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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 13

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 13

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 12.

Caribou Island

In the spring of 1769, Henry embarked on a prospecting expedition to the Island of Michipicoten, located about 37 miles southwest of the mouth of the Michipicoten River. When he failed to find any interesting minerals there, he planned to paddle south to a smaller island in the middle of Lake Superior, known as Caribou Island, which the Indians tantalizingly claimed had beaches of yellow sand. The Indians hadn’t visited the island personally, but knew about its existence from the tales passed down by their ancestors, which also contended that the island was home to enormous snakes. Unfortunately, Henry was unable to make the journey on account of poor weather and was obliged to return to the fort.

In the spring of 1771, Alexander Henry partnered up with Alexander Baxter and formed a mining company, as they had previously planned. The two Alexanders built a barge at Pointe aux Pins, a peninsula on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie, and embarked for the Island of Yellow Sand supposed by the Indians to lie south of the Island of Michipicoten, hoping that its beaches were littered with gold dust.

“After a search of two days,” Henry wrote, “we discovered the island with our glass; and on the third morning, the weather being fair, steered for it at an early hour. At two o’clock in the afternoon we disembarked upon the beach.”

Henry carried his gun onto the island, resolved to bravely fight off the giant snakes the Indians claimed inhabited its shores. As the beach he landed on did not have golden sand, however, he thought that he had little to fear, as he presumed that the snakes were guardians of the gold. Henry spent that day and the next hunting caribou in the island’s woods and managed to kill five large animals. On the third day, he and Baxter explored the rest of the island but failed to find its legendary golden shores or its giant serpentine guardians. Instead, they were hounded by a profusion of angry hawks, one of which snatched Henry’s cap from his head.

The Copper Company

On the fourth day, Henry, Baxter, and their employees sailed for Nanibojou Island. There, they discovered veins of silver-tinged copper and lead, which they began to mine and smelt.

When they concluded their prospecting on Nanibojou Island, the mining company met up with a Russian mineralogist named Mr. Norburg and conducted another prospecting expedition, this one on the southeastern shores of Lake Superior. There, they found blue semi-transparent stones which was later found to be 60% silver by weight.

The prospectors then parted company with Mr. Norburg and headed west to Ontonogan. There, they set up a mining camp and began to extract the local copper, hoping that it might contain silver. The miners laboured throughout the winter of 1771, but abandoned the operation in the spring of 1772 when their tunnel collapsed.

In August, 1772, Henry and company established a mining camp on the northern shores of Lake Superior. There, the company employees mined copper, which was later sent to Montreal. The company dissolved in 1774 when it was determined that the mining profits did not justify the cost of the operation.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 14.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 12

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 12

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 11.

The Cannibal

Henry and his men decided to spend the following winter at Sault Ste. Marie. When it became evident that fishing was poor in the area that winter, they relocated to what is known today as Keweenaw Bay, at the southern end of Lake Superior. During their stay, they were joined by a band of Indians who were similarly fleeing from famine.

Two days after the band’s arrival, a filthy and unkempt adolescent emitting a terrible odour wandered out of the woods. The native told Henry and his crew that his family had been starving, and that he alone had the strength to leave their camp in search of food. “His arrival struck our camp with horror and uneasiness,” Henry wrote, “and it was not long before the Indians came to me, saying, that they suspected he had been eating human flesh, and even that he had killed and devoured the family which he pretended to have left behind.”

Although the teenager denied the charges when questioned, the Indians encamped nearby decided to investigate and followed his trail back to his family’s camp. “The next day,” Henry wrote, “they returned, bringing with them a human hand and skull. The hand had been left roasting before a fire, while the intestines, taken out of the body from which it was cut, hung fresh on a neighboring tree.”

When presented with this evidence, the teenager confessed that he did, indeed, cannibalize his family, which constituted his uncle and aunt and four of their children. Following a failed hunting expedition, his uncle had fallen into depression and asked his wife to kill him. Although the wife failed to comply, the teenager and his eldest cousin decided to carry out the deed instead. The boys murdered their respective father and uncle and ate his body. Shortly thereafter, they did the same to the two youngest children. As the dead man’s widow was too feeble to travel, the boys left her behind and headed into the forest towards Lake Superior. Along the way, the teenager killed his elder cousin and cannibalized him. The body parts that the Indians found by the fire constituted his last remains.

“The Indians entertain an opinion,” Henry wrote, “that the man who has once made human flesh his food will never afterward be satisfied with any other. It is probable that we saw things in some measure through the medium of our prejudices; but I confess that this distressing object appeared to verify the doctrine. He ate with relish nothing that was given him; but, indifferent to the food prepared, fixed his eyes continually on the children which were in the Indian lodge, and frequently exclaimed, ‘How fat they are!’” Fearful that he would attempt to cannibalize their children, the Indians executed the teenager by splitting his head with an axe when his attention was distracted.

The Bay of Michipicoten

Henry and his crew spent the winter of 1766/67 at the mouth of the Michipicoten River on the northeastern shores of Lake Superior. In his memoir, Henry wrote about a cluster of tiny volcanic islands on the eastern shores of the Bay of Michipicoten, off a point known today as Cape Gargantua. The Indians told Henry that one of their legendary ancestors, Nanibojou (sometimes spelled “Nanabozho” today)- which name Henry interpreted as meaning “Great Hare”- was buried beneath one of these islands, and that it was their practice to leave sacrifices like tobacco and kettles to him whenever they passed his resting place. According to an old Ojibwa tradition which Henry was told by his Indian friends, Nanibojou, in ancient times, learned of an impending Great Flood. He built a giant raft on which he housed himself, his family, and all the animals of the world. The Flood came, and Nanibojou and company floated on their raft for many moons. Eventually, Nanibojou created the earth and the human race. Later, when the animals conspired against the human race, Nanijobou took away their ability to speak.

Henry and his men took up residence in an old abandoned French trading post on the shores of Michipicoten Bay and began trading with the natives, who were the impoverished Gens de Terre whom Henry had first met at Sault Ste. Marie back in the spring of 1672. At their request, Henry decided to give these natives goods on credit, knowing that they had a reputation for honesty.

In April, 1767, Henry decided to make maple syrup. To do this, he built a sugar shack, digging through the snow in order to lay its foundation. “The house was seven feet high,” Henry wrote, “but yet was lower than the snow.” Shortly after he returned from this excursion, the Gens de Terre returned from their winter hunting grounds bearing furs for him. Of the two thousands furs-worth of goods he had lent the Indians on credit, only thirty remained unpaid by a debtor who had died in the woods. His family, Henry wrote, “offered to pay the rest form among themselves; his manes, they observed, would not be able to enjoy peace, while his name remained in my books and his debts were left unsatisfied.”

Later that spring, Henry made a trip to Michilimackinac, where he met with a man named Alexander Baxter who had recently arrived from England. When Henry told the newcomer about the natural copper mines he had found throughout Lake Superior, the Englishman suggested that they partner up and form a mining company sometime in the future.

Henry decided to spend the following winter at Michipicoten Bay. In October, while preparations for the winter season were underway, he decided to make a trip to Sault Ste. Marie with three French-Canadians and a young Indian woman who had relatives at the fort. They spent the first night of their voyage on the aforementioned Island of Nanibojou and neglected to make the customary offerings to the ancient patriarch of the Ojibwa people. That night, a violent storm swept across Lake Superior, forcing Henry and his companions to spend several days on the island. The travellers managed to paddle a short distance down the coast before being forced to make camp on the shores of the mainland due to the poor weather. The storm raged on for nine days, stranding the travellers in their campsite. They quickly exhausted their rations and began to go hungry. Two of the French-Canadians plotted to kill and eat the Indian girl, and were disappointed when Henry discovered their plan and put an end to it. Fortunately, Henry shortly discovered some edible lichen on a nearby mountaintop, which the company happily boiled and ate. “It saved the life of the poor woman,” Henry wrote, “for the men who had projected to kill her would unquestionably have accomplished their purpose. One of them gave me to understand that he was not absolutely a novice in such an affair; that he had wintered in the Northwest, and had been obliged to eat human flesh.”

On the evening of the ninth day, the party resumed their journey, many of them drifting in and out of sleep from fatigue. The following morning, they encountered a party of Indians who supplied them with fish. Henry and company immediately paddled over to the shore, built a fire, and enjoyed their first hearty meal in a week.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 13.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 11

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 11

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 10.

Lake Superior and the Canadian Northwest

In the spring of 1765, Alexander Henry acquired a permit to trade for furs on the vast northwesterly Lake Superior, becoming the very first Englishman to hold such a permit. Outfitting himself at Michilimackinac, he and twelve newly-hired employees paddled their canoes up to Sault Ste. Marie, where they were joined by Jean Baptiste Cadotte, and further up the St. Marys River to Lake Superior.

The adventurers paddled west across the lake, reaching the mouth of the Ontonagon River on August 19th. Henry explored the lower reaches of this river, coming across the Bond Falls, a school of monstrous sturgeon, and an abundance of pure raw copper. Returning to Lake Superior, he continued west to a great Ojibwa village called Chagouemig, located in what is known today as the Chequamegon Inlet, which Henry described as “the metropolis of the Chippewa”. The villagers were starving and poorly clothed, the commerce on which they relied having been interrupted by Pontiac’s War, and so, at their chief’s request, Henry supplied them with goods on credit.

Henry decided to spend the winter at Chagouemig and built a cabin and trading post there for himself and his men. Throughout the season, the fur traders subsisted almost entirely on trout and whitefish, although, on one occasion following a successful bear hunt with the Indians, they were each obliged to eat about twenty pounds of bear meat in a single day in accordance with a particular Ojibwa superstition.

Henry’s trading relationship with the local Ojibwa began on a rocky start. The first visitors to his trading post threatened to steal his goods. While his employees meekly stood by, Henry seized a firearm and declared that he would shoot the first man to lay a hand on his goods. Realizing that Henry would not be bullied, the Ojibwa softened their hostile demeanor and began to peaceably exchange their furs for Henry’s goods.

“The Chippewa of Chagouemig,” Henry wrote, “are a handsome, well-made people; and much more cleanly, as well as much more regular in the government of their families, than the Chippewa of Lake Huron. The women have agreeable features and take great pains in dressing their hair, which consists in neatly dividing it on the forehead and top of the head and in plaiting and turning it up behind. The men paint as well their whole body as their face; sometimes with charcoal, and sometimes with white ocher; and appear to study how to make themselves as unlike as possible to anything human. The clothing in which I found them, both men and women, was chiefly of dressed deer-skin, European manufactures having been for some time out of their reach. In this respect, it was not long after my goods were dispersed among them before they were scarcely to be known for the same people. The women heightened the color of their cheeks, and really animated their beauty, by a liberal use of vermilion.”

On April 20th, 1766, the ice began to melt, and a number of Ojibwa warriors set out on their war path against their hereditary enemies, the Eastern Dakota Sioux. They encountered a Sioux band on May 15th and engaged their warriors in battle. During a lull in the fighting, the Ojibwa dressed and painted their fallen comrades, as was customary at that time, in preparation for their eventual scalping by the enemy. That accomplished, they retreated a short distance in order to allow the Sioux to collect the scalps of their friends and relatives. “We consider it an honour,” one Ojibwa explained to Henry, “to have the scalps of our countrymen exhibited in the villages of our enemies in testimony to our valor.” When the Ojibwa warriors advanced again, hoping to reengage the enemy, they found that the Sioux had fled without stopping to scalp their fellow tribesmen- a breach of martial etiquette by which the Ojibwa were deeply offended.

After the warriors’ return, Henry and his men loaded the pelts they had acquired into canoes and made the long journey back to Michilimackinac to trade them in.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 12.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 10

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 10

Continued from The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 9.

The Voyage to Fort Niagara

On June 10, 1764, Alexander Henry and sixteen Ojibwa braves set out for Fort Niagara, stopping at several Indian villages along the way. One afternoon, while waiting out a storm on shore, Henry nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. When he saw the serpent, he retrieved his musket from his canoe and prepared to kill it. He was stopped at the last moment by his companions, who believed that the rattlesnake, specimens of which rarely appeared in that country, was one of their reincarnated ancestors. Instead of killing it, they lit their pipes and blew tobacco in its face. Apparently pleased with the odour, the snake eventually relaxed and slithered away.

Interestingly, a similar story appears in the memoirs of Jonathan Carver, a New English contemporary of Henry’s, entitled Travels Through North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. In 1766, while traversing a portage trail between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers in the forest west of Lake Michigan, Carver came across a den of rattlesnakes. One of Carver’s travelling companions- a French-Canadian fur trader named Pinnisance- proceeded to tell the New Englander “a remarkable story concerning one of these reptiles, of which he said he was an eye-witness”.

 

According to Pinnisance, a Menominee Indian once tamed a rattlesnake and “treated it as a Deity; calling it his Great Father, and carrying it with him in a box wherever he went… The French gentleman was surprised, one day, to see the Indian place the box which contained his god on the ground, and opening the door give him his liberty; telling him, whilst he did it, to be sure and return by the time he himself should come back… The Indian was so confident of his creature’s obedience that he offered to lay the Frenchman a wager of two gallons of rum that at the time appointed he would come and crawl into his box.” Pinnisance took the Menominee up on his offer. At the appointed time, “the Indian set down his box and called for his great father.” Although the rattlesnake failed to make its scheduled appearance, the Indian was undeterred, and offered to double his bet with the Frenchmen if the snake failed to arrive in two days. “This was further agreed on,” Henry wrote, “when behold on the second day, about one o’clock, the snake arrived, and, of his own accord, crawled into the box, which was placed ready for him. The French gentleman vouched for the truth of this story, and from the accounts I have often received of the docility of those creatures, I see no reason to doubt his veracity.”

The party resumed their journey and paddled down Lake Huron. They were soon beset by a storm, from which the Indians prayed to their ancestor, the rattlesnake they had just encountered, to save them. They sacrificed several dogs to the rattlesnake by tying their legs together and throwing them into the lake, and considered doing the same to Henry, who was saved from that unenviable fate when the storm finally cleared.

Henry and the natives paddled into Georgian Bay and over to its eastern shore. There, they disembarked and proceeded down an Indian trail to Lake Simcoe, which Henry called “Lake aux Claies”. They crossed the lake and headed down another trail which Henry called “Toranto”- the etymological root of the name of the city of Toronto, Ontario. On June 19th, they reached the shores of Lake Ontario. There, the Indians built canoes out of elm tree bark. That accomplished, they paddled across Lake Ontario to the meeting place at Fort Niagara, where they were greeted by Sir William Johnson.

Return to Michilimackinac

Assembled at Fort Niagara were three thousand British soldiers under the command of General John Bradstreet who were preparing to relieve the defenders of Detroit, besieged as they were by Pontiac’s warriors. Upon the completion of his mission, General Bradstreet planned to send some troops to Michilimackinac, and, upon hearing Henry’s story, told the trader that he would help him recover his stolen goods. Furthermore, despite Henry’s lack of military experience, Bradstreet appointed the trader the leader of a 96-man all-Indian battalion that had agreed to help him lift the Siege of Detroit, whose members included the sixteen Ojibwa from Sault Ste. Marie with whom he had just travelled.

The troops set out on July 10th, heading up the Niagara River towards Lake Erie. Only ten of Henry’s warriors marched with him that day; the remainder promised to follow the following morning, but all but four of them deserted at the earliest opportunity. “I thought their conduct,” Henry wrote, “though dishonest, not very extraordinary; since the Indians employed in the siege of Detroit, against whom we were leading them, were at peace with their nation, and their own friends and kinsmen.”

At Lake Erie, the army constructed a number of barges, one of which they allotted to Henry and his fourteen warriors. On the night before their departure, Henry’s Indians got drunk and began shooting their muskets haphazardly in the camp, prompting General Bradstreet to seize their liquor and inform them that, if they wanted to march in his army, they would have to conduct themselves with discipline. Most of the natives subsequently left for home, leaving Henry with only a handful of braves under his command.

Bradstreet’s army proceeded along the northern shore of Lake Erie, opting to drag their barges over the Long Point Peninsula rather than maneuver them around it. When they reached the western end of the lake, the held a council and debated over whether to head to Detroit directly, or first attack a handful of Indian villages which lay along the Ohio River. The officers agreed that they ought to attack the villages first, but instead of finding hostile warriors there, they were met by emissaries bearing peace pipes. After some discussion with these ambassadors, General Bradstreet agreed to meet with the chiefs of the Ohio Indians at Detroit for the purpose of making peace with them and the other nations participating in Pontiac’s War.

The British proceeded to Detroit and arrived there on August 8th. The peace council took place as scheduled, and Pontiac’s Rebellion came to an end. Chief Pontiac himself, having failed in his crusade to eject the English from the Great Lakes, fled south to the Illinois River.

The day following the peace treaty, Henry accompanied several hundred British soldiers to Michilimackinac. They crossed the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by way of the Detroit River, and Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River beyond, failing to encounter a single Indian on the way. With the help of the soldiers, Henry reacquired some of his lost property. He then travelled with his goods to Sault Ste. Marie, where he spent the winter trading.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 11.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 9

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 9

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

Ojibwa Life

Shortly after the discovery of Skull Cave, Henry was approached by Menehwehna, the head war chief of the Michilimackinac Ojibwa. Menehwehna told Henry that the Ojibwa warriors who had participated in the Siege of Detroit were on their way to the island, and would be inclined to kill any Englishmen they came across. Accordingly, the chief helped Henry disguise himself as an Indian, shaving all of his head save for a scalp lock into which feathers were placed, painting his face, clothing him in a greasy deerskin shirt, and giving him a blanket to wear around his shoulders.

Not long after, Henry accompanied Wawatam’s family on a fowl-hunting excursion on the shores of the northerly Saint Martin Bay. There, Wawatam’s daughter-in-law went into labour and fell very ill. In the hopes of curing her of her ailment, the men of the family, Henry included, went into the woods and caught a garter snake. That accomplished, Wawatam cut the snake’s head off and collected its lifeblood, which he subsequently diluted with water and fed to his ailing daughter-in-law. An hour later, the girl safely gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

In the fall, the Ojibwa of Machilimackinac fractured into a number of small bands and family units, as was customary at that time of year. Henry accompanied Wawatam’s family down Lake Michigan to the mouth of the Big Sable River, located about 150 miles from the island.

Henry and his companions, assisted by their dogs, spent that winter hunting beaver, raccoons, otter, deer, and, on two separate occasions, bear and cougar. “Had it not been for the idea of which I could not divest my mind,” Henry wrote, “that I was living among savages, and for the whispers of a lingering hope that I should one day be released from it—or if I could have forgotten that I had ever been otherwise than as I then was—I could have enjoyed as much happiness in this as in any other situation.”

Escape to Sault Ste. Marie

That spring, Henry and his adopted family returned to Michilimackinac, where other Ojibwa bands were congregated. Pontiac’s rebellion was in full swing, and members of a war party who intended to launch another assault on Fort Detroit expressed interest in eating Henry so that they might gain the courage necessary to fight the English. In order to save Henry’s life, Wawatam and his family took their English adoptee to Point St. Ignace, located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan just west of the island. There, Henry fell in with a flotilla of French-Canadian fur traders who were taking the Ojibwa wife of interpreter Jean Baptiste Cadotte, in whose house Henry had previously wintered, to her home at Sault Ste. Marie. Bidding Wawatam and his family adieu, Henry accompanied his new companions to the relative safety of Sault Ste. Marie.

No sooner had Henry arrived at his new destination than a canoe of Indians from Fort Niagara paddled up to Sault Ste. Marie. The Indians were emissaries sent by Sir William Johnson, the now-de facto commander of British troops in Canada, who invited the Ojibwa to join him and many other First Nations in a great council at Fort Niagara. The Ojibwa of Sault Ste. Marie agreed to send twenty warriors to this diplomatic gathering, and Henry, who hoped to return to English civilization, received their permission to accompany them.

The Shaking Tent

Before setting out on their voyage, the Ojibwa decided to commune with a spirit they called the ‘Great Turtle’. In order to accomplish this, they erected a conical moose-skin tent and proceeded to conduct a sacred ceremony common throughout the Algonkian world known as rite of the Shaking Tent. That night, the whole band gathered by the tent and watched as the medicine man chosen to perform this ritual emerged from his wigwam half-naked. The shaman made his way over to the tent and crawled inside.

“His head was scarcely within side when the edifice,” wrote Henry, “massy as it has been described, began to shake; and the skins were no sooner let fall than the sounds of numerous voices were heard beneath them, some yelling, some barking as dogs, some howling like wolves; and in this horrible concert were mingled screams and sobs, as of despair, anguish, and the sharpest pain. Articular speech was also uttered, as if from human lips; but in a tongue unknown to the audience. After some time these confused and frightful noises were succeeded by a perfect silence; and now a voice not heard before seemed to manifest the arrival of a new character in the tent. This was a low and feeble voice, resembling the cry of a young puppy. The sound was no sooner distinguished, than all the Indians clapped their hands for joy, exclaiming that this was the Chief Spirit, the Turtle, the spirit that never lied. Other voices which they had discriminated from time to time they had previously hissed, as recognizing them to belong to evil and lying spirits, which deceive mankind.”

Throughout the half hour that followed, a variety of songs issued from the tent, each of them sung by a different voice. Finally, once the last song died out, the medicine man called out from inside the tent that the Great Turtle was ready to answer any questions the Indians might have for him.

The band’s chief asked whether the English planned to attack them, and whether there were many English troops assembled at Fort Niagara, the site of the scheduled rendezvous. “These questions having been put by the priest,” Henry wrote, “the tent instantly shook; and for some seconds after it continued to rock so violently that I expected to see it levelled with the ground. All this was a prelude, as I supposed, to the answers to be given; but a terrific cry announced, with sufficient intelligibility, the departure of the Turtle.”

All of a sudden, the tent became quiet. The Ojibwa spectators waited with bated breath for the spirit’s reply. About fifteen minutes later, the tent shook again, and the tremulous voice of the Great Turtle began babbling in a language which none of the onlookers could understand. Once the spirit had delivered its incompressible report, the medicine man, who apparently understood every word, informed those assembled that the Great Turtle had flown across Lake Huron and over the easterly forest to Fort Niagara, where he found few Englishmen. He proceeded down the length of Lake Ontario and further down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal, where he found a huge fleet of ships filled with British soldiers.

The chief then asked the Great Turtle whether Sir William Johnson would receive them as friends. “Sir William Johnson,” the medicine man replied, interpreting the words of the spirit, “will fill their canoes with presents; with blankets, kettles, guns, gunpowder and shot, and large barrels of rum such as the stoutest of the Indians will not be able to lift; and every man will return in safety to his family.” At this, the assemblage cheered, and many warriors declared their intention to attend the meeting at Fort Niagara.

The natives proceeded to ask the spirit questions about distant friends and the fate of sick family members. Henry himself, after presenting the Great Turtle with the customary gift of tobacco, asked whether he would ever see his native country again. The spirit replied that he would.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 10.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 8

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 8

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

A Prisoner of the Ojibwa

The following day, the Ojibwa warriors loaded Henry and his fellow prisoners into canoes, handed them paddles, and commanded them to head for the southwesterly Beaver Island, the largest island in Lake Michigan. Each canoe contained seven Indians and four prisoners.

Due to heavy fog, the Ojibwa hugged the western shores of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and stopped at an Ottawa village. There, a hundred Ottawa warriors stole the prisoners for themselves, angry that that the Ojibwa had massacred the English without having consulted them first. The Ottawa loaded Henry and the prisoners into their own canoes and brought them back to Michilimackinac.

The following day, the Ottawa and the Ojibwa held a council to discuss the fate of the English prisoners. During this time, Henry learned that a great Ottawa chief named Pontiac had recently sparked an Indian rebellion against the occupying British throughout the so-called Pays d’en Haut, or “Upper Country”- the Great Lakes region. Insulted by the haughty demeanour of and the trading restrictions imposed by the English officers who had recently taken up residence in the old French forts throughout the region, a combined war party of Ottawa, Ojibwa, Potawatomi, and Huron Indians had launched an attack against the English-occupied Fort Detroit, situated on the river which connects Lake Erie with Lake Huron. Although the Indians had been unable to penetrate the fort itself, they succeeded in slaughtering or capturing every English man, woman, and child whom they found outside its walls. They proceeded to take Forts Sandusky, St. Joseph, Miami, and Ouiatenon, all of them situated on the shores of the Great Lakes. Michilimackinac was the fifth British fort to fall in what would become known as Pontiac’s War.

The Ottawa returned the English prisoners to the Ojibwa in exchange for some of the spoils they acquired from their raid on Michilimackinac, telling them that the Ojibwa planned to eat them. Henry and his fellow captives were taken by canoe to a nearby Ojibwa village. On the way, their captors offered them slices of bread which they cut with knives still stained with the blood of the soldiers they had slaughtered. “The blood they moistened with spittle,” wrote Henry, “and rubbing it on the bread offered this for food to their prisoners, telling them to eat the blood of their countrymen.”

When they reached their destination, the prisoners were confined in a longhouse, each of them tied by their necks to a pole. Henry, hungry and shivering from the cold, spent a sleepless night pondering his fate.

The next day, the entire war party held a council which the prisoners were forced to attend. In the midst of this meeting, Henry’s self-appointed Ojibwa brother, Wawatam, entered the council lodge and made a speech in which he implored the head war chief- a warrior named Menehwehna- to release Henry into his custody. After Wawatam presented him with gifts, the chief acquiesced. Henry was released from his bonds and brought to Wawatam’s wigwam, where he enjoyed his first solid meal since the massacre.

Wawatam’s intervention likely saved Henry’s life. On the morning following his release, an Ojibwa chief who was absent at the time of the massacre arrived in camp and slaughtered seven of the English prisoners in order to show his support for his countrymen’s actions. The Indians dismembered the fattest of these prisoners, cooked his corpse in five kettles outside the lodge in which the prisoners were housed, and devoured him.

Shortly thereafter, the Ojibwa transported their prisoners to the Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, fearful of an English counterattack and believing that the island would be easier to defend than their village. Prior to their journey, they threw a live dog into Lake Michigan as a sacrifice to the spirit whom they believe controlled the weather on the Great Lakes.

“As we approached the island,” Henry wrote, “two women in the canoe in which I was began to utter melancholy and hideous cries. Precarious as my condition still remained I experienced some sensations of alarm from these dismal sounds, of which I could not then discover the occasion. Subsequently I learned that it is customary for the women on passing near the burial places of relations never to omit the practice of which I was now a witness, and by which they intend to denote their grief.”

Skull Cave

After spending several days on the island, the Ojibwa captured a couple of inbound English canoes laden with trade goods, among which were several casks of rum. Fearful that his friend might be murdered that night in the inevitable drunken carousal, Wawatam brought Henry to a small, dark cave on the island’s central heights and instructed him to wait therein until his return.

Henry made a bed of spruce boughs in the middle of the cave, wrapped himself in a blanket, and went to sleep. He was awakened the following morning by some protrusion beneath him, which had begun to press uncomfortably into his body. The offending object proved to be a bone, which Henry assumed must be that of a deer or some other animal which some bygone predator had dragged into the cave to eat. “But when daylight visited my chamber,” Henry wrote, “I discovered with some feelings of horror that I was lying on nothing less than a heap of human bones and skulls which covered all the floor!”

Wawatam returned to the cave two days later, having finally recovered from the night of revelry. Henry showed him the bones, of which Wawatam professed to have had no prior knowledge. The friends speculated that the cave must have been used as a sort of charnel house by Indians centuries ago.

Continued in The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 9.

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 7

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 7

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

The Massacre of Fort Michilimackinac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 6

The Adventures of Alexander Henry the Elder: Part 6

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

Winter at Mackinac

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

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

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

Sault Ste. Marie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Analysis

The Mercury-Tinged Lead

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

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

The Tunnel in the Uplands Pit

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Analysis

The Cave-In Pit Anomaly

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

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

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

Metal Rods in Stumps in the Swamp

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

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

Nails from the Uplands Pit

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

 

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