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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 3: Obstruction

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 3: Obstruction


The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 3 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.







Plot Summary

At the Money Pit area, Craig Tester and Jack Begley meet with geologist Terry Matheson and driller Mike Gudelwicz in order see how the pattern drilling operation is progressing. The treasure hunters learn that Brewster Drilling, the contractors they hired for the job, have finished drilling ten exploratory holes in the Money Pit area, none of which have yielded items of especial interest.

Meanwhile, Rick and Marty Lagina accompany metal detection expert Gary Drayton to Oak Island’s Lot 16, where they hope to uncover evidence of pre-1795 activity. In an interview, Rick explains that this lot is the site at which former Oak Island treasure hunter Robert Dunfield, while digging an enormous crater in the Money Pit area in the mid-late 1960’s, dumped much of the spoils.

The three treasure hunters are joined by Dave Blankenship, who instructs them to “find something shiny and gold.” Instead, Drayton unearths “a bloody modern nail.”

“Quit finding that sh**, Gary, and find something good,” admonishes Blankenship, to which Drayton replies, “I say we move away from this dastardly area.”

Drayton starts metal detecting in another area of Lot 16 and quickly unearths what appear to be two 17th Century British coins, the head of one of which Drayton confidently identifies as likeness of King Charles II of England. Drayton becomes even more confident in his assertion when he sees the word “CAROLVS” clearly inscribed on the coin’s edge. The narrator then gives us a brief history lesson on the 1660 Restoration, in which Charles II reclaimed the thrones of England, Ireland, and Scotland from Puritanical dictator Richard Cromwell, Lord Protector of a short-lived British republic called the English Commonwealth. He also informs us that British coins struck under Charles II’s rule bore the Latinized version of his Christian name: “CAROLVUS” (pronounced “Carolus”).

As Drayton studies one of the coins, he remarks that they are the only 17th Century British coins that the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. have recovered on Oak Island. “Marty, maybe I am good luck,” says Dave Blankenship, in response to a quip made earlier in the episode. “You’re goddang right you’re good luck!” replies the younger Lagina brother.

Rick takes a closer look at one of the coins and suggests that the date inscribed on it is ‘1673.’ Marty, who is examining the other coin, suggests that the date on his is ‘1694.’ The four treasure hunters proceed to discuss the significance of the find. All agree that the presence of 17th Century British coins in Oak Island is very unusual, especially when considered in conjunction with the 17th Century Spanish coin unearthed in the Oak Island swamp; the British Crown and Spanish Empire were great rivals in the 1600’s. Drayton remarks that the presence of contemporaneous British and Spanish coins on the island is congruent with the theory that the Money Pit was constructed by pirates, perhaps by the crew of pirate captain William Kidd. The narrator then reminds us of the infamous Wilkins map- a treasure map vaguely resembling Oak Island, which journalist Harold T. Wilkins included in his 1935 historical fiction Captain Kidd and his Skeleton Island. Wilkins claimed to have based this map on his memory of two treasure maps allegedly drawn by Captain Kidd.

The Lagina brothers, Dave Blankenship, and Gary Drayton head over to the home of Dan Blankenship to show the elderly treasure hunter their find. Upon looking the coins over, Dan says that they  give credence to the foundational theory, upon which all other Oak Island theories are based, that something significant happened on Oak Island prior to 1795- a theory which he hoped to authenticate when he first set foot on the island in 1965. “Hopefully this is just the beginning,” says Drayton.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Jack Begley congregate at the Money Pit area, where the pattern drilling operation is underway. At a depth of 162 feet, the drill encounters a hard object which, when brought to the surface, is revealed to be a thick chunk of steel. The narrator suggests that this piece of metal might be a fragment of the impenetrable iron object encountered by driller William Chappell in 1897. Immediately afterwards, the drill grinds to a halt, having encountered another such object. The team decides to bring the drill up and case the hole with PVC pipe. “I’m not dismayed at all,” says Rick of the development in a later interview. “That’s the reason for the grid, you know? We may find it in the first hole, we may find it in the thirty seventh hole. We’ll find it.”

The next morning, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester drive to Dave Blankenship’s home in response to an ominous summons by Rick. On the way, Craig explains that Rick received a letter from Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage (CCH; a department of Nova Scotia’s provincial government) and that he likely wants to talk about it.

At Dave’s house, Dave and Rick hand Marty and Craig copies of the letter, the author of which expresses concern that “metal detecting on the island has the potential to impact existing archaeological sites and resources,” and stipulates that Oak Island Tours Inc. may continue to carry out such operations only under the supervision of an archaeologist. The letter goes on to inform the treasure hunters that they are henceforth precluded from further “excavation or removal of objects,” and may only continue such work under a Heritage Research Permit. In unison, the Lagina brothers agree that the stipulations outlined in this letter constitute the first step “in shutting own the whole island.”

The Lagina brothers discuss the implications of this letter in a later interview. “The metal detection has provided lots of clues to what might have happened here,” says Marty, “and it’s continuing to. So we’re very upset, very upset about this. The clue that we need could be out there to be metal detected, and we’ll never find it under this protocol.” Rick follows up on his brother’s statement, saying, “It’s not just the concerns they’ve expressed; they’ve given us parameters under which we can no longer proceed, in our opinion.” “It’s very chilling to the exploration efforts out here,” concludes Mary. “We just don’t get it.”

Back in Dave Blankenship’s home, the treasure hunters express their frustration with this latest development, and agree that a face-to-face meeting with a representative of CCH is in order.

The following day, the Oak Island team congregates at Old Mader’s Wharf Emporium, a restaurant in Mahone Bay, where Rick and Marty fill them in on a meeting they just had with Nova Scotia’s Minister of Culture and Heritage. Although they were unsuccessful in lifting the newly-imposed restrictions, they learned that the CCH was likely acting in response to pressure put on them by the archaeological community. They also proposed a compromise in which they would hire an archaeologist, who would get a blanket Heritage Research Permit which would allow them to excavate and extract artifacts from the island as they please (as opposed to applying for a Heritage Research Permit every time they wanted to excavate or unearth an artifact). The CCH apparently accepted this proposal. The team decides to hire Laird Niven, an archaeologist with whom they worked in the past.

The next day, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Laird Niven at the Oak Island Visitors’ Centre. There, the treasure hunters show the archaeologist some of the artifacts they have unearthed on Oak Island and ask him if he is interested in working with them. Niven accepts the job, saying that he will apply for a Heritage Research Permit immediately.

The following day, Rick and Marty Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Laird Niven head to Oak Island’s Lot 24, the former residence of Samuel Ball. There, the decide to uproot a number of trees with a backhoe in the hope that items of interest might lie beneath. Beneath the first tree they uproot, Drayton discovers the bowl of a spoon which Niven believes is an 18th Century artifact. They proceed to dig up several more trees, under one of which they unearth a large chunk of iron, which Niven suggests might be the rusted remains of a door hinge.

When Marty, in the backhoe, uproots yet another tree, Niven calls a stop to the excavation out of concern that the large stones exposed beneath it might be of cultural significance. The archaeologist jumps into the cavity to examine the stones, and decrees that the team cannot continue digging there. Gary Drayton, with Niven’s permission, examines the roots of the extracted tree with a metal detector and discovers a piece of pewter, which Niven claims is part of a spoon bowl.

When Marty asks Niven what procedure they should follow, the archaeologists says that they ought to “clean up the loose soil” in the cavity in order to determine if the rocks indeed constitute the remains of some sort of artificial structure.



The Wilkins Map

In this episode, the narrator briefly mentions the ‘Wilkins Map’ in connection with the theory that pirate Captain Kidd was the man responsible for Oak Island’s underground workings. The following is a description of this strange document, around which revolves one of the most bizarre chapters in the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt.

In 1935, a British journalist named Harold T. Wilkins had his fourth book published. Wilkins’ work, Captain Kidd and his Skeleton Island, is a historical fiction book about pirates, buried treasure, and “the discovery of a strange secret hid for 226 years.” In the book is the picture of an authentic-looking, hand-drawn treasure map depicting an island vaguely suggestive of Oak Island.

In the summer of 1937, R. V. Harris, a lawyer from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who worked for both Fredrick Blair (Oak Island’s contemporary landowner) and Gilbert Hedden (the man who owned Oak Island Treasure Trove Licence at the time), discovered the map in Wilkins’ book and showed it to Hedden. The New Jersey treasure hunter was astonished; to him, Wilkins’ map bore an uncanny resemblance to Oak Island. Hedden studied the map more thoroughly and picked out enough similarities between it and Oak Island- including coves roughly congruent with Joudrey’s Cove, Smith’s Cove, and the South Shore Cove, along with a lagoon eerily similar to Oak Island’s swamp- to become convinced that it might, in fact, be a real Oak Island treasure map drawn up by the original Money Pit builders. Even more fascinating was the fact that the map contained directions leading to the location at which the treasure lay buried. Intrigued, Hedden sent a letter to Harold Wilkins, hoping to learn where and how he had come across such an artifact.

Wilkins sent a letter back to Hedden assuring him that the treasure map in his book was not a map of Oak Island, but rather a depiction of an island in some “eastern sea” far from the Atlantic. Aside from that admission, however, he remained curiously tight-lipped about the treasure map’s origins and how he had discovered it.

Hedden was unconvinced, believing that the similarities between Wilkins’ map and Oak Island were too great to be coincidence. Accordingly, he turned his attention towards the directions at the bottom of the map, which read:

“18 W. and by 7 E. on Rock
30 SW. 14 N Tree
7 By 8 By 4”

The first line of directions seemed to suggest that that first step in the treasure hunt was to locate some sort of prominent ‘Rock’, probably situated on the beach somewhere near the spot at which treasure hunters would be most likely to disembark. In the case of Oak Island, that beach was probably Smith’s Cove, the section of Oak Island
beach most exposed to the ocean. Interestingly, Frederick Blair, during a conversation with Hedden on
this subject, vaguely recalled hearing about two mysterious drilled rocks discovered by earlier Oak Island treasure hunters, one of which lay on the shores of Smith’s Cove. Hedden had his crew search for these stones, and sure enough, a rock with a 2-inch-deep, 1- inch-diameter, obviously-man-made hole in it was discovered at Smith’s Cove. We’ll call this rock Stone A. Another rock with a similar drill hole was found about fifty feet north of the Money Pit. We’ll call this one Stone B.

Upon discovering the stones, Hedden, who had a bit of an engineering background, believed that the first line of directions indicated a point on the line between Stone A and Stone B, as seen on a topographical map. We’ll call this Point Z. Point Z would be 18 units east of Stone B and 7 units west of Stone A. This would make the distance between Stone A and Stone B 25 units in total (18+7). Since the distance between the two drilled rocks was 415 feet, each unit would roughly equal 16.5 feet (415/25). Interestingly, 16.5 feet is equal to 1 rod, an old English unit of measurement.

After making this tantalizing discovery, Hedden focused his attention on the second line of directions. He theorized that the first part of this line, “30 SW,” indicated a point 30 rods (495 feet) southwest of Point Z. We’ll call this Point Y. The second part of the line, “14 N Tree,” possibly referred to a point 14 rods (231 feet) north of Point Y, at which stood a tree. Perhaps this was the oak tree discovered by Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan in 1795, from which’s branch was suspended a block and tackle directly over the Money Pit. We’ll call this Point X; X marks the spot.

After making some calculations, Hedden had his crew search for Point Z, which was 297 feet (18 x 16.5) east of Stone B and 115.5 feet (7 x 16.5) west of Stone A. Although nothing of interest was discovered at that particular point, the Cave-In Pit was located a short distance away.

Next, Hedden had one of his employees, Amos Nauss, search the underbrush on the southeastern end of Oak Island, in the general vicinity of Point Y. In Nauss’ words:

“Hedden gave me some idea that there was something down there at the beach that he wanted to find. So I explored around there with a hoe. I was clawing around and suddenly I hit one rock, then another and another, all in line with each other. So I decided there was something there, and I started clearing it and called Hedden over.”

Nauss had rediscovered the stone triangle, first discovered by Captain John Welling of Frederick Blair’s Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897, and later rediscovered by Mel Chappell a few years earlier in the spring of 1931. The base of the 10-foot equilateral triangle was 10 feet north of Point Y. Interestingly, the base was also exactly 30 rods (495 feet) southwest of the centre of the Cave-In Pit.

Although the Oak Island landmarks did not exactly match the Wilkins’ map directions, Hedden was certain that he was onto something. The treasure hunter asked Charles Roper, a surveyor from Halifax, to investigate his finds. Roper provided Hedden with the precise measurements between the various Oak Island landmarks, and informed the treasure hunter that the stone triangle appeared to point due north, directly towards the Money Pit area. However, upon measuring, Roper and Hedden learned that the Money Pit area was only roughly 10 rods (165 feet) north of the stone triangle, not 14 rods as the Wilkins’ map apparently suggested.

Hedden was never able to reconcile the last line of Wilkins’ treasure map instruction with any group of Oak Island landmarks.

While searching for more landmarks which might correspond with Wilkins’ map, Hedden discovered “an old dump… in which are [were] the remains of thousands of broken pottery flasks” on Joudrey’s Cove. Nearby these pottery shards was “an old coin and an ivory boatswain’s whistle…”

In the aftermath of Roper’s survey, Hedden was convinced more than ever that the map in Wilkins’ book was a real treasure map depicting Oak Island. He decided to travel to England and meet with Harold Wilkins in person. When Hedden informed Wilkins of his intentions, the journalist wrote back that he was willing to meet with the treasure hunter, but that such a journey would be a waste of time for Hedden, as the map in his book was definitely not an Oak Island treasure map. He also hinted in his letter that the map in his book was actually not an authentic treasure map at all, but rather an “approximate copy” of four genuine 17th Century pirate treasure maps. Nevertheless, Hedden made the trip to England and met with Wilkins in December, 1937. His experience was both strange and discouraging.

Almost immediately after meeting Hedden, the British journalist confessed that the map in his book was, in fact, a diagram of his own devising. While doing research for his book, Wilkins had come across an English antiques dealer named Hubert Palmer who had in his possession four 17th Century charts which he claimed were treasure maps drawn up by the notorious Captain William Kidd, a Scottish privateer who was hanged for piracy on London, England’s Execution Dock in 1701, and who was rumoured to have buried a treasure of enormous value on an unknown island sometime before his demise. Palmer did not allow Wilkins to take photographs of his charts, which all depicted what appeared to be the same island located somewhere in the South China Sea, and so Wilkins settled with committing them to memory as best he could. Using his memory of the charts, the journalist drew his own
treasure map. When his publishers demanded that his map contain instructions on how to locate the treasure for added spice, Wilkins fabricated the three lines of instructions using nothing more than his imagination.

Baffled by the remarkable connection between Wilkins’ ad-libbed treasure hunting instructions and the landmarks on Oak Island, Hedden told the journalist all about the mysterious drilled stones, the stone triangle, the Cave-In Pit, the oak tree believed to have once stood beside of the Money Pit, and the fact that the distance separating these landmarks roughly corresponded with Wilkins’ map’s instructions if measured in old English rods. As Hedden explained the extraordinary coincidence, Wilkins became increasingly convinced that he was the reincarnation of
a 17th Century pirate, perhaps even Captain Kidd himself, and that his subconscious had conjured up some long-forgotten memory of the map leading to Kidd’s lost treasure, which he was now certain lay buried deep beneath Oak Island. After Wilkins enthusiastically revealed his conviction to Hedden, the latter began to suspect that the journalist was “every bit as crazy as his book would seem to make him,” or perhaps a fraud.

Hedden concluded his business in England, deciding that Wilkins’ map was no longer worth investigating. Instead of returning to Oak Island, he travelled straight to New Jersey, his hometown. There, he sent a letter to his lawyer R.V. Harris explaining that, although he had initially planned to renew his contract with Blair the following spring, he had since run into serious financial difficulties and needed to focus on expanding his company instead of on the Oak Island treasure hunt. When Blair learned of this new development, he was outraged, feeling that Hedden, a fellow Freemason, had betrayed him. The 71-year-old treasure hunter waited for another treasure hunter to take Hedden’s place, and found one in the form of Erwin H. Hamilton.

The Impenetrable Iron Object

In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc., while drilling in the Money Pit area, encountered an impenetrable steel object at a depth of 162 feet. Before Robert Dunfield’s heavy-duty excavation in the Money Pit area, which lowered the surface of the Money Pit area about 10 feet, this object would have been located about 172 feet below the surface. This steel object discovered this episode sharply evokes the impenetrable iron object encountered by driller William Chappell of the Oak Island Treasure Company in the Money Pit in 1897. Chappell encountered this object at a depth of 171 feet.

In the summer of 1897, the Oak Island Treasure Company decided to conduct an exploration drilling operation in the Money Pit. Using steam-powered pumps to keep the flooding in check, the they set up a drilling platform in the Money Pit at the 90-foot level. From there, they prospected the Money Pit to depths never before reached by previous Oak Island treasure hunters. Their findings were some of the most astounding discoveries made on the island to date.

Core samples from the drilling operation revealed a layer of wood at 122 feet and an impenetrable iron object at 126 feet. Below that was a thick layer of blue clay from 130-151 feet. Then, at 154 feet, the drill encountered a 7-inch layer of cement followed by 5 inches of oak. Below that were about 2.5 feet of soft, loose metal, which reappeared again at the 158-foot level. Similar to the Truro Company before them, who, in 1850, located soft, loose metal in the Money Pit at around the 100-foot level, the Oak Island Treasure Company was unable to procure any samples of this substance. At the 160-foot level, the drill encountered another thick layer of blue clay which ended at 171 feet. At the 171-foot level, the drill encountered what appeared to be an impenetrable iron plate. After collecting some shavings of this material by running a magnet over the end of the drill bit, the Oak Island Treasure Company confirmed that the hard substance at the 171-foot level was indeed iron.

The Restoration of King Charles II of England

In this episode, the team unearths two British coins on Oak Island’s Lot 16, dated 1673 and 1694, respectively. This discovery is perhaps most consistent with the theory that Oak Island’s treasure was interred by pirates, possibly the crew of Captain Kidd.

Another theory which the coins sharply evoke is Canadian mining engineers Graham Harris and Les MacPhie’s fascinating argument, outlined in their book Oak Island and its Lost Treasure: The Untold Story of the British Military’s Role in the Island Flood Tunnel (2013), which proposes that the Money Pit was first excavated by the crew of New English treasure hunter Sir William Phips, and that the Smith’s Cove Flood Tunnel was later constructed by a government-sanctioned company composed of British engineers and Cornish miners.

Unfortunately, Harris and MacPhie’s theory, along with its historical context, it is far too elaborate to detail in this article. Somewhat less comprehensive, however, is a description of the prequel to the historical stage on which their theory is set- a turbulent period of English history, outlined briefly in this episode, known as the Restoration.

The Restoration has its roots in the Protestant Reformation, a series of schisms in the Roman Catholic Church which occurred throughout the 16th Century, initiated by Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther, who founded Lutheranism; John Calvin, who founded Calvinism; and King Henry VIII of England, who founded Anglicanism (a.k.a. The Church of England). These schisms resulted in a series of bloody religious wars fought throughout the 17th Century.

By the 1600’s, nearly all of England was Protestant. The nation, in general, feared and despised Catholicism, and was characterized by a paranoia that subversive Catholic agents were constantly conniving to reinstitute the old religion. At the same time, England’s Protestants were divided into Anglicans and Puritans, Puritanism being an offshoot of the Church of England which held that the ceremonial use of religious objects- a Catholic-like practice employed by Anglicans- was tantamount to idolatry. In spite of their ideological incompatibilities, adherents to these two disparate doctrines coexisted relatively peacefully for a number of decades.

France was not immune to the religious turmoil of the 17th Century. Although most of the country remained staunchly Catholic, a branch of French Calvinists called Huguenots revolted against royal authority in a series of conflicts known as the Huguenot Rebellions. The last of these rebellions, fought from 1626-1629, culminated in the Siege of La Rochelle, a Huguenot stronghold on the west coast of France (this battle is the historical event around which Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers revolves).

During the Siege of La Rochelle, King Charles I of England, on the advice of his most trusted advisor, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, decided to assist his fellow Protestants and join the fight against the French. In order to do this, he would need to secure some serious capital, and in 17th Century England, the only way for the Crown to collect significant tax revenue was through the use of an institution called the Parliament.

Unfortunately, Charles I and the Parliament did not see eye to eye. The king’s wife, a French princess named Henrietta Maria, was a devout Catholic, while the king himself was an Anglican. The English Parliament, on the other hand, was composed predominantly of staunch Puritans. The Parliamentarians loathed the king for his faith and especially that of his wife, and accordingly refused to provide him with the capital he needed to finance his military expedition to La Rochelle.

The king found the capital he needed through other means and tasked the Duke of Buckingham with leading a force to the French port city. Buckingham did as commanded and set sail for France with a complement of 6,000 soldiers. On the French battlefield, the Duke’s forces suffered a series of crippling defeats, and Buckingham returned to England, humiliated.

On August 23, 1628, the Duke of Buckingham was stabbed to death by John Felton, a disgruntled officer under his command. Although evidence indicated that Felton had likely acted on his own, King Charles I strongly believed that Parliament was behind his advisor’s assassination. Accordingly, he dissolved the unhelpful institution, determined to never reinstate it again.

For the next eleven years, Charles I ruled England without recourse to Parliament. The king’s detractors labelled this period the “Eleven Years’ Tyranny.” Since Parliament was the only means by which the monarch could acquire significant capital, King Charles I soon found himself in a financial predicament- a situation exacerbated by the expense incurred by his participation in the 30 Years’ War (a bloody European religious war fought from 1618-1645).

In 1639, King Charles I entered into a religious war with a force of Scottish Presbyterians called Covenanters (Presbyterianism being an offshoot of Calvinism). In order to raise money to finance this war, known as Bishops’ War, the king reluctantly reinstated Parliament. When Parliament predictably refused to comply with his wishes, he promptly dissolved it before reinstating it again a short time later, desperate for capital.

The Parliament took this opportunity to erode the king’s authority bit by bit, raising capital for the king in exchange for heavy concessions. Eventually, Charlies I decided to put an end to the Parliament’s subversion and attempted to arrest five of its Members for high treason. This act sparked a physical conflict between Parliamentarian Puritans (and their Presbyterian Covenanter allies, with whom they shared a common enemy) and Loyalist Anglicans which devolved into an all-out civil war, known today as the English Civil War.

This conflict pitted Puritan “Roundheads,” so called for the shaven pates many of their lowborn ranks affected (which contrasted starkly with the long ringlets worn by members of the aristocracy), against Loyalist “Cavaliers,” so named for their commanders’ resemblance to Spanish Caballeros (mounted knights) in their haughty demeanor and gaudy clothing. Initially, Loyalist forces won a series of victories under the command of Prince Rupert of the Rhine (the namesake of Prince Rupert, BC, and Rupert’s Land, the vast territory once controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company), a dashing young cavalry commander and nephew of the king. However, Prince Rupert met his match at the Battle of Marston Moor, fought on July 2, 1644. There, his army clashed with a much larger Parliamentarian and Covenanter force, which included a dogged, highly disciplined cavalry troop commanded by Oliver Cromwell, a zealous Puritan farmer-turned-military commander. Cromwell’s troops routed the Loyalist cavalry, which turned the tide of battle in Parliamentarian favour and ultimately led to a decisive Roundhead victory.

Oliver Cromwell quickly climbed the ranks to become second in command of the Parliamentarian army. He led his troops to victory a the decisive Battle of Naseby, which ultimately resulted in the capture of King Charles I.

The Parliament agreed to release the king on the condition that he relinquish some of his power to them. The stubborn monarch, however, believing that he had a divine right to rule, refused to give the Puritans any ground. After failing to convince the king to accede to their demands, Oliver Cromwell and the Parliament decided to put Charles I on trial for treason. The English king was ultimately convicted and sentenced to death. On Tuesday, January 20, 1649, King Charles I was beheaded by a single stroke of executioner’s axe at London’s Palace of Whitehall, thereby becoming the only English king to lose his head.

In the wake of the king’s execution, Oliver Cromwell established the Commonwealth of England, Britains first and only republican government. At the behest of his advisors, Cromwell became the Lord Protector of this new regime.

The following year, the Presbyterian Scottish Covenanters turned against their old allies, Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans, on account of religious differences. On September 3, 1650, they faced Cromwell’s republican army, called the New Model Army, at the Battle Dunbar and were soundly defeated. Later that year, in order to legitimize their cause, the Covenanters crowned Charles I’s eldest son, twenty-year-old Charles, who had spent the last half of the English Civil War in exile in France and Holland, King of Scotland. At the instance of the Covenanters, Prince Charles publicly denouncing Catholicism- a religion he inwardly adhered to on account of his mother’s influence- and outwardly converted to Presbyterianism.

In 1651, Charles, determined to retake his father’s crown, launched an invasion into England. This invasion ended in defeat at the Battle of Worcester, fought on September 3, 1651- the anniversary of Cromwell’s victory at Dunbar- and Charles subsequently fled to continental Europe.

On September 3, 1658, 59-year-old Oliver Cromwell succumbed to malaria and kidney disease. He was succeeded as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth by his son, Richard Cromwell. Unlike his zealous father, Richard lacked the full support of the New Model Army and the Parliament, and soon the Commonwealth descended into anarchy.

Charles took advantage of the opportunity and returned to England. On May 25, 1660, he landed at the town of Dover, on the southeast coast of England, accompanied by a Loyalist entourage. The prince made his way to London, greeted along the way by Englishman who were overjoyed by the return of the long-lost heir to the throne. The triumphant Charles- now King Charles II of England, Scotland, and Ireland- rode into the capital on his 30th birthday and reclaimed his crown.

Following his ascension to the throne, Charles II returned many of his father’s old Royalist supporters, including Prince Rupert of the Rhine, to their former offices and rewarded them for their loyalty. Nine of the Parliamentarians who had a role in his father’s regicide, on the other hand, were condemned as traitors and hanged, drawn, and quartered (i.e. submitted to a horrific execution, reserved for traitors, in which they were hanged (almost to the point of death), disemboweled alive, beheaded, and chopped into four pieces). The corpse of Oliver Cromwell was exhumed and posthumously executed; the Puritan’s skeleton was hanged and beheaded, his skull afterwards mounted on a wooden spike and erected above Westminster Hall.

This event, in which monarchy returned to England, is known today as the English Restoration.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 2: Dead Man’s Chest

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5, Episode 2: Dead Man’s Chest

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 5, Episode 2 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.






Plot Summary

Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Charles Barkhouse lead a portable drilling rig across the Oak Island causeway to the Money Pit area. In an interview, the Lagina brothers evince their enthusiasm for the upcoming 40-hole drilling operation, which, it is revealed, will be “the singular focus” of the season. Rick is confident that, if conducted without mishap, the operation will yield something significant within 20 days. Referring to the two-century-long Oak Island treasure hunt, Marty says, “I always felt like the Money Pit was where it began and the Money Pit is probably where it will end.”

At the Money Pit area, the treasure hunters meet with Kyle Fetterly and his Brewster Drill Team, the men who will be conducting the drilling operation.

The next day, while the drillers set about their task, Rick and Marty Lagina and Craig Tester drive to Saint Mary’s University in nearby Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with Dr. Christa Brosseau, an Associate Professor of Chemistry who, in the narrator’s words, is considered to be “one of Canada’s leading experts in the study of metals and their chemical compositions.” The treasure hunters present Brosseau with the rose head nail they discovered in the GAL1 spoils the previous episode. Brosseau, in turn, takes the nail to a lab, where research instrument technician Dr. Xiang Yang places a sample of it under an electron microscope. Before the two scientists examine the metal, Brosseau explains that the presence of nickle and molybdenum in an iron object is indicative of that object’s being crafted sometime after 1860, while a concentration of manganese between 0.2% and 1% suggests that the object was crafted sometime after 1840. Brosseau and Yang then examine the metal of the rose head nail and conclude that it is composed of 90% iron and 10% carbon; that it bears no significant trace of nickle, molybdenum, or manganese; and that does not display any characteristic of a modern iron object. Upon being prompted by Craig Tester, Brosseau confirms that absence of sulfur in the piece suggests that it was smelted with charcoal, an ancient reducing agent. All things considered, the results of the metallurgical examination indicate that the rose head nail is at least several hundred years old.

Later, Rick, Marty, and Charles meet with geologist Terry Matheson at the Money Pit area while the Brewster Drill Team goes about its work. In an interview, Marty explains that Matheson will collect, examine, and analyse core samples brought up the Money Pit drill holes at 5-foot intervals. The narrator reveals that other samples will be separated and spread out on a prospecting device called a shaker table. From one such sample, taken from a depth of 195 feet, driller Kyle Fetterly retrieves a fragment of what appears to be charcoal.

While the crew examines the charcoal piece, a deluge of water mysteriously bursts from the C1 Shaft. Apparently, the latest drill hole intersected the same vein of water which feeds C1- a vein which the narrator suggests might be the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Rick tastes the water and declares that it is “real salty,” bolstering the narrator’s suggestion. The narrator then explains that this latest development will prevent diver Mike Huntley from making a third dive to the cavern at the bottom of C1 (as discussed in the previous episode), as the silt kicked up in C1 will have rendered the shaft’s water completely opaque.

Later that day, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, Jack Begley, Charles Barkhouse, and Gary Drayton meet with local historian Doug Crowell. Crowell explains that Drayton’s Season 4, Episode 8 discoveries on the Island- particularly artifacts belonging to former Oak Island landowner Samuel Ball- prompted him to do some archival research in the hope of shedding some light on the identity of early Oak Island landowners. Crowell learned that Oak Island’s Lot 26 was once owned by Captain James Anderson, a privateer who fought for the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolutionary War before turning his coat and fighting for the British. After the war, Anderson settled in Nova Scotia, purchasing Oak Island’s Lot 26 and living there until 1788. He died in 1796, a year after the discovery of the Money Pit, somewhere in the West Indies (i.e. Caribbean), where Crowell suspects he was engaged in privateering.

After briefing the crew on Anderson’s history, Crowell reveals that Steve Atkinson, one of privateer’s descendants, lives in Nova Scotia, and suggests that he arrange for the crew to meet him. The crew takes the historian up on his offer, tasking Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Charles Barkhouse with this undertaking. The next day, the three treasure hunters accompany Crowell to Atkinson’s home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. Atkinson invites the four men inside before sharing his theory that Captain Anderson, from whom Samuel Ball bought Oak Island’s Lot 26, fought with Ball during the Revolutionary War. The narrator reminds us that Samuel Ball, prior to his Oak Island landownership, was a black plantation slave-turned Loyalist militiaman who earned his freedom fighting for the British. Atkinson then reveals that Captain Anderson was a spy as well as a pirate, captained a ship called the Betsy, and is known to have sailed as early as 1768.

After imparting his knowledge, Atkinson shows the men Captain Anderson’s old sea chest- a black wooden box which appears to be in incredible condition considering its age. Alex Lagina unlocks the chest with an old fashioned key and opens it, revealing several smaller chests and a stack of ancient, yellowed documents. The first document Alex examines is a hand-written certificate confirming Anderson as a Master Mason, a high-ranking member of a Freemasonic fraternity. The second document is a receipt for Captain Anderson’s schooner, the Betsy.

Once the treasure hunters conclude their examination of the contents of Captain Anderson’s sea chest, Atkinson voices his theory that the three small keys which share a ring with the larger key to Anderson’s chest might unlock other chests, perhaps treasure chests, which remain to be discovered on Oak Island. The narrator reminds us of an old legend which holds that the three co-discoverers of the Money Pit- Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan- discovered three treasure chests in the Money Pit sometime after 1795.

Later, Jack Begley and Peter Fornetti accompany Gary Drayton to Isaac’s Point, the easternmost end of Oak Island. There, the three men search for artifacts with a metal detector, hoping that soil freshly-exposed by wind storms might have brought certain items of interest closer to the surface. Sure enough, they quickly unearth a musket ball. Shortly thereafter, they discover a neatly-cut quarter of a copper coin, which Drayton suggests might be a “cut maravedis” reminiscent of the 17th Century New World Spanish coin discovered in the Oak Island swamp back in Season 1. The narrator then explains how it was once common practice to cut coins into halves or quarters in order to “make change.”

Drayton decides that the discovery of the quarter coin warrants a call to Rick and Marty. After the call, he, Begley and Fornetti are joined by the Lagina brothers, to whom they present their find. The brothers commend the men on their discovery and agree that they ought to have the coin fragment cleaned up and professionally examined.



Geotech Grid

In this episode, we learn more about the upcoming pattern drilling operation in the Money Pit area, the purpose of which is to pinpoint the precise location of the original shaft and/or recover artifacts placed by the original Money Pit builders. This operation will involve the drilling of 38 six-inch-wide, 200-foot-deep boreholes, each of them placed at a strategic location. Each hole will be cased with plastic piping to prevent it from collapsing, and to allow for future down-hole metal detection operations.



In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, a core sample from a drilling operation in the Money Pit area brought up an item from a depth of 195 feet which resembled charcoal. Charcoal is one of the materials said to have been discovered in the original Money Pit when it was first excavated by the Onslow Company in the early 1800’s. Specifically, a layer of charcoal was said to cover the fourth 10-foot oak platform (the original Money Pit was punctuated by nine oak platforms set at 10-foot intervals). Likely produced from the combustion of local red oak wood, this charcoal, some Oak Island researchers believe, might have been the product of a furnace used by the original Money Pit constructors to draw fresh air down to the diggers labouring in the shaft (a practice which, according to civil engineer and Oak Island historian Graham Harris, was not common in the mining industry until 1665).

Captain James Anderson and his Chest

In this episode, Nova Scotian historian Doug Crowell of introduces us to Captain James Anderson, another historic character in the Oak Island story. Captain Anderson owned Oak Island’s Lot 26 in the mid-late 18th Century before selling his land to Samuel Ball, a plantation slave-turned English militiaman who settled in Nova Scotia after the American Revolutionary War.

Crowell and the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. are not the only historians to take an interest in this 18th Century mariner. Oak Island researcher Scott Clarke- a man with blood ties to both the Onslow and Truro Companies (19th Century Oak Island treasure hunting syndicates)- investigated Anderson’s Oak Island connection several years ago, showcasing some of his discoveries in a recent article for Researcher Diane Boumenot, Anderson’s great great great great great granddaughter, similarly studied Anderson’s history for genealogical purposes, displaying her findings on her website OneRhodeIslandFamily. Together, these researchers and historians paint a picture of a fascinating and complicated man whose characteristics correspond with the turbulent period of history of which he was a part.

As early as 1768, James Anderson worked as a sailor. During the American Revolution, Anderson, then a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, pledged allegiance to the revolutionary government of Maryland and fought for the New English rebels. Anderson initially served as a lieutenant aboard a Continental galley before being given command of his own ship, the Baltimore. For some reason, he changed his allegiance sometime during the war and sailed his ship to New York, where he delivered it to the British. Anderson was given another ship and began privateering for the Crown. He was eventually captured by a group of Patriots and imprisoned in Richmond, Virginia. During Anderson’s captivity, the State of Maryland wrote to Virginia Governor (and future President) Thomas Jefferson, charging Anderson with high treason and asking that he be delivered to them for execution. By some twist of fate, Anderson evaded the hangman’s noose and settled in Nova Scotia after the war (likely sometime around 1783).

Although it is not certain when exactly Anderson first acquired Oak Island’s Lot 26, a historical record examined in the show indicates that he sold it to Samuel Ball- a fellow Loyalist and veteran of the Revolutionary War- in 1788. The middle aged sea captain died in July 1796 in the West Indies, a year after the discovery of the Money Pit and two months before the birth of his daughter, Ann.

In this episode, Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Charles Barkhouse accompany Doug Crowell to the home of Steve Atkinson, one of Anderson’s descendants. There, Atkinson shows the men Anderson’s old sea chest, along with several documents interred inside. One of these documents reveals Anderson as a Master Mason, or a high-ranking member of a Freemasonic Lodge.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5 Premiere: Forever Family

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 5 Premiere: Forever Family

With a Word on the Season 5 Special: The Journey so Far


Our favourite treasure hunters are back! On Tuesday night, the History Channel aired the first episode of The Curse of Oak Island’s fifth season… in the States, that is; we Canucks will have to wait until November 12, when the episode is scheduled to air at 10:00 Eastern/Pacific Time. For those of you Yanks interested in a recap of and supplement to the episode you just watched, and for those of you Canadians who can’t wait until Sunday, here’s a plot summary and analysis of Season 5, Episode 1 of The Curse of Oak Island.






Season 5 Special: The Journey So Far

An hour before airing the Season 5 premiere, the History Channel presented a special recap of The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 1-4, entitled The Journey So Far.

This episode opens with a monologue delivered by Matty Blake, the host of The Curse of Oak Island’s appendant series Drilling Down. Blake briefly summarizes the history of Borehole 10-X, the water-filled, 235-foot-deep shaft which veteran treasure hunter Dan Blankenship hand-sank in the early 1970’s with his son Dave and New Yorker Dan Henskee. He reminds us how Oak Island Tours Inc., the current owners of the island and the stars of the show, lowered an underwater camera into the shaft in Season 1, Episode 1 and captured visual evidence of what appeared to be a tunnel running off into the distance in the cavern at the shaft’s bottom. Subsequent airlift operations brought up pieces of old wood from the cavern, prompting the team to conduct sonar scans of the space. These scans indicated the presence of several items of interest, including the tunnel captured by the underwater camera and a rectangular object evocative of a treasure chest. A subsequent diving operation conducted by professional diver John Chatterton revealed that this rectangular object was likely a rock, and that the ‘tunnel’ was likely a natural fissure. The film then cuts to an interview with Michigan brothers Rick and Marty Lagina of Oak Island Tours Inc. The science-minded Marty expresses his own inclination to abandon 10-X due to the discouraging results of Chatterton’s dive, while the optimistic Rick claims that he will not give up on the shaft until he has physically examined its cavern himself.

Blake then proceeds to Oak Island’s swamp, in which, he reminds us, former Oak Island treasure hunter Bobby Restall once searched for a ‘mystery box,’ allegedly discovered by Oak Island caretaker Jack Adams in the 1930’s. Blake recounts the Season 1 visit of Bobby’s sister Lee Lamb, during which Lamb related her brother’s search for this mysterious item. In an effort to rediscover the ‘mystery box’ and anything else of interest, Oak Island Tours Inc. pumped the swamp dry, expending an incredible amount of time, money, and sweat in the process. Some of the items the swamp eventually yielded included a 17th Century Spanish 8 maravedis, an old wooden plank, and a Spanish barrotte nail- items supporting a theory, held by the late Fred Nolan (Dan Blankenship’s long-time Oak Island treasure hunting rival) that a wrecked Spanish treasure galleon was interred in the swamp by its crew sometime in the 17th Century.

Next, Blake visits Smith’s Cove, where an artificial filter, a series of box drains, and a flood tunnel were discovered by treasure hunters in the mid-1800’s. We are reminded of Dan Henskee, Jack Begley, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti’s discovery of ancient coconut fibre on Smith’s Cove in Season 1, Episode 2, and of the die test conducted in Season 2, Episode 6, which failed to establish a link between Borehole 10-X and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Blake also reminds us of the team’s rediscovery of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, evocative of a French drain, in Season 4. The sub-segment ends with an interview in which both Rick and Marty Lagina affirm their desire to continue the search at Smith’s Cove.

Next, Blake takes us to the infamous Money Pit area. After summarizing the popular discovery legend, he recounts how Oak Island Tours Inc. drilled a number of exploratory shafts in the area in an effort to locate the original pit. One of these drilling operations- labelled ‘Valley 3’- yielded wood and a cement-like material from a depth consistent with the supposed location of the Chappell Vault- a hypothetical depository which some believe contains the Money Pit’s treasure. A second drill hole- Borehole C1- encountered a large cavity at depth, in the wall of which was embedded a shiny, gold-coloured object. In Season 4, Oak Island Tours Inc. augmented these drill holes into 40-inch-wide cylindrical shafts using oscillating caissons and a hammergrab. Unfortunately, neither shaft produced much of interest. The crew decided to sink a third and final shaft named GAL1 which, to their delight, yielded a number of strange, old metal objects at depth.

The episode ends with an interview of Rick and Marty Lagina, in which the two brothers describe the highlights of their Oak Island quest and their hopes for the future.


Season 5, Episode 1: Forever Family

Plot Summary

It is raining and overcast as Rick Lagina and historian Charles Barkhouse drive across the causeway to Oak Island. The two men and the narrator inform us that the series of violent windstorms that ravaged the Atlantic Coast throughout the winter of 2016/17 have taken their toll on the island, uprooting trees and wiping out roadways. As the two men prepare to inspect the damage, Rick declares “I don’t care what Mother Nature has done. The island can throw whatever it wants at us. We’re not giving up.”

On the island, Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship meet with heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt to assess the condition of the South Shore road- a gravel byway skirting the Oak Island swamp which appears to be all but obliterated. The three men agree that the road’s reconstruction is a top priority, and regret the inevitable loss of time and resources which the project will require.

Next, Rick, Dave, and Charles meet in the War Room with Dan Blankenship and Peter Fornetti. There, the five men connect with Marty Lagina via video chat and inform him of the condition of the South Shore road and the need to repair it before the scheduled arrival of heavy excavation equipment. The narrator then discloses that the team plans to drill forty 6-inch-wide, 200-foot-deep boreholes in the Money Pit area in the hopes of pinpointing the precise location of the original Money Pit; apparently, the metal recovered from GAL1 the previous season proved to be relics of a previous treasure hunt. Back in the War Room, the six treasure hunters agree that they ought to take advantage of the storm-wrought devastation by having metal detection expert Gary Drayton scour the freshly-disturbed soil for historic artifacts. They also decide that a re-examination of Borehole C1 is in order, as the black silt which once obscured its waters has now settled to the bottom.

After Rick inquires as to the condition of Craig Tester and Jack Begley, treasure hunters whose absences are conspicuous, the narrator informs us that 16-year-old Drake Tester, Craig’s son and Jack’s step-brother who has appeared on the show in the past, tragically and unexpectedly passed away in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 16, 2017, due to complications resulting from an epileptic seizure. On the subject of Craig Tester, Marty says, “Would I like to see him out [there]? Yes. He’s instrumental on this team, and we would not only miss Drake terribly; we’d miss Craig, we’d miss Jack. I hope he comes, but you know what? Whatever’s best for him. Period.” After agreeing to “get to the bottom” of the Oak Island mystery in honour of Drake and his family, the treasure hunters wrap up the meeting.

While the reconstruction of the South Shore road is underway, Peter Fornetti accompanies Gary Drayton on a metal detection excursion at Isaac’s Point, the easternmost part of the island.

At the same time, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse meet with remote camera specialist Jeff Christopherson of Inuktun Services Ltd. at the C1 shaft. The treasure hunters hope Christopherson and his Spectrum 120 camera might be able to shed some light on the mysterious gold-coloured object believed to be located in the cavern at the shaft’s bottom. Christopherson slowly lowers his camera down C1, while Rick, Dave, and Charles observe the visuals the camera is capturing in real-time on a screen at the surface. Due to the quality of the camera and the lack of sediment in the water, the visuals are crystal clear. The camera reaches the cavern without incident and scans its walls, but the mysterious object is nowhere to be seen. The treasure hunters speculate that the object might have fallen to the cavern’s floor during the shaft’s excavation, where it might have been covered by a layer of sediment, and Christopherson directs the camera to pan the floor accordingly. The camera immediately picks up an obscure, odd-looking formation which Rick opines is man-made. Christopherson agrees, suggesting that the anomaly “looks like a piece of metal with another piece of metal going through it.” After examining more of the cavern floor, the team finds another interesting item which Christopherson and Barkhouse both agree resembles an iron hook, as well as a tangle of similar material nearby. Barkhouse suggests that the items constitute part of the debris field which formed as a result of the Money Pit’s 19th Century collapses. Following the discovery, Rick calls up Marty and shares the exciting news with him, suggesting they arrange for diver Mike Huntly to manually explore the cavern a second time.

Back at Isaac’s Point, Drayton and Fornetti continue their metal detecting operation. The two men quickly unearth the rusted head of an old woodcutter’s axe before stumbling upon what appears to be an 18th century copper coin. Drayton speculates that the coin is either French or English, and later submits it for analysis.

Two days later, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse stand by while Peter Fornetti and Gary Drayton sift through rubble unearthed during the construction of the GAL1 shaft with a metal detector. The party is soon joined by Marty and Alex Lagina, as well as by Craig Tester and Jack Begley, the latter two plainly grieving over the loss of their son and brother, respectively. The newcomers are briefed on the discoveries made in their absence, and all agree that they ought to commission diver Mike Huntley to manually investigate the objects of interest at the bottom of C1.

Later, the whole team meets in the War Room with Mike Huntley, Jeff Christopherson, and a man named Frank Schiefelbein. Schiefelbein, the CEO of Barnett & Associates, hopes to clarify the already-excellent images captured by Christopherson’s camera with his company’s video enhancement technology, Prohawk. Schiefelbein applies Prohawk to the footage of the mysterious items at the bottom of C1, and to the old footage of the shiny, gold-coloured object captured back in Season 4. After viewing this enhanced footage, the treasure hunters are more convinced than ever that both the gold-coloured object and the newly-discovered anomalies are indeed man-made items.

Once the South Shore road is reconstructed, Mike Huntley- with the Oak Island team, paramedics Reed Barron and Kerry Seamone, decompression chamber technician Dave Roode, and dive supervisor Dave Pilot in attendance- prepares for a dive in C1. Preparations complete, Huntley descends into the shaft in a bosun’s chair. The diver reaches the cavern without incident. Unfortunately, the mere act of his descension stirred up sediment, and visibility in the chamber deteriorates rapidly. Hoping to accomplish what he can before the cavern is obscured entirely, Huntley detaches himself from the bosun’s chair and begins to examine the chamber’s perimeter. Using a hand-held metal detector, he soon finds something metallic embedded in the cavern’s wall. After struggling in vain to detach this object with a hammer and chisel, Huntley stuffs a bag full of sediment from the cavern floor and prepares to climb back into the bosun’s chair. The bag proves too heavy to move, and Huntley struggles with it for some time. In doing so, Huntley exceeds his allotted dive time, thereby putting himself at risk of decompression sickness and hypothermia. Eventually, he secures the bag to the bosun’s chair and makes his ascent. Upon reaching the surface, Huntley is rushed to the decompression chamber on site, where he undergoes a successful recompression.

When Huntley is sufficiently recovered, the Oak Island team commends him for going “above and beyond” the call of duty and presents him with the bag of sediment he brought up from C1. The diver pours the contents onto a plastic tarp, and Jack Begley examines them with a metal detector. Unfortunately, it appears that the sediment contains no trace of the mysterious metal objects indicated by the visual probe. “We didn’t get what we wanted,” says Marty in a later interview. “We got a bag full of muck, basically… But, you know what? If this was easy, it would have been done 210 years ago, right? It’s not easy.”

The next day, Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, Peter Fornetti, and Gary Drayton continue to sift through the refuse from the C1 shaft. Drayton quickly uncovers an ancient-looking iron spike which he claims is an 17th or 18th Century hand-forged rose head nail.

Meanwhile, Rick and Marty, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse pay a visit to Dan Blankenship. They inform the veteran treasure hunter of their plan to drill a series of exploratory holes in the Money Pit area. Dan encourages the crew to drill to bedrock. While they discuss the upcoming operation, the men are visited by Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, Peter Fornetti, and Gary Drayton, who present their recent discovery. Dan concurs with Drayton’s assessment that the spike is a rose head nail which almost certainly predates the discovery of the Money Pit.

Later, the Oak Island crewmembers meet in the War Room. They agree that the discovery of the rose head nail, along with the strange metal items brought up by the hammergrab at the end of Season 4, warrant a more thorough investigation of GAL 1. They also agree to send Mike Huntley back into C1 with the task of finding and retrieving metal objects.

That accomplished, the crew addresses Craig Tester and Jack Begley’s suffering in the wake of Drake’s passing and commend them on their continued participation in the treasure hunt. “It will be tough without him,” replies Tester, his voice thick with emotion, “but I know he wants us here. That’s the big point.” A tearful Jack nods his assent, saying “I know he wouldn’t want us to stop looking.” The Lagina brothers agree that they will carry on the search for and “with” their fallen comrade. Rick Lagina concludes the meeting by reminding the crew of the words which Drake inscribed on the GAL1 caisson the previous year: “Forever Family”.

The episode ends with touching tribute Drake Tester, complete with interviews of Craig and Jack and photos and footage of Drake taking part in the treasure hunt.



The Isaac’s Point Coin

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Craig Tester discovered what appears to be an 18th Century copper coin, which Drayton suspects is either French or English. The treasure hunters discovered this artifact at Isaac’s Point- the easternmost peninsula of Oak Island possibly named after Isaac Butler, a servant of former Oak Island landowner Samuel Ball who inherited all of his master’s land after his death in 1846 (on the condition that he change his surname to Ball).

The C1 Anomalies

In this episode, a remote camera operation revealed the presence of three different items in the cavern at the bottom of the C1 shaft, all of which appear to be composed of metal chain or wire. These items include:

  • A chain-like anomaly on the cavern floor
  • A tangle of material akin to a woven mesh
  • A hook, a section of which protrudes from the cavern wall

A subsequent diving operation conducted by Mike Huntley confirmed that the objects in question are indeed metallic. Unfortunately, Huntley was unable to retrieve any of the material for analysis due to their strong adherence to the cavern wall.

The Rose Head Nail

This episode, Gary Drayton, with the assistance of Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Peter Fornetti, discovered an old, square-shanked, hand-forged rose head nail in the C1 dump pile, which Drayton estimated to be 17th or 18th Century. As Drayton explained in this episode, the first step in crafting a hand-forged nail was to form the shank, or spike. Atop the shank, the smith would affix a head. One type of head was a rose head, so named for the petal-like pattern the head would exhibit upon being hammered.


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Legends of the Nahanni Valley

Legends of the Nahanni Valley- Northern Canada’s Greatest Mystery

Now Available in the Mysteries of Canada Bookstore

We’re very excited to announce that Mysteries of Canada’s second-ever non-fiction book, entitled “Legends of the Nahanni Valley,” is finally available on Amazon and Kindle. This book is the first of its kind, focusing exclusively on the various stories and legends surrounding the watershed of the mysterious South Nahanni River, located in the southwest corner of the Northwest Territories.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, please click the links below:

For Americans

For Canadians

The following is a summary of the legends into which our book delves.

The Legends

“The Legend of the Headless Valley. It is… one of the few pieces of bona fide folklore that we have in Canada. I think you will agree that it is a pretty good legend, too, for it has something of almost everything in it.” – Pierre Berton, circa 1947.

Deep in the heart of the Canadian North, in the southernmost reaches of th­e Mackenzie Mountains, lies the valley of the South Nahanni River, a mysterious area shrouded in legend. Long before the first white explorers paddled their canoes into the country in search of fur, local Dene Indians gave the place a wide berth. These natives believed that the valley was an evil area pervaded by bad medicine- a malevolent, supernatural presence which hung over the place perpetually like its ever-present fog.

The Evil Spirit, Nakani, the Mongol Caves, and White Queen

Over the years, a number native hunters, spurred by bravery, foolishness, or desperation, wandered into the valley in search of game. The few who returned regaled their fellows with all manner of hair-raising tales. At night, while their compatriots crouched around the campfire, these survivors told of encounters with an evil spirit who haunted the valley, whose unearthly shrieks echoed throughout the canyons on windy nights. Others described a race of fearsome, hairy giants who dwelled in caves carved from the canyon walls. Led by a beautiful, pale-skinned chieftess, these primitive mountain men killed and ate anyone who trespassed on their territory.

The Naha Tribe

According to Dene tradition, in ancient times, the Nahanni Valley was inhabited by a nomadic, warlike tribe known as the Naha. The Naha were ferocious warriors who frequently descended from their mountain homes to raid Dene settlements in the lowlands surrounding the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers. After suffering a number of devastating incursions, a party of Dene braves took to the warpath, travelling into Nahanni country with the intention of pillaging a Naha camp. In time, the warriors came upon a scattering of teepees and prepared to attack. Upon rushing into the camp with their weapons at hand, however, the Dene discovered that their enemies were nowhere to be found. It was as if they had vanished into thin air. With all the campfire tales of evil spirits and giant cannibals swiftly recalled to mind, the Dene warriors fled the country, beating a fearful retreat back to the lowlands. They never saw the Naha again.

The Tropical Valley

In the early 1800’s, fur traders of the North West Company established Fort Liard and Fort of the Forks (the latter later renamed Fort Simpson), two trading posts situated on the Liard River upriver and downriver of the mouth of the South Nahanni, respectively. In the trading room and on the trail, these tough frontiersmen learned of the horrors of the Nahanni from their Dene clients. In 1823, two years after the North West Company amalgamated into the Hudson’s Bay Company, a valiant voyageur named John McLeod attempted to explore the remote valley, but did not make it far upriver on account of the rapids. He embarked upon a similar expedition the following year and met with similar results.

In the summer of 1897, word spread of a fabulous gold strike in the Klondike. In no time, men and women from all over the world were on their way to the northern diggings. These so-called ‘Stampeders’ approached the Yukon by a number of different trails. One of them was a gruelling ‘all-Canadian’ overland route which began in Edmonton, Alberta. Of the 766 Stampeders who attempted this treacherous trail, a handful opted to take an even more hazardous shortcut by way of the South Nahanni River. Although at least two of these men successfully reached their destination, many more disappeared in the misty valley long shunned by the natives.

In the aftermath of the Klondike Gold Rush, sourdoughs (as veterans of the Northland are sometimes referred to) who failed to strike it rich in the Yukon began to look elsewhere for gold. A number of these restless prospectors wandered into the Nahanni country and began to pan the myriad creeks which fed the South Nahanni and the Flat Rivers (the Flat being the South Nahanni’s primary tributary). Some who returned from these diggings filled northern trading posts and saloons with strange tales of a paradisiacal valley hidden away somewhere in the mountains of the Mackenzie. This valley, they maintained, was snow-free all year round, its tropical climate attributable to the hundreds of bubbling hot springs which ran through it. Cloaked by heavy fog, the valley’s soil was black and fertile, supporting a spectacular variety of lush and exotic greenery. This subarctic Eden was purportedly a hunter’s paradise; due to the excellent grazing conditions, it teemed with wild game. One prospector said that the moose, caribou, and mountain sheep that lived in this lost world were so well-fed as to appear “almost square from fat.”

Prehistoric Monsters

Hand in hand with tales of a tropical valley were stories of mammoths, mastodons, and other prehistoric monsters said to still roam the most desolate recesses of the Nahanni. Indian trappers and white prospectors alike claimed to have observed fresh tracks of these Pleistocene relicts in the snow or the soft clay of creek beds, and many frontiersmen returned from the wilderness bearing priceless ivory tusks with hair and flesh still adhered to the bone. Rumour had it that some hunters had even encountered the antediluvian beasts deep within Mackenzie country and lived to tell the tale.

The Lost McLeod Mine

In spite of all the dreadful stories of bad medicine, evil spirits, hairy giants, and prehistoric monsters, a handful of enterprising prospectors continued to try their luck in the Nahanni Valley in the hopes of discovering gold. Two such men were Willie and Frank McLeod, Metis brothers whose father Murdoch once served as Chief Factor at Fort Liard. Sometime in 1904 or 1905, the McLeod brothers, equipped with mining gear, disappeared up the South Nahanni and, according to some, further up the Flat River. They were never seen alive again.

Three years after the McLeod brothers’ departure, Willie and Frank’s younger brother Charlie, fearing the worst, mounted a search party. The ragtag band of trappers, aboriginals, and ex-Mounties he recruited headed up the South Nahanni, warily scanning the wooded shore for anything out of the ordinary. After several days of tracking, paddling, and poling their canoes upriver, Charlie and his crew made a grisly discovery. On a flat stretch of riverbank, known thereafter as Deadmen Valley, sprawled the decapitated remains of Willy and Frank McLeod. Their heads were nowhere to be found.

Word of the macabre find spread like wildfire throughout the Canadian North. Over steaming mugs of sweetened tea- a staple of the northern frontier- trappers and traders speculated as to the nature of the McLeod brothers’ gruesome fate. Had they been killed by one of the hairy, cave-dwelling giants of native lore? Had they been murdered by the Nahanni Indians- an elusive, mysterious tribe said to be fiercely protective of their hunting grounds? Perhaps they had been beheaded by a rival prospector or a trapper gone mad, his mind shattered by years of isolation in the bush.

Growing in conjunction with these conjectures were rumours that the Nahanni country was rich in gold, and that the McLeod brothers had made a massive strike on one of its creeks sometime prior to their untimely deaths. In no time, whispers of the Lost McLeod Mine- a subarctic El Dorado where gold nuggets the size of goose eggs littered the creek beds- rippled up and down the Mackenzie. One by one, veterans of the Fortymile, Klondike, Nome, and Fairbanks goldfields trickled into the Nahanni Valley, pans, picks, and whipsaws strapped to their dog sleds and canoes.

One of these prospectors lured by tales of lost gold was Martin Jorgenson, a Norwegian woodsman who entered Nahanni country in 1910. Five years later, his headless corpse was discovered about a mile above the mouth of the Flat River. Nearby stood the charred remains of his log cabin, which had mysteriously burned to the ground. Like the McLeod brothers, Jorgenson’s head was never found.

The Curse of the Nahanni Valley

In the wake of Jorgenson’s death, dozens of prospectors similarly met with bizarre ends in various reaches of the Nahanni Valley.  In the winter of 1922, for example, the body of a WWI veteran named John O’Brien was discovered on a mountainside not far from Deadmen Valley, hunched over a pile of tinder with a matchbook in his hand as if he had frozen to death while trying to light a fire. Legend has it that another man, an Ontario prospector named Ernest Savard, was found dead in his sleeping bag in 1945, his head severed from his shoulders. Other men who entered the country, like trappers Bill Epler and Joe Mulholland, simply vanished without a trace. Some sourdoughs saw these bizarre deaths and disappearances as affirmations of what they had long believed- that the Nahanni Valley is cursed, and that those who dare to search for its gold, or come close to finding it, invariably suffer some sort of ghastly fate.

The Waheela

As the year drew on, the remote wilds of the Nahanni began to appeal to geologists, naturalists, and other representatives of the scientific community. With the northern frontier ever shrinking under the onslaught of industrial exploration, these academics jumped at the opportunity to study this vast tract of virgin wilderness virtually unspoiled by man. Throughout the 1960’s, some of the scholarly professionals who entered the Nahanni returned from their expeditions with experiences they could not explain. The accounts of these academics, coupled with local anecdotes, gave rise to a new Nahanni legend.

According to these witnesses, the Nahanni Valley is home to an enormous, solitary, wolf-like creature eerily reminiscent of a monster of Inuit myth. Dubbed the “waheela,” this mysterious caniform is believed by some to be a relict Amphicyon– an ancient, carnivorous, bone-crushing mammal colloquially referred to as a “bear dog,” supposed to have gone extinct about eight million years ago. Others maintain the waheela’s physical description corresponds more closely with that of the dire wolf, a prehistoric relative of the modern day timber wolf. Whatever the case, some considered the waheela to be a likely suspect in the Nahanni’s many mysterious deaths and disappearances.

The Nuk-luk

Around the same time as the waheela encounters, various sightings of a short, hairy, half-naked “sub-human” were reported in the vicinities of Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte, and Fort Simpson, respectively. Clad in a moose skin loincloth, carrying a stone club, and sporting a long, dark beard, this creature was given the name “Nuk-luk” by the local Dene. Its diminutive stature notwithstanding, this creature sharply evoked the old tales of the hairy, cave-dwelling cannibals first told around Dene campfires so long ago.

The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down- Season 2, Episode 2: A Look Ahead

Well, it’s been an awesome season of The Curse of Oak Islandand we’ve thoroughly enjoyed covering it. This week’s episode of Oak Island: Drilling Down explores some of the findings made during this season, ties up a number of loose ends, and gives us an idea of where the Oak Island treasure hunt might be headed. Read on for a plot summary of this episode, and for a brief background of one of the groups referenced in it- the mysterious Knights Templar.

Plot Summary

This episode begins with a five minute recap of the various operations carried out by, and discoveries made by, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. throughout Season 4. Following the summary, host Matty Blake meets with Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Charles Barkhouse at the Money Pit area. There, he asks the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. a series of questions regarding these operations and discoveries.

Money Pit

First, Blake confirms that Borehole Valley 3- Oak Island Tours Inc.’s first Money Pit shaft, which the Oak Island crew initially believed might have intersected the famous Chappell Vault– did, in fact, intersect a section of the Chappell Shaft, dug in 1931 by Chappells Ltd.

Next, Blake learns that, although nothing of interest was discovered at the bottom of Borehole C1- the shaft prescribed by Charles Barkhouse, at the bottom of which an underwater camera revealed the presence of a shiny, gold-coloured object- by diver John Chatterton, Oak Island Tours Inc. is not yet ready to abandon it.

In a narration, Blake reminds us that Oak Island Tours Inc.’s next Money Pit shaft, Borehole T1, produced a number of old oak logs carbon dated from 1655-1695, but reached bedrock before intersecting anything else of interest. The Oak Island crew’s fourth and final shaft, GAL1, produced a number of mysterious metal items, including hammered sheet metal, screws, nuts, washers, and a thick iron bracket, in addition to wooden timbers. When prompted by Blake, Marty speculates GAL1 might have “cut the corner of a searcher shaft, or maybe the corner of something ancient.” When asked whether or not he would like to continue excavations in the Money Pit area, he replies “if all the data, 100%, said ‘there’s nothing here’, then we’ve accomplished our goal. But… it doesn’t say that.”

The Swamp

Next, Blake shifts our attention towards the Oak Island swamp, where he meets with Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Jack Begley. In a narration, he reminds us how the swamp yielded a 1652 Spanish 8 maravedis in Season 1, a long wooden plank in Season 4, and, most recently, an iron object akin to a railroad spike, which experts revealed to be a barotte nail from a Spanish galleon. Rick suggests that this evidence, coupled with the late Fred Nolan’s discoveries of a ship’s mast and scuppers in the swamp, all seem to point to the possibility that Oak Island’s swamp once housed a Spanish galleon. When prompted, all three treasure hunters affirm their desire to explore the swamp further.

Smith’s Cove

After that, Blake accompanies Craig Tester, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, and Dan Henksee to Smith’s Cove, where the cofferdam Oak Island Tours Inc. erected there this past season is still in place. Tester explains that he is “90+ percent sure” that their excavation within the cofferdam verified the presence of a man-made French drain, which he believes feeds the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel which, in turn, leads to the Money Pit. Charles, Jack, and Dan all concur with Craig’s statement.

Borehole 10-X

Next, Blake meets with Dan and Dave Blankenship and Rick Lagina at Borehole 10-X. In a narration, he describes how Dan Blankenship discovered ancient chain at the bottom of the shaft in the early 1970’s, and how Oak Island Tours Inc. airlifted material from Borehole 10-X in Season 4, Episode 11. Dave describes how the spoils from the latest airlifting contained fragments of old wood and metal, which are currently being tested. He goes on to suggest that he and the team ought to “dry it up, and get down there, and see what is there,” an operation which Dan maintains is “very dangerous” due to the high risk of collapse. Upon being prompted, all three treasure hunters express their desire to solve the mystery of 10-X. Blake concludes the meeting by asking Dan Blankenship a final question: “Did you ever think that some fifty years later we would still have questions about this spot?” Blankenship laughs, and replies “No, I didn’t even think fifty years later I’d be livin’.”

Lot 24

Following that, Blake meets with Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Charles Barkhouse on Oak Island’s Lot 24, the site of the former residence of one-time Oak Island landowner Samuel Ball, and the location on which metal detection expert Gary Drayton, earlier that season, discovered 18th Century British coins, a piece of lead used for crafting musket balls, and an identifactory musket plate inscribed with the name “Ball”. The treasure hunters discuss how the items Drayton unearthed may indicate a military presence on Oak Island prior to the discovery of the Money Pit in 1795. Rick explains that this supposition is congruent with Fred Nolan’s theory that Oak Island’s treasure consists of booty acquired by the British following the Battle of Havana in 1762. Upon being prompted by Blake, Marty estimates that Gary Drayton has explored “10% of the island or less”, and affirms that the team intends to invite the treasure hunter back to the island for additional exploration.

Mari Vineyards

Following his various meetings with the members of Oak Island Tours Inc. on Oak Island, Matty Blake meets with Rick and Marty at Marty’s Tuscan-style winery, Mari Vineyards, located just north of Traverse City, Michigan. Marty briefly explains that the vineyard is something of an homage to his and Rick’s Italian heritage. The vineyard’s name derives from the maiden name of Rick and Marty’s grandmother, and owes its style to a cave their grandfather had chiseled out of solid granite near his home in Italy.

Before discussing Oak Island, Marty invites Blake to accompany him and Rick to the “coolest part” of the vineyard. The Lagina brothers lead Blake down a dark concrete hallway lined with oak casks and into dark a circular room. Marty asks Blake to stand on a particular section of floor. Blake obliges, saying, “you know you can’t kill me, right?” In response, a dilating mechanical iris situated directly above his head opens up, allowing sunlight to spill into the room. The camera man focuses on a stunned Matty Blake, his gaze towards the heavens and his palms upturned in stupefaction. The gathering sunlight gradually illuminates the place, revealing a giant compass rose painted on the floor; Blake is standing at the centre. The spectacle complete, Marty says, “this is what we affectionately call ‘The Occulus’,” to which Blake exclaims “You two are the two coolest people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Blake notes the Templar cross beneath his feet, situated at the centre of the compass rose. Although Marty neglects to disclose the reasons for the cross’ presence, Rick says, “to me… the Templars are a real mystery, just like Oak Island.” Blake, in a narration, then briefly describes how many Oak Island researchers believe that the treasure of Oak Island was interred by members of the Knights Templar following the suppression of their order in 1307. He reminds us of Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Doug Crowell’s excursion to New Ross, Nova Scotia- where, some believe, lie the ruins of an ancient Templar fortress- in Season 4, Episode 1.


After visiting the winery, Blake meets with the Oak Island crew in what Marty refers to as ‘The War Room West’- one of the boardrooms of Rock Management Group Ltd., Marty and Craig’s exploration drilling company headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan. There, Blake inquires as to the carbon dating of the wood airlifted from 10-X. Craig Tester informs him that “the early date on [the wood] is from 1670-1780.” Rick expresses some interest in exploring the cavern at the bottom of Borehole 10-X with a new ultrasound-based downhole imaging technology called DarkVision, developed for use in oil and gas wells. Marty’s son, Alex Lagina, asks Rick if he is prepared to accept the results of a potential DarkVision operation, to which Rick responds “don’t be foolish- only if I see something.”

Blake asks if there is any more information the team can share regarding their discoveries this season. Rick explains that the testing of the mysterious metal pulled from GAL1 is currently underway, and that there are no results yet. Next, he discusses one of the two so-called ‘Templar maps’ introduced by New York-based Templar historian Zena Halpern in Season 1, Episode 1. He says that, using “the points of Nolan’s Cross [and] sacred geometry [geometric ratios and shapes ascribed with sacred significance],” a cypher on Halpern’s map has been interpreted to read “No Trap. There is a door.” Rick explains that this “door” appears to be the “hatch” which the crew investigated in Season 4, Episodes 2 and 5. Marty implies that they plan to excavate the hatch with an excavator.

Next, Rick explains that someone has “come forward with a singularly unique interpretation… and possible knowledge of” Oak Island’s legendary 90-foot stone. Alex ensures the team that he will follow up on this potential lead.

Having completed their discussion, Blake shows the team a video he put together documenting his various streetside interviews with Nova Scotians who live in the vicinity of Oak Island. Blake asked these Maritimers what they thought of Oak Island Tours Inc. and the Oak Island treasure hunt, and who, if anyone, they believed were responsible for Oak Island’s underground workings. Perhaps the most interesting part of the video is the section in which the interviewees put forth their theories regarding the nature of Oak Island’s original diggers. These candidates include pirates, privateers, the British military, the Vikings, and the Egyptians.

 After the video has finished playing, talk once again turns to the future. Marty reads a list of projects Rick hopes to eventually complete on Oak Island. These projects include:

  • An expansion of the Lot 24 search
  • Searching for Fred Nolan’s “log wall” in the swamp
  • Searching for the “hatch” indicated by Zena Halpern’s map
  • Preparing for a larger dig in the Money Pit area

Blake references a saying apparently once profered by Rick and Marty’s mother to the effect: “in order to solve a puzzle, you start at the four corners and move inward.” He asks them how many corners they have solved on Oak Island. Marty cryptically says “three” without offering further explanation.

Rick then recalls another phrase that he and Marty’s mother used to say: “sempre avanti“, which is Italian for “always forward”. He suggests that they all take this expression to heart. And with that, the meeting is ended.


The Templar Theory

One of the most intriguing theories regarding the Oak Island treasure is that it is the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military Order which emerged in 1119 AD in the wake of the First Crusade.

The First Crusade was a massive campaign which began in 1096, when more than 60,000 Christian knights and peasant soldiers, referred to collectively as ‘Crusaders’, left Europe for the Holy Land in the hopes of liberating Jerusalem from Islamic control. After pushing through Anatolia (present-day Turkey) – which was, at the time, controlled by the Turkish Seljuk Sultanate- the Crusader armies marched down the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea to Jerusalem and laid siege to it in 1099. After nine days, the Crusaders assaulted the city and breached its walls before infamously massacring many of the residents within.

Following the Christian conquest of the Holy Land and the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, pilgrims from all over Christendom flocked to the Holy City and transformed it into a thriving metropolis. Along with the pilgrims, however, came gangs of bandits who killed and looted the hapless Christians along the popular route from the port city of Jaffa to Jerusalem. In order to protect the pilgrims from these bandits, a monastic military Order of monk-knights known as the Knights Hospitaller was established in 1099.

Twenty years later, a French knight named Hugues de Payens, following the example of the Knights Hospitaller, gathered together eight knights to whom he was related and formed a similar Order. Like the Knights Hospitaller, these nine knights took monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and were determined to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. They called themselves the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ. Initially, these nine monk-knights were indeed very poor. According to legend, Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer, another of the nine, were so poor that they had to share a horse. Because of this, the seal the Order eventually adopted depicted two men riding a single horse.

The nine knights travelled to Jerusalem, where they sought the blessing of the city’s King Baldwin II. Baldwin granted the Poor Fellow Soldiers permission to take up residence on the Temple Mount, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to tradition, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, considered by Muslims to be the third holiest Islamic site, was the location on which Solomon’s Temple had once stood. Because of this, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ earned themselves a new name: the Knights of the Temple, or the Knights Templar.

For the first nine years of their existence, little was heard of the mysterious Templars, as the members of the Knights Templar were known. According to popular legend, the original knights began to excavate the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and discovered the ruins of the ancient Solomon’s Temple beneath it. After exploring the Temple ruins for some time, they came upon a secret chamber which held a treasure of incalculable value. Some say that the treasure included the Ark of the Covenant, the chest holding the tablets on which Moses inscribed the 10 Commandments. Others say it included the Menorah, the seven-armed lampstand of pure gold used to illuminate the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Solomon.

One of the original nine Templars, a Burgundian knight named Andre de Montbard, was the uncle of a prominent French abbot named Bernard of Clairvaux. Bernard championed the then-unpopular notion of a monastic knight and wrote glowingly of his uncle’s Order to Rome. Due to Bernard’s patronage, the Templars quickly rose from obscurity. They made a name for themselves in Europe, were officially endorsed as a charity by the Church, and began to receive a flood of donations and new recruits. By the late 1120s, the Order of the Knights Templar was well established, and growing rapidly.

In the late 1120’s, Turkish armies recaptured the cities of Aleppo and Edessa. A number of prominent clergymen, including Bernard of Clairvaux, supported the idea of a new crusade to take back the cities. By 1147, the Second Crusade against the Seljuk Turks was underway.

During the Second Crusade and the subsequent Ayyubid-Crusader War, the Knights Templar earned a ferocious reputation as a fighting force. According to British historian Desmond Seward, the Templars quickly grew to become “the first properly disciplined and officered troops in the West since Roman times.” The heavily armoured Templar knights- who wore white surcoats emblazoned with red crosses, symbolizing their vocation to martyrdom- were often employed as shock troops against enemy forces. In these instances, a small squadron of Templars mounted on heavily armoured warhorses would smash into enemy lines at full speed, creating a hole which the Crusader armies could take advantage of. The combination of elite training, heavy armour, brilliant battle tactics and religious fervour made the Templars one of the most feared Christian forces of the Crusades. One of the rules of engagement the Templars famously abided by was to never retreat from or surrender during battle. Because of this, they often, by necessity, won victories against much larger forces.

Although the Knights Templar were initially established to serve a martial purpose, they soon outgrew its original function. Using the Crusader castles donated to them by European monarchs, the Knights Templar established the world’s first banks. Knights, nobles and pilgrims who wished to travel to the Holy Land would entrust their wealth with the Templars. The Templars would, in turn, safeguard the wealth in their strongholds until their clients’ return, giving their clients letters of credit which they could deposit at other Templar strongholds on the road to Jerusalem in exchange for money. Although, being a monastic order, they could not charge interest on the treasures they safeguarded, they could charge rent for the space the treasure occupied. The Knights Templar also earned revenue from landowning, farming, managing vineyards, and importing and exporting, all the while still receiving donations from Europe. In no time, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ were extraordinarily wealthy, although individual
members were forbidden from personally owning any of the Order’s wealth.

Throughout this time, ancient holy cities were constantly being taken and retaken by various Crusader and Jihadi armies. Treasure was constantly switching hands. According to legend, during this time, the Knights Templar came into the possession of a number of priceless religious treasures. One supposed treasure was the Holy Grail, the Holy Chalice used at the Last Supper in which, according to legend, Joseph of Arimathea caught Christ’s blood following the Crucifixion. Other treasures believed to have been acquired by the Knights Templar include the Holy Lance (the spear used by the Roman centurion Longinus to pierce the side of Jesus during the Crucifixion) and the Shroud of Turin (the linen cloth believed by some to be Jesus’ burial shroud).

On July 4, 1187, a battle was fought at the so-called Horns of Hattin between Crusader armies, including the Knights Templar, and an army of the Egyptian Ayyubid Sultanate commanded by Sultan Salah ad-Din (also known as Saladin). Due to some poor tactical decisions, the Crusader army was drawn out onto an arid plateau and cut off from natural water sources. When the Crusaders were overwhelmed by thirst, the Muslim army attacked and utterly destroyed them. It was one of the most crushing defeats the Christian armies ever suffered during the Crusades. In the aftermath of this decisive battle, Salah ad-Din’s army swept through the Holy Land and captured a number of Crusader cities, including Jerusalem.

This Islamic conquest sparked the Third Crusade, in which King Philip II of France, King Richard I of England (also known as Richard the Lionheart) and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I of Germany and Italy (also known as Frederick Barbarossa) led massive armies from Europe to the Holy Land. En route, the legendary 68-year-old Frederick Barbarossa drowned while trying to swim across the Saleph (now known as the Gosku) River in Anatolia, and his huge army immediately turned back. The French and English armies, however, continued on and retook a number of Palestinian cities. At the end of the Third Crusade, Jerusalem remained in Muslim hands. As a result, the Knights Templar- along with the other religious military orders the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Order- set up their new headquarters in the freshly-recaptured city of Acre. Throughout the following century, their influence and wealth grew.

In 1291, an Egyptian Mamluk army under the command of Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil laid siege to Acre. By Friday 18, 1291, all of the city save for the huge Templar Fortress had been captured by the Mamluk army. Al-Ashraf Khalil agreed to allow the remaining Templars safe passage to the nearby island of Cyprus, and sent in a force to oversee the evacuation. This force was promptly massacred by the Templars. That night, the Templar commander, along with a handful of hand-picked knights, fled to the docks by way of a secret underground tunnel (rediscovered in 1994) along with the fabled Templar treasure. These knights shipped the treasure to Cyprus, where the Knights Templar would later establish its new headquarters. According to legend, some of the most valuable artifacts from this treasury were later shipped to France. The following morning, the captain of the Templar Fortress, along with a small guard, rode into the Mamluk camp to discuss terms. The captain and his men were immediately executed in retaliation for the massacre perpetrated the night before. The remaining Templar knights and men-at-arms put up a last stand, which culminated in the destruction of the Templar Fortress. In the end, all of the Acre Templars were killed. This Muslim capture of Acre sounded the death knell of the Christian occupation of the Levant and was the beginning of the end of the Crusades.

During the late 13th Century, tensions grew between the Knights Templar and the French King Philip IV, also known as Philip the Fair. King Philip was deeply indebted to the Templars, having borrowed from them heavily in order to finance his war with England. He also feared that the Templars were too powerful, and that they might establish a monastic state in Languedoc, a region in southern France in which they had a strong presence. Secretly, Philip plotted to disband the Knights Templar, which had somewhat fallen from grace since the Muslim re-conquest of the Holy Land, and appropriate their enormous wealth.

In 1305, an ousted Templar knight accused his former Order of criminal activity. Although most agreed that the accusations were false, Philip took advantage of them and pressured the Pope to investigate them. At that time, the Catholic Church was headed by Pope Clement V- a French-born pontiff who, by many accounts, was a weak Pope who allowed himself to be easily manipulated by the powerful French monarch. Pope Clement V’s apparent willingness to bend to the will of the French king might be attributed, at least in part in part, to the fate of his predecessor, Pope Boniface VIII; in the fall of 1303, Pope Boniface was beaten within an inch of his life by members of a French- Italian embassy on the orders of King Philip, who disagreed with the Pope’s decree that Church property be exempt from taxation. Shortly thereafter, he came down with a fever, and little more than a month later he died.

On the dawn of Friday, October 13, 1307- a date which some have linked with Western superstition that Friday 13 is an unlucky day- French soldiers rounded up a large number of French Templars, including the Order’s leader, 70 year-old Grand Master Jacques de Molay, and seized the Templar assets in France. The knights were immediately thrown into prison cells and accused of all sorts of blasphemy, from spitting on the cross during initiation rites to idol worship- charges which many of the accused, including the Grand Master, confessed to under torture.

According to legend, a number of Templars had been forewarned of the French conspiracy against them. These men, in the early autumn of 1307, gathered together a number of important Templar treasures, which had been secreted away in various Templar strongholds in France, and brought them to the French port city of La Rochelle. When the Templars were rounded up by French authorities on October 13, 1307, several Templar galleys laden with this treasure left the port and were never seen again.

The October 13 arrests, and the confessions extracted from the Templar knights under torture, took the whole of Europe completely by surprise. In an effort to legitimize his actions, King Philip IV of France aggressively appealed to Pope Clement, and on November 22, 1307, the Pope issued a Papal Bull instructing all European Christian monarchs to similarly arrest and try the Knights Templar in their respective countries on threat of excommunication. Although most Christian kings were doubtful of the charges laid against the Templars, England, the Holy Roman Empire (Germany and Italy), the Spanish kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, and the Crusader kingdom of Cyprus (where the last headquarters of the Knights Templar was located) acceded to the Pope’s demands.

In the fall of 1307, Templar knights were rounded up all over Europe and imprisoned in castle dungeons. Templar lands and assets were confiscated. Inquisition trials were held. While under torture, some of the incarcerated knights confessed to committing all sorts of bizarre blasphemies. Although most later recanted their confessions, scores of Templars were convicted of heresy and burnt at the stake. Among those condemned to death was Grand Master Jacques de Molay, who was burned alive in a Paris square on March 18, 1314. Before he was executed, de Molay asked that his captors bind his hands as though in prayer and tie him to the stake so that he could face Notre Dame Cathedral.

Following the Templar trials, in 1309 Pope Clement V absolved Grand Master Jacques de Molay, along with the rest of the Templar leadership, of the charges brought against them. After restoring the good name of the Knights Templar, in 1312 Pope Clement V dissolved the Order and granted its assets not to King Philip, but rather to the Knights Hospitaller. And thus, the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Jesus Christ were no more.

To read about the treasures many believe the Knights Templar buried on Oak Island, and the evidence cited by proponents of the Knights Templar/Oak Island theory, check out our book Oak Island.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4 Finale: Blood is Thicker

Wow! What a way to end the season! Read on for a Plot Summary of the Season 4 Finale of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island. Although I could have included an Analysis at the end of this article as I usually do, speculating as to the nature of the mysterious discoveries made in this episode, I imagine many of our questions will be answered in The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down episode scheduled to air next week. See you then!

Plot Summary

The episode begins at the Money Pit, where the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. are sinking a fourth shaft, dubbed GAL1 (George and Anne Lagina #1) in honour of Rick and Marty’s late parents. Craig Tester, upon observing the hand-hewn wooden timbers being extracted from the shaft, expresses his belief to Rick Lagina that they might have intersected a searcher tunnel constructed in 1861 by the Oak Island Association, which connected the ‘Oak Island Association Shaft #2’ with the Money Pit, located 18 feet to the east.

oak island money pit map

Meanwhile, on Oak Island’s Lot 18, Marty Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and metal detection expert Gary Drayton sift through the debris brought up from GAL1 with a metal detector. In time, Drayton discovers what he believes to be an iron sailing cloth needle, used for sewing canvas sails. Shortly thereafter, he discovers a gold-plated military officer’s button. The narrator reminds us that this find is congruent with Oak Island Tours Inc.’s discoveries in Season 4, Episode 8, which included a dandy button, a lead ingot used for making musket balls, an identificatory plate from a musket, and six copper coins bearing the image of King George II of Great Britain- items suggesting that Oak Island’s subterranean anomalies are the work of 18th Century British military men.

Later that day, the Oak Island crew is visited by sisters Jean and Joan McGinnis, descendants of Daniel McGinnis, one of the three co-discoverers of the Money Pit. This is not the McGinnis sisters’ first Oak Island adventure; in Season 3, Episode 13, Jean and Joan, along with their late sister Joyce, paid a visit to the island, where they presented the Oak Island team with a small gold cross allegedly discovered by Daniel McGinnis in the Money Pit more than 200 years ago.

Jean and Joan have come to Oak Island to honour the memory of their late sister Joyce. Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Jack Begley accompany the sisters to the foundations of the old McGinnis home on the western end of Oak Island. There, beneath one of the foundations stones, they inter a bauble of colourful blown glass crafted from Joyce’s ashes.

Later, the party heads to the Oak Island Visitor’s Centre, where art and antiquities expert Dr. Lori Verderame examines the McGinnis sisters’ gold cross. After careful scrutiny, Dr. Verderame concludes that the cross is composed of high quality (22-24 carat) rose gold, and was likely cast in the Spanish West Indies sometime between 1550 and 1700. She also states that the purpose of the cross’s many holes was to house emeralds. The narrator follows up on this revelation by summarizing the theory that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to the crew of a Spanish treasure galleon, and that the Oak Island treasure consists of silver, gold, precious stones, and other New World riches.

Next, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse ask Dr. Verderame to appraise additional historical artifacts they have unearthed on Oak Island. Verderame quickly concludes that the identifactory musket plate discovered in Season 4, Episode 8 is inscribed with the name ‘Ball’, indicating that it likely belonged to Samuel Ball, the one-time Oak Island resident and Revolutionary War veteran on whose property the item was discovered. Verderame also examines the railroad spike-like object Gary Drayton discovered in the Oak Island swamp in Season 4, Episode 7, which Drayton claimed to be a nail from the deck of a wooden sailing ship. Dr. Verderame claims that she will need to examine this object more closely before she can accurately speculate as to its nature.

The following day, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester meet with contractor Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd. at the Money Pit site. Folkins informs the two treasure hunters that Borehole GAL1 has been excavated to a depth of 151 feet, and that it has, thus far, encountered nothing of interest aside from a handful of wood fragments.

On Oak Island’s Lot 18, Dave Blankenship, Jack Begley, and Gary Drayton examine more of the spoils from GAL1. After searching for some time, they discover a piece of hammered metal sheet bearing a small square hole.

Back at the Money Pit area, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester watch as the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. bring up load after load from Borehole GAL1. As Rick Lagina joins the men, the hammergrab being used to excavate the shaft emerges from the caisson with large wooden timbers in its jaws. A subsequent hammergrab scoop reveals more of the same. However, the timbers from this second scoop appear to be coated in a viscous black substance which Marty suggests is resin or pine tar.

Shortly after Dave Blankenship joins the crew, the hammergrab emerges from the caisson with a sizable sheet of hammered metal. Every crew member present is dumbfounded by this strange new discovery. Craig Tester suggests that perhaps the metal- which was brought up from a depth of 154 feet- is a remnant of a protective cover used in conjunction with the Onslow or Truro Company’s cast iron steam-powered pumps. Veteran treasure hunter Dave Blankenship states that the metal scrap”has no business being down there that I know of.”

The next load from GAL1 contains similar metal scraps. It also contains a piece of charcoal, one of the items allegedly discovered in the original Money Pit by the Onslow Company in 1804, along with coconut fibre, clay putty, and beach stones. The narrator reminds us that, over the years, some Oak Island researchers have postulated that the charcoal discovered in the Money Pit are relics of a subterranean furnace which the original excavators used to draw fresh air into the shaft.

Upon hearing of the new discoveries, Marty Lagina joins the crew. He examines the metal scraps, and theorizes that they might comprise the impenetrable iron object encountered at a depth of 171 feet (161 feet today, as a result of Robert Dunfield’s heavy duty operations in the late 1960’s) by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897.

As members of Oak Island Tours Inc. speculate as to the nature of the mysterious metal sheets, Andrew Folkins informs them that the GAL1 caisson has encountered an impenetrable substance and is no longer advancing into the earth. After some deliberation, the crew agrees that they ought to attempt to break up the impenetrable substance with a 4-ton chisel bit, and then excavate the broken rubble with the hammergrab.

While the crew waits for Irving Equipment Ltd. to perform the chisel bit operation, Rick Lagina, Jack Begley, Charles Barkhouse, and Dan Blankenship meet with Dr. Lori Verderame at Blankenship’s Oak Island residence. There, Dr. Verderame informs the men the spike discovered by Gary Drayton in the Oak Island swamp is, as Drayton predicted, a wrought iron barrote nail of the type commonly used in the construction of Spanish galleon decks. She dates the artifact to between 1575 and 1600.

Back at the Money Pit, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester watch as the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. prepare to continue excavating GAL1 with a smaller hammergrab. The narrator informs us that the chisel bit operation sufficiently loosened the earth below the 154-foot level to allow it to be excavated with a smaller hammergrab, but that the caisson will still not advance any deeper.

The first load brought up from GAL1 with the smaller hammergrab contains a thick, bent, perforated steel rectangle which Craig Tester believes to be a “corner plate”. This load also contains a large rusted steel washer which is congruent with the corner plate’s perforations. Additional loads from GAL1 contain primitive-looking steel nuts, screws, and other interesting metal objects.

Suddenly, during a retrieval operation, the hammergrab snags on some sort of underground obstacle. After some maneuvering by crane operator Michel Ouellette, the hammergrab breaks free and is winched to the surface. Loathe to damage the hammergrab or further jeopardize the structural integrity of the underground object they seem to have discovered, the Oak Island team decides to wrap up operations in Borehole GAL1.

Three days later, the Oak Island crew congregates at the War Room. There, they contact Dr. Lori Verderame via Skype. Verderame informs the team that the button discovered in GAL1 is, indeed, a gold-plated button which bears the characteristics of British military officer buttons used between 1775 and 1815. She goes on to claim that the bent, perforated steel rectangle brought up from GAL1 is a decorative bracket “used to actually attach the metal or wooden sides of treasure chests”. She maintains that the nature of this artifact- dated from 1650-1800-, along with other pieces of metal brought up from GAL1, seems to imply that the men who buried treasure on Oak Island used recycled ship materials to construct their treasure chest. The team thanks Dr. Verderame for her work and ends the call.

After the call, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc., cognizant of the rapid approach of winter and the end of another season on Oak Island, discuss what they would like to accomplish in the future. Rick proposes that the team conduct a rigorous metallurgical analyses of the metal brought up from GAL1- a proposal to which Marty agrees wholeheartedly. Craig Tester then expresses his desire to further explore the Oak Island swamp- an endeavor which Marty is less keen on pursuing, but which both Rick and Charles support. Jack Begley then maintains that he would like to continue excavations on Smith’s Cove in light of their recent discoveries there.

Marty Lagina commends the team on their incredible discoveries this season, and asks whether or not they think it is “prudent to continue”. Dan Blankenship advises the team to spend the winter contemplating that question, and recommends that they “take sufficient time to analyze the pros and cons” before making a decision. Marty, Craig, and Rick agree to consider Blankenship’s advice, while Charles and Dan passionately implore their fellow team members to not give up the search. In the end, the team agrees to “adjourn for the season and contemplate what comes next.” With that, the season is ended.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 14: Of Sticks and Stones

This week’s episode of The Curse of Oak Island is out. Let’s have a look.

Plot Summary

At the Money Pit area, brothers Rick and Marty Lagina examine fragments of wood that have just been brought up from the 100-102-foot depth of their newest shaft, Borehole T1. Of particular interest is a small oak log, a sample of which has been sent away for carbon testing. Rick suggests that the log might be a component of the oak platforms allegedly found in the original Money Pit at 10-foot intervals more than 200 years ago.

The Lagina brothers consult contractor Andrew Folkins of Irving Equipment Ltd., who tells them that Borehole T1 is currently 112 feet deep, and that he and his team plan to excavate to the 160-foot level. The contractors continue their work, hauling up another load of debris from T1 which contains yet another small oak log.

While the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. continue their work, Marty Lagina reveals that the crew brought up a peculiar piece of worked wood from Borehole T1. This piece of wood, which Marty speculates is a hardwood on account of its density, is fashioned into a wedge, and is unlike any other piece of wood the team has extracted from the Money Pit area.

After Irving Equipment Ltd. shuts down operations for the day due to uncomfortably proximate lightning, Rick and Marty pay a visit to Dan Blankenship. At Blankenship’s Oak Island residence, the Lagina brothers present the veteran treasure hunter with the various pieces of wood brought up from Borehole T1. Blankenship sniffs several of the dark oak logs, finds them to be foul-smelling, and concludes that they are, indeed, considerably old.

Later, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Jack Begley invite stone masons Mike Welling and Mark Fougere to inspect the large, head-shaped boulder unearthed from the centre of Nolan’s Cross (a cross-like arrangement of five conical boulders on Oak Island) by the late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan. The top of the stone bears a cutlass-shaped indentation which Barkhouse claims was much more defined when he first laid eyes on it twenty years ago. Welling and Fougere declare that the stone is sandstone, and that it is “difficult to say” whether or not it was shaped by man.

nolans cross map

After they have finished with the ‘head stone’, the treasure hunters take Welling and Fougere to the large granite boulder at the bottom of Nolan’s cross. The stone masons immediately marvel at the smoothness of a particular section the boulder’s surface, near its base. Mike Welling remarks “I don’t think it’s natural at all.” The stone masons suggest that it is possible that the boulder’s smoothness is a result of its being dragged.

Later that day, members of Oak Island Tours Inc. meet in the War Room. There, Craig Tester briefs them on the results of the carbon dating of the wood brought up from Borehole T1. The first piece of wood, a fragment of timber brought up from the 102-foot level, was dated from 1670-1780 with a 95% degree of accuracy. The second fragment of wood was dated from 1655-1695. The third and final piece of wood, a length of blackened oak log, was also carbon dated from 1655-1695. The team members share their suspicions that the oak log might be a piece of one of the original Money Pit platforms, and discuss the implications of this possibility.

Later, at the Money Pit area, Rick and Marty Lagina learn that Borehole T1 has nearly reached bedrock. Unfortunately, aside from fragments of old wood, nothing more of interest has been brought up from the shaft. After watching the hammergrab bring up several loads of rock, clay, mud, and water, the Lagina brothers concede that things are looking bleak for Borehole T1.

Suddenly, the Oak Island team is approached by Andrew Folkins, who explains that the men of Irving Equipment Ltd. are unable to advance the T1 caisson beyond the 156-foot level. Marty suggests that perhaps the caisson has encountered metal. The narrator then describes how previous treasure hunters, including William Chappell and Frederick Blair of the Oak Island Treasure Company, had encountered what appeared to be impenetrable iron barriers at depth. Unfortunately, a subsequent hammergrab investigation reveals Oak Island Tours Inc.’s impenetrable object to be bedrock. With great reluctance, the team decides to put an end to excavations in Borehole T1.

Later, at the War Room, Rick and Marty Lagina phone up Craig Tester in order to discuss their predicament. Marty begins by saying, “Well, by this time you are aware that we have now dug three very deep, very expensive, very large holes in the Money Pit, but no vault, no treasure.” He says that Oak Island has dealt them three strikes, and that if their Oak Island treasure hunt were a baseball game, they would be ‘out’. Rick counters by saying that the analogy would be relevant if they were in the ‘bottom of the ninth’; according to Rick, Oak Island Tours Inc. is, in fact, in the bottom of the eight inning, figuratively speaking. For some time, the brothers passionately discuss whether or not they ought to wrap up their affairs in the Money Pit area. Ultimately, Rick, Marty and Craig agree to sink one last shaft at the location at which Rick believes the Money Pit treasure to be. The Lagina brothers preemptively christen this new shaft “the George and Anne Lagina #1”, or GAL1, in honour of their parents.

Rick explains that, according to accepted Oak Island history, the original Money Pit shaft collapsed two times in the last 200 years. These collapses, he believes, likely scattered the Money Pit treasure throughout a relatively wide area, and he would like to sink Oak Island Tours Inc.’s fourth shaft in the location at which it will most likely intercept treasure fragments. The narrator then describes how the Oak Island Association, in 1861, dug a shaft beside the Money Pit and tunneled laterally towards it in order to avoid the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Unfortunately, this tunnel undermined the structural integrity of the entire Money Pit area; before the tunnel reached its destination, the Money Pit itself collapsed, immediately flooding the tunnel with mud and clay. Ever since this first collapse of the Money Pit, many Oak Island theorists have speculated that the Oak Island treasure is dispersed throughout the Money Pit area.

Later, the Lagina brothers relay their decision to sink a fourth shaft to Andrew Folkins. The men mark the location of the future borehole with spray paint and prepare to sink their final hole.


Oak Logs

In this episode, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. brought up a number of old oak logs from Borehole T1. When the logs were carbon dated from 1655-1695, crew members speculated that they might be relics of the 10-foot oak log platforms allegedly discovered in the original Money Pit.

According to many versions of the 1795 Oak Island discovery legend, Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan unearthed three platforms comprised of tightly-fitted oak logs embedded into the clay walls of the Money Pit at 10, 20, and 30 feet below the surface. Most sources claim that the oak logs were six to eight inches in diameter, and were rotten on the outside, indicating that they had been there for some time before the discovery.

Building uponMcGinnis’, Smith’s, and Vaughan’s discovery, the Onslow Company’s (Oak Island’s first real treasure hunting syndicate) excavations revealed that platforms of oak logs embedded in the clay walls that surrounded them punctuated the circular shaft of the Money Pit to a depth of 90 feet. According to some accounts, covering some of the oak platforms were layers of charcoal, beach stones, blue clay, and coconut fibres.

Nolan’s Head Stone

In 1981, Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, a professional surveyor, discovered five large cone-shaped granite boulders on his property which, when viewed from the air, form a massive cross- Nolan’s Cross. Nolan also discovered a sixth stone buried underground at the centre of this cross. This sixth stone, composed of softer sandstone, vaguely resembles a human head, and bears a cutlass-shaped indentation on its crown. To date, no one is really sure whether the stone’s peculiar features are the result of natural erosion or the hand of man.

The measurements between Nolan’s head stone and the four granite boulders that surround it are all exactly the same: precisely 360 feet.

Money Pit Collapse

In this episode, Rick Lagina states his belief that the Money Pit treasure is scattered at depth as a result of two major Money Pit collapses.

money pit daigram

The Money Pit first collapsed in 1850. The men of the Truro Company, Oak Island’s second major treasure-hunting syndicate, had just discovered the box drains at Smith’s Cove, and were determined to circumvent the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel (which’s existence the box drains implied). They dug a shaft 18 feet south of the Money Pit to a depth of 112 feet before tunneling laterally towards the Money Pit. Unfortunately, this shaft flooded with seawater once it came within a short distance of its destination. The flooding was accompanied by a tremendous crash and the crumpling of the cribbing in the Money Pit, leading the company men to speculate that the bottom of the Money Pit had likely dropped out into one of the three tunnels below it. This unfortunate development spelled the end of the Truro Company.

More than a decade later, in 1861, members of the Oak Island Association encountered a similar situation. Cognizant of the presence of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, the Oak Island Association members sank a 118-foot shaft 18 feet west of the Money Pit (the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel almost certainly approached the Money Pit from the east) before tunneling laterally towards it. Much to the pleasure of the Association men, the tunnel reached the Pit without being flooded out; the circumvention was a success.

With the elusive treasure nowhere to be seen at that 118-foot depth, the labourers dug through the Money Pit to the eastern side. This decision would cost them dearly; as soon as they had breached the eastern wall of the Money Pit, water began to seep in from the east. In no time, the shaft was completely flooded with seawater. To make matters worse, crew men noticed that water was also starting to seep into the Money Pit which had, until then, remained relatively dry. George Mitchell, the superintendent of the Oak Island Association, rose to meet this new challenge by initiating a huge bailing operation involving sixty men, thirty horses, and several 70- gallon bailing casks. The men, animals, and machines worked around the clock for three days straight. By the third day, the flooding problem was under control.

At this point, the Association men hoped to clear the tunnel they had previously dug- which, as a result of the flooding, had become choked with mud and clay- and resume their excavation of the Money Pit where they had left off. No sooner had labourers entered the tunnel to clear the mud, however, than, according to Jotham McCully, “they heard a tremendous crash in the Money Pit and barely escaped being caught by the rush of mud which followed them into the West pit and filled it up 7 feet in less than three minutes. In the meantime a stick of oak timber of considerable girth and 3 ½ feet in length was ejected with the mud.” Apparently, as had been the case with the Truro Shaft in 1850, the tunnel underneath the Money Pit had weakened the structural integrity of the layer of earth above. The Money Pit had collapsed, and along with it all the cribbing the Oak Island Association had constructed. The only comforts the Association members could find in this catastrophe were in the discoveries made by labourers who had been clearing the tunnel of debris at the time of the Money Pit’s collapse. One of the labourers recovered man worked wood which was “stained black with age.” Another recovered an object which has been described as yellow-painted wooden dish or bottom of a keg. Another still had recovered what treasure hunter James McNutt described as “a piece of juniper with bark on [and] cut at each end with an edge tool,” as well as “a spruce slab with a mining auger hole in it.” These encouraging finds verified what the Oak Island Association already believed: that sometime in the distant past, men with more primitive technology had made a colossal effort to dig deep beneath Oak Island, presumably to bury a treasure of incalculable value.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 13: One of Seven

Let’s take a look at Season 4, Episode 13 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island, entitled One of Seven.

Plot Summary

The episode begins at the Money Pit area, where contractors are excavating Borehole T1- Oak Island Tours Inc.’s third shaft in the area- with a hammergrab. There, contractor Andrew Folkins of Irvine Equipment Ltd. informs Rick Lagina and Craig Tester that they have dug the shaft to a depth of 72 feet, and are encountering significantly less water than they had encountered in Borehole V3, located a mere four feet away, at that particular depth. The narrator suggests that perhaps the Oak Island team has been successful in avoiding the infamous flood tunnels that have plagued Oak Island treasure hunters for centuries.

Later that day, the Oak Island team congregates in the War Room. There, they meet with researcher Doug Crowell, and also with Dr. Kevin Knight, a professor of Computer Sciences at the University of Southern California, and his graduate assistant Nada Aldarrab, via Skype. Knight and Aldarrab have attempted to decode La Formule, the code inscribed on one of the documents introduced by New York Knights Templar researcher in Season 4, Episode 1. Knight briefly explains how he used a number of computer programs to determine that La Formule is likely a simple substitution cipher which, when decoded, forms a French message. Knight maintains that the decoded message, which is worn and truncated at the edges, likely reads:







When translated into English, this message reads:







Craig Tester suggests that Knight and Aldarrab’s interpretation of La Formule is a good one, but that too many of the symbols are missing (it appears as if the material on which La Formule was initially inscribed had worn away at certain sections, leaving the message fragmented and incomplete) for him to concede that their interpretation is, without a doubt, entirely accurate. Doug Crowell and Marty Lagina then suggest that, if Knight and Aldarrab’s interpretation is indeed accurate, or mostly accurate, then the message on La Formule warns treasure hunters not to dig past the 90 foot stone, but rather to tunnel away from the 90-foot level at an angle towards some sort of chamber. Rick then suggests that the “FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY TWO FEET” might refer to Smith’s Cove box drains, which are believed to be located 520 feet east of the Money Pit.

The narrator then explains that Zena Halpern, who introduced La Formule in Season 4, Episode 1, told the team off-camera that La Formule was, according to a note written at the bottom, but one of seven similar documents. Rick Lagina then suggests that the team ought to try to find the other six pieces of La Formule puzzle. All agree, and with that the meeting is ended.

Later, Rick Lagina, Jack Begley, Dan Henksee, and archaeologist Laird Niven meet at Smith’s Cove, around which, in the previous episode, a cofferdam was successfully erected. With the help of heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt, the team digs into a particular section of the Cove prescribed by Dan Henskee. Immediately, Gerhardt’s shallow hole fills with water, which Dan Henskee suggests is not seepage from the ocean.

After pumping the water out and digging further, the team uncovers what appears to be a layer of carefully-placed beach stones- one of the layers of the Smith’s Cove filter purportedly discovered by the Truro Company in the mid 1800’s. Unfortunately, they are unable to further excavate this section due to the presence of a large boulder, which’s removal, Gerhardt maintains, would compromise the structural integrity of the cofferdam. The team agrees to postpone their Smith’s Cove excavations until the area contained within the cofferdam is drier and more structurally sound.

That night, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room with local property owner and treasure hunter Gary Clayton. The narrator explains that Clayton, who hails from Arizona, owns Little Mash Island, a tiny island located a short distance from Oak Island. When prompted by Rick, he declares, “Friend, I brought you the key that unlocks the door to your dreams.” The narrator then explains that Clayton, upon purchasing Little Mash Island in 1988, conducted a series of surveys, drilling operations and excavations there on a hunch that it might have a connection with Oak Island. Clayton then explains to Rick and Charles that his investigations on Little Mash Island have led him to believe that a tunnel runs from his island, beneath the sea floor, to Oak Island.

Clayton then explains that he is in the possession of some sort of undisclosed technology which can accurately map out underground caverns and voids. This technology, he claims, enabled him to discover a 63-foot-long foot-shaped void located 231 feet beneath Little Mash Island.

When prompted, Clayton outlines his believe that Oak Island and Little Mash Island’s underground workings can be attributed to Admiral George Anson, an 18th Century British Royal Navy officer perhaps most famous for his circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s. The narrator then explains that, according to legend, the Royal Society- an English scientific society with alleged ties to Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, and the Knights Templar- entrusted Anson with “a vast, priceless treasure”, and “revealed a coded map [to him] that relied on constellations, and which was based on navigation calculations made at the Royal Greenwich Observatory under a commission by King Charles II in 1675.” According to Clayton’s theory, Anson’s circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s was really a mission to follow the Royal Society’s celestial map to a location in the New World, and to bury the treasure there. The narrator remarks that this theory is compatible with metal detection expert Gary Drayton’s Oak Island discoveries in Season 4, Episode 8.

Clayton goes on to explain that his underground mapping of Little Mash Island apparently revealed the presence of underground chambers which contain tables, cups, altars, Maya calendars and codices, a tomb, several hundred tons of gold bullion, and other unidentifiable objects. He then offers to serve as a consultant for Oak Island Tours Inc. in exchange for “15% of anything [found] using [his] information for one year.” Rick agrees to discuss Clayton’s offer with Marty, Craig Tester, and Dan Blankenship. With that, the meeting is ended.

Later, the Oak Island team gathers at the Smith’s Cove cofferdam. There, they analyze the layer of beach stones they have dug into and debate whether or not they were placed there by man. As they examine the stones, veteran treasure hunter Dan Blankenship arrives on the scene and suggests that the find bears characteristics of a French drain, a trench filled with rocks designed to redirect surface water away from an area. Unfortunately, the team is still unable to further excavate in the direction they would like to, due to the risk of compromising the integrity of the cofferdam. The team, satisfied that they may have discovered original workings, agrees to terminate the Smith’s Cove search for the season.

Later that day, Rick Lagina and Craig Test pay a visit to the Money Pit area, where Borehole T1 is being excavated. As they watch, a hammergrab emerges from the caisson bearing old, hand-cut oak timbers. The contractors inform the treasure hunters that the timbers came from a depth of 102 feet, Craig Tester speculates that the wood might have come from a lateral searcher tunnel.

At the 105-foot depth, the hammergrab brings up a small oak log or branch, reminiscent of the oak logs said to have comprised the platforms in the original Money Pit. Rick and Craig agree that they ought to test the wood to see if it predates the Money Pit’s 1795 discovery.


George Anson

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, researcher Gary Clayton informs Oak Island Tours Inc. of his theory that Oak Island’s underground structures are the work of celebrated 18th Century English naval officer George Anson. He suggests that Anson, during his famous circumnavigation of the globe in the 1740’s, deposited a treasure on Oak Island at the behest of London’s Royal Society.

George Anson was born in Shugborough Hall- a manor in Staffordshire, England- on April 23, 1697. In 1712, 15-year-old Anson entered the British Royal Navy. At that time, most of Europe was embroiled in the War of Spanish Succession, a conflict in which the Holy Roman Empire (and its allies, the Grand Alliance: England, Portugal, Hapsburg Spain, and the Dutch Republic) and France (and its allies: Bourbon Spain and Bavaria) fought to put and keep, respectively, their preferred royal candidates on the Spanish throne. During this turbulent period, teenage Anson got his first taste of Navy life, a life which he would pursue to the fullest.

Anson continued to serve in the Royal Navy after the war was over, earning a promotion to lieutenant in 1716. That same year, he was transferred to England’s new Baltic Fleet, aiding Russian Tsar Peter the Great in his Great Northern War against Sweden in the frigid Baltic Sea.

Anson served in the Baltic Fleet for two years before being deployed to the Mediterranean, where Philip V, King of Spain, had just invaded the islands of Sicily and Sardinia (which he had lost in the War of Spanish Succession and hoped to regain). Under the command of Admiral George Byng, Anson and the British fleet attacked the Spanish fleet off Sicily in the Battle of Cape Passaro, a battle which would touch off the War of the Quadruple Alliance (fought between Spain and the Quadruple Alliance (the Holy Roman Empire, Great Britain, France, and the Dutch Republic)).

In 1722, two years after the war, Anson was promoted to commander, given command of the HMS Weazel, and tasked with suppressing smuggling between Britain and Holland. He carried out his task quickly and efficiently, and was rewarded with a promotion to post-captain. In the ensuing years, he climbed the ranks of the Royal Navy, eventually earning the rank of commodore. His various duties included protecting trans-Atlantic convoys from South Carolina; patrolling the English Channel; patrolling the West African coast; and attacking Spanish holdings in South America during the War of Jenkins’ Ear (a conflict between Britian and Spain, which was precipitated by the amputation of British merchant captain Robert Jenkins’ ear at the hands of the Spanish West Indies Coast Guard).

Commodore Anson

In 1740, during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, Commodore Anson was given command of six warships, 1354 sailors, and five hundred troops of questionable quality (half of them comprised of sick, old, and wounded soldiers from the Royal Hospital Chelsea (an English veterans’ hospital), and the other half consisting of green, untrained marines), along with instructions to cross the Atlantic, round Cape Horn (the southernmost tip of South America), sail north up South America’s west coast, and attack the Spanish port cities of Callao (Peru), Lima (Peru), and Panama.

Ansons Voyage around the world map

Anson’s voyage across the Atlantic was a nightmare. After narrowly avoiding a squadron of Spanish warships near the Portuguese island of Madeira, Anson’s crew was ravaged by typhus (a disease transmitted by lice) and dysentery. Upon reaching Santa Catarina Island off the southern coast of Brazil, the squadron stopped to take on firewood, fresh water, and provisions, to purge the ship of vermin, and to make some much-needed repairs. During this time, Anson’s already-sick crew was plagued by mosquito-borne malaria. By the time the squadron was ready to set sail again, scores of crewmen had succumbed to sickness.

After evading Spanish warships near the eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan, Anson and his men stopped at the natural harbour of Puerto San Julian. After resting some time the squadron continued down the coast and around Cape Horn, battling storms, icebergs, unknown ocean currents, and scurvy in the process. By the time they reached the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of sailors had died, two ships had turned around, and a third ship had wrecked on an island off the Chilean coast, where its crew mutinied.

Anson’s remaining crew stopped at the Juan Fernandez Islands, where they recovered their health and repaired their ships. During this time, they captured a number of unsuspecting merchant vessels, appropriating their bullion and imprisoning their crew. An Irish crew member of one of these newly captured merchant vessels informed Anson that a Spanish ship bound for the town of Paita, Peru, had spotted Anson’s ships not long before. Anson decided to attack the town immediately, and succeeded in capturing it almost completely without bloodshed. After stripping the town of its wealth, Anson burned it to the ground, with the exception of two churches. He also sank the Spanish vessels in the town’s harbour.

Hoping to capture a Manila galleon- a Spanish treasure galleon richly-laden with Ming Chinese goods, which regularly hauled its precious cargo across the Pacific, from Manila (Philippines) to Acapulco (on the west coast of Mexico)- Anson and his crew headed west. A short distance into their journey, they began to suffer from scurvy and serious ship leaks. By the time they made it to the tropical isle of Tinian (one of the Mariana Islands), about nine men, on average, were dying each day.

After recovering on Tinian, Anson and his crew set out for the Portuguese trading port of Macau, China (although Manila galleons typically departed from Manila, Anson reasoned that the next convoy would likely go by way of Macao, as the Spanish were now aware of his presence). Anson reached Macau without incident, and, after encountering some difficulties with the Chinese authorities, had his one remaining ship completely repaired. When the repairs were complete, Anson and his crew headed south in search of a Manila galleon.

By chance, the British sailors stumbled upon a Spanish galleon, called Nestra Señora de Covadonga, en route to Manila. After Anson and his crew mercilessly bombarded the vessel with cannonballs, grapeshot, and carefully aimed musket balls fired from marksmen stationed in the masts, the Spanish surrendered. The British boarded the ship, discovering the gruesome product of their barrage on deck, and millions of pesos-worth of Acapulco silver in the cargo hold below.

After appropriating Nuestra Señora de Covadonga and its incredible argentic cargo, Anson made brief stops in Macao and Canton before sailing south to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. From there, he sailed east to Cape Town, South Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, north up the west African coast, and around Spain to England, successfully completing his circumnavigation of the globe. He presented his plunder to King George II, and was subsequently promoted to admiral. Although the silver of the Manila galleon made Anson, his crew, and King George II fantastically wealthy, it came at a tremendous price; of the 1,854 men who initially set out with him from England, only 188 returned.

Anson went on to serve in the Austrian War of Succession, winning a major victory at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre. He was subsequently elevated to the peerage as Lord Anson, and made First Lord of the Admiralty. Following that, he thwarted several French invasion attempts, and led the British Royal Navy to victory in the Seven Years’ War. Among the Royal Navy’s major victories during the Seven Years’ War was the Battle of Havana (1762; See Season 4, Episode 8), an event which Anson personally orchestrated. Anson was promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on July 30, 1791. Roughly a year later, he died.

It is interesting to note that Shugborough Hall, the manor in which Anson was born, has a role in several prominent Oak Island theories, most notably the Rosicrucian theory espoused by Norwegian organist and amateur cryptographer Petter Amundsen. Using George Anson’s considerable, hard-won wealth, George’s elder brother Thomas made major renovations to the manor. One of these renovations included the addition of eight megalithic monuments to the Shugborough House gardens. One of these monuments, called the Shepherd’s Monument, depicts a carved mirror-image relief of the painting The Arcadian Shepherds, by Nicolas Poussin, along with two strange carved heads and a mysterious cryptic inscription which has yet to be deciphered. Some theorists, including Petter Amundsen, believe the Shepherd’s Monument and cryptic inscription is a coded map which leads to Oak Island.

Gary Clayton’s Theory

In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc. is visited by Gary Clayton, an Oak Island theorist who owns the neighbouring Little Mash Island.

In his book The Secret Treasure of Oak Island (1978, 1988, 2004), acclaimed Oak Island researcher D’Arcy O’Connor writes that Gary Clayton, a former Baptist minister, claimed to have “solved the Oak Island mystery through the use of ciphers, mathematics, and research.” As of 2004, Clayton believed that Oak Island’s underground workings are an intricate network of tunnels constructed by the members of the Maya civilization and/or Aztec Empire “sometime between 1480 and 1520.” These tunnels lead to waterproofed, cement-lined chambers inside which, Clayton believed, the Maya and/or Aztec interred gold, silver, religious artifacts, and priceless pre-Columbian Maya codices. According to O’Connor, Clayton believed that a party of Swedes shipwrecked off the Mexican coast in the late 15th Century helped the Aztec and/or Maya people bury their treasures on Oak Island so as to save them from Spanish conquistadors. The Aztecs/Maya intended to return to Oak Island to retrieve their treasure at a later date, but were killed by the Spanish, taking the secret of the treasures’ location with them to their graves. Clayton, through the use of codes and ciphers, however, believed that he had discovered the precise locations of these long-lost treasure caches.

In 1972, Clayton, a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, formed the FHG (For His Glory) Corporation, an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate. Despite numerous attempts, Clayton and his partners were never able to convince Triton Alliance or Fred Nolan- the two parties who owned Oak Island and its Treasure Trove licence at the time- to allow them to prove their theories. According to O’Connor, Clayton, in 2004, stated, “I’ve done 45,000 hours research on this, minimum, and I just know I’m right. The individual who directed the [Oak Island] operation left clues and codes, and I’ve broken them all.”

O’Connor, with whom the secretive Clayton shared some of his findings, believes that there are several problems with the Arizonan’s theory. In his book, he maintains that some of the information which Clayton used to formulate his theory is false, including the location of Borehole 10-X. Others pieces of information from which Clayton’s theory derives include the inscriptions on the H/O stone and the 90-foot stone. Unfortunately, the only known interpretation of the inscription on Oak Island’s long-lost 90-foot stone is the Kempton inscription, which many Oak Island theorists believe to be a fabrication.

French Drains

In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc. uncovered a layer of carefully-placed beach stones beneath a section of Smith’s Cove. The Oak Island crew members were hopeful that they had located one of the layers of the legendary Smith’s Cove filter, believed to cover the Smith’s Cove box drains which funnel seawater into the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.

Veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship, upon examining the beach stones, suggested that they bore a resemblance to French drains. A French drain is a trench filled with rocks or gravel which directs groundwater away from an area. Named after American polymath Henry F. French, who first wrote about them in his book Farm Drainage (1859), French drains have been commonly employed for centuries.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 12: Hyde Park & Seek

Wow, they sure packed a lot into this episode! Read on for a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 4, Episode 12 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island

Plot Summary

At the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York, researcher Paul Troutman shows treasure hunter Rick Lagina and Rick’s nephew Alex a document indicating that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, believed that Oak Island’s treasure consisted of the Crown Jewels of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the last monarchs of France. The narrator briefly explains that Roosevelt, whose maternal grandfather invested in the Truro Company (Oak Island’s second major treasure-hunting syndicate) in the mid 1800’s, developed an interest in the Oak Island mystery at a young age, invested in the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company (another Oak Island treasure-hunting syndicate) in 1909, and retained an interest in the treasure hunt until his death in 1945.


Troutman continues to read the document, which outlines the Oak Island theory espoused by FDR: namely, that Marie Antoinette, while fleeing Paris with her husband, King Louis XVI, on the night of June 20, 1791 (during the height of the French Revolution), entrusted her Lady-in-Waiting with the Crown Jewels of France and other priceless gems. After the French monarchs’ subsequent capture, the loyal retainer brought the jewels with her across the Atlantic to the French colony of Acadia (present-day Canadian Maritimes). There, according to legend, she buried them, perhaps on Oak Island.

Rick Lagina suggests that they try to find more information on Marie Antoinette’s Lady-in-Waiting, who, he argues, held a high enough position in the French court to warrant a place in the history books. Troutman agrees, saying “we need to get to the bottom of it.”

Later that night, Rick contacts his brother Marty via Skype in his hotel room in New York City. Rick tells him about his and Alex’s experience at the FDR Presidential Library, relating Roosevelt’s Oak Island theory involving Marie Antoinette’s Lady-in-Waiting and the Crown Jewels of France. He then tells Marty that he plans to meet with Zena Halpern, the New York-based researcher who provided Oak Island Tours Inc. with several mystifying Oak Island-related documents in the Season 4 premiere. Marty congratulates him on his findings and wishes him further success, and the conversation is ended.

The following day, Rick Lagina and Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell travel to Roslyn, New York, to meet with historian Zena Halpern. Halpern, upon meeting the two men, invites them into her home. While the three of them settle around Halpern’s kitchen table, the narrator explains that Helpern discovered three strange documents by chance while researching hypothetical pre-Columbian trans-Atlantic voyages. One of these documents, bearing the date ‘1374’, appears to be a map of Oak Island. In Season 4, Episode 2, the Oak Island team investigated one the points of interest on this map, labelled “la traffe”, or “the hatch,” without making any significant discoveries. The second document Zena discovered is a map of what appears to be Nova Scotia, bearing the date ‘1179’. Halpern’s third document is a code which, when deciphered, appears to form a French message (see Season 4, Episode 1).

Zena Halpern informs Lagina and Crowell that, in her upcoming book The Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond, she “covers a 12th Century [1178-1180] Templar voyage” undertaken by an English nobleman and alleged Templar knight named Ralph de Sudeley for the purpose of recovering “ancient scrolls that were hidden in North America.” The narrator briefly mentions that some historians believe that de Sudeley discovered precious religious artifacts, including the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, while crusading in Palestine. Halpern claims that de Sudeley and his crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to North America, and stopped at Oak Island along the way.

Helpern then makes the claim that her maps seem to suggest that the eastern shore of Nova Scotia was once riddled with natural gold deposits. Crowell remarks that Gold River, a river which empties into Mahone Bay only several miles northwest of Oak Island, does indeed contain a modest quantity of gold dust. The narrator follows up on Crowell’s remark by alluding to a frenzied gold rush in Nova Scotia which lasted from 1861-1874. He then suggests that perhaps the Knights Templar exploited Nova Scotia’s auric riches during the High Middle Ages, and that their New World headquarters consisted of a castle located at present-day New Ross, Nova Scotia, a town which the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. visited in Season 4, Episode 1.

Next, Halpern shows Lagina and Crowell an image of a Crusader coin bearing a symbol consisting of a cross with a dot in each quadrant, a variation of what is known as the ‘Crusader cross’. She observes that this Crusader cross is strongly reminiscent of one of the three symbols carved into what many Oak Island enthusiasts refer to as the H/O stone, a fragment of stone discovered on Joudrey’s Cove on Oak Island in the 1930’s.

oak island h o stone

After concluding the meeting with Zena Halpern, Rick Lagina returns to Oak Island. There, he, Craig Tester, and Jack Begley meet with Jack Nichols of Dam-it-Dams, a cofferdam manufacturing company. The team tasks Nichols with building a cofferdam around a section of Smith’s Cove so that they can search for remnants of the stone box drains believed to be buried there without having to contend with the Atlantic tide. While Nichols explains how he intends to construct the cofferdam, the narrator recounts how contractor Jeremy Frizzell’s attempt to build a cofferdam in Season 4, Episode 11 was unsuccessful.

Fortunately, Nichols and his team construct the cofferdam without incident, and the seawater within is immediately pumped out. With that accomplished, Rick Lagina and long-time Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Henskee meet with archaeologist Laird Niven, whom they have tasked with supervising the upcoming dig. Under Niven’s direction, Rick, Henskee and Jack Begley begin manually digging in a particular section of Smith’s Cove with shovels. After some time, they encounter hard clay, which Henskee declares should not be naturally present at that particular section of Oak Island at that particular depth, and suggests that it was placed there by man. Shortly thereafter, Jack Begley uncovers a fragment of what appears to be coconut fibre, a substance which is not endemic to Nova Scotia. These finds indicate that the Oak Island crew is digging in the right spot; according to members of the Truro Company, which first discovered the Smith’s Cove box drains in the mid 1800’s, the Smith’s Cove box drains were covered by layers of clay putty, coconut fibre, eelgrass, and beach stones.

Encouraged by the discoveries, Rick Lagina begins excavating the area in question with a backhoe. Immediately, he unearths a number of old logs which appear to be aligned in the same direction. After further exploration, he uncovers the remains of a wooden shaft, likely constructed by treasure hunters Robert and Bobby Restall in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, the team is unable to further excavate this shaft that day, as the sun is going down. They decide to call it a day.

Before returning to the dig site the following morning, the Oak Island team pays a visit to Dan Blankenship’s home on Oak Island. There, they pore over maps and diagrams in an effort to determine a suitable location for a third shaft in the Money Pit area. In an aside, Marty Lagina explains that the Oak Island team does not have an “obvious target” for a third Money Pit shaft, but that they do have a number of “inferential targets”.

After studying a number of interesting documents, Marty suggests that they sink a shaft in the vicinity of the Valley 3 Borehole, which the crew now believes intersects a searcher tunnel leading from the Chappell Shaft (dug by the Oak Island treasure-hunting syndicate Chappells Ltd. in 1931) to the Money Pit as a result of their hammergrab excavation in Season 4, Episode 6. Rick, however, disagrees with Marty’s proposal, suggesting that they dig in a slightly different location. Craig Tester then suggests they dig at yet another location. The crew members agree to try to come to a decision later, and terminate the meeting.

Later, it is revealed that the crew decided to sink a third hole in the Money Pit at the location championed by Craig Tester, which they dub ‘Tester 1’, or ‘T1’. At the Money Pit, they watch as contractors of Irving Equipment Ltd. prepare to begin work on the new shaft. With that, the episode ends.



Marie Antoinette, the French Revolution, and the Crown Jewels of France

According to some Oak Island theorists- most notably former United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt- Oak Island’s treasure consists of the Crown Jewels of France. Proponents of this theory typically hold that Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, entrusted her Lady-in-Waiting with the jewels’ safekeeping during the height of the French Revolution- a period considered by many to be one of the most important events in world history.

In the wake of the Seven Years’ War (1754-1763 ; see Season 4, Episode 8’s ‘The Battle of Havana’), France- for centuries one of the most powerful kingdoms in Europe- had lost much of its wealth and international prestige. Burdened with post-war debt and all but bankrupt, France found itself in a serious financial crisis eleven years after the war, when nineteen-year-old Louis XVI ascended the French throne.

Louis XVI- by all accounts a shy and indecisive monarch- had married a beautiful 14-year-old Austrian archduchess named Maria Antonia four years before his coronation in 1774. While many of the French peasantry warmed quickly to their new queen, whose name was Gallicized to Marie Antoinette following the marriage, others disliked her from the start, as she was a member of one of the nations that had caused France such grief during the Seven Years’ War. These disgruntled Frenchmen grew to resent her even more when they learned of the extravagant lifestyle she enjoyed, courtesy of often-starving (as a result of poor harvests and subsequently-soaring grain prices) French taxpayers. Marie Antoinette lived in Versailles, which had served as the capital of France since 1662, when King Louis XIV (also known as the ‘Sun King’) had his father’s hunting lodge there transformed into the magnificent Palace of Versailles. The ‘Sun King’ built his palace as a “gilded cage” for France’s power-hungry nobles, stipulating that each noble spend a certain amount of time living there each year, and implementing a court culture revolving around a series of elaborate rituals and ceremonies designed to occupy the visiting nobles and prevent them from conspiring against him. This court culture was still very much alive when Marie Antoinette came to Versailles. To entertain herself amidst the ritual tedium, she indulged in fashion, gambling, and theatre. Her heavy expenses earned her the nickname “Madame Deficit”.

In addition to her lavish lifestyle, the French people began to take umbrage at their queen’s apparent inability to produce an heir; Marie Antoinette did not conceive until seven years after her marriage to Louis XVI (although it should be mentioned that many historians believe that the fault more likely lay with her husband). Marie Antoinette’s slowness to deliver a royal heir spurred political satirists to produce libelles– small, often obscene books designed to slander public figures- accusing her of outrageous, deviant behavior. The quantity and vulgarity of these pamphlets increased wildly in the latter years of the 18th Century. According to American historian Robert Darnton, “the avalanche of defamation that overwhelmed [Marie Antoinette] between 1789 and her execution on October 16, 1793, has no parallel in the history of vilification.”

The French people’s aversion to the French elite didn’t stop at the queen, however. Many members of France’s poor peasant class (known as the Third Estate), which made up about 95% of France’s population, detested both the aristocracy and high-ranking clergymen of the Catholic Church for the heavy taxes they levied upon them- taxes from which members of both of these upper classes were often exempt. In addition to the Third State, members of a growing middle class known as the bourgeoisie (literally “town dwellers”), which chiefly consisted of wealthier merchants and craftsmen, held the French elite in contempt for their monopoly on political power. Adding fuel to the fire were radical new Enlightenment ideas espoused by French intellectuals like Montesquieu, Rousseau, Descartes, and Voltaire. These ideas, which circulated throughout France by way of coffeehouses and salons, included the notions of ‘separation of power’, ‘consent of the governed’, republicanism, and ‘separation of Church and State’- ideas which contested the authority of France’s absolute monarchy and the Catholic Church.

The ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, which contributed massively to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s unpopularity, also contributed to the American Revolution, a conflict in which colonists of Britain’s Thirteen Colonies rebelled against the authority of the British Crown. Eager to make up for France’s humiliating defeat at the hands of the British during the Seven Years’ War, Louis XVI entered the war against Great Britain in 1778. Although France only engaged in a handful of naval battles with British forces, it provided significant strategic and economic aid to American revolutionaries. Due in part to France’s intervention, America won their War of Independence in 1783.

While France’s key role in America’s victory over Britain restored much of the international prestige that it had lost during the Seven Years War, it also exacerbated its already-staggering debt. In order to combat France’s mounting financial crisis, King Louis XVI appointed and dismissed a succession of financial ministers whose proposed policies were either ineffective or unpopular with the king’s advisers. Finally, in a desperate move, Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates-General- an assembly of representatives from France’s three estates: the clergy, the nobility, and the common people.

Although members of the Third Estate occupied the vast majority of the seats in the Estates-General- which convened in Versailles in the spring and summer of 1789- , their collective voice held as much weight as that of the much smaller First and Second Estates; each Estate was allowed one vote, no matter its size. When their appeals to establish representation by population were overturned, the representatives of the Third Estate declared themselves the ‘National Assembly,’ a body independent of the Estates-General which would address France’s fiscal and agricultural issues with or without the members of the other two Estates.

In order to prevent this renegade body from convening, Louis XVI ordered the hall in which the National Assembly planned to meet to be closed on a false pretense. Undeterred, the National Assembly congregated in a proto-tennis court nearby. There, they swore the Tennis Court Oath, a vow to continue to assemble until a constitution was established which would limit the power of monarchy and the First and Second Estates.

It just so happened that around this time, in July 1789, King Louis XVI had sent foreign mercenaries to Paris to quell the bread riots- uprisings characterized by bakery looting and vandalism in response to high bread prices- that had plagued the city that summer. Members of the National Assembly, fearing that the incoming troops had come to put an end to their crusade, looted Parisian armories and armed themselves with muskets. Then, on July 14, they stormed the Bastille, a medieval castle that served as an armory, political prison, and a symbol of royal tyranny. Supplemented by sympathetic members of the National Guard, the rioters quickly overwhelmed the fortress’ few defenders. They celebrated their victory by decapitating the Bastille’s governor and parading his head- mounted on a pike- through the streets.

Expecting royal troops to respond to the attack, Parisian revolutionaries constructed makeshift barricades in the streets. Instead of countering the revolutionaries, however, the mercenaries that had arrived to quell the bread riots dispersed on the king’s orders. Word of this victory over the French monarchy spread quickly throughout the country, and soon the nation was seething with the spirit of the revolution. On August 4, the National Assembly took the next step towards popular sovereignty by abolishing feudalism. Later that month, they published the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, a constitution-like document championing freedom, equality, and sovereignty of the people.

The months following the storming of the Bastille were characterized by peasant revolts and the establishment of free, often radical newspapers throughout France. Some of these newspapers incited violence against members of the First and Second Estates, and many nobles, fearing for their safety, left the country.

In early October, a mob of angry peasant women marched on Versailles itself. This march, which began as a search for bread, evolved into a movement to bring King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and the royal court away from the palace to Paris, where, they believed, the aristocracy could more effectively govern the French people. Upon reaching Versailles, the women selected six of their number to bring their entreaties to the king. These representatives gained audience with Louis XVI without trouble and convinced him to distribute food to the mob. Many of the women, still unsatisfied, loitered around the palace. In a second attempt at pacification, Louis XVI signed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which the women had brought with them. The Parisian women, still hoping to drag the king back to Paris, stayed the night outside the palace gates. Early the following morning, the mob discovered an open gate and stormed the palace, searching for the queen’s bedchamber. In the process, they killed several guardsmen and mounted their heads on pikes. Eventually, Louis XVI defused the situation by emerging to address the mob. Without further violence, he, his family, and his courtiers accompanied the women back to Paris and took up residence in the Tuileries Palace.

For two years, Louis XVI, held captive by National Assembly revolutionaries, governed France from Paris, regularly signing documents that eroded his power bit by bit. Fearful of the increasing fanaticism of the revolutionary movement, the king, at the behest of Marie Antoinette, decided to attempt to flee Paris with his family and make for Austrian Netherlands, where he might raise an army with which to reestablish the old order. On the eve of June 21, 1791, the French Royal family disguised themselves, piled into a single horse-drawn coach, and headed east. Unfortunately, they were recognized en route by a postmaster, who relayed the news of the royal journey to revolutionaries. The royal family made it to the town of Varennes-en-Argonne, only a few miles from the Austrian border, where they were captured by revolutionary forces and ultimately forced to return to Paris.

Despite Louis XVI’s attempt to flee France, the National Assembly allowed the king to continue to rule the nation, albeit with considerable restrictions to his authority. That fall, they finished drafting the French Constitution of 1791, France’s first constitution, and promptly dissolved. Their successors, members of the new Legislative Assembly, shared power with the king, transforming France into a constitutional monarchy like Great Britain.

In the spring of 1792, France declared war on Austria- which was governed at that time by Marie Antoinette’s nephew, Holy Roman Emperor Francis II- , fearing that it would invade France with the goal of crushing the revolution and reestablishing the old regime. That summer, after suffering a number of crushing defeats at the hands of the Austrian army, the French learned that Prussia was about to join the war against them. The leader of the Prussian forces, a celebrated German general named Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, drafted a proclamation, known as the Brunswick Manifesto, which threatened to harm French citizens if anything happened to the royal family. The proclamation, which was intended to intimidate Parisians, backfired, spurring the radical revolutionary citizens, known as federes, and members of the National Guard to storm the Tuileries Palace, where the French royal family lived, and engage in a ferocious battle with the king’s Swiss Guards. Although Louis XVI and his family managed to flee to the safety of the Legislative Assembly, the monarchy was effectively overthrown, if not officially.

At that time, Austrian and Prussian forces were pushing towards Paris. Afraid that these foreign armies might take Paris and supplement their ranks with Parisian prisoners, National Guardsmen and radical federes emptied Paris’ dungeons and slaughtered their inhabitants en masse. These slaughters are referred to as the September Massacres.

Later that month, following the Battle of Valmy in which French troops decisively defeated Ferdinand’s Prussian army, the Legislative Assembly officially declared the end of the French monarchy and the establishment of the First French Republic. Emboldened, the new Republic put Louis XVI, now known by the common name Louis Capet, on trial for his ‘treasonous’ attempt to flee France with his family on the night of June 21, 1971. The Capetian king was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death via guillotine, a newly-invented decapitation machine which would become a hallmark of the Reign of Terror that would follow his death. He was publicly beheaded on January 21, 1793. His wife, Marie Antoinette, met a similar fate on October 16 of that year.

According to legend, before her flight from Paris to Varennes, for which she and her husband were ultimately executed, Marie Antoinette packed up the Crown Jewels of France, along with her vast collection of rubies, diamonds, pearls, and other precious gems she had accumulated at Versailles. When she and her husband were capture in Varennes, however, the jewels were nowhere to be found. Legend has it that the French queen entrusted her most loyal servant- her Lady-in-Waiting- with the precious stones, and that the courtier managed to make her way across the Atlantic Ocean to the Acadian fort of Louisbourg, located in what is now Nova Scotia, following the capture of her mistress. Some Oak Island theorists believe that she, accompanied by loyalist French troops, later buried these jewels on Oak Island when it became clear that the French monarchy was no more.

According to the late Oak Island researcher R.V. Harris in his book The Oak Island Mystery (1958, 1967), there are several potential problems with this theory. The most obvious problem is that most of France’s Crown Jewels are not missing. In fact, they were stolen in 1792, a full year after the royal flight to Varennes, and were all eventually recovered. The second problem with this theory is the fact that Louisbourg, the French fort Marie Antoinette’s Lady-in-Waiting purportedly brought the jewels to, had been in British possession since the 1758 Siege of Louisbourg, during the Seven Years’ War. Third, it seems unlikely that French troops could have buried treasure on Oak Island after 1791 and kept it a secret; Oak Island and surrounding area had been inhabited by New English settlers since the mid 1700’s.

Zena Halpern

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick Lagina and Oak Island researcher Doug Crowell met with Knights Templar historian Zena Halpern in Roslyn, New York. Halpern briefed the men on her theories regarding the nature of Oak Island’s underground workings, which revolve around hypothetical pre-Columbian Knights Templar voyages to Nova Scotia.

According to Halpern’s website, the New York researcher has uncovered “the story both of a secret 12th century Knights Templar mission to Oak Island and a mountain range in New York State, and of the efforts made by various secret societies over the centuries to either conceal or uncover the reasons for this mission.” Halpern intends to lay out her theory in her upcoming book, The Templar Mission to Oak Island and Beyond- Search for Ancient Secrets- The Shocking Revelation of a 12th Century Manuscript.

Interestingly, Halpern, in the ‘About’ section of her website, reveals that she has worked with Gloria Farley, a close colleague of the late Harvard professor Barry Fell, who had developed his own Oak Island theory involving 5th Century Coptic Christians.

The Stones of Joudrey’s Cove

In the summer of 1936, Oak Island treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden discovered four granite stones on Joudrey’s Cove inscribed with characters. The stones were rough and jagged, indicating that they had at one time been part of larger stones, or perhaps one large stone. Three of them bore deeply-engraved Latin letters. The smallest of these was inscribed with the letter ‘W’. The middle-sized stone bore the words ‘S.S. Ross 1864.’ The largest stone was inscribed with what might have been half of the letter ‘U,’ followed by the letter ‘H,’ followed by the Roman numeral ‘II,’ followed by the letters ‘GIN.’

Although little can be gleaned from the smallest stone, Gilbert Hedden assumed that ‘S.S. Ross 1864,’ the inscription on the middle stone, was graffiti carved by a labourer apparently named S.S. Ross who had worked on Oak Island in 1864. As for the largest stone, many Oak Island researchers suspect the ‘GIN’ might be part of the larger word ‘MCGINNIS,’ the family name of Oak Island co-discoverer Daniel McGinnis and his descendants, who lived on Oak Island for many years.

In addition to these three stones, Hedden found another stone on Joudrey’s Cove which stood out from the rest. This stone, which bore three strange, well-worn characters, is believed to be a fragment of a large boulder discovered by Oak Island workers in the 1920’s. Seeing the strange symbols carved onto its surface, these workers theorized that the boulder might be lying over top of some sort of subterranean treasure deposit. They dynamited the boulder accordingly, only to find that there was nothing of interest beneath it. Some of the workers kept inscribed stone fragments as souvenirs, and the boulder was largely forgotten until Hedden’s discovery.

Although I investigate the history of the leftmost and rightmost symbols carved into the H/O stone in my book Oak Island, which you can access by clicking this link, in this article I will focus on the middle symbol, the cross with a dot in each quadrant, which is addressed in this episode.

The cross with four dots is vaguely reminiscent of the Jerusalem Cross (also known as the ‘Cross of the Holy Land’ and the ‘Crusader’s Cross’) a large Greek cross (in which all arms are of equal length) with a smaller Greek cross set in each of its quadrants. Although commonly associated with the Crusades and the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Cross is believed by some historians to have been, along with the Ichthys and the Chi Rho, an early symbol of Christianity adopted by 1st Century Middle Eastern Christians. The five crosses of which the Jerusalem Cross is comprised are widely held to represent the five wounds sustained by Christ on the Cross. Some Oak Island researchers believe that the Jerusalem Cross on the Joudrey’s Cove stone is an indication that the Knights Templar, a Christian order of monastic knights which had a key role in the Crusades, might have some sort of connection with Oak Island.

To medieval and Renaissance-era alchemists, the cross with four dots represented distilled vinegar, also known as ‘spirit of vinegar’. Some adherents to the theory that the Rosicrucians- members of a secret Renaissance society closely associated with alchemy- are behind the Oak Island workings cite the inscribed cross with four dots as evidence to support their theory.

Some Oak Island researchers interpret the cross with four dots to be a variation of the Coptic Cross, a symbol used by Coptic Christians, another group believed by some to have a connection with Oak Island.

It is also interesting that the cross with four dots is also a variant of the Taxila Cross, a symbol of South Asia’s historic Indus Valley, as well as a symbol used as a reference mark in Japanese typography.


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The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 11: Presidential Secrets

Plot Summary

The episode begins at Borehole 10-X, where the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. are in the process of airlifting water from the chamber at the bottom of the shaft in the hope that they might bring up evidence of a human presence in the chamber prior to 1795. During this process, the slurry from the chamber at the bottom of 10-X is pumped up to the surface and deposited in a sediment tank. After running for some time, the airlift abruptly stops working. The machine operators suspect that some debris might be lodged in the upcoming hose and make some adjustments accordingly. In no time, the airlift is running smoothly again.

borehole 10x

After running the airlift for some time, the team decides that if there was anything of interest inside the chamber at the bottom of 10-X, it should now be in the sediment tank on the surface. Once the water from the tank is drained, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, Jack Begley, and former Oak Island resident Dan Henskee shovel the sediment into the bucket of a loader. While shoveling, the treasure hunters discover several pieces of material they are unable to immediately identify, along with a small bone. These items are bagged and set aside for future analysis.

Once all the 10-X sediment has been transferred to the loader bucket, it is revealed that Jack Begley will be in charge of sifting through the debris. The next scene shows Begley and his stepfather Craig Tester sifting through the last of the 10-X debris, which they have spread out on a diamond mesh trough. Immediately, the pair discover a hand-sized chunk of milled wood bearing the marks of an old-fashioned hand saw lying among the sludge. Shortly afterwards, Begley find some wood slivers covered with a black, viscous substance he speculates might be pitchblende (also known as uraninite, a radioactive uranium ore which had previously been discovered on Oak Island by treasure hunters). The narrator then briefly describes how pitch (or resin, a blanket term used to describe dark, viscous substances like tar, bitumen, asphalt, and tree resin) has been used for millennia to caulk ships and waterproof wooden containers.

oak island bore hole from 10x

Later that day, the Oak Island team meets in the War Room. There, Jack Begley presents his fellow treasure hunters with the items of interest he discovered while sifting through the debris brought up from the chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X. First, Begley shows the team several pieces of hand-sawn wood he uncovered. Upon being prompted, Dan Blankenship proclaims that the wood is nothing like anything he, his son Dave, or fellow treasure hunter Dan Henskee might have dropped into 10-X while working in it in the 1970’s and ’80’s, speculating that the pieces are likely “older than [he is].”

Next, Begley shows the Oak Island team a handful of old wood slivers covered in a substance which he believes might be pitch or pitchblende.  Again, Dan Blankenship is adamant that these items could not possibly have made their way into 10-X during his excavations in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

The team decides to have the items from 10-X carbon dated. In light of the new evidence, Marty Lagina states “there’s not quite an ‘X’ in 10-X.” With that, the meeting is ended.

The following day, the Oak Island crew gathers at Smith’s Cove, where they hope to uncover evidence of the legendary box drains believed to be buried there. With the help of contractor Jeremy Frizzell and veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Henskee, they begin to construct a small, temporary, 8-foot-high inflatable cofferdam around a section of Smith’s Cove which will allow them to excavate the area inside without having to content with the tide. Suddenly, the cofferdam inexplicably ruptures, rendering it useless. The narrator reveals that Frizzell, the contractor in charge of installing the cofferdam who has witnessed hundreds of successful inflatable cofferdam installations in the past, has never seen an inflatable cofferdam burst in this way. Rick Lagina tries to reassure the contractor, saying “there have been multiple, multiple equipment failures on this island. Things that just should not go wrong go wrong.” The narrator follows up on this by explaining how labourer Maynard Kaiser, on March 26, 1897, fell to his death in an Oak Island shaft when the rope to which the bucket he rode in was attached inexplicably slipped from the hoist. He goes on to explain how Kaiser’s death unnerved many of his fellow labourers, some of the more superstitious of whom feared that some sort of malevolent force guarding the Oak Island treasure was responsible for their co-worker’s untimely demise.

Following the setback, a crestfallen Jeremy Frizzell assures the Oak Island team that he will replace the cofferdam and attempt to install it in several weeks. Craig Tester tells him “you may not be used to this, but we’re used to to this.” With that, the crew wraps up the operation.

Later, in the War Room, Rick Lagina, Charles Barkhouse, and Rick and Marty’s nephew Peter Fornetti meet with Oak Island researchers Doug Crowell and Paul Troutman, the latter being the son of James Troutman, a man who worked alongside treasure hunter Robert Dunfield in the mid-late 1960’s. There, Troutman informs the treasure hunters that he has dug up several letters and documents pertaining to former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Oak Island treasure hunt. The narrator then explains how a young Franklin Roosevelt was one of the financiers of the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company, an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate headed by engineer Harry L. Bowdoin which operated in 1909, and how Roosevelt, throughout his 12-year term as President of the United States (which spanned the Great Depression and World War II), retained his interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt.

Troutman reveals that one of the documents he has brought to the War Room confirms that Roosevelt was a Freemason. Barkhouse responds by remarking that many people involved in the Oak Island treasure hunt over the years, including treasure hunters Irwin Hamilton and Gilbert Hedden, were also Freemasons. The narrator then briefly describes the theory that the Knights Templar buried sacred religious artifacts on Oak Island following the suppression of their Order in 1307, and that their secret rituals and ideals lived on in Scotland, where they were eventually reconstituted as Freemasonry.

At the end of the meeting, Troutman informs Rick, Charles, Peter and Doug that a wealth of information on Franklin Roosevelt’s Oak Island connection is available in the archives of the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York. Troutman invites the treasure hunters to accompany him to the archives to check out these documents, and the men heartily accept his invitation.

Later, Rick Lagina and his nephew (Marty’s son) Alex carpool to the FDR Presidential Library. There, they meet with the library’s Public Program Specialist Clifford Laube, who directs them to where Paul Troutman is hunkered down, pouring over archival material. Rick informs Troutman that he is interested in learning why Roosevelt retained such an intense interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt throughout most of his adult life, and Troutman informs Rick that, if such information exists, it could likely be gleaned from Roosevelt’s “personal files”, which he has already assembled on the table. Unfortunately, these files contain a whopping 17 million pages, only 10% of which have been scanned. Rick remarks, “it looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us,” and with that, he, Alex, and Troutman begin pulling files.

In time, Troutman uncovers a letter addressed to FDR stating that there were at least two treasure hunts on Oak Island in addition to Bowdoin’s in and around 1909. The narrator then describes how Franklin D. Roosevelt’s grandfather, Warren Delano, was a shareholder of the Truro Company, Oak Island’s second major treasure-hunting syndicate which operated in the mid 19th Century.

Next, Troutman shows Rick and Alex a transcript from an interview of Duncan Harris, a schoolmate and confidant of Franklin Roosevelt, conducted by biographer Joseph P. Lash. In it, Harris maintains that Roosevelt believed that Oak Island’s mysterious treasure consisted of “the lost jewels of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette,” the last monarchs of France who were executed by guillotine during the French Revolution.

With that, the episode abruptly ends.



In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Jack Begley, while sifting through the sludge airlifted from the cavern at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, discovered several slivers of old wood coated in a viscous black substance which he speculated might be pitch (tar), or perhaps “pitchblende”. Interestingly, pitchblende- a radioactive uranium ore- has been discovered in Borehole 10-X in the past.

In 1970, Dan Blankenship and David Tobias of Triton Alliance hired Golder Associates- a Toronto-based geophysical company- to drill on Oak Island at spots prescribed by Blankenship, which he found by dowsing. From one of the many holes they drilled, Golder Associates brought up thin, low-carbon steel from a depth of 165 feet. This find prompted Triton Alliance to expand the drill hole into a 230-foot-deep shaft, which is known today as Borehole 10-X.

While digging Borehole 10-X, Dan Blankenship unearthed spruce wood coated in a thick, black substance at a depth of 167 feet. Triton Alliance had the wood carbon dated, and were astonished to learn that the test results, incredibly, indicated that the wood came from the future, specifically some time in the early fourth millennium A.D.

In order to understand the reason for this bizarre test result, it helps to have a basic understanding of  carbon dating. Carbon dating is a method of determining the age of an organic (once living) material by measuring its carbon 12/ carbon 14 ratio. Regular carbon, or carbon 12, makes up 99% of of all the carbon in the universe, and is a stable molecule which does not decay over time. Carbon 14 (a.k.a. radiocarbon), on the other hand, is a volatile, naturally-occurring, much less common carbon isotope with two additional neutrons (which is a fancy way of saying that carbon 14 is slightly heavier than carbon 12, but has the same magnetic charge). Carbon 14 is radioactive, which means that it spontaneously emits radiation and decays (i.e. transforms into nitrogen 14) over time. When an organism dies, the carbon 14 present in it immediately starts to decay, while the amount of carbon 12 in it remains constant. Since the carbon 12 / carbon 14 ratio in the atmosphere and living organisms is relatively constant, and since carbon 14 decays at a relatively constant rate, scientists can determine the age of a sample of dead organic matter by measuring its carbon 12/ carbon 14 ratio. Today, this is achieved with mass spectrometers, devices which can accurately determine isotopic ratios (i.e. the ratios between versions of the same element which differ only in weight, like carbon 14 and carbon 12) present in a sample through the use of electromagnets. Back in 1970, however, scientists determined the carbon 12 / carbon 14 ratio present in organic material by using Geiger counters- devices which measure the radiation emitted by substances (which, in the case of carbon dating, was the radiation emitted by decaying carbon 14). The radiation emitted by the slivers of wood coated with thick black goo, which Blankenship and his crew found in Borehole 10-X at the 167-foot depth, was off the charts (seemingly indicating that the sample contained way more carbon 14 than it ought to).

As it turned out, the black goo that coated the wood slivers was pitchblende, or uraninite, an extremely radioactive mineral ore containing large amounts of uranium and smaller quantities of highly radioactive radium. Pitchblende is not endemic to Nova Scotia, but rather to northern Saskatchewan, Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, and parts of Germany, Czech Republic, Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, Australia, the United States, and, significantly, Cornwall, England (several theories regarding the nature of Oak Island’s treasure involve Cornish miners). Before Polish chemist and physicist Marie Curie used it to isolate radium in the the late 19th Century, pitchblende was chiefly used to colour glass and porcelain. According to some sources, it was also employed as a preservation agent for timber.

FDR and Oak Island

In 1909, engineer and inventor Henry L. Bowdoin founded an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate called the Old Gold Salvage and Wrecking Company. One of the company’s shareholders was a young law clerk from New York City named Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who would later go on to become the 32nd President of the United States.

The Oak Island Mystery (1958, 1957), a book written by a lawyer closely associated with the Oak Island treasure hunt named R.V. Harris, posits that FDR first heard of the Oak Island mystery “from the people of Campobello Island, in the Bay of Fundy, where his mother had a summer residence.” In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, however, the narrator briefly intimates that Franklin Roosevelt might have learned about Oak Island from his grandfather, Warren Delano Jr., a wealthy businessman involved with the British-Canton opium trade who invested in the Truro Company, Oak Island’s second treasure hunting syndicate, in 1849. Whatever the case, FDR retained an intense interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt, regularly corresponding with Oak Island landowners, Treasure Trove licence holders, and treasure hunters until his death in 1945.


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