebec due to complications associated with a massive stroke he sustained the previous October. Today, Samuel de Champlain’s burial site remains a mystery.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, we are introduced to a message written in the corner of one of Zena Halpern’s mysterious maps depicting what appears to be Oak Island. This message is written in some strange form of French which, when translated, reads: “This drawing for M. Francois Rochefaucauld, a little drink learned from Neustria.” Presumably, the “M.” in this message stands for “Monsieur” (the French equivalent of “Mister”; literally “My lord”), and is not “Francois Rochefaucauld’s” first initial.

Unfortunately, determining which “Francois Rochefaucauld” this map was apparently intended for is no easy task. In the 16th Century, there were four French counts named Francois de La Rochefoucauld, two of whom were killed during the French Wars of Religion. And ever since King Louis XIII of France elevated the La Rochefoucauld county to a duchy, there have been a whopping 21 French dukes with the same name. Some of the more famous Francois de La Rochefoucaulds include:

  • Cardinal Francois de La Rochefoucauld (1558-1645), a high-ranking 16th/17th Century French ecclesiastic who played an important role in the French Wars of Religion. In her book, Zena Halpern hypothesizes that he is the Francois for whom her map was intended.
  •  Francois de La Rochefoucauld VI (1613-1680), a 17th Century essayist famous for the maxims (short sayings embodying general truths) he contrived.
  • The Marquis de Montandre (1672-1739), a Huguenot ex-patriot who served as a Field Marshall in the British Army.
  • The Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1747-1827), a French social reformer who, unlike most of his reformist counterparts, supported King Louis XVI during the French Revolution. During the Reign of Terror that followed the execution of the king, this Francois de La Rochefoucauld fled to Canada, where he toured the old stomping grounds of Samuel de Champlain. He recorded his Canadian adventures in a reminiscence, republished in English in 1916 under the title “Travels in Canada”.


The La Rochefoucauld- Holy Land Connection

As was mentioned in this episode, the La Rochefaucauld family is a noble French house which has ties to the medieval House of Lusignan. In the 1170’s, in the wake of the Second Crusade, a knight of the Lusignan family called Guy de Lusignan traveled to Jerusalem where his brother, Aimery, had already married into the royal court. Due in part to Aimery’s influence, Guy climbed the Holy Land’s political ladder, soon earning the rank of Constable of Jaffa and Ascalon, a prestigious office in the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Ever since the end of the First Crusade, Jerusalem had been ruled by conquering French Crusader kings. At the time of Guy de Lusignan’s arrival in the Holy Land, Jerusalem was ruled by King Baldwin IV, a young Crusader afflicted with leprosy who was not expected to reign long or produce an heir. For political purposes, Baldwin IV married his recently widowed sister, Sibylla, to Guy de Lusignan.

When King Baldwin IV succumbed to leprosy in 1185, Sibylla’s only son (from her previous marriage) was crowned King Baldwin V of Jerusalem. A year after his coronation, however, the boy-king died and was succeeded by his mother and her new husband, Guy de Lusignan. In this way, the Lusignan family became a family of Crusader kings. After only two years on the throne, however, Guy and his Crusader allies suffered a devastating defeat at the Battle of the Horns of Hattin, during which the Ayyubin Egyptian sultan Salah ad-Din (a.k.a. Saladin) killed and captured the vast majority of the Crusader forces. This crippling defeat sounded the death knell of the Christian occupation of the Levant, and soon much of the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, was under Islamic control.

Guy de Lusignan, whom Salah ad-Din had taken as prisoner at the Horns of Hattin, was released from captivity in 1188. Four years later, he purchased the Crusader Kingdom of Cyprus (an island kingdom nestled in the eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea) from the Knights Templar. Following Guy’s death, 16 generations of Lusignans carried on his regal legacy, ruling as ‘Crusader Kings’ of Cyprus.

Although the connection between the La Rochefoucauld family- another French house with 10th Century origins- and the House of Lusignan is disputed by some, the La Rochefoucaulds have at least one indisputable connection with the ancient family of Crusader kings: their coat of arms consists of the blue-and-white-striped blazon of Lusignan overlaid with three red chevrons.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 7: The Lot Thickens

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 7: The Lot Thickens


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 7 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.





Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Marty Lagina, and Dave Blankenship meet at Drillhole H8 with Christian Carr of Conquest Engineering Ltd. and Andrew Folkins and Scott Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. Their ensuing conversation reveals that Oak Island Tours Inc. has tasked Irving Equipment Ltd. with sinking a shaft around H8 using rotating caissons and a hammergrab,  similar to the excavation operations carried out in Season 4.

Later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, and Jack Begley meet in the War Room with local researcher Paul Speed. There, Speed presents his theory that Oak Island’s underground workings were constructed by 16th Century Cornish miners on the orders of English privateer Sir Francis Drake. Cornish miners, he argues, were some of Europe’s most competent excavators in the 15′, 16′, and 1700’s, and were uniquely equipped to construct deep subterranean tunnels like the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel due to their experience in building undersea coal mines. Speed posits that Sir Francis Drake, who hailed from the city of Plymouth near the eastern border of Cornwall, hired Cornish miners to inter  New World Spanish plunder on Oak Island sometime in the 1500’s. Specifically, Speed believes that the treasure Drake decided to bury on Oak Island was silver he captured outside the town of Nombre de Dios, Panama, a major port utilized by the Spanish treasure fleet. When Rick asks Speed if there are any historic documents which indicate that Drake sailed to the North Atlantic, the researcher states that many of Drake’s records disappeared during his lifetime, having been confiscated by the English Crown. “There was something very serious going on here at that time for the English,” Speed says, “and if they wanted to keep the secret of Oak Island going for a while, they absolutely could.”

Upon being prompted by Rick, Speed suggests that Drake buried his treasure on Oak Island with the intention to return and recover it in the future. The narrator follows up on that suggestion by relating an old theory which holds that “Oak Island was used as a secret repository for treasure dating as far back as the days of the Knights Templar.”

Paul Speed concludes his presentation by suggesting that the Money Pit contains Francis Drake’s body in addition to some of his treasure; the privateer’s body, allegedly sealed in a lead coffin and cast into the sea somewhere in the Caribbean following the raiding expedition which claimed his life, has never been found. Speed further suggests that some of the metal objects encountered during Oak Island Tours Inc.’s various drilling operations in the Money Pit area might constitute Drake’s coffin.

Later, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, Gary Drayton, and Laird Niven prepare for a metal detecting excursion on Oak Island’s Lot 26. Before they head to their destination, Barkhouse reminds the treasure hunters that Lot 26 was once owned by 18th privateer-turned-pirate Captain James Anderson, who sold it to slave-turned-landowner Samuel Ball in 1788.

After searching the inland end of Lot 26 for some time without much success, Drayton decides that he and the team ought to head towards the beach. On the way, the treasure hunters come across an old wall-like structure made of rocks, which Jack Begley and Charles Barkhouse suggest might be the remains a ramp which once led down to the water. Further on, they find a square depression in the soil, which Begley speculates might be the site at which Captain James Anderson buried some of the loot that he acquired during the American War of Independence. When he suggests that they dig into the depression in order to see what lies beneath, Niven informs him that such an excavation would require a special digging permit.

While Barkhouse, Begley, Drayton, and Niven continue to metal detect on Lot 26, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Dr. Christa Brosseau and Dr. Xiang Yang at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. There, the treasure hunters watch as the scientists examine an object found in the spoils of Drillhole H8 the previous episode, which Jack Begley believed to be a piece of parchment. While Brosseau and Yang examine the object with an electron microscope, the narrator explains how milled paper gradually superseded parchment as Europe’s primary writing material in the late 15th Century, its rise coinciding with that of the printing press.

After noting that the object contains animal fibres, as sheepskin parchment ought to, Brosseau and Yang turn their attention towards an unidentified item found in the same section of H8 spoils as the suspected parchment, namely a fragment of what Dan Henskee believed to be shoe leather. After studying it under a microscope, the scientists confirm that the item is indeed composed of leather, and observe a parchment-like material which seems to be woven through it. Brosseau suggests that the object might be a product of book-binding, prompting Craig Tester to remark upon the congruence of this possibility with the theory (pushed most recently by Norwegian researcher Petter Amundsen) that Shakespeare’s original manuscripts, actually handwritten by English nobleman Sir Francis Bacon, are buried in the Money Pit. In a later interview, Marty Lagina states that Brosseau and Yang’s analysis of the items brought up from H8 only serve to strengthen his conviction that H8 intersected the original Money Pit.

Three days later, Jack Begley, Gary Drayton, and Laird Niven show Marty and Alex Lagina the square depression in the soil of Oak Island’s Lot 26. Since Niven has secured the necessary digging permit, the treasure hunters decide to excavate the depression with a backhoe. Unfortunately, they recover nothing of interest.

Two days later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Laird Niven, along with Marty Lagina, who is present via video conference, meet in the War Room. There, they call up Dr. Timothy Frasier, an Associate Professor of Biology at St. Mary’s University, in order to learn the results of DNA sequencing performed on the two fragments of human bone found in the H8 spoils. Frasier informs the treasure hunters that one of the bones belongs to something called ‘Group H’, “the most common group found among Europeans,” and that the other belongs to Group T, “a group that has ancestry in the Middle East.” Marty expresses his astonishment at the fact that the bones of a person of Middle Eastern descent lie within the Money Pit and suggests that the Group T bone fragment gives credence to the theory that the Knights Templar (who were headquartered in the Middle East during the Crusades) were behind the Oak Island mystery.

Later, Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship meet with Mike Jardine and Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. at the Money Pit area, which has been cleared and leveled for an excavation at H8. The contractors inform the treasure hunters that the work site is sufficiently prepped, and that excavation will commence once all the necessary equipment has been shipped to the island. The men look on as some of this equipment makes its way across the OA Island causeway.


Cornish Sub-Thalassic Tunnels

During this episode, researcher Paul Speed suggests that Oak Island’s underground workings were most likely constructed by 16th Century Cornish miners on account of the fact that these miners were experienced in the construction of tunnels beneath the seabed (also known as sub-thalassic mines)- structures somewhat evocative of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Perhaps the best examples of early sub-thalassic mines are the undersea coal mines designed by Scottish engineer Sir George Bruce of Carnock in the 16th and early 17th Centuries. The first of these is the Castlehill shaft, which exploited a coal seam than ran beneath the River Forth in the Scottish Midlands. In order to ventilate the underwater mine, Bruce built an artificial island in the middle of the river and sank a shaft through it. Bruce’s underwater mine garnered much attention, and in 1617, King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) asked for a tour of it. When the King emerged from the shaft on the artificial island, surrounded by water, he accused Bruce of treason and attempted regicide. Only after Bruce pointed out a nearby rowing boat were the king’s fears allayed.

Sir Francis Drake

In this episode, researcher Paul Speed argues that the Oak Island treasure consists of New World Spanish treasure and the corpse of the man who plundered it- 16th Century English privateer Sir Francis Drake.

Francis Drake was born in the early 1540’s in the market town of Tavistock, West Devon, England to a humble Protestant farmer. In the 1560’s, the young farm hand secured a position in a small merchant fleet belonging to his cousin, John Hawkins, a sea captain and pioneer of the British slave trade. In the ensuing years, Drake, Hawkins, and the crew embarked upon a series of expeditions to the coast of West Africa, where they plundered Portuguese slave ships, loaded their own vessels with African slaves, and shipped their human cargo to the Caribbean. There, the English adventurers sold the slaves they captured to Spanish colonists in defiance of Spanish law (at that time, King Philip II of Spain forbade his subjects from trading with English merchants). These voyages constituted Drake’s initiation into a lifetime of seafaring.

In 1568, during another slave-trading expedition, Drake and Hawkins, the former now a captain of his own ship, were beset by a hurricane off the coast of Cuba. The Englishmen and their crew survived the storm, but were forced to repair their damaged ships and take on fresh water at San Juan de Ulua, an island in the Gulf of Mexico adjacent to the port town of Veracruz. Although Spanish colonists who manned the fortress at Veracruz initially allowed the Englishmen to repair their ships in peace, Drake and Hawkins and their crews soon found themselves surrounded by Spanish warships, one of them carrying Don Martin Enriquez de Almanza, the Viceroy of New Spain. In spite of the fact that England and Spain were not officially at war at the time, the Spanish launched a surprise attack on the Englishmen as punishment for their illicit activities. During the eight hour battle that ensued, the English lost five ships and 500 men, while the Spanish lost only two ships and 20 men. Drake and Hawkins barely escaped with their lives.

The incident at San Juan de Ulua imbued Drake with a fierce hatred of the Spanish, and in 1572, he sailed across the Atlantic to Panama, determined to seize Spanish treasure.

At that time, the Spanish shipped silver from their Peruvian mines up the Pacific Coast to Panama City, where they loaded it onto mule carts and packed it overland, through the Panamanian jungle, to the port town of Nombre de Dios, on the Atlantic Coast. There, the Spanish loaded their silver onto galleons and shipped them across the ocean to Spain by way of Havana.

Drake and his crew arrived at Nombre de Dios in July and attempted to raid the warehouses where the silver was stored. During an ensuing skirmish with the town’s defenders, Drake suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and was forced by his crew to retreat empty-handed.

Since England and Spain were not officially at war at the time, Drake knew that he and his crew would have to acquire treasure before they made the journey home; Queen Elizabeth I, the implacable “Virgin Queen” of England, would almost certainly punish them for their politically-compromising raids unless they compensated her handsomely. Accordingly, he and his crew hid out in the Panamanian jungle for nearly a year, during which time they allied themselves with jungle-dwelling Cimarrons– African slaves who had escaped their Spanish masters- and a crew of French privateers. On one occasion, a Cimarron bushman urged Drake to climb a tall tree in the middle of the rainforest. From its canopy, the pirate could see not only the Atlantic but also the legendary Pacific Ocean, which no Englishman had ever set eyes on before.

In the spring of 1563, Drake and his crew, along with their French and Cimarron allies, ambushed the annual Spanish silver train in the jungle about one mile from Nombre de Dios. The Spanish guards and their slaves were completely unprepared for the assault and fled into the jungle, abandoning the treasure they were tasked with transporting. The pirates, upon appraising their plunder, were ecstatic to learn that they had captured a whopping 30 tons of silver and gold. Unable to carry all of their plunder with them, Drake and his crew are said to have buried much of their booty on the beach before setting sail for England with around 150,000 pesos-worth of treasure. Upon his return, Drake was praised in England as a daring privateer, and condemned in Spain as an unscrupulous pirate.

In 1576, Queen Elizabeth I of England called upon the privateer, who had spent the past decade enjoying his hard-earned wealth, and tasked him with a top secret mission. The queen commanded Drake to lead an expedition against Spain’s New World colony on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, swearing him to keep his orders secret on pain of death. In December 1577, Drake embarked upon this expedition with five ships and 164 men, initially telling his crew that they were headed for the city of Alexandria, Egypt on a trading voyage. At the Straits of Gibraltar, Drake suddenly ordered his oblivious crew to head southwest down the west coast of Africa, and finally across the Atlantic to the east coast of South America.

Drake lost much of his crew to disease while crossing the Atlantic and was forced to abandon two of his ships along the way. By the time he reached San Julian, a natural port on the southeastern coast of what would one day become Argentina, many of his crew members, including a handful of aristocratic officers, were beginning to question his leadership.

On the beaches of San Julian, Drake and his crew came upon a number of sun-bleached human skeletons impaled on spikes- the grisly remains of mutineers who were hanged, drawn, and quartered 58 years prior on the orders of Ferdinand Magellan (the Portuguese explorer who, along with his successor, Juan Sebastian Elcano, led the first successful circumnavigation of the globe (Magellan himself was killed by Filipino warriors during the Battle of Mactan before the voyage was completed)). Perhaps following Magellan’s lead, Drake decided to make an example of his friend Thomas Doughty, who was foremost among the gentleman who were beginning to question his authority. In the summer of 1578, Drake accused Doughty of witchcraft, mutiny, and treason. In a kangaroo court over which Drake presided as prosecutor and judge, Doughty was convicted of mutiny alone and sentenced to death.

Following the verdict, Drake and Doughty took Holy Communion and dined together in the captain’s cabin. Francis Fletcher, the clergyman who administered the Communion, described this strange event in a later reminiscence:

“And after this holy repast, they dined also at the same table together, as cheerfully, in sobriety, as ever in their lives they had done aforetime, each cheering up the other, and taking their leave, by drinking each to other, as if some journey only had been in hand.”

On July 2, 1578, Thomas Doughty was beheaded, his last words being an exhortation to the executioner to swing his axe without reservation. Shortly thereafter, Drake changed the name of his flagship from the Pelican to the Golden Hind, perhaps in an effort to smooth over the incident.

That fall, Drake and his crew set sail for the Straits of Magellan, a narrow waterway separating the southern tip of mainland South America from the island of Tierra del Fuego. They successfully navigated the passage, engaging in a minor skirmish with native warriors en route. Upon entering the Pacific Ocean, they were beset by violent storms which pushed them southwards. Drake lost two of his three remaining ships to these tempests; one sank, taking its captain and crew with it to the bottom of the sea, while the other was forced to return to England.

When the sea finally settled, Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind sailed alone up the coast of Chile and Peru, raiding a number of Spanish ships and towns along the way and accumulating a wealth of treasure in the process. Their greatest prize was an enormous Spanish galleon called Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, more commonly known by its less reverent nickname, the Cacafuego. From this vessel, they appropriated 28 tons of silver ingots, 80 lbs (36 kg) of gold, 13 chests of plate (plate being an antiquated term for silver coins), a golden crucifix encrusted with emeralds, and a quantity of jewels, valued 360,000 pesos in total. Drake and his crew were wildly successful in their raids, often capturing ships and towns with little bloodshed on account of Drake’s wily tactics and the fact that the Spanish were not expecting to encounter English pirates in the Pacific.

Every time Drake and his crew raided a Spanish ship or port, colonial authorities reported the incident to King Philip II of Spain, and every time the Spanish king complained of Drake and his band of marauders to Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Queen officially condemned the pirate’s actions, although she reveled in them in secret.

Drake and his sailors continued northwards, hoping to intercept a Spanish treasure galleon inbound from Manila. When the galleon failed to appear, they sailed further north in search of the fabled Northwest Passage- a legendary sea route through North America which was said to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Some believe that Drake and his crew traveled as far north as Vancouver Island before turning around. When they had reached a point off the coast of what is now northern California (or perhaps southern Oregon), they disembarked on the mainland, mingled with friendly natives, and claimed the land, which they named Nova Albion (archaic Latin for “New Britain”), for the Queen of England.

The crew of the Golden Hind left Nova Albion and voyaged across the Pacific to the Maluku Islands (also known as the Spice Islands due to their global monopoly on the production of nutmeg and cloves) in the Indonesian archipelago. There, Drake befriended the local sultan (the Malaku Islands had been governed by minor sultanates since the arrival of Arab merchants in the 14th Century and the subsequent conversion of the locals to Islam), who had just had a falling out with Portuguese traders, and secured for England a monopoly on trade in the area, thereby paving the way for the British East India Company. That accomplished, the crew sailed through the waters of Southeast Asia and across the Indian Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope, on the southern tip of Africa. From there, they traveled northwest, stopping briefly in Sierra Leone before finally returning to England in 1580, successfully completing the second-ever circumnavigation of the globe. Queen Elizabeth, in accordance with her and Drake’s arrangement, received half of the treasure held in the hold of the Golden Hind, while Drake, his crew, and the voyage’s investors shared the rest. Much to their delight, the Queen and the other financiers learned that they had received a 4700% return on their initial investments.

Curiously, upon Drake’s return, Queen Elizabeth declared that all written accounts of his voyage were to be secrets of the Crown, and had the nautical charts that Drake and his cartographers had produced during their circumnavigation, as well as the logbook of the Golden Hind, locked away in the Tower of London. She also forbade Drake and his sailors from publishing any memoirs relating details of the voyage on pain of death. Today, the whereabouts of most contemporary documents related to Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe remain a mystery.

The following year, Queen Elizabeth dubbed Drake a knight aboard the Golden Hind. With his new wealth and status, Sir Francis Drake spent the first half of the 1580’s dabbling in English politics and public service.

In 1585, Spain finally declared war on England in response to Queen Elizabeth’s alliance with Protestant Dutch rebels. At that time, the area comprising what is now Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg constituted seventeen provinces of the Spanish Empire, known collectively as the Spanish Netherlands. Since 1568, Dutch nobles of Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anabaptist persuasion, resentful of Spanish taxes and the Roman Catholic status quo, had led a revolt against Spanish rule in what is known today as the Eighty Years’ War, or the Dutch War of Independence. In the summer of 1585, Queen Elizabeth I of England agreed to dispatch 6,400 foot soldiers and 1,000 cavalrymen to the city of Antwerp (in modern-day Belgium) to help Dutch defenders lift a Spanish siege. For this reason, King Philip II declared war on England.

As soon as this Anglo-Spanish War was declared, Queen Elizabeth commanded Sir Francis Drake to preemptively strike the Spanish in their New World colonies. In September 1585, Drake led a 21-ship, 1,800-soldier expedition to the Caribbean, attacking several Old World Spanish and Portuguese towns along the way. When he finally reached the Spanish West Indies (as the Caribbean was know at the time), he captured the town of Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola, the capital of the Spanish New World, and ransomed it back to the governor. He repeated a similar performance at Cartagena de Indias, a Spanish colonial town located on the northern coast of what is now Colombia.

Following this second success, Drake and his men sailed to the Spanish colony of Florida, where they sacked the town of San Augustin (present-day Saint Augustine). That accomplished, they sailed to Virginia, where English gentleman Sir Walter Raleigh had established an experimental English colony. There, Drake and his men picked up a number of disgruntled colonists and sailed back to England, their ships laden with Spanish treasure. (Although it is not necessarily relevant to Drake’s biography, it is interesting to note that, sometime during the ensuing Anglo-Spanish War, the inhabitants of the Ranoake Colony mysteriously disappeared, earning Ranoake the nickname the “Lost Colony”)

Drake’s devastating raids earned him a ferocious reputation among the Spanish. Colonists throughout New Spain began to refer to him as El Draque- the Dragon. In the aftermath of Drake’s 1585/86 expedition, and in response to the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (the Catholic monarch of Scotland who was brutally beheaded on the orders of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, her cousin), King Philip I of Spain planned a full-scale invasion of England.

Upon learning of the planned invasion, the English queen ordered Drake to carry out another preemptive strike on Spain, specifically on the port city of Cadiz on Spain’s southwestern coast, where the great Spanish Armada was anchored. The Spanish Armada was an enormous fleet consisting of 130 warships, 8,000 sailors, 18,000 soldiers, 1,500 brass cannons, and 1,000 iron cannons, and constituted the mightiest navy in Europe at the time. Drake’s subsequent raid on Cadiz, which resulted in the destruction of much of the Spanish fleet, was derisively named ‘Singeing the King of Spain’s Beard’. In the aftermath of the raid, Drake captured the Sao Filipe, a Portuguese-Spanish treasure galleon fresh from the Caribbean, laden with a years’ worth of gold, silver, and spices.

Following the raid on Cadiz, Sir Francis Drake was promoted to Vice Admiral of the English fleet. Legend has it that in 1588, when the Spanish Armada finally set sail for England, Drake was playing a game of bowls. When he received the news that the Spanish were approaching, he was unperturbed, remarking that there was plenty of time to both finish the game and still beat the Spaniards. In any case, Drake led his ships, which were smaller and more maneuverable (although far less numerous) than their magnificent Spanish counterparts, around the Spanish fleet. There, situated at a point off the coast of Calais, France, he sent a number of fire ships (abandoned ships filled with explosives and set on fire) after the Spanish and chased them down the English Channel. After engaging the English in a long-distance cannon battle in the waters off Gravelines, a port city in the Spanish Netherlands (Drake was careful to stay out of range of Spanish grappling hooks, as the Spanish had an advantage over the English in close-quarters combat), the panicked Spanish retreated for home, their great Armada in tatters. Drake’s victory over the Spanish Armada effectively ended Spain’s naval supremacy in Europe.

The following year, Drake and celebrated English soldier Sir John Norreys were tasked with destroying the remainder of the Spanish fleet and aiding Spanish-averse rebels in taking Lisbon, Portugal. They failed to complete either objective. Six years later, Drake led an expedition to South America, where he suffered a number of defeats at the hands of the Spanish. Several weeks after the Battle of San Juan, his final defeat, Sir Francis Drake succumbed to dysentery and was buried at sea in a lead casket. To date, his coffin has never been rediscovered.

The Rise and Fall of Parchment

In this episode, Dr. Christa Brosseau and Dr. Xiang Yang affirm that one of the items discovered in Drillhole H8 appears to be a fragment of animal skin parchment.

Parchment is a writing material consisting of scraped and dried sheep, calf, or goat skin. Although parchment has been used for many millennia in the Old World, it only began to supplant papyrus- the writing material favoured in classical antiquity- in the 4th Century A.D., when Christianity was decreed the official faith of the Roman Empire. Early Christian missionaries preferred to transcribe the Gospel on parchment rather than papyrus due to its durability and the fact that parchment sheets could be bound as codices, which were more easily referenced than papyrus scrolls. When Christianity became mainstream in the Roman Empire, this preference for parchment spread throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.

Parchment retained it’s popularity after the Fall of the Roman Empire, throughout the Dark Ages, and into the Middle Ages, during which time it was used primarily as a medium by which to proliferate the Gospel. Christian monks, working in monasteries by candlelight, copied holy scripture from parchment to parchment, producing spectacular illuminated manuscripts filled with calligraphy and brilliant images.

By the Late Medieval Period, milled paper- a Chinese invention which’s recipe made its way to the Middle East, and further still to Europe, via the Silk Road- began to grow in popularity as increased literacy among laymen created a demand for a cheaper alternative to parchment. Following German blacksmith Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the mid-15th Century, paper gradually replaced parchment as Europe’s primary writing material. By the 17th Century, animal skin parchment was reserved for Church and state documents of the highest importance.

Group H and Group T Bones

In this episode, Dr. Timothy Frasier of St. Mary’s University informs the Oak Island team that the two human bones recovered from Drillhole H8 belong to things called ‘Group H’ and ‘Group T’, respectively. Group H, Frasier claimed, is “the most common group found among Europeans,” while Group T is “a group that has ancestry in the Middle East.”

The two groups to which Dr. Frasier referred are what are known as human mitochondrial DNA haplogroups. In order to understand these groups, we must first come to a general understanding of DNA.

DNA (an acronym for deoxyribonucleic acid) is a molecule which acts as a sort of blueprint for living organisms. The information it contains comes in the form of a code made up of four different chemicals called nucleobases (namely: adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine) arranged in pairs, called ‘base pairs’, which are, in turn, sandwiched between two spirals made of sugars and phosphates. The order in which these base pairs are arranged determines the information the DNA contains.

A long string of base pairs makes up a gene.

A long string of genes make up a chromatid. Two chromatids join together to form a chromosome.

A tangle of chromosomes are contained in a membranous sack called a nucleus. Nearly every cell in the human body- aside from mature red blood cells, old skin cells, old hair cells, and old finger/toenail cells, which do not hold DNA- contains one nucleus. And every nucleus in a human body contains the exact same arrangement of chromosomes.

Normally, humans have 46 chromosomes- half of them inherited from the mother, and the other half from the father. These 46 chromosomes form 23 chromosome pairs, each chromosome encoding for the same category of instructions as its partner. The 23rd chromosome pair, the sex-determining chromosomes, determine the sexual characteristics of a person. There are only two types of these particular chromosomes: X and Y. Females have two ‘X’ chromosomes, while males have one ‘X’ and one ‘Y’.

Another cellular structure which contains DNA is called a mitochondrion. Unlike nuclei, the number of mitochondria a cell contains depends on the type of cell. For example, liver cells have between 1000-2000 mitochondria, while heart muscle cells have around 5,000. The DNA that mitochondria contain, called ‘mitochondrial DNA’ or ‘mtDNA’, is different from the DNA found in nuclei. In humans, mtDNA only contains 37 genes (nuclei contain 20,000-25,000 genes), all of which are inherited from the mother.

During the course of the Human Genome Project, a 15-year-long international scientific research project with the goal of determining the entire sequence of base pairs that make up human DNA (this project was completed in 2005), scientists discovered that groups of people who share an ancient common ancestor often share sections of identical genes called haplogroups. There are two broad categories of haplogroups: 1) Y-haplogroups; and 2) Mt-Haplogroups, or mitochondrial haplogroups. Y-haplogroups are found on Y chromosomes, and as such are only inherited from father to son. Mitochondrial haplogroups, on the other hand, are only found in mitochondria, and as such are only bequeathed by women. Both males and females can have mitochondrial haplogroups, while only males can have Y-haplogroups.

As of today, scientists have discovered 26 different mitochondrial haplogroups- one for each letter of the alphabet. In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, it was revealed that one of the bone fragments brought up from H8 belongs to mitochondrial haplogroup H, one of the most prevalent haplogroups in Europe, and that the other belongs to mitochondrial haplogroup T, a group with origins in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq, Kuwait, eastern Syria, and southeastern Turkey). Since there was no mention of the bones’ belonging to Y-haplogroups, there is a possibility that they might be female.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 6: Remains of the Day

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 6: Remains of the Day

Wow, what a show! I’ve decided to forego the ‘Analysis’ for this one on a hunch that all of the questions raised in this episode will be answered next week. Read on for a plot summary of this week’s episode of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

The episode begins with Jack Begley and Dan Henskee sifting through Drillhole H8’s spoils near the Money Pit area. After searching for some time, Begley discovers a small shard of pottery with a blue square spiral painted beneath the glaze. Shortly thereafter, they find a small, strange-looking piece of wood with a grain pattern that almost appears to be artificial. Both items are bagged and labelled.

The two treasure hunters are soon joined by Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse, to whom they present their new findings in the Oak Island Interpretive Centre. Rick maintains that the pottery piece, with its distinctive pattern, is unlike an other piece of ceramic ever found on the island, while Charles speculates that the strange piece of wood is some sort of tree bark.

The following day, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester pay a visit to Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Christa Brosseau, to whom they submit the bark-like fragment and the piece of what archaeologist Laird Niven identified as bone, which the team found in H8 the previous episode. Brosseau leads the treasure hunters to a lab, where she and research instrument technician Dr. Xiang Yang examine the artifacts with an electron microscope. The scientists determine that the second object is indeed bone, but claim that they will need to analyse its DNA before they can determine whether it is animal or human. After examining the bark-like object, they conclude that it, too, is a piece of bone, and that it contains traces of soft tissue and hair.

Later, Jack Begley and Dan Henskee continue searching through H8’s spoils for additional artifacts, where they quickly unearth what Henskee suggests is a piece of shoe leather. Shortly thereafter Begley finds another artifact which he believes to be a piece of parchment, but which Henskee suggests is plastic.

Four days later, Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Charles Barkhouse, and Terry Matheson meet with geophysicist Mike West at the Money Pit area where, the narrator informs us, Brewster Drilling has drilled 35 of the 44 drillholes prescribed by the GeoTech Grid. West, an employee of Gemtech Ltd., has been tasked with conducting a conductivity test in the Money Pit area in order to determine the presence of any electrically conductive objects (such as gold or silver) below ground. He begins his task by lowering a number of dual induction devices into the drillholes.

While West goes about his work, Marty phones up Rick, whose absence is conspicuous, and learns that his usually-indomitable older brother failed to make the trip to the island that day on account of a mysterious bite that he received on his back. Rick claims that the bite mark is swollen and blistered, and is accompanied by aches, chills, fever, and a pounding headache which has lasted four days so far. Marty urges his elder brother to check himself in to a hospital emergency room before leaving the island to pay him a visit.

Marty meets with Rick at his house on the mainland, examines the bite mark on his back, and opines that it might have been caused by a tick. He eventually convinces his reluctant elder brother to accompany him to the emergency room, where Rick is diagnosed with Lyme disease and prescribed a regimen of antibiotics. Upon leaving the clinic, Marty drops his brother off at home and encourages him to get some rest. In a later interview, Marty describes Rick as the “spiritual leader” of the Oak Island team and laments his temporary absence necessitated by his illness.

Later, at the Money Pit area, Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, and Jack Begley stand by as Mike West carries out a conductivity test in Drillhole H8. West’s dual induction device registers an anomaly at a depth of 155 feet- the approximate depth of the alleged Chappell Vault.

Marty decides to deliver the good news to Rick, who is still recovering from his symptoms, in person. At his elder brother’s house, Marty declares, “I think we found the Money Pit,” much to Rick’s delight.

Several days later, Rick Lagina, who has sufficiently recovered from his illness, meets with Charles Barkhouse, Dan Henskee, and Dave Blankenship in the War Room. Marty Lagina joins the conference via video chat. There, Rick reads a letter he received from Timothy R. Frasier, coordinator of the Forensic Sciences Program at Saint Mary’s University, regarding the bone fragments that SMU scientists were tasked with analyzing:

“We now have results from the two bones. Both sequenced successfully, and both came back as human. They appear to be different. I will do some more work trying to see what we can learn about these sequences (i.e. if it is possible to infer something about region of origin). It should just take a few days for that.”


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 5: Bone Dry

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 5: Bone Dry

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 5 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

At the Money Pit area, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship meet with geophysical engineer and Oak Island researcher John Wonnacott who, the narrator explains, helped develop the GeoTech Grid that Oak Island Tours Inc. is drilling along with his partner, Les MacPhie. Wonnocott and the Oak Island crew discuss the undergoing drilling operation and the fact that the sixteen holes drilled thus far have yielded little of interest.

On Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, in the town of Sydney, Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Peter Fornetti, and Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell sift through archival material in the Beaton Institute. Barkhouse quickly unearths “an affidavit by William Chappell in connection with the drilling done in 1897.” Barkhouse and the narrator remind us of the piece of parchment discovered at depth in the Money Pit during this operation.

Following that discovery, Alex quotes a line from the document that he himself is handling, namely a sworn statement by Frederick Blair: “Mr. Putnam was too conservative and cautious to state publicly the important fact that when the drill came to the surface, it showed unmistakable evidence of having gone through or into gold. He did, however, make such a statement in confidence to me and to a few close friends.” Crowell then claims that he had heard rumours that fragments of gold were found on the drill bit, but, until then, did not know their source. When the four men phone up Marty Lagina to tell him of their find, the treasure hunters discuss Frederick Blair’s well-known reputation for honesty, and the high esteem in which Blair evidently held T. Perley Putnam, the ‘Mr. Putnam’ referenced in his affidavit- facts supporting the notion that there was, indeed, gold buried somewhere in the Money Pit area.

Later, the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room, where Crowell informs them of a critical discovery he made while examining the ‘dig notes’ recorded during the construction of the Chappell Shaft in the 1930’s. According to the notes, the bottom of the Chappell Shaft was situated 10-12 feet north of the Shaft’s top. As the GeoTech grid had been planned with the assumption that the Chappell Shaft was in perfect vertical alignment, this new information may necessitate an adjustment to some of the prescribed holes, or perhaps the drilling of additional holes.

The following day, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse meet with geologist Terry Matheson at the Money Pit area where, the narrator informs us, eight additional drill holes have been prescribed in light of Crowell’s discovery. There, the Brewster Drill Team proceeds to sink the first of these holes, dubbed ‘H8’.

While the drilling operation commences, Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Gary Drayton go on a metal detecting excursion at the Boulderless Beach, a roughly 100-foot-long stretch of beach on Oak Island’s northeast shore curiously bereft of large rocks. On this particular excursion, Drayton employs a Minelab GPX-5000 metal detector, a high performance pulse induction rig which specializes in the discovery of deep artifacts.

After combing the beach without any luck, Drayton suddenly gets a strong hit of iron. Marty, equipped with a spade, reveals the object to be an old, warped, wrought iron spike (strongly reminiscent of the rosehead nail discovered in the Season 5 premiere) which Drayton suspects is a early 18th Century ‘ship spike.’ The treasure hunters decide to show the artifact to Laird Niven.

While Marty, Dave, and Gary wait for Laird to arrive at the Boulderless Beach, Rick Lagina sifts through the spoils of H8 at the Money Pit area. He remarks to driller Ivan Gough that some of the spoils smell like creosote, whereupon the narrator briefs us on creosote’s history as a wood preservation agent, and suggests that its presence in the H8 spoils is evidence of a 19th Century searcher tunnel.

When H8 reaches a depth of around 145 feet, it enters a void in which it apparently clips the side of some hard, mysterious object. In a later interview, Rick remarks that this discovery is consistent with the Chappell Vault, and suggests the H8 drill bit might have brushed up against this elusive subterranean structure. Rick orders the drill team to continue drilling in order to see what else the H8 drill bit encounters.

Back at the Boulderless Beach, Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Gary Drayton are joined by Laird Niven. When they show the archaeologist the spike they have unearthed, Niven echoes Drayton’s analysis, speculating that it is a wharf nail crafted sometime in the 18th Century.

Following Niven’s analysis, the four men join Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Terry Matheson at the Money Pit area. While panning H8 spoils in a sieve, Matheson discovers several small shards of pottery recovered from a depth of 192 feet, a depth deeper than that of any other man-made object ever recovered on Oak Island. Shortly thereafter, the team uncovers a fragment of some hard, dense object in the core sample taken from the 160-165-foot depth. Rick Lagina suggests that this item appears, at first glance, to be composed of some variety of extremely dense wood. Charles Barkhouse suggests it might be a piece of lignum vitae (a.k.a. palo santo), an extraordinarily strong, tough, and dense hardwood endemic to the northern coast of South America and the Caribbean, while geologist Terry Matheson affirms that it is not rock. The three treasure hunters, along with Marty, whom Rick phones immediately, all agree that the pottery fragments and the mysterious item ought to be submitted for analysis.

Later that night, Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, and Craig Tester, the latter via video conference, meet in the War Room with Laird Niven. There, they present the archaeologist with their recent discoveries. Upon analyzing the items, Niven concludes that the pottery fragments constitutes hand-painted pearlware from Staffordshire, England, painted blue in imitation of Chinese pottery, and dates them from 1780-1800. The hard, dense mystery object, on the other hand, he identifies as bone. The treasure hunters, all pleasantly surprised by Niven’s deduction, agree to submit the bone fragment for further analysis.


A Precursor to the GeoTech Grid

In light of the findings made in this episode, namely the discoveries of pottery and other artifacts at depth in the Money Pit area, it is interesting to note that another Oak Island pattern drilling operation very similar to the GeoTech Grid yielded similar results nearly half a century ago.

In the late 1960’s, Triton Alliance (the treasure hunting syndicate of which Dan Blankenship was a partner) immediately initiated a massive exploration drilling operation with the goal of finding evidence of original work at depth. A contract drilling company called Becker Drilling punched around 60 holes in the Money Pit area. These drill holes revealed pieces of china, oak wood (carbon dated from 1490- 1660), cement, charcoal, metal, brick, and even open chambers and wood-shored tunnels at 160-212-foot depths. They also rediscovered the Greene-Dunfield cavity north of the Chappell Shaft, along with a 160-190-foot chamber beneath the Hedden Shaft filled with blue clay in which were suspended equidistant layers of pebbles. At the bottom of this second chamber was some sort of brass object which the drill chewed into.

Gold in the Money Pit

In this episode, Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Peter Fornetti, and Doug Crowell discovered a sworn statement from Frederick Blair. Blair claimed that he heard from treasure hunter T. Perley Putnam that the exploration drilling operation carried out in 1897 by the Oak Island Treasure Company yielded “unmistakable evidence” that gold was buried in the Money Pit. Interestingly, Putnam and Blair’s allegations that gold lay at the bottom of the Money Pit were not the first of their kind. In the summer of 1850, Jotham B. McCully and members of the Truro Company conducted an exploration drilling operation in the Money Pit and allegedly recovered three tiny links of gold chain from a depth of 98 feet.


In this episode, Rick Lagina declares that some of the spoils from Drillhole H8 smell like creosote. The narrator then suggests that this creosote might be a remnant of an old searcher tunnel.

Creosote is a pungent, oily liquid obtained from the distillation of wood or coal tar. Although raw wood tar has been used as a wood preservation agent since the 18th Century, most commonly in the preservation of seagoing vessels creosote only gained widespread industrial usage as a wood preservation agent in the 19th Century, when it was used to coat railway ties.

The Boulderless Beach

The Boulderless Beach, mentioned briefly in this episode, is a roughly 100-foot-long stretch of beach on Oak Island’s northeast shore curiously bereft of large rocks. This strange area features in a number of Oak Island theories, including the notion that the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel was composed of the area’s missing rocks, as well as researcher J. Hutton Pulitzer’s theory that the area’s boulders were used to construct some sort of Roman rubble ramp.

Pottery Shards

In this episode, a number of pottery shards were brought up from Drillhole H8’s 160-165-foot depth. This is not the first time pottery had been discovered on Oak Island. Other instances include:

  • 1937, when treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden discovered the remains of what he described as a “pottery dump” on Oak Island’s ‘Joudrey’s Cove,’ along with an old coin and what was believed to be a 16th Century British naval officer’s whistle. It is believed that many of these pottery shards contained traces of mercury.
  • July, 1964, when treasure hunters Robert and Bobby Restall dug up pieces of pottery from a trench in Smith’s Cove which, when analyzed, appeared to be of early 18th Century British design.
  • 1965, when treasure hunter Robert Dunfield dug up pottery in the Money Pit area.
  • Season 1, Episode 1 of The Curse of Oak Island, in which an exploratory drilling operation in the Money Pit area yielded pieces of china of unidentified origin at the 165-foot depth.
  • Season 4, Episode 3 of The Curse of Oak Island, in which heavy equipment operators of Byron Construction unearthed pottery shards in the topsoil of the Money Pit area. These pottery pieces were believed to be relics of some previous treasure hunting syndicate.

In light of this most recent discovery of pottery, it is interesting to note that a number of Oak Island theories maintain that precious porcelain was one of the treasures interred in the Money Pit by its original builders, or that pottery plays an important role in the Oak Island mystery. These theories include:

  • The theory that Oak Island’s underground workings were constructed by the crew of a wrecked Spanish treasure galleon, and that the Money Pit’s treasure consists of its precious cargo. If true, it is possible that this treasure might have included precious Chinese porcelain, shipped from the Philippines to Acapulco, Mexico, via Spain’s Manila Fleet, carted overland to Veracruz on the Atlantic Coast, and shipped along the Gulf Stream towards Spain. A more specific variation of this theory is:
    • Graham Harris and Les MacPhie’s theory, outlined in their book Oak Island and Its Lost Treasure, that the Oak Island treasure consists of the relocated cargo of the Concepcion, a 17th Century Spanish treasure galleon which sank north of the island of Hispaniola in 1641 along with a wealth of silver, pearls, emeralds, lapis lazuli, and precious Ming-era Chinese porcelain.
  • Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell’s theory that the word “grayware,” a term for pottery, is one of the words hidden within the cryptic Oak Island-related document known as La Formule (a.k.a. the McGinnis Code).

Staffordshire Pearlware

In this episode, archaelogist Laird Niven identifies the pottery shards brought up from Drillhole H8’s 192-foot depth as hand-painted pearlware from Staffordshire, England.

Starting in 1720, the county of Staffordshire in the West Midlands of England became a centre of ceramic production. Local red clay, salt, lead (for glazing), and coal provided all the raw ingredients necessary for pottery production, and local potter John Astbury’s 1720 discovery that ground flint added to local red clay made for beautiful creamware ensured that Staffordshire had a monopoly on this attractive new style of ceramic.

Decades after Astbury’s discovery, a Staffordshire potter named Josiah Wedgwood developed a unique and superior style of Staffordshire pottery. These pieces consisted of an attractive creamware body composed of Staffordshire clay and small amounts of kaolin, or ‘china clay,’ coated with a blueish glaze containing china stone (kaolinised granite) and cobalt. Wedgwood named his almost-translucent-looking creation ‘Pearl White,’ and began marketing it as such in 1779. Over the years, ‘Pearl White’ has been contorted into ‘pearlware’.

Like much European pottery produced throughout the 18th Century, Staffordshire pearlware was often ornamented with designs hand-painted with blue tin or cobalt oxide in imitation of Chinese porcelain.

Bone Fragment

In this episode, the Oak Island team unearths a bone fragment from Drillhole H8’s 160-165-foot depth. Although cat bones, likely belonging to treasure hunter Dan Henskee’s lost kittens, have been discovered in Borehole 10-X, this fragment is the first piece of bone known to have been discovered in the Money Pit area. This discovery raises the question of whether the bone fragment is human.

If the fragment does, indeed, prove to be human, there are a number of possibilities regarding the identity of its former owner. Some potential candidates include:

  • Maynard Kaiser, who fell to his death in a pump shaft situated beside the Money Pit on March 26, 1897, when the rope from which his bucket was suspended slipped off the hoist above. According to nonagenarian Lynn Walsh, Kaiser’s granddaughter, who visited Oak Island in Season 3, Episode 12 of The Curse of Oak Island, family tradition had it that Kaiser’s body was never recovered, and was presumed to have washed into one of the Money Pit’s flood tunnels.
  • An unfortunate prisoner whom some suspect was buried along with the Oak Island treasure. This notion stems from the folk legend that pirates often buried sailors along with their treasure in the hope that their spirits would guard the plunder until their return.
  • The mysterious Spanish priest whose spirit, some believe, guards the Money Pit area. Although there is no historical, archaeological, or even anecdotal evidence suggesting that a Spanish priest’s body lies at the bottom of the Money Pit, a variety of alleged supernatural experiences have led some to believe that one does. Over the years, this Spanish priest has been variously, speculatively identified as a Hieronymite monk, a Spanish priest called Menzies belonging to the crew of conquistador Francisco Pizarro, and a Franciscan friar named Juan Perez, who accompanied Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1493.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 4: Close Call

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 4: Close Call

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 4 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

At the Money Pit area, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse meet with geologist Terry Matheson, who informs them that the Brewster Drill Team is currently drilling a hole in the spot at which the Chappell Shaft is believed to be located. The narrator then explains that the current drillhole is number 16 of the 38 holes which will make up the Geotech Grid.

Driller Mike Gudelewicz walks over to the four men and informs them that the drill, now at a depth of 168 feet, has struck bedrock. On Matheson’s advice, the treasure hunters decide to abandon the hole they are in and start a new one. While Rick calls up Craig Tester in order to see if he is in agreement with the decision, Gudelewicz approaches Matheson with the news, relayed to him by driller Ivan Gough, that the drill actually encountered a three-foot void beginning at 166 feet. In light of this new development, the treasure hunters decide to keep drilling, and shortly thereafter, they encounter a much larger cavity at 179 feet which appears to be at least 30-feet high. Rick asks Charles what he makes of this new discovery, to which the historian replies “Could it be that spiral tunnel that Restall believed was there?”

The narrator then briefly describes the Restall family’s Oak Island treasure hunt while rare, old footage of Robert, Mildred, Bobby, and Richard Restall plays in the background. He goes on to describe how Robert Restall, upon drilling through a series of mysterious voids in 1963, theorized that a spiral tunnel lay deep beneath the Money Pit area.

Back at drillhole #16, several fragments of what appear to be axe-cut wood are airlifted to the surface from a depth of nearly 200 feet.

Almost immediate after this discovery, a piece of hosing explodes, blasting the hardhat off driller Max Williamson. The treasure hunters and the drilling crew run to the injured man’s assistance and quickly ascertain that the badly shaken Williams, his head and coveralls spattered with debris, has suffered a broken wrist and a contusion on his leg but is otherwise unharmed. “Almost the seventh man,” Williams quips morbidly, grinning as he calms his nerves with a cigarette. Williams’ joke is a reference to the legend after which the TV show is named, which has it that a seventh man must lose his life in pursuit of the Oak Island treasure before the island will reveal her secrets.

After some time, an ambulance arrives on the island, and a pair of paramedics assess William’s injuries. Although the emergency medical technicians agree that the driller’s wounds are not life threatening, they decide to transport him to the local hospital for treatment.

Once the ambulance leaves, Rick phones up Marty and informs him of the accident. Upon hearing the news, the younger Lagina brother says, “Rick, [that’s] exactly how a guy got killed on a rig I was on.” He proceeds to tell a story of how a roughneck working on an oil and gas well at which he was present attempted to turn off a high powered pump and had his head crushed when its hose burst. “When high pressure lines let go,” Marty concludes, “it’s bad news.” The Lagina brothers agree that they and their crew ought to make an effort to avoid unnecessarily populating the work site when drilling is underway. “The seriousness of it and what it might have been has certainly made us much more aware of the safety issues involving this process,” says Rick in a later interview. “It’s sobered us up, if you will.”

The following day, while the Oak Island crew works to improve the safety of the work site and get the drilling operation back underway, Jack Begley, Peter Fornetti, Gary Drayton go on a metal detecting excursion at Isaac’s Point, on the eastern end of the island. They quickly unearth the broken end of a barrel of a toy gun. After a little more searching, they find the rest of the toy- a vintage Hubley Sure-Shot cowboy-style mock-revolver cap gun.

Later that day, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room. While discussing the progress of the pattern drilling operation, they are joined by Jack Begley, who informs them of the discovery of the toy gun. Rick voices his suspicion that the toy belonged to Ricky Restall, who was a young boy on Oak Island at the time of his father and brother’s treasure hunt. While on the subject of the Restall family, Rick reveals that Lee Lamb, Bobby and Mildred Restall’s only daughter, has expressed an interest in visiting the island to see the completed visitor’s centre. “It would be nice to see her again,” says Charles.

Two days later, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Kyle Fetterly and Ivan Gough of the Brewster Drilling Team at the Money Pit area. Marty first inquires as to the condition of Max Williamson, whereupon Fetterly informs them that the injured driller has been discharged from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. Marty then asks the drillers what they plan to do differently in order to prevent an accident similar to the one that injured Williamson from recurring in the future. The drillers explain that they will exchange their Whipcheck cable restraints- safety devices designed to secure hoses to their respective couplings- with a Whipsock sleeve, a more reliable hose safety device, and that they expect to resume the drilling operation within a week.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, Charles Barkhouse, and Jack Begley welcome Lee Lamb and Rick Restall to the Oak Island Interpretive Centre. In an interview, Rick Restall explains that he has come to the island in order to come to terms with the emotions that resulted from his witnessing his father and brother’s tragic deaths on August 17, 1965. The Lagina brothers, in an interview of their own, opine that no other Oak Island treasure hunters have suffered and sacrificed more than the Restall family, and that they are honoured to welcome Lee and Rick back to the island.

In the Interpretive Centre, Lee Lamb and Rick Restall examine artifacts, photos, and documents related to their family’s treasure hunt. We are reminded that Rick Restall played a key role in the discovery of the ‘1704 stone,’ one of the Restall’s most significant finds.

After showing the Restall siblings the ‘Restall Corner’ of the museum, the Oak Island crew presents Rick Restall with the toy gun found on Isaac’s Point. After looking the gun over for some time, Rick exclaims, “By gosh, this must be my gun… I remember arriving on the island with all the stuff that a city kid would have, like a cowboy outfit- the hat, the holster, the gun- and, by the end of that summer, I think most of that stuff was somewhere else on the island.”

In a later interview, Rick Restall describes the emotions seeing his old toy gun evoked:

“Actually seeing a gun from that era was a reminder of what a carefree childhood would be. And it was a reminder [that] my time- my first summer on the island, in other words- was fun, and [filled with] childhood game and mostly imagination. It was like a paradise in those days.”

Lee Lamb, in a later interview, explained that her trip to the island with Rick Restall was significant because it drew her brother “into his rightful place.”

“This was Ricky’s moment,” Lee concludes.

A week after the Restall siblings’ visit, Oak Island Tours Inc. and the Brewster Drilling Team meet at the Money Pit area and resume the pattern drilling operation. Among the drilling crew is Max Williamson, who has recovered from the worst of his injuries.


The Spiral Tunnel

In 1963, Robert and Bobby Restall conducted a number of exploration drilling operations in Money Pit area. Their findings led them to develop a unique theory regarding the area’s underground workings.

Using their exploration drilling data as evidence, the Restalls believed that the two ‘chests’ drilled through by the Truro Company in 1850 were decoy treasures designed to entice treasure hunters into believing they had unearthed the Oak Island treasure, when in fact the real treasure was located deep below in the ‘cement vault’ drilled through by Frederick Blair and the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897. They also believed that a hidden spiral-shaped walk-in tunnel led from the 100-foot level at which the decoy treasure lay to the treasure vault below. They also believed that the vault was not located directly below the Money Pit but rather somewhere off to the side, and was discovered by chance in 1897 when the Oak Island Treasure Company drill deflected off the iron object at a depth of 126 feet and continued down at an angle.


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