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14 Magnetic Hills in Canada

14 Magnetic Hills in Canada

Canada is full of strange places, from the Headless Valley in the Northwest Territories, where tales of lost gold, evil spirits, and headhunting monsters abound, to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, the site of Canada’s longest-running treasure hunt. Among the most mystifying of these creepy locales are Canada’s so-called ‘Magnetic Hills’. Also known as ‘Spook Hills’ and ‘Gravity Hills’, these mystery mounds typically consist of sloped roadways lined with trees where cars, when put in neutral gear, seem to roll uphill.

Local legend often attributes this bewildering phenomenon to some sort of extraordinary force. Some people believe that ‘magnetic hills’ lie at magnetic vortexes, where the laws of gravity which govern the rest of the world cease to apply. Others suggest that the hills are capped with large deposits of lodestone- natural magnets which draw steel cars to their summits. Others still ascribe the hills’ antigravitational properties to the work of ghosts and spirits.

In reality, the magnetic hill phenomenon is an optical illusion. Despite all appearances to the contrary, roads on which the ‘uphill’ rollings take place are actually sloped downhill. Often, they are lined with trees and other objects oriented at unusual angles which obscure the horizon and give the driver the false impression that the road has a positive incline.

 

Although the phenomenon of the magnetic hill is not much of a mystery to those acquainted with its secret, it can still make for a truly head-scratching experience. If you ever get the chance, consider paying a visit to one of Canada’s fourteen magnetic hills, some of which may lie in your neck of the woods.

 

Magnetic Hills in British Columbia

Abbotsford’s Gravity Hill

If you drive to the northeasternmost corner of Abbotsford, BC, you’ll find a lonely thoroughfare called McKee Road. If you take this road and head for Sumac Mountain, you’ll come to the site of an old gravity hill just before you hit the Ledgeview Golf & Country Club. According to Lynn, the writer of a blog called ‘The One Constant’, this attraction was “worth the trip” back in 2011.

Regrettably, it appears that the hill may have since lost its ‘magnetic’ properties. According to journalist Ben Lypka in an article published in the April 11, 2019 issue of the Mission City Record, recent repaving of McKee Road has destroyed the optical illusion, causing Abbotsford gravity hill to “lose its powers”.

Fortunately for posterity, YouTuber James Waugh managed to videotape his car rolling up the hill back in 2009, at the height of the hill’s former glory. “Stay tuned next time,” concludes a young narrator, “for another exciting episode of ‘Up the Hill’”.

 

The Magnetic Hill of Maple Ridge

If you drive about 40 minutes northwest of Abbotsford, you’ll come to the city of Maple Ridge- the fifth oldest municipality in British Columbia, located at the northeastern edge of Greater Vancouver. Between Maple Ridge and the historic easterly community of Whonnock is a sleepy rural neighbourhood called Thornhill which skirts the southern slopes of a butte called Grant Hill.

If you drive south down Thornhill’s 256th Street, past its intersection with 100th Avenue, home to the old Thornhill Elementary School, you’ll come to what appears to be a small hill preceding a downwards slope. If you put your vehicle in neutral at the base of this hillock, it will roll up the ‘incline’ and down the other side, apparently defying the laws of physics.

YouTuber and Maple Ridge native Scott Leaf showcases the phenomenon this this 2009 YouTube video:

 

Vernon’s Dixon Dam Road

British Columbia’s third and final magnetic hill is situated in the city of Vernon, located north of Kelowna at the northern end of Lake Okanagan. In the northeastern section of town is a rural street called Dixon Dam Road where objects rolling ‘uphill’ can accrue speeds of up to 20 km/hour (12 mph).

This mystery spot has elicited local amazement for at least 60 years. In an April 1959 issue of The Vernon News, reporter Miles Overend described heading out the area to investigate the “silly rumour” of the magnetic hill with fellow journalist Harvie Hay. “We drove to the bottom of the slope, as instructed,” he wrote, “and stopped the car. Looking back we could see the slight uphill grade which we had just come down. I cut the ignition, released the handbrake. In eerie silence the car started rolling slowly backwards- uphill.”

If you’d like to see this strange phenomenon in action, check out this video by YouTuber Rick Slobodian:

 

Magnetic Hills in Ontario

Caledon’s Magnetic Hill

It might come as no surprise to learn that Canada’s three Prairie Provinces, to the best of this author’s knowledge, are completely devoid of magnetic hills. An obscured horizon is often a requisite for the ‘gravity hill’ phenomenon, and Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba have no shortage of open spaces.

The nearest gravity hill east of Vernon, BC, is the Magnetic Hill of Caledon, Ontario, located on Escarpment Side Road just off King’s Highway 10, at Escarpment’s intersection with the street leading to Devil’s Pulpit Golf Course.

As if to complement the weird landmark, the land surrounding this remote location is associated with an old Indian legend which tells of a beautiful maiden of the Neutral Nation and a young brave whose advances she spurned. Long ago, the warrior stole the girl from her father’s wigwam and brought her to a cliff ledge on the Niagara Escarpment- a long ridge which spans the Great Lakes, over which the Niagara River falls. The unwilling captive died of grief, incurring the wrath of a local thunder god. The angry deity used lightning to isolate the kidnapper’s camping spot from the rest of the cliff, creating a rocky spire known today as the ‘Devil’s Pulpit’, for which the nearby golf course was named.

Although Caledon’s Magnetic Hill is not associated with any supernatural legends itself, it does produce an eerie visual effect, which YouTuber Kelly Vo demonstrates in this video:

 

Burlington’s King Road

Ontario has three more magnetic hills, two of which are located off the northwestern shores of Lake Ontario. The first of these is situated in the city of Burlington, about an hour’s drive south of Caledon.

In the southwestern end of Burlington is a rural thoroughfare called King Road, which winds through Burlington’s Bayview Park. After rounding a bend in the road near the park’s off-leash section, drivers will come upon two small hills, the second of which appears to have antigravity characteristics. Check out this video by YouTube’s Mr. Burlington to see the hill for yourself:

Unlike the other magnetic hills on this list, Burlington’s gravity hill is associated with ghost stories, UFO sightings, and other tales of the supernatural. According to BurlingtonGhostWalks.ca, drivers have experienced power failures, engine failures, and the sensation of being electrically “zapped” while cresting the second ‘hill’ near Bayview Park. Some witnesses have reported seeing strange lights in the sky overhead, while others claimed to have spotted spectral 19th Century pioneers walking through Bayview Park, or heard the whinnies of phantom horses and the rumble of ephemeral wagons while driving down King Road. Perhaps Burlington’s magnetic hill is more than an optical illusion after all.

If you decide to investigate Burlington’s gravity hill for yourself, you may want to avoid planning your visit in the spring; every March, the city closes King Road in order to allow Jefferson salamanders, which Ontario classifies as an endangered species, to safely seek their mates on the other side of the asphalt.

 

Oshawa’s Magic Hill

About 100 kilometres (62 miles) northeast of Burlington, on the northern shores of Lake Ontario, lies the city of Oshawa, which contains yet another magnetic mound known locally as Magic Hill. Like most gravity hills on this list, Magic Hill is located on the outskirts of town, at Oshawa’s northeastern corner on a thoroughfare called Ritson Road North. Just south of Ritson’s intersection with the Canadian National Railway is another strange hill that might have baffled Sir Isaac Newton himself.

 

Dacre’s Magnetic Hill

About 222 kilometres (138 miles) northeast of Oshawa, not too far from Barry’s Bay and Palmer Rapids, is the tiny community of Dacre, Ontario. There, one kilometer south of the junction of Highways 41 and 132, is a place where vehicles appear to coast uphill. Even more intriguing than the wacky road is the little creek which parallels it- perhaps the only creek in Canada that appears to flow uphill.

 

Magnetic Hills in Quebec

The Magnetic Hill of Chartierville

The next stop on our tour of Canada’s gravity hills is the tiny rural community of Chartierville, Quebec, which shares a border with the state of New Hampshire. Chartierville’s Magnetic Hill lies right on Quebec Route 257, the only road connecting Canada with New Hampshire, just before the Pittsburg-Chartierville Border Crossing. Incidentally, back in December 1999, an American border guard stationed at this crossing via a Remote Video Inspection System prevented a would-be al-Qaeda terrorist with a truck full of explosives from entering the United States and carrying out the planned ‘Millennium’ attack at Los Angeles International Airport.

Chartierville’s Magnetic Hill was born in 1939, when the road that would become Route 257 was first constructed. As early as the 1940s, tourists travelling to and from the United States marveled as their vehicles inexplicably rolled uphill without the assistance of their engines.

Today, travelers are informed of the hill’s presence by a sign which reads, in both French and English:

Stop here

Put hazard lights on

Put car in neutral

Look behind and experiment.

Have a nice day!

To see the hill in action, check out this YouTube video by Lopstick, purveyor of rental cabins in Pittsburg, New Hampshire.

 

Cote Magnetique of Buckland

Nearly three hours northwest of Chartreville, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains not too far from Quebec City, lies the beautiful parish municipality of Notre-Dame-Auxiliatrice-de-Buckland. A little more than a mile southeast of this quiet rural community, on a lonely stretch of road called Route Saint-Louis, lies Buckland’s Cote Magnetique, or Magnetic Hill.

Visitors are alerted to the presence of the mysterious landmark by a sign which reads, in French:

Put the vehicle in neutral

Remove the brakes

Look out for traffic behind you

Watch your vehicle roll

To virtually tour this little-known attraction, check out this YouTube video by Yves Vincart:

 

Magnetic Hills in New Brunswick

Moncton’s World Famous Magnetic Hill

Without a doubt, the most famous gravity hill in Canada is the Magnetic Hill of Moncton, New Brunswick. This internationally renowned attraction has been one of New Brunswick’s most popular tourist destinations since 1931, when an old cart path skirting the base of Lutes Mountain was expanded into a paved road suitable for automobile traffic. Drivers quickly realized that cars would roll backwards up the hill when placed in neutral, and almost overnight a Maritime sensation was born.

Moncton’s Magnetic Hill is located at the northwestern edge of town and can be accessed for a fee of $5. The landmark’s popularity has allowed for a number of attractions to thrive in its vicinity, including Magnetic Hill Zoo, the Magic Mountain Water Park, the Hotel Moncton, the Magnetic Hill Winery, and the Magnetic Hill Wharf Village. To see the striking illusion to which the Hill owes its tremendous popularity, check out this video by YouTuber Jean-Daniel Cathell-Williams.

 

Magnetic Hills in Nova Scotia

Bridgetown’s Hampton Mountain Road

Incredibly, there are said to be three little-known magnetic hills crammed within a 30-mile strip of eastern Nova Scotia paralleling the Bay of Fundy.

The southernmost of these is located on Hampton Mountain Road, about a five minute drive from the village of Bridgetown and approximately two kilometres south of Valleyview Provincial Park. According to a certain local resident, it is a place where “automobiles coast upgrade with ease, yet pedestrians huff and puff their way downgrade”.

 

The Magnetic Hill of Route 221

If you drive a mere 25 minutes northeast of Bridgetown up the Annapolis Valley, you’ll come to a tiny community called Melvern Square. Here, take the northeasterly Nova Scotia Route 221, also known as Spa Springs Road. On Route 221, about halfway between Melvern Square and an ancient volcanic ridge called North Mountain, is another magnetic hill where, according to one writer, “it looks like you are going down but you obviously are climbing.”

 

North Mountain’s Magnetic Hill

If you proceed beyond Route 221’s magnetic hill, you’ll come to 221’s intersection with Nova Scotia Route 360, which bridges the fishing community of Harbourville, on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, with the village of Berwick, located 15 minutes southeast. Take a left and right there, just preceding a hairpin turn known locally as ‘the Oxbow’, is another magnetic hill where, according to one writer, “by stopping your vehicle at what appeared to be bottom of the hill, shutting off the motor and putting the gearshift in neutral; the vehicle would begin moving backwards by itself up the hill.”

 

Magnetic Hills in Prince Edward Island

Darnley’s Gravity Hill

The most easterly magnetic hill in all of Canada is located near the town of Darnley, Prince Edward Island, a mere 7 minutes’ drive west of the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush. County Line Road, which extends south of town, leads the way through woods and farmland to what one writer described as “a very high ‘magnetic hill’, the summit of which provides a spectacular view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the north and rolling hills to the south.” One PEI tourism website claims that “the hill is apparently so steep at its base that, in the days of yore, a wagon driver with a full load of grain could touch the ears of his horses while sitting in his seat”- a characteristic which did not deter rumrunners from using the secluded road during the days of prohibition.

It is not entirely clear to this author whether Darnley’s ‘magnetic’ hill elicits the same optical illusion as the other gravity hills in this post or has been given its ‘magnetic’ appellative for some other reason. Whatever the case, PEI tourism websites seem to indicate that Darnley’s magnetic hill is well worth the visit.

 

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Top 5 Canadian Conspiracy Theories

Top 5 Canadian Conspiracy Theories

 

When it comes to conspiracy theories, our southern neighbour is undeniably king. Did U.S. Naval Intelligence have advance knowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor? Was John F. Kennedy really assassinated by a lone gunman? Was the moon landing a hoax? These questions hardly scratch the surface of the bottomless labyrinth of rabbit holes that are America’s manifold conspiracy theories.

Although they pale in scope and gravity to those of the United States, the Great White North has a few collusion delusions, sedition suspicions, and connivance contrivances of her own. From the chillingly plausible to the downright absurd, here are five conspiracy theories unique to the land of a maple leaf. Enjoy!

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1. There’s Something in the Coffee

Whether you regularly snag a double-double on your way to work or limit your consumption to RRRoll-Up season, if you’re a Canadian java junky, chances are you’re intimately familiar with Tim Hortons’ coffee. For over half a century, Canada’s favourite restaurant has supplied untold road trippers with their caffeine fix, warmed countless frozen fingers at outdoor sporting events, and provided the caffeic catalyst for many a friendly get-together. No doot aboot it, Timmy’s coffee is good… some say too good.

Conventional wisdom holds that the popularity of Tim Hortons’ iconic beverage is attributable to its rich full-bodied flavour, its reasonable price, and its oft-touted perpetual freshness. According to some, however, that widely-held yet seldom-spoken assumption just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Although Tim Hortons undoubtedly makes a solid cup of joe, its brew is objectively far from the finest of its kind. Spend a week indulging exclusively in high-quality coffee from a local roastery and your next cup of Timmy’s will probably taste like mud. Yet that very same day, when 5 o’clock rolls around and you fancy an afternoon pick-me-up, it won’t be that artisanal coffee you crave…

For some, the only explanation for the irresistible allure of Tim Hortons’ coffee is that it contains some sort of ultra-addictive narcotic. Some say that Tim’s takes a page out of Coca Cola’s old playbook and laces its beans with sprinklings of cocaine. Others whisper that the waxy coating that lines the interior of its paper cups contains trace amounts of nicotine- too little to produce any noticeable effects, but just enough to get you hooked. Whatever the case, many Canucks half-jokingly surmise that there might be more to Tim Hortons’ coffee than meets the eye.

 

2. The NHL is Biased Against Canadian Teams

If there’s anything that Canadians love more than Tim Hortons’ coffee, it’s watching Hockey Night in Canada- a TV program featuring live National Hockey League (NHL) games. Despite Canada’s unbridled enthusiasm for its national sport, however, it’s been 26 years since a Canadian NHL team won the Stanley Cup, the coveted NHL championship trophy.

There are currently 31 teams in the NHL, and seven of them- namely the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, the Montreal Canadiens, the Vancouver Canucks, the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and recently resurrected Winnipeg Jets- are Canadian (the remaining 24 are American).

If the winners of the Stanley Cup were chosen at random, the odds that American NHL teams would win the championship 26 years in a row would be around 1 in 500. Of course, the NHL championship is not a game of chance, and there are many factors which determine a team’s likelihood of making and progressing through the playoffs. So what sets Canadian NHL teams apart from their American counterparts?

Are the coaches of Canadian teams less competent than those of American teams? No.

Are the players paid differently? No.

Do American teams have an unfair advantage in the draft? No.

According to some, the only difference between Canadian and American NHL teams is the sort of treatment they receive from the officials during playoffs.

For years, Canadian hockey fans have observed that NHL referees seem to favour American teams, especially during playoff season. Not only do the refs appear to be disproportionately tough on Canadian players- they also seem to turn a blind eye to a staggering number of American infractions. For example, during the third period of this year’s first playoff game between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto’s Nazem Kadri was suspended for the remainder of the series for crosschecking Boston’s Jake DeBrusk- an incident from which DeBrusk was quick to recover. In game seven of that same series, at a critical moment in the second period when the series was on the line, Boston’s Zdeno Chara sucker punched Toronto’s captain John Tavares in the side of the head so hard that he fell to the ice… and got away scot free. Hockey fans may recall a similar double standard characterizing this year’s playoff series between the Calgary Flames and the Colorado Avalanche.

Why would hockey referees favour American teams over Canadian teams? Some paranoid Canadians suspect that they are pressured to do so by the National Hockey League, which has a financial motive to increase hockey’s popularity the United States. Securing the fanship of America’s larger and wealthier pool of sports lovers would certainly allow the NHL to make more money off network revenue. Perhaps, some say, the NHL is doing everything in its power to extend the seasons of American hockey teams for as long as possible in an effort to spread the game throughout the Land of Opportunity.

 

3. Justin Trudeau is Fidel Castro’s  Son

Whether your love him or hate him, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau elicited a universal facepalm across the Western world when he issued his praise-filled eulogy following the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in November 2016. Sure, Justin’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, was a personal friend of the one-time Communist revolutionary, and Justin himself had met with El Jefe three months prior to his finis. But haven’t the Holodomor, the Cambodian genocide, and the Great Chinese Famine taught leaders of the free world to think twice before showering their dissent-crushing, human-rights-abusing, nuclear-holocaust-flirting Communist counterparts with commendations?

The Prime Minister’s baffling public statement prompted many Canadians to take a closer look at Justin’s relationship with the late Cuban leader. Almost overnight, a wild theory took form. Perhaps, some said, Justin Trudeau is really not Pierre’s son at all, but rather the illegitimate love child of Fidel Castro and Pierre’s wife, Margaret.

Immediately, photographs comparing Justin Trudeau with young Castro began to circulate throughout the internet. Take away Fidel’s scruffy beard and exchange his combat fatigues for a suit and tie and the resemblance is truly uncanny.

Proponents of the theory noted that both Pierre Trudeau and his wife Margaret, the latter nearly thirty years Pierre’s junior, were notoriously promiscuous, and that Fidel became fast friends with Pierre in the 1970s, eventually serving as a pallbearer at his funeral in 2000.

Various fact-checking websites, in response to the rumour, were quick to point out that Justin Trudeau was born on Christmas Day, 1971- five years prior to Pierre and Margaret’s famous three-day visit to Havana in January 1976- and that, barring a secret rendezvous, there was no plausible opportunity for the alleged affair to have taken place in the timeframe required for Justin to be el hijo del Comandante.

That resemblance, though…

 

4. Russian Military Jets in Northern Canada

If you’ve spent much time on this website, chances are that you’re familiar with the Nahanni Valley– a mysterious region hugging the junction of the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and British Columbia where, in the early 1900s, prospectors searching for a legendary lost gold mine routinely lost their heads.

Back in the summer of 2018, while interviewing an authority on the Nahanni Valley named Frank Graves, the author of this piece learned of yet another mystery endemic to this infamous vale in Northern Canada. During an expedition to the Nahanni Valley in the summer of 1965, Mr. Graves was informed by the local RCMP that Soviet fighter jets were often seen flying through the region. Frank elaborated on this phenomenon in a contemporary letter to his mentor, Ivan Sanderson, writing:

“Some people- and notably a highly educated white man who has lived in the valley most of his life- remarked to me quite casually one day that enormous airplanes quite often came down from the north and sometimes fly so low in good weather that he could read their large markings even without his binoculars. Besides numbers, they bear ‘names’ or identifications in the Cyrillic alphabet. Some of these he had tried to copy down, and on showing them to another educated old-timer who had also seen these planes for some years, he learned that a priest from Ontario had had them translated, and that they were Russian, and standard markings for a certain series of overfly planes known to the Canadian authorities. I have asked around, but I never heard of such planes being spotted anywhere else; so why are the Russians so all-fired interested in this crazy valley? And crazy it is, and in all kinds of ways I later found out…”

Chillingly, recent news suggests that Russian violation of our northern airspace might not be some bygone exercise of the Cold War. Just four months ago, on January 26, 2019, U.S. Air Force and R.C.A.F. fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian bombers that had ventured too close to Canada’s Arctic coast.

 

5. The Shag Harbour UFO Cover-Up

Speaking of mysterious flying objects, no list of Canadian conspiracy theories would be complete without a nod to the UFO of Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia, and the alleged cover-up surrounding its subsequent investigation by the Canadian military.

On the eve of October 4, 1967, in the tiny fishing village of Shag Harbour on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia, dozens of witnesses saw an unusual pattern of yellow lights flashing in the night sky. After approaching from the east, the lights hovered over the harbour for some time before plunging down into the water, producing a bright flash of light and a loud boom suggestive of an explosion. Initially fearing that an airplane had crashed into the harbour, several witnesses scrambled to get a better view of the crash site so that they could accurately relay its position to the local authorities. Instead of finding the wreck of a downed aircraft, however, the witnesses met with a strange sight- a pale yellow dome of light floating atop the water’s surface. Several young fisherman informed the local Mounties of the incident, and in no time a rescue operation was underway. By the time the R.C.M.P. arrived on the scene, the dome was heading east along the surface of the water, leaving a trail of sparking yellow foam in its wake. The policemen watched as the mysterious object disappeared into the night.

A subsequent Mountie investigation failed to turn up any bodies or debris at the crash site. Suspecting that the mysterious object might have been some sort of secret Soviet military device, the Royal Canadian Navy immediately flew in a team of divers to scour the site for anything out of the ordinary. Like the Mounties before them, the Navy divers were unable to recover anything of interest… at least, that’s the official story. Local rumour has it that the Navy divers did recover a component of the mysterious craft on the seafloor, which they wrapped underwater and brought to the surface in secret.

According to UFO researcher Chris Styles, who tracked down and interviewed a number of the divers in the 1990s, one of his informants claimed that the Navy investigation at Shag Harbour was nothing more than a charade conducted for the benefit of the locals and any foreign agents who took an interest in the case. The Canadian military, which diligently monitored the Atlantic Northwest for Russian submarines, knew early on that the mysterious object that crashed in Shag Harbour had actually moved northeast to the waters off Shelburne, Nova Scotia. The Canadian Navy conducted another diving operation near Shelburne, which it kept secret from the public. During this covert retrieval operation, Navy personnel discovered two large crafts underwater, one of which appeared to be lending assistance to the other.

Before the Royal Canadian Navy could conduct a thorough investigation of the crafts, a Soviet submarine entered Canadian waters, apparently in an effort to locate the mysterious objects. While the Canadian cruisers on scene departed to intercept the submarine, the strange crafts slipped away, ascended to the surface, took flight, and disappeared into the sky.

Could there be some truth to the diver’s incredible tale? Did the Royal Canadian Navy really cover up evidence of a UFO crash at Shag Harbour, Nova Scotia? Perhaps we’ll never know for sure.

 

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The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 21- Seismic Matters

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 21- Seismic Matters

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 21 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Craig Tester, Rick Lagina, and Marty Lagina, the latter in attendance via video conference, meet in the War Room to discuss their plans for the immediate future in light of recent news that the workers’ strike will likely last the full 21 days. Marty suggests that they finish up the excavation at Smith’s Cove, then “take a long deep breath” and decide whether or not to pack it in for the season. Craig and Rick both agree with the first part of Marty’s proposal but have different ideas regarding the second, Craig being in favour of wrapping up after the work at Smith’s Cove is concluded and Rick expressing a desire to continue working on the island for as long as the weather permits. Marty agrees with his elder brother, saying “I want to do everything we possibly can this year because… we’ve been at this for a long time, we’re not getting any younger… for right now, though, I feel like ‘let’s do it all’, and even if that includes resurrecting that damned swamp.” Rick and a seemingly reluctant Craig concur on the provision that the rest of the team members are “on board”.

Later, Rick Lagina, Gary Drayton, Laird Niven and Terry Matheson watch as Billy Gerhardt excavates the area of the old Smith’s Cove crane pad with a backhoe. It is revealed that, aside from the recently-discovered Restall shaft and the underground wall dug up in Season 6, Episode 19, little of interest has been found in the area or in its washed and scrutinized spoils. While the treasure hunters chat, Gerhardt unearths a wooden board which proves to be part of another subterranean shaft. “If structures were treasure,” jokes Drayton, “we’d be rich”.

After the narrator reveals that the crew plans to conduct a seismic survey in the Oak Island swamp, we see the crew congregated in the War Room, where theorist Chris Donah has come to deliver a presentation. Donah tells the crew members that he believes the depositors of the Oak Island treasure used boulders and other markers to create an astronomical map on Oak Island. After the narrator reminds us of similar theories- namely Travis Taylor’s star map theory and Petter Amundsen’s theory regarding Nolan’s Cross, which was introduced back in Season 1, Episode 4- Donah begins talking about the Royal Arch- an important symbol of Freemasonry associated with a particular Freemasonic degree. This symbol depicts a stone archway consisting of a seven-piece arch resting atop two pillars, each piece of the arch representing a particular constellation.

Donah goes on to suggest that the depositors of the Oak Island treasure associated Oak Island’s triangular swamp with the constellation Virgo, and considered the star Spica, which represents the hand of Virgo, to be of special significance. When Donah overlays the constellation Virgo on a map of the swamp, the star Spica is located in the swamp’s southeast corner. There, Donah believes the treasure hunters will find a “back door” to the Money Pit.

In response to Donah’s presentation, Rick discloses that, at the southeast corner of the swamp, the treasure hunters discovered a huge flat stone, the surface of which he describes as being as level as the War Room table.

Later, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship meet at the freshly-drained Oak Island swamp with members of geophysical survey company Eagle Canada, who conducted the seismic survey of the Money Pit and Mega Bin areas in Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2. The seismic crew members outline their plan for the upcoming seismic survey, explaining that they intend to use 2,025 dynamite charges and 4,000 geophones in the operation.

Later, Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 27, where muck from the recently-drained swamp has been transported. Marty spreads some of the mud out with a backhoe, whereupon Gary scans the material with his metal detector. The treasure hunters quickly recover an old button, with Drayton dates to the 1700s. Shortly thereafter, they come across what appears to be an old token with a square hole punched through the middle. Regarding this discovery, Drayton remarks that, during the 17th and 18th Centuries, disgruntled

North American colonists sometimes defaced coins by punching holes through them as a protest of the reigning monarch. “I believe this is possibly one of those type of coins,” he concludes.

Later that day, the Oak Island team congregates at the swamp, where the crew from Eagle Canada has finished laying their lines of geophones and blast charges. The treasure hunters watch as the seismic crew detonates 300 charges in the first step of their survey.

While the seismic survey is underway, Charles Barkhouse, Terry Matheson, Laird Niven, Billy Gerhardt, and Alex Lagina continue the excavation at Smith’s Cove. During the operation, they unearth a pile of boulders from which a steady trickle of water appears to be issuing. The treasure hunters speculate whether the rock pile might constitute the convergence point of the legendary flood tunnel.

That night, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room, where Marty Lagina informs his fellows that the dendrochronological test of wooden structures discovered in Smith’s Cove (initiated in Season 6, Episode 20) has been completed. The treasure hunters then call up Dr. Colin Laroque of the University of Saskatchewan, the dendrochronologist who conducted the test, who proceeds to give them the results of his findings:

  • The wooden wall unearthed in Season 6, Episode 9, is made from tamarack wood, which Laroque explains was “very common… in the ship building areas [of] Nova Scotia and New Brunswick”. Unfortunately, due to wormholes in the wood, Laroque and his crew were unable to determine the age at which the tamarack trees were felled.
  • The northeastern arm of the slipway is made of red spruce felled in 1771.
  • Wood from the U-shaped structure is made of red spruce felled in 1769.

The treasure hunters are visibly impressed with Colin Laroque’s findings. “We can pretty much be sure that all that work in Smith’s Cove occurred in about 1770,” concludes Marty Lagina. “That’s pretty amazing.”

 

Analysis

Chris Donah’s Theory

In this episode, theorist Chris Donah presented his hypothesis, which holds that the depositors of the Oak Island treasure equated Oak Island’s triangular swamp, vaguely evocative of a womb, with the constellation Virgo- a cluster of stars which many Freemasons associate with benevolent femininity. When he placed the constellation overtop a map of the swamp, the star Spica, which represents Virgo’s hand, lay at the swamp’s southeast corner. Donah believes that the treasure hunters will find a “back door to the Money Pit” at this location.

In response to Donah’s theory, Rick Lagina alluded to a large flat stone the crew discovered at that location five years prior. Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship first described this discovery in Season 1, Episode 3, claiming that a smooth 3’ by 8’ rock and a tunnel connecting the swamp to the ocean were discovered there during a previous investigation. Later, in Season 2, Episode 8, GPS experts Pat Campbell and Matt Savelle conducted a GPR scan of the swamp and discovered evidence of a flat surface at the bottom of the swamp’s southeast corner.

Dendrochronological Dating of the Smith’s Cove Structures

In this episode, Dr. Colin Laroque of the University of Saskatchewan revealed the results of the dendrochronological test of the various wooden structures unearthed at Smith’s Cove this season. Although he was unable to determine the age of the underground wooden wall on account of wormholes, he was able to determine the years at which the trees of which several other structures are comprised were felled. Specifically, the northeastern arm of the slipway was dated to 1771, and wood from the U-shaped structure was dated to 1769. These findings suggest that the Smith’s Cove filter, the box drains, and the legendary Smith’s Cove flood tunnel were all constructed in the early 1770s. They also correspond perfectly with Fred Nolan’s theory that the Oak Island treasure consists of spoils from the Battle of Havana buried during the American Revolutionary War.

The Miracle at Loon Lake

The Miracle at Loon Lake

For Christians the world over, this year’s Holy Week- the week preceding Easter Sunday- is overshadowed by the tragic immolation of Notre-Dame de Paris. On April 15, 2019, millions of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians watched in horror as the vaulted ceiling of that magnificent, 850-year-old symbol of Christendom went up in flames. The structure burned for fifteen hours before collapsing into the nave below, mercifully damaging little of the cathedral’s historic interior.

Despite eclipsing it in scale, this disaster eerily echoes the cremation of another house of God by the name of ‘Notre Dame’ which took place in the Holy Week of 1885, on the northern edge of the Albertan prairies. A savage act of arson, this event played a pivotal role in the story of one of Saskatchewan’s least known and most baffling historical mysteries.

 

Whispers of Revolution

1885 was a year of transition in the Canadian West, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another. That fall, the Last Spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway- the iron road connecting the easterly Dominion of Canada with the westerly Province of British Columbia, and bridging the vast North-West Territories that lay in between- was driven home at Craigellachie, B.C. The ringing of the sledgehammer might have served as a summoning bell for hordes of homesteaders who would soon pour into the Canadian prairies, and as a death knell for the days of Canada’s brief and fiery Wild West. By 1885, the huge herds of buffalo that had blanketed the prairies since time immemorial had dwindled to near extinction, destined to be replaced in a few short years by their domestic counterparts, beef cattle. The traders, prospectors, and wolfers who, decades prior, had comprised the North-West Territories’ only white civilian population had gradually traded in their repeating rifles and revolvers for the lasso of the rancher and the pitchfork of the farmer. And the Blackfoot, Cree, and Assiniboine Indians who had once dominated the region on horseback had been coerced by the Mounties, who brought law and order to the Canadian West in 1874, to abandon the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors and settle onto Reserves, where their livelihood was reduced to waiting for government rations.

Naturally, there were many who were vigorously opposed to these changes that were swiftly reshaping the face of Western Canada. Foremost among these were the Metis people- the progeny of French-Canadian and Scottish fur traders and Cree and Ojibwa women. Nearly two decades prior, in the wake of Canadian Confederation, the French Metis of the Red River Valley south of Lake Winnipeg had rebelled against the newly-established Canadian government, fearful that Dominion agents would force them to abandon their homesteads along the Red River, which they did not legally own. The uprising, called the Red River Rebellion, was led by a well-educated Metis revolutionary named Louis Riel, who fled south to Dakota Territory when the Canadian government sent a military expedition to enforce peace in the region.

By 1885, the Metis people, who had relied on the bison almost as heavily as their First Nations cousins to the west, were in dire straits. That spring, they invited Riel to return from his long exile in the United States in the hope that he might lead them once again in this their time of need. Answering the call of his people, the Metis expatriate rode north into Canada and up the wagon-rutted Carlton Trail to the village of Duck Lake in what is now Central Saskatchewan, where many Metis had resettled following the Red River Rebellion. In no time, whispers of an upcoming revolution were rippling throughout the Canadian prairies.

The Frog Lake Massacre

About 300 kilometres (185 miles) northwest of Duck Lake, just west of the eastern border of what is now Alberta, at a place where the southerly prairie meets the boreal forest, lies the settlement of Frog Lake. In 1885, this tiny community boasted a grist mill; a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post; a small North-West Mounted Police barracks and stables; a Catholic Mission church called Notre Dame du Bon Conseil, or ‘Our Lady of Good Council’; and an office for Indian Agent Thomas Quinn, who was responsible for the three bands of friendly Woodland Cree who pitched their teepees nearby.

In the spring of 1885, while Louis Riel was receiving a warm welcome at Duck Lake, two very different Cree bands joined their fellows at Frog Lake. One was comprised of the so-called ‘Bush Indians’, a peace-loving clan of Chipewyan Dene who hailed from the forests to the north. The other was composed of fearsome Plains Cree from the southerly prairies who were led by a grizzled, pox-scarred chief named Big Bear.

Big Bear was a true member of the old guard- a man with one moccasin firmly planted in the past and the other begrudgingly thrust into the present. He was the veteran of a thousand skirmishes and horse raids, having spent most of his adult life on the warpath against the Blackfoot, his people’s hereditary enemy. He had even played a prominent role in the 1870 Battle of Belly River– the world’s last great intertribal Indian battle. Like his ancestors before him, his sole occupations prior to the coming of the Mounties in 1874 had been hunting and warfare- activities which, in his mind, tested his mettle as a chief and defined his worth as a man.

Big Bear detested the changes that had taken place in recent years and stubbornly refused to give up the traditional Plains Cree way of life. Hoping to retain his freedom for as long as possible, he was the last chief to sign Treaty 6- an agreement between the Canadian government and the various Cree and Assiniboine nations of what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan, which stipulated that the natives surrender their hunting grounds to the government in exchange for provisions. When the buffalo finally disappeared from the prairies and his people began to go hungry, Big Bear had no choice but to accept the terms of the treaty. Instead of settling on a reserve as had his contemporaries, however, the old chief and his band attempted to retain some semblance of their traditional nomadic lifestyle, spending nearly a decade wandering aimlessly from trading post to trading post without any buffalo to pursue. When they finally rode into Frog Lake (where they intended to spend the winter) in the spring of 1885, they were bitter, frustrated, and hungry.

On March 30, 1885, word reached Frog Lake of a battle which had taken place five days prior at southeasterly Duck Lake. On March 19, Louis Riel had declared himself the leader of the so-called ‘Provisional Government of Saskatchewan’- an independent Metis state comprising much of what is now Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. When a handful of North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) officers from Fort Carlton (a Hudson’s Bay Company post located about 20 kilometres (13 miles) northwest of Duck Lake, on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River) had attempted to make a routine trip to Duck Lake for supplies, Metis revolutionaries had stopped them on the trail and forced them to return with a message from Riel demanding the fort’s peaceful surrender. Leif Crozier, the Superintendent of Fort Carlton’s NWMP detachment, had no intention of giving in to Riel’s demands. On March 25, he led 95 Mounties down the road to Duck Lake, where 250 Metis revolutionaries were waiting for them, having occupied a defensive position behind several log cabins at the edge of a thicket. Led by their general, Gabriel Dumont, the Metis militia engaged Crozier’s force in a 30 minute firefight which left 12 Mounties and 6 Metis dead. Heavily outnumbered, Crozier had no choice but to retreat to Fort Carlton. And thus Riel and his forces won their first victory in what would come to be known as the North-West Rebellion.

The Plains Cree at Frog Lake were encouraged by news of Riel’s success, and almost overnight, Big Bear’s son, Imasees, determined to start his own rebellion and fight his way across the prairie to join forces with the Metis malcontents; his father, the old chief, was away on a hunting trip at the time. Eager as he was for an opportunity to change the his people’s pitiable circumstances, however, Imasees’ enthusiasm for the upcoming conflict was eclipsed by that Wandering Spirit, a hotheaded, curly-haired sub-chief who held more sway over the band’s young braves than even Big Bear himself. Wandering Spirit hated white men and blamed them for all the problems the Cree people were currently facing. When Frog Lake’s eight Mounties left for Fort Pitt (a Hudson’s Bay Company post located 50 kilometres (30 miles) southeast, on the banks of the North Saskatchewan) at the request of Frog Lake’s white residents, who thought their presence might provoke the Plains Cree to violence, Wandering Spirit decided that the time had come to mete out Indian justice.

Big Bear returned to Frog Lake from his hunting trip on the evening of April 1, where he learned of Riel’s rebellion and of Imasees and Wandering Spirit’s desire to take to the warpath. Weary from his journey, he went to sleep, whereupon Wandering Spirit and his most loyal braves painted their faces with blood red vermillion and yellow ochre before stealing the horses from the unguarded Mountie stables.

On the morning of April 2, Wandering Spirit and his warriors broke into the homes of Frog Lake’s white residents and seized their firearms. “Riel and his half-breeds came last night and stole the red coats’ horses!” the Plains Cree lied to the bewildered settlers. “But don’t be afraid. We will protect you.”

After raiding the HBC post of its knives, bullets, and gunpowder, the warriors herded most of Frog Lake’s white settlers to the Mission church, where the resident priest, Father Farard, and a visiting priest named Father Marchand, were saying Holy Thursday Mass for the local Metis and Woodland Cree. In the middle of the service, Wandering Spirit sauntered into the church and genuflected in the centre aisle, a Winchester rifle in his hand. According to 23-year-old HBC clerk William Bleasdell Cameron, a witness of the event who described the experience in his 1926 book Blood Red the Sun:

“His lynx-skin war-bonnet, from which depended five large eagle plumes, crowned his head; his eyes burned and his hideously-painted face was set in lines of deadly menace. Never shall I forget the feelings his whole appearance and action excited in me as I watched in stupefied amazement while he half-knelt, glaring up at the altar and the white-robed priests in sacrilegious mockery. He was a demon, a wild animal, savage, ruthless, thirsting for blood. I doubted then that we should any of us ever again see the outside of the chapel.”

Fathers Fafard and Marchand concluded the Mass prematurely on account of Wandering Spirit’s hostile antics, whereupon the war chief’s followers ushered most of the white settlers towards the Plains Cree camp. Wandering Spirit himself headed to the home of Thomas Quinn and ordered the Indian agent to follow his white compatriots. Quinn refused. Wandering Spirit repeated his demand twice more, and each time the government man refused to comply. “Die then!” spat the war chief, raising his rifle and shooting Quinn in the head.

The gunshot was like a spark in a powder keg. Immediately, a Plains Cree warrior shot Quinn’s Metis interpreter in the shoulder; another pockmarked brave then ran up to the wounded man, pressed the muzzle of his rifle against his chest, and finished him off.

Chief Big Bear, who had been lounging in the kitchen of the HBC post, ran towards the bloody scene bellowing “Tesqua! Tesqua!” (Stop! Stop!) in a great booming voice. His entreaty fell on deaf ears; two more white men- William Gilchrist and George Dill- were subsequently murdered by Wandering Spirit’s unruly warriors, as were Fathers Fafard and Marchand.

“Dust and smoke filled the air,” wrote William Cameron. “Whoops and shrieks and the ghastly clatter of galloping hoofs blended in a weird and ghastly symphony. High over all swelled the deadly war-chant of the Plains Crees, bursting from a hundred sinewy throats. I heard the peculiarly-ringing voice of Wandering Spirit calling on his followers to shoot the other whites and burst after burst sounded the death knell of other of my friends.”

At that time, Theresa Gowanlock, the wife of a local miller named John Gowanlock- was among the crowd of white settlers who were being led to Big Bear’s camp. She described her harrowing experience in a later reminiscence entitled Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear, writing:

“Mr. Williscraft, an old grey-headed man about seventy-five years of age came running by us, and an Indian shot at him and knocked his hat off, and he turned around and said, ‘Oh! Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!’ But they fired again, and he ran screaming and fell in some bushes.”

“My dear wife,” whispered Theresa’s husband, John, in an attempt to comfort her, “be brave to the end.” No sooner had he said this than he was fatally shot in the back. Theresa fell down beside her dying husband and prepared herself for the inevitable bullet. “But death just then was not ordained for me,” she wrote. A Plains Cree warrior roughly hauled her to her feet just in time for her to see the murder of John Delaney, who had formerly instructed the local Woodland Cree in farming; Delaney’s grieving widow, who was also named Theresa, was torn from her husband’s prostrate body and made prisoner.

By the time the smoke cleared, nine white men lay dead and four white residents- Theresa Gowanlock, Theresa Delaney, William Cameron, and HBC agent James Simpson- were held captive in the camp of Big Bear. That Cameron and Simpson were spared the slaughter is due to the intercession of their Woodland Cree friends, who sheltered them in their own camp after the shooting broke out. Similarly, the two female prisoners, Mrs. Gowanlock and Mrs. Delaney, were saved from cruel usage and death by local Metis interpreters named John Pritchard and Adolphus Nolin, who purchased them from the braves who had claimed them as their wives.

The Plains Cree spent the following days feasting and dancing, gorging themselves on HBC bacon and sacramental wine from the Mission church. After mutilating the bodies of their victims, they allowed several devoutly Catholic local Metis to inter some of the bodies in empty houses and the church cellar; others were left out in the open at the command of Wandering Spirit, at least one of them being propped up against a tree with a pipe jammed in his mouth in a perverse display of frontier humour.

On Easter Sunday, Big Bear’s Plains Cree burned Notre Dame, the Mission church, before setting fire to the rest of the buildings at Frog Lake. That accomplished, they and their Woodland Cree brethren, whom they had bullied into joining their wild crusade, proceeded southeast, bound for Fort Pitt.

Big Bear’s Campaign

For two months, the Cree war party roamed throughout northern Saskatchewan with their prisoners in tow. Theresa Gowanlock, Theresa Delaney, and William Cameron, in their memoirs, detailed the particulars of the campaign, describing the Cree’s nearly bloodless capture of Fort Pitt; the constant infighting that took place between the warlike Plains Cree and the more peaceably inclined Woodland cousins; various Cree ceremonies, including the agonizing Thirst Dance and a ritualized feast which centred around the consumption of dog stew; and the Cree’s final skirmishes with government forces at the edge of the boreal forest. All the while, the prisoners- particularly those of the fairer sex- suffered from bitter cold, severe privation, and the ever-looming threat of execution at the hands of Wandering Spirit.

After their defeat at the Battle of Loon Lake, the Plains Cree and the Woodland Cree went their separate ways, the prisoners proceeding under the protection of their Woodland Cree friends. The captives were finally rescued by government forces in mid-June and brought back to civilization.

Most of the surviving perpetrators of the massacre at Frog Lake were eventually captured, although some of them escaped to Montana. On November 27, 1885, six of the culprits, along with two Cree and Assiniboine murders from the band of Chief Poundmaker, another participant in Riel’s rebellion, were executed at Fort Battleford in what was to be the largest mass hanging in Canadian history. Chief Big Bear himself, who had eluded government forces sent to capture him, eventually turned himself in at Fort Battleford. Due in part to the testimony of William Cameron, who described Big Bear as an unwilling participant in the campaign that was ascribed to him, the great Plains Cree chief was sentenced to three years of imprisonment.

 

The Miracle at Loon Lake

In October 1955, an article entitled ‘Memories of Frog Lake’ was published in the Montreal-based magazine Family Herald and Weekly Star. The piece was submitted by Arthur Johnson, nephew of Theresa Gowanlock, who claimed it to be a second memoir of the North-West Rebellion written by his aunt shortly prior to her premature death in 1899; indeed, the narrative’s style corresponds perfectly with that of Gowanlock’s in Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear.

According to the late Canadian writer Francis Dickie in articles for various Western magazines, the unedited original manuscript on which ‘Memories of Frog Lake’ was based contains a startling anecdote which Mrs. Gowanlock failed to include in her earlier memoir, presumably for fear of ridicule. Dickie claimed that this story was corroborated by the writings of Bishop Vital-Justin Grandin, an Oblate missionary who “took down the statements of Indian and Metis prisoners” in the months that followed the rebellion; the author of this piece has been unable to verify this claim.

According to the original manuscript, the progress of Big Bear’s campaign was hampered by the foreboding of an old woman who portended disaster for the Cree. Gowanlock wrote:

“Her predictions that terrible things would overtake the band for their share in the killing of the priests unnerved the Indians. Then one morning a young brave, with an axe in his hand, led the old woman away. He returned alone.

“Late in the afternoon some days after this, toward the end of May when we had been captive eight weeks, as Mrs. Delaney and I were inside the lodge, we heard cries of consternation outside. We ran out to see all the band staring in fright at the sky. There in a break among low clouds was a representation of a church resembling that at Frog Lake burned down nearly two months ago with the bodies of the priests and the other white men. As we gazed a priest on a white horse appeared approaching the church. Reaching it he dismounted, stretched out his hand as if in blessing. The summer clouds closed in, and the vision faded away.

“Fear possessed all in the camp. The warning of the murdered old woman was recalled. The squaws, wearied by two months of extra labor of continually moving camp set up a wailing. The warriors had lost the last of their courage. Even the evening meal was untouched. And now the headmen began accusing the young braves of having caused the trouble. The camp did not move again.

“The end had come. A troop of soldiers travelling fast surrounded the camp two days later. Under a flag of truce the officers and the Chief met, and the Indians surrendered.”

It is interesting to note that several elements of Gowanlock’s manuscript, particularly the execution of the old woman and the vision in the sky, evoke events she had described in her earlier memoir. In Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear, Gowanlock claimed that, on Easter Monday, 1885, after a night of heavy storm:

“…The Indians came in and told us what they saw in the heavens. They saw a church and a man on a large black horse with his arm out and he looked so angry, and they said God must be angry with them for doing such a thing…”

Later on, Theresa Gowanlock described the Cree’s execution of a senile old woman who exhibited the symptoms of Wendigo psychosis- a mental malady characterized by a strange desire to eat human flesh, which the Cree attributed to the woman’s possession by an evil cannibalistic spirit. This event, which William Cameron described in gruesome detail in his book Blood Red the Sun, is hauntingly reminiscent of Gowanlock’s story about the old woman whom the Cree executed for her disturbing prophecies.

Is it possible that Gowanlock’s 1899 reminiscence is the product of the fevered brain of a dying woman- an inadvertent perversion of the events described in her earlier memoirs? Or did Mrs. Gowanlock, Mrs. Delaney, and members of the Cree war party truly see something extraordinary in the sky in the summer of 1885? Until we unearth the writings of Bishop Grandin alluded to in Francis Dickie’s writings, the answers to these questions will likely remain a mystery.

 

Sources

  • What Saved Mrs. Gowanlock? by Francis Dickie in the Nov. 1964 issue of Real West
  • Two Months in the Camp of Big Bear (1885), by Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney
  • Blood Red the Sun (1926), by William Bleasdell Cameron
  • Capturing Women: The Manipulation of Cultural Imagelry in Canada’s Prairie West, by Sarah Carter
  • The Last Hostage (1968) , by Duncan McLean as told to Eric Wells, “Weekend Magazine No. 32”
  • An Opinion of the Frog Lake Massacre, by Rev. Dr. Edward Ahenakew in the Summer 1960 issue of the “Alberta Historical Review”
  • An Account of the Frog Lake Massacre, as told to A.E. Peterson by George Stanley Mesunekwepan), in the Winter 1956 issue of the “Alberta Historical Review”
  • Massacre Street (September 2010), by Paul William Zits

 

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 20- Short Days and Tall Knights

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 20- Short Days and Tall Knights

 

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 20 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

Plot Summary

The Oak Island team meets in the War Room to discuss their plan for the next few weeks in light of their contractors’ recent strike. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to shift their focus towards the excavation of Smith’s Cove and a close examination of Money Pit area spoils.

“I was prepared for seawater,” Marty Lagina laments. “I was prepared for hurricane. I was prepared for collapse. I was prepared for equipment breakdown. I was prepared for all manners in which the curse could get us, but I was not thinking about a strike. So it’s interesting how the Island just… throws you something. But you know what? … Sempre avanti, we’re going to move forward…”

Later, various members of the team head to Smith’s Cove, where Billy Gerhardt is busy digging up the crane pad. As in the previous episode, Gerhardt uncovers more underground wooden structures suggestive of previous searcher attempts to stem the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Marty Lagina suggests that these structures might actually constitute one of the exploratory shafts which Robert and Bobby Restall sank at Smith’s Cove in the mid-1960s. Further examination indicates that the latest structure discovered may indeed be such a shaft.

 

 

Next, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 1. Not far from the beach, Drayton comes across a piece of old pottery, which he dates to the 1700s. At Drayton’s suggestion, Jack Begley removes a nearby log using a winch attached to his vehicle. Drayton then searches the freshly-cleared area with his metal detector and discovers a military shirt cuff button, which he also dates to the 18th Century. Begley remarks that the artifact resembles the gold-plated military officer’s button found in GAL1 in the Season 4 finale.

Later, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room with author and historian James McQuiston, who has come to showcase his own Oak Island theory. McQuiston begins his presentation by regaling the treasure hunters with the story of the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia, which he claimed to have cobbled together “piece by piece, just like you folks are finding things piece by piece on this island.” The Knights Baronets, McQuiston states, was a chivalric order established by King James I of England (who was simultaneously King James VI of Scotland). King James had

tasked his courtier, William Alexander, with ousting the French Catholics who inhabited the Acadian settlement of Port-Royal (present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia) and replacing them with Scottish colonists. Alexander acceded to his king’s demand on the condition that he be allowed to name his new Scottish colony Nova Scotia, or “New Scotland”. James responded by creating the Baronetage of Nova Scotia in 1625. To become a member of this order, candidates would have to pay a large fee which would be used to support Alexander’s new Scottish colony.

“If you look at the overall list of the Knights Baronet,” McQuiston continues, “25% of them had some kind of connection back to the Knights Templar.” The writer goes on to claim that the order was really a “continuous legacy” of the Scottish Templars. After suggesting a potential connection between the Baronetage and the supposed Templar ruins at New Ross, Nova Scotia (which the crew investigated in Season 4, Episodes 1 and 2), McQuiston outlines his theory that members of the Scottish order buried the treasure of the Knights Templar on Oak Island sometime in the 1630s.

Finally, McQuiston shows the treasure hunters a list of items he found in a copy of History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1– a history of the oldest Masonic Lodge in the world- which he suggests might be an inventory of the Oak Island treasure. Some items on the list include “36 dozen gold buttons, rich jewel set of diamonds… [and] gold bracelets at 600 pounds, the pair”. McQuiston estimates the treasure to be worth half a billion American dollars today.

The next day, Marty Lagina and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 16, not far from the Money Pit area. They intend to investigate a potential connection between an old water well there, located near the site at which the Tory Martin stone was discovered, and the mysterious stone well at New Ross, which the crew examined in Season 4, Episode 2.

“Nobody seems to know anything about it,” says Marty Lagina of the Lot 16 well in a later interview. “I agree,” concurs his brother Rick, voicing his curiosity regarding the identity of the structure’s builders.

Gary Drayton observes that the well appears to have a modern cap overtop an antiquated body, and suggests that they remove the cap in order to better examine the older structure below. Marty agrees and calls up Laird Niven, whose consent is required for the cap’s removal. Niven gives the treasure hunters the green light over the phone, whereupon Marty removes the well’s cap with a backhoe.

 

Drayton examines the freshly exposed well with his metal detector and gets several elusive hits. He and Marty proceed to pump the well dry. That accomplished, Drayton dons a hardhat and climbs down the shaft. After removing two stones with potential markings on them from the bottom of the well, he discovers a small piece of lead, as well as a modern Canadian loonie. Although he gets several more hits with his metal detector, he is forced to abandon the investigation and climb out of the well on account of freshwater seeping in from the bottom.

Later, the Lagina brothers meet with Laird Niven and Billy Gerhardt at Smith’s Cove. Hoping to determine the ages of the U-shaped and L-shaped structures discovered there through dendrochronology (tree ring dating), they remove cross-sectional samples of the structure under Niven’s direction.

Analysis

Oak Island Buttons

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley discovered a military shirt cuff button on Lot 1, which Drayton dated to the 1700s. This find evokes other old buttons discovered on Oak Island, including:

  • The military button discovered on Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 16
  • The dandy button found on Lot 24 in Season 4, Episode 8
  • The gold-plated military officer’s button found in GAL1 in the Season 4 finale
  • The flat, military-style button discovered at Smith’s Cove in Season 2, Episode 2
  • A “navy button” discovered near the foundations of the home of Samuel Ball, the existence of which Gary Drayton disclosed to the public in an article on his personal website. 

Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia

In this episode, writer James McQuiston presented his own theory regarding the nature of Oak Island’s treasure, which revolves around a chivalric order called the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia.

The order’s story begins in the early 1600s, during the infancy of North American colonization. At that time, King James I of England (a.k.a. King James VI of Scotland) hoped to control a huge swath of North American territory stretching from his newly-established Colony of Virginia to his even younger Newfoundland Colony to the north. His designs were thwarted, however, by French explorers Samuel de Champlain and Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, who had recently established a number of New French colonies in Acadia (the Canadian Maritimes) and along the St. Lawrence River.

The oldest of these New French colonies was the settlement of Port-Royal, a village situated on the Bay of Fundy on the western coast of what is now Nova Scotia. Although King James had successfully commissioned Samuel Argall, the Admiral of the Virginia Colony, with razing the town to the ground in 1613, the French had simply rebuilt the settlement 8 kilometres (five miles) up the Annapolis River on the opposite shore. If James were to drive the French away from the colony, he would need to establish a colony of his own in the area.

In 1621, William Alexander, one of James’ Scottish courtiers, approached him with an interesting proposal intended to effect this end. Alexander suggested that the king finance a New Scottish colony in the heart of French Acadia by creating a new chivalric order and selling membership to Scottish aristocrats, using the funds raised to purchase outfits for prospective colonists. King James had tried a similar scheme in 1611 in order to populate Ireland with English settlers, with excellent results. The king agreed to the proposal, and on September 10, 1621, he appointed William Alexander the mayor of this vast new colony, which was to be called Nova Scotia, or “New Scotland”. Several years later, on October 18, 1624, he announced his intention to form the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia, through which he would finance this new colony.

King James I never lived to carry out his plan, dying of dysentery on March 27, 1625. His eldest living son and successor, King Charles I, promptly carried on where his father had left off, forming the Knights Baronets of Nova Scotia two months after James’ death. Charles ultimately managed to sell 122 baronetcies to Scottish lairds and clan chiefs, which allowed William Alexander’s son, also named William Alexander, to establish the colony of Charlesford in the ashes of the old Port-Royal.

The colony was short-lived. In the late 1620s, the English fought against the armies of French King Louis XIII in the Siege of La Rochelle, a conflict between Catholic France and a defending army of French Huguenots (Protestants). The Anglo-French War which revolved around this battle ended in 1629, and in 1632, the defeated Charles I signed a treaty returning all of New France (Charlesford included) to the French. The nearby settlement of Port-Royal, later called Annapolis Royal, would remain in French hands until 1710.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 19- Striking Distance

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 19- Striking Distance

The following is a Plot Summary of Season 6, Episode 19 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, Paul Troutman, and Terry Matheson stand by at the Money Pit area and oversee the excavation of Borehole GG1. Oscillator operator Danny Smith informs them that the caisson has reached a depth of 111 feet, and that “the oscillator pressure is the highest it’s [ever] been…” Matheson ponders over the possible subterranean media that could impose such a high torque pressure on the oscillator.

While they wait for their contractors to determine what sort of material the caisson is biting into, the Oak Island crew members examine some of the timbers that GG1 has yielded. Some of the beams appear to be oak- an indication that they might have belonged to the original Money Pit.

Later, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 25. First, they discover an old iron lock plate from a box or a chest, evoking the keyhole plate discovered on Lot 8 in Season 5, Episode 15. The narrator then suggests that the artifact might have belonged to either Samuel Ball or Captain James Anderson, the latter being an 18th Century American privateer and British spy who once owned Lot 26, and whose sea chest the Oak Island team examined in Season 5, Episode 2.

Back at the Money Pit area, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and other members of the team watch as the excavation of GG1 continues. Now below 111 feet, the shaft is yielding load after load of old wood, one particularly large beam (brought up from a depth of 113 feet) measuring five feet in length. Doug Crowell states that the beam was likely part of the Halifax Tunnel– a somewhat mysterious searcher tunnel constructed by the Halifax Company in 1866 or 1867. The narrator then suggests that perhaps the various artifacts discovered at depth in the area are all part of the Halifax Tunnel, located 200 feet south of the Money Pit, and that the team has not located the original diggings as they had hoped. The crew sinks the shaft to a depth of 159 feet before deciding to terminate the excavation.

While Billy Gerhardt begins to dismantle the crane pad at Smith’s Cove, the rest of the team meets in the War Room with theorist Richard Moats, a friend of the late Oak Island theorist Zena Halpern. Moats suggests that Nolan’s Cross “provides a means of relocating specific places on the island by using navigation principals along with markers that could not be changed by natural processes.” He further suggests that the cross was constructed by the Knights Templar before showing the treasure hunters a map of the Cross with several lines drawn through various stones. Moats believes that the intersections of these lines, one of which is located in the Money Pit area, are possible areas of interest.

The next day, while Irving Equipment Ltd. commences the sinking of another shaft called Site 3 in the Money Pit area, various members of the Oak Island team head to Smith’s Cove. There, Billy Gerhardt shows them a trench he dug beneath the crane pad into which water is leaking from below. Rick Lagina examines the trench and discovers several wooden boards protruding from its side. Marty suggests that the board constitutes a previous treasure hunter’s attempt to staunch the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Gerhardt then expands the trench with his backhoe to reveal additional boards and more flowing water. “I think you’ve got your answer there,” remarks Gary Drayton. “The water’s running. They tried to stop the water.”

The following day, Craig Tester, Paul Troutman, and Terry Matheson oversee the excavation of the Site 3 shaft in the Money Pit area. Now at a depth of 104 feet, the shaft is yielding old hand-hewn timbers, which Terry Matheson suggests constitute the remains of early searcher shafts. Eventually, the hammergrab brings up huge oak timbers, which Terry Matheson speculates might be support beams for the original Money Pit.

Meanwhile, Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Dan Henskee sift through pre-washed Site 3 spoils at a wash table. Jack Begley discovers a thin shard of pottery, which Henskee suggests might be a piece of a fine china teacup. Alex Lagina then comes across a fragment of purple wood, evoking the purple book spine unearthed from Borehole H8 in Season 5, Episode 7.

Later, the Lagina brothers and Craig Tester return to the Money Pit area, only to find the place quiet and deserted. They meet with Mike Jardine in an on-site trailer and learn that the crane operators are on strike, their union having decided to protest the wages stipulated by the Nova Scotia Construction Labour Relations Association. Jardine explains that the wage dispute is expected to be resolved within 21 days, and that work in the Money Pit area will necessarily be suspended until its resolution.  “We understand completely,” replies Marty Lagina. “We’ll just soldier through this. I think we ought to respect the workers’ rights here. So we’ll let this play out.”

The Liverpool Packet: Canada’s Most Successful Privateer

The Liverpool Packet: Canada’s Most Successful Privateer

If you’re into classic literature, you may have heard of Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 boys’ adventure novel Captains Courageous. This story is about the spoiled son of a New York millionaire who falls overboard a steamer in the North Atlantic, only to be rescued by the crew of a fishing boat off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland (a rich fishing ground southeast of ‘the Rock’). The young protagonist quickly learns that lipping off his new shipmates, as he was wont to do his father’s employees, will earn him nothing but misery. Accepting his situation, he begins to earn his keep on the fishing vessel, forging himself a more virtuous character in the process.

About halfway through the novel, the fishermen bust out a fiddle and begin to sing various maritime tunes, from old sea shanties to an ancient Celtic dirge. One of the first tunes they intone is the Dreadnought, which details the trans-Atlantic route of a speedy American clipper that regularly carried mail from New York City to Liverpool, England, in mid 1800s. The song’s chorus goes: “She’s the Liverpool packet- O Lord, let her go!”- ‘Liverpool packets’ being courier ships that routinely sailed to and from the Port of Liverpool.

The Original Liverpool Packet

Although Kipling’s novel makes no mention of it, there was once a famous schooner actually named the Liverpool Packet which sailed the North Atlantic in the early 1800s. This vessel was a British privateer licensed to capture American ships, and has the distinction of being the most successful privateer to ever sail out of a Canadian port.

Initially christened the Severn, the Liverpool Packet began its life as an American slaver, hauling hapless human chattel from the West Coast of Africa to the fledgling United States. In 1808, both the United States and the United Kingdom outlawed the importation of new slaves into the Americas. Instead of seeking out new legitimate cargo, the captain of the Severn decided to continue the illicit trade with which he had previously been engaged.

In the summer of 1811, a British Royal Navy sloop-of-war captured the slave ship and sold it for 420 pounds sterling to Nova Scotian businessman Enos Collins and two other partners. Collins renamed the schooner the Liverpool Packet and used it to carry mail and passengers between Halifax and the southwesterly town of Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

The War of 1812

A year following the capture, the United States of America, in response to a British naval blockade intended to prevent U.S. trade with Napoleonic France, declared war on British Canada. The enterprising Collins used the opportunity to convert the Liverpool Packet into a 5-cannon privateer. Command of the schooner was awarded to Liverpool native Joseph Barss Jr., a veteran of the Caribbean theatre of the French Revolutionary Wars who was determined to make up for his lackluster stint in the West Indies. On the advice of his brother, John- an experienced importer familiar with American shipping practices- Barss sailed the Liverpool Packet behind enemy lines to the northern shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and lay in wait for American merchant ships bound for Boston Harbor. The schooner’s exceptional speed and Barss’ skill as a captain allowed the Liverpool Packet’s 45-man crew to capture 33 American ships in a single year- a tremendous achievement which earned the vessel a legendary reputation in the North Atlantic, as well as a suitably sinister nickname: the Black Joke. The Packet’s uncanny success even prompted one American shipping intelligence officer, in a dispatch describing the Packet’s relocation to the more northerly coast of Maine, to label Barss an “evil genius”. Soon, a number of American privateers were hunting expressly for the Canadian vessel, determined to pluck that painful thorn from the side of the U.S. shipping industry.

Finally, on June 11, 1813, the Liverpool Packet found herself forced into a battle with a 12-gun American privateer called the Thomas, light winds having precluded her escape. The five-gun schooner was no match for the larger vessel, and Barss wisely surrendered before serious loss of life could occur (despite his efforts, three American sailors were subsequently killed in a panicked boarding skirmish resultant of the two ships smashing together). The Nova Scotian captain and his crew were taken as prisoners of war. Although the crew of the Liverpool Packet was promptly exchanged for American POWs held by the British, Barss himself endured a more lengthy captivity in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as punishment for the severe damage he had inflicted on American commerce.

The schooner’s new owners renamed their prize the “Young Teazer’s Ghost”- a nod to the American privateer that exploded in Nova Scotia’s Mahone Bay during a skirmish with two Royal Navy warships just two weeks after the Packet’s capture. Despite her lofty appellative, the schooner mysteriously failed to perform in American hands, prompting her crew to rename her the Portsmouth Packet. After a brief and unsuccessful career, the schooner was recaptured by two British Royal Navy warships near Mount Desert Island (Maine’s largest island) and brought back to Halifax, where she was returned to Enos Collins and named the Liverpool Packet once again.

Incredibly, the vessel seemed to regain her good fortune with a Union Jack on her mainmast and a Canadian captain on her quarterdeck. Under the command of Captain Caleb Seeley, another Liverpool resident, the Liverpool Packet captured at least seventeen American ships off the coast of New England. By the end of the conflict, the schooner had captured a whopping 50 ships for the British, their collective cargoes worth nearly a million American dollars- the largest haul of the War of 1812.

When the war was over, Enos Collins (who would invest the small fortune he acquired during the war, eventually becoming the richest man in Canada) and the other co-owners of the Liverpool Packet sold their celebrated schooner to a buyer in Jamaica. Her fate following the purchase remains a mystery to this day.

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The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 18- Heavy Metal

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 18- Heavy Metal

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 18 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick and Marty Lagina meet in the War Room with Craig Tester, the latter in attendance via video conference. The three partners discuss the ongoing operation at Smith’s Cove, and agree that they ought to dismantle the crane pad and search for the flood tunnel- a project for which they have recently acquired permits from the provincial government.

Later, the crew gathers at the Money Pit area, where the excavation of Borehole S6 is underway. Charles Barkhouse explains that the spoils from the excavation are being washed and sorted by the wash plant. Billy Gerhardt then shows Rick Lagina some of the artifacts recovered from the spoils, including several fragments of pottery, a shard of old black glass, and what appears to be a piece of a pipe stem. When Rick, in turn, shows the artifacts to the rest of the crew, Doug Crowell remarks that one piece of white and blue pottery evokes similar shards discovered in Borehole H8.

The following day, the crew members meet in the War Room, where they present Laird Niven with some of the artifacts brought up from S6. First, Niven dates the blue and white glazed pottery from the 1810s to the 1840s. Next, he dates the pipe stem to post-1850. Finally, the archaeologist dates a fragment of red earthenware to the early 1700s, saying “this is the kind of thing you’re hoping for.”

That evening, the crew meets at S6, where oscillator operator Danny Smith informs them that the shaft has reached bedrock at a depth of 175 feet. The treasure hunters agree to terminate the operation.

Some days later, Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, and Paul Troutman head to the Oak Island Research Centre. There, Troutman voices his opinion that, based on recent discoveries and Steve Guptill’s master map of the Money Pit area, they ought to sink a shaft at a location dubbed ‘FG-5.5’.

Later, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley go metal detecting at Lot 21, where they discovered a bejeweled brooch in the Season 6 premiere and a French military hat ornament in Season 6, Episode 5. After some searching, the pair unearth a thin piece of lead. Immediately afterwards, they uncover another lead rod which appears to fit perfectly with the other. A square hole seems to have been punched at the intersection of the two pieces, reminding Gary Drayton of the square hole in the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove. “This might be Holy Shamoley: Part 2!” Drayton exclaims as he high-fives his bearded partner.

Later, the crew meets in the Oak Island Research Centre, where Gary Drayton shows them the pieces of lead he and Jack recently discovered. Drayton points out a potential floral pattern on the artifact, which Paul Troutman attempts to connect with the Tree of Life. Marty Lagina suggests that they have the lead chemically analyzed.

Three days later, the crew gathers at the Money Pit area, where Steve Guptill identifies and marks the location of the future Borehole FG-5.5. Contractor Vanessa Lucido, after an invitation from Marty Lagina, names the hypothetical shaft GG1 after her daughter, Grace.

Later, the team members congregate in the War Room, where they call up geochemist Tobias Skowronek of the German Mining Museum- the scientist who analyzed the lead cross in Season 6, Episode 6. Skowronek explains that he has analyzed the lead artifact recently unearthed on Lot 21, and believes it might have been an “art object”. He then describes an ancient metalwork technique called cloisonné, in which artists beautified objects by affixing them with thin strips of metal and then filling the area within the strips with glass or gemstones. He goes on to state that the lead object found on Lot 21 appears to bear evidence of cloisonné work on its surface.

Skowronek concludes his presentation by revealing that “the lead isotope data from [the Lot 21 artifact is] identical to [that] of the cross… That means that both pieces probably come from the same ore deposit… So, it’s pre-15th Century.”

“It seems incredible and stretches belief,” says Marty Lagina of the find in a later interview. “But the lead from the cross and the lead from this other piece were from the same ancient mine in France.”

 

Analysis

The Cloisonne

In this episode, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley went metal detecting on Oak Island’s Lot 21- the site of Daniel McGinnis’ old cabin and an area which they have searched extensively in the past. There, they discovered two thin pieces of lead a short distance below the surface. The pieces fit together, a square hole having been punched at their junction. Drayton remarked that the artifact reminded him of the lead cross found on Smith’s Cove, the metal of which geochemist Tobias Skowronek determined came from a pre-modern French mine.

The Oak Island crew sent these new lead pieces to Skowronek for analysis. The German geochemist examined the artifacts and determined that they form a cloisonné– a decorative piece inlaid with glass through the use of metal wires affixed to its surface. He also analyzed the lead’s isotopic signature and determined that the metal came from the same pre-modern mine which yielded the metal of which the lead cross is composed- a mine located in close proximity to the town of Renne-les-Chateau, which features in the Knights Templar theory seemingly favoured by the show’s producers. This startling coincidence, coupled with the fact that these new lead artifacts were discovered near the surface in an area which Gary Drayton had searched thoroughly in the past, almost hints at the possibility of a hoax.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 17- Clue or False

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 17- Clue or False

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 17 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

While Laird Niven dismantles the slipway at Smith’s Cove, the rest of the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room with surveyor Steve Guptill. Guptill, having completed the task he was charged with the previous episode, shows the treasure hunters an extremely cluttered diagram depicting all the shafts and drillholes that have been sunk in the Money Pit area. He then explains that the combined data helped him to pinpoint what he believes to be the location of Shaft 6 (a.k.a. the Oak Island Association Shaft #2; an older searcher shaft connected to a tunnel which intersected the original Money Pit). Intriguingly, Guptill’s Shaft 6 tunnel corresponds perfectly with the data extracted from drillholes IJ5.5 and K5.5. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to sink a caisson at the place where Guptill’s map indicates the Money Pit met the Shaft 6 tunnel.

That afternoon, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley head to Smith’s Cove, where Laird Niven has dismantled a section of the slipway. They proceed to metal detect the freshly-uncovered area and discover an undefinable clump of material which reads as ferrous. That accomplished, Billy Gerhardt removes one of the slipway’s two large side timbers with his backhoe before digging the earth beneath it. The earth he removes is taken to the wash plant for cleaning.

Once the earth from beneath the slipway is cleaned and sorted into piles, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley search through it with a metal detector. Drayton quickly discovers a silver coin which he suggests might be a Spanish 1 real. The treasure hunters show the coin to Rick Lagina, who observes that it has a milled edge– an indication that it is likely no older than 1730 .

The next day, the treasure hunters prepare to sink a caisson, dubbed ‘S6’, at the spot where Steve Guptill’s diagram indicates the confluence of the Shaft 6 tunnel and the original Money Pit once lay. “We’re about to begin on probably the most important excavation on Oak Island this year…” says Marty Lagina of the operation in a later interview. “We think we’ve focused in on the most likely spot in the Money Pit to find some actual treasure.”

That afternoon, Rick Lagina heads to Smith’s Cove, where he meets with geophysicist Mike West. West, equipped with his deep-penetrating EM61 Metal Detector, begins to scan the entirety of Smith’s Cove for any sign of metal. The detector gets five hits, each of which West marks with a pink flag. The geophysicist tells Rick that one of the targets, located next to the crane pad, appears to be particularly large.

The next day, the Oak Island crew congregates in the Money Pit area, where the sinking of the S6 shaft is underway. At a depth of around 78 feet, the hammergrab brings up 6’’x6’’ timbers, which Doug Crowell identifies as shoring from the Chappell Shaft.

At a depth of around 95 feet, the hammergrab brings up boulders and hard earth, which geologist Terry Matheson declares are indications that the caisson is now in undisturbed, or “in situ”, soil. Shortly thereafter, when the shaft reaches a depth of 101 feet, the caisson cuts through soft material, which Marty Lagina hopes might be the roof of the Shaft 6 tunnel. In order to determine whether this is truly the case, the team transports that particular hammergrab load to a wash table and washes it by hand. The load yields several pieces of thick wooden sheeting different from the materials used in the construction of the Chappell Shaft. Shortly after discovering the wooden boards, the treasure hunters pick out several large scraps of what appears to be leather. “If there’s leather there, humans were there,” remarks Rick Lagina. “And you can date leather, to a degree.”

“You gotta find a little leather before you find the gold,” an enthusiastic Doug Crowell states as the caisson sunk deeper. “If that ain’t a saying, it should be!”

At a depth of 110 feet, below the location of the suspected Shaft 6 tunnel, the hammergrab brings up several very large chunks of axe-hewn oak. Terry Matheson observes that the ends of some of the timbers are encased in clay, indicating that they may have served a structural function. In a later interview, Rick Lagina remarks that these timbers constitute the first oak they’ve found on Oak Island and suggests that they might be part of the original Money Pit, which was said to contain platforms of oak logs.

While the treasure hunters marvel at the new discovery, Gary Drayton says that, to him, the oak timbers strongly evoke ships’ timbers. “I’ve been on beaches after hurricanes in Florida,” he explains, “and parts of the wrecks have washed up, and this is exactly what they look like. Ships’ timbers.”

The next day, Jack Begley, Doug Crowell, and Paul Troutman sift through the spoils from the bottom of Borehole S6 on a wash table. Jack Begley discovers a piece of iron chain, evoking a similar object discovered by Dan Blankenship at the bottom of Borehole 10-X. The narrator then attempts to connect the chain, as well as the pieces of human bone recovered from Borehole H8, with the legend that the original Oak Island excavators buried slaves alive at the bottom of the Money Pit in the hope that their ghosts would guard the treasure.

After weighing in on the chain, which suggests might have been used in a pulley system, Gary Drayton joins the three treasure hunters in their search through the S6 spoils. Shortly thereafter, Doug Crowell discovers a small piece of what appears to be bone.

 

Analysis

Oaken Timbers

In this episode, the Oak Island crew sank a shaft, called S6, at a location prescribed by surveyor Steve Guptill. Having compiled and analyzed previous survey data, Guptill believed he had determined the location of Shaft 6 and the tunnel which led from it to the original Money Pit. Borehole S6 was sank near the hypothetical confluence of the tunnel and the Money Pit, where some of the Money Pit’s contents are believed to have slid following the Pit’s collapse in 1861.

Near the bottom of the shaft, several feet below the suspected location of the Shaft 6 tunnel, the crew found several very large axe-hewn oaken timbers. These pieces constitute the first pieces of oak found by Oak Island Tours Inc. on the island. The crew speculated that the timbers might be the remains of the oak platforms which were said to lie in the Money Pit at 10-foot intervals. Gary Drayton observed that the beams resemble the timbers of old sailing ships, implying that the original Money Pit builders dismantled their own ship and used its timbers to construct the Money Pit and conceal evidence of their presence on the island.

The Iron Chain

In the spoils of the S6 debris, Doug Crowell found a broken link of hand-wrought iron chain. This find evokes the chain discovered by Dan Blankenship at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, as well as the legend that the original Money Pit builders chained slaves to the bottom of their shaft and buried them alive so that their ghosts would guard the treasure.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 16- Detour

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 16- Detour

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 16 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

The Fellowship congregates in the War Room, where the boys inform Craig Tester via video conference of the results of the dye test conducted the previous episode. After some discussion, Marty Lagina concedes that the rust-coloured fluid discovered at Smith’s Cove is “consistent with a flood tunnel that’s plugged”. Paul Troutman then suggests that the supposed flood tunnel’s entrance might be beneath the concrete crane pad used during the construction of the cofferdam. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to explore the area beneath the crane pad, and remind each other that they will have to obtain new permits from the Nova Scotian government in order to begin this operation.

 

Later, the treasure hunters meet at Smith’s Cove where, under the direction of Laird Niven, they set about fully uncovering the slipway. While Billy Gerhardt gets as close to the structure as he can with his backhoe, Gary Drayton and Jack Begley search the area with a metal detector. First, they unearth a long iron object which reminds Drayton of a spear point, evoking the alleged Roman pilum tip discovered in Season 6, Episode 3.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina and Dave Blankenship meet with Vanessa Lucido and Mike Jardine at the Money Pit area. It is revealed that, as a result of the recent collapse, the team will be unable to work in Borehole H8 for the rest of the season. Rick then expresses his belief that a shaft sunk at the terminus of the supposed Shaft 6 Tunnel will reveal items of interest.

That evening, the Oak Island boys meet in the War Room with diver Tony Sampson. The crew plans to have Sampson dive on the targets prescribed by the COGS team, which conducted a LIDAR scan of the waters off Oak Island in Season 6, Episode 14. The first anomaly is a triangular rock off the South Shore which points in the general direction of the Money Pit. The second target is a supposed anchor lying on the sea floor.

Later, Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Peter Fornetti head out to the first underwater target on Tony Sampson’s boat. Alex and Tony dive for the target while Jack and Peter remain on the boat, the former in the capacity of a backup diver and the latter being in communication with the divers.

After some searching, Alex and Tony come across two kelp-covered rocks which they believe might constitute the first anomaly indicated by the COGS survey. The rocks form a triangle which indeed appears to point in the general direction of the Money Pit. Legally unable to investigate the rocks without a permit, the divers ascend to the surface.

After the boat, captained by Ryan Mosher, is brought to the general area of the second anomaly, Alex Lagina and Tony Sampson make another dive. The treasure hunters quickly come across a kelp-covered object which appears to be a rock, not an anchor as previously surmised. “I think [that] if you were sensitive to disappointment,” Alex Lagina concludes in a later interview, “you would not be on Oak Island. But it’s not discouraging. We had a list to look at, we got eyes on them, and we still know more than we did this morning.”

While the diving operation is wrapped up, the rest of the crew meets with surveyor Steve Guptill at the Oak Island Research Centre. Doug Crowell explains that they would like Guptill to compile previous survey data in order to pinpoint the precise location of Shaft 6.

The next day, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester head to Smith’s Cove, where Laird Niven has fully unearthed the slipway. After the archaeologist gives the treasure hunters the green light to remove the logs that comprise the structure, the three men contemplate the slipway’s purpose. Marty optimistically suggests that it might have been used to transport chests of gold from a ship to the island.

While the three men chat, Gary Drayton searches through Smith’s Cove spoils with a metal detector and uncovers a wrought iron hinge. Drayton shows the artifact to Rick Lagina and Craig Tester and suggests that it might be very old.

Later, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Doug Crowell drive to the Ross Farm Museum in the town of New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they show the metal objects recently discovered at Smith’s Cove. Legge identifies several of the pilum-like objects as “crib spikes”- nail-like tools used in the creation of wharves, derricks, platforms, and cribbing. He then dates the artifacts from 1650-1800.

Legge then takes a look at the hinge recently discovered by Gary Drayton and declares that it is “a very old piece of iron” and “a hinge for a very, very thick door”. When prompted, he dates the object from the early 1600s until before 1800. The treasure hunters then speculate as to the object’s purpose. “I’m voting flood gate,” says Doug Crowell.

 

Analysis

More Underwater Triangles

In this episode, Alex Lagina and Tony Sampson dove on two anomalies on the seafloor off the South Shore Cove, which were indicated by the LIDAR scan conducted in Season 6, Episode 13. The first anomaly consists of two stones which form a triangle which appears to point in the direction of the Money Pit. The second anomaly, which some had initially suspected to be an anchor, proved to be an ordinary rock.

These underwater rocks evoke the three rectangular stones off Smith’s Cove which were investigated in Season 1, Episode 2. These stones appeared to align with a similar stone on the shore of Smith’s Cove, and with the Money Pit area beyond.

Another underwater stone was investigated in Season 3, Episodes 8 and 9. While conducting a sonar scan of the sea floor off Oak Island’s southern shore, the crew discovered a perfectly triangular underwater stone which appeared to point to the location at which the mysterious South Shore Cove triangle once lay. While investigating this anomaly, which proved to be a natural rock with a potentially-artificial marking on its surface, Tony Sampson discovered a similar rock along the same hypothetical line, closer to shore.

Crib Spikes

Near the end of this episode, the crew drove to the Ross Farm Museum in the town of New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they met with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they showed the iron rods discovered at Smith’s Cove, which have been variously identified as medieval crossbow bolts and Roman pilum tips throughout the season. Legge identified the artifacts as “crib spikes”, which he described as nail-like tools used in the creation of wharves, derricks, platforms, and cribbing. He then dated the artifacts from 1650-1800.

The Smith’s Cove Hinge

Another artifact the crew submits to Legge for analysis is a wrought iron hinge discovered by Gary Drayton at Smith’s Cove this episode. Legge declares the artifact to be “a hinge for a very, very thick door”, and dates it from the early 1600s to the late 1700s.

This artifact evokes the decorative hinges discovered on Fred Nolan’s old property in Season 5, Episode 13, as well as the iron brace brought up from GAL1 in the Season 4 finale.