HomeNova ScotiaThe Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 10: About Face

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 10: About Face

Let’s take a look at Season 4, Episode 10 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island, entitled About Face.

Plot Summary

The episode begins where the previous one left off: at Borehole C1, where diver Mike Huntley, with a hand-held metal detector, has just discovered what appears to be a metal object, or perhaps up to three metal objects, embedded in the wall of the cavern at the bottom of the shaft. The Oak Island crew members- with Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in virtual attendance through Skype- stand by on the surface with professional divers John Chatterton and Howard Ehrenberg, listening as Huntley describes his apparent find via radio. Due to lack of visibility, Huntley is unable to visually identify whatever set the metal detector off, and eventually returns to the surface.

oak island money pit diagram

Upon Mike Huntley’s ascent, John Chatterton, equipped with a hand-held metal detector, descends the shaft in the hopes of verifying Huntley’s find. Chatterton reaches the cavern at the bottom of C1 without incident and begins searching the chamber walls for any sign of Huntley’s metallic object. Try as he might, however, he is unable to replicate the metal detector ‘hits’. After searching for some time, Chatterton returns to the surface empty-handed.

Later, the crew meets with Chatterton, Huntley, and Ehrenberg in the War Room. Upon being prompted by Craig Tester (who, along with Marty Lagina, had apparently returned to the island sometime after the diving operations), Huntley and Chatterton maintain that the two of them had collectively explored about 90% of the walls and floor of the cavern at the bottom of Borehole C1. Chatterton explains to the crew that the potential tunnels indicated by Blaine Carr and Even Downie’s sonar scan (conducted in Season 4, Episode 9) are, in fact, a deep and narrow fissure and an irregular, naturally-formed ‘opening’, respectively. Ultimately, the two divers both agree that there is a “very small” chance that the cavern at the bottom of Borehole C1 is man-made.

An interpretation John Chatterton’s sketch of the chamber at the bottom of Borehole C1.

Talk then turns to the shiny, gold-coloured object which’s presence inside the chamber at the bottom of Borehole C1 was indicated by an earlier underwater camera operation, and which both Chatterton and Huntley failed to recover. The narrator speculates that perhaps the hammergrab and drill used to widen C1 knocked the object to the cavern floor, where it was covered by a layer of silt and sediment. Rick Lagina asks the divers what the Oak Island crew could do to further the search for the shiny object. Chatterton responds by suggesting that they improve visibility in the chamber at the bottom of C1 by flushing out the water, and the Oak Island crew agrees to consider the suggestion.

The Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia.

Later, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse travel to nearby Peggy’s Cove to meet with historian Terry Deveau. As the men shake hands, the narrator explains how, in Season 3, Episode 4, Deveau showed the Oak Island crew the ‘Overton Stone’, a stone near Overton, Nova Scotia, bearing a strange carving which Deveau suggested was indicative of a 15th Century Portuguese-Mi’kmaq peace pact.

Deveau leads Rick and Charles to a large rock in the wilderness which’s shape is vaguely suggestive of a human head. Rick notes that there are several small, rounds stones lying beneath the larger one- somewhat evocative of the mysterious, dolmen-like, Neolithic-esque megaliths scattered throughout the Canadian Maritimes- and suggests that they maybe have been placed there by man so that the stone could be oriented in a particular direction. Deveau suggests that ancient Mi’kmaq sculptors made “some modifications to [the stone’s] outline to make the facial features more prominent.” And Barkhouse notes that the late Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan, years ago, discovered a large head-shaped stone buried beneath the centre of Nolan’s Cross (an array of five conical boulders on Oak Island which form a perfect cross), implying that there might be some sort of connection between this Peggy’s Cove stone and Oak Island.

peggys cove stone

An interpretation of the Peggy’s Cove stone.

After examining the stone for some time, Deveau suggests that the “distinctly Mi’kmaq features” of the supposed face carved into this Peggy’s Cove stone “absolutely look like a depiction of the Mi’kmaq” cultural hero Glooscap, to which Rich responds, “do you mean Prince Henry Sinclair?”. The narrator then outlines the theory that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to 14th Century Scottish-Orcadian nobleman Henry Sinclair- a knight with alleged connections to the disbanded Knights Templar who, according to legend, travelled to Nova Scotia in the late 1300’s, where he interacted with and thoroughly impressed the local Mi’kmaq, and in doing so became the basis for the Mi’kmaq cultural hero Glooscap.

Following the narrator’s explanation, Rick states that he has long believed that the legends of Glooscap were based on Henry Sinclair. He then suggests that the Peggy’s Cove stone might have a maritime connection, as the face carved onto it- if it is indeed a face- is gazing out over St. Margaret’s Bay. Using a compass, Deveau determines that the face is facing due west, in the general direction of Oak Island.

Peggy’s Cove in relation to Oak Island.

Later, Rick and Marty Lagina- along with Craig Tester on Skype- meet with father-and-son treasure hunters Dan and Dave Blankenship in the War Room. The Lagina brothers reveal that they are “running into financial constraints”, and that it seems that they will have to commit to one of two major projects: 1) airlifting the water from and exploring Borehole 10-X; 2) or digging a third hole in the Money Pit area. Dave Blankenship immediately advocates tackling Borehole 10-X, remarking that, due to lack of hard evidence, digging a third hole in the Money Pit area would be a shot in the dark. Rick echoes that sentiment, stating his desire to “put an X through” 10-X, one way or another. Marty, however, objects to spending the remaining budget on 10-X, reminding his fellow treasure hunters that, with all the equipment already in place, it will never be cheaper to dig in the Money Pit area. Craig, for the same reasons, agrees that they should focus on sinking another shaft in the Money Pit area. Finally, the elderly Dan Blankenship says that he would prefer to see 10-X thoroughly explored, as it was from there that he once extracted bits of old low-grade steel chain and other materials manufactured prior to the mid 1700’s.

After debating for some time on which enterprise to sacrifice, Marty decides to go over budget and explore both 10-X and the Money Pit. Every treasure hunter at the table agrees with the decision.

The episode ends at Borehole 10-X, where the Oak Island crew- along with Dan Henskee, a former Oak Island treasure hunter and sometime resident- watch as contractors prepare to airlift the water from the shaft.

 

Analysis

Equipment Malfunctions on Oak Island

In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. experienced something very strange. Professional diver Mike Huntley, while exploring the cavern at the bottom of Borehole C1 with a hand-held metal detector, got a succession of hits on his metal detector indicating the presence of up to three metallic objects embedded in the walls of the cavity. However, when professional diver John Chatterton attempted to replicate Huntley’s hits, the mysterious metallic objects were nowhere to be found.

Strange as it may seem, this phenomenon is commonplace on Oak Island. For over two hundred years, Oak Island treasure hunters have been plagued by a myriad of mysterious technological mishaps which seem to occur with uncanny frequency. Some Oak Island enthusiasts take this as a sign that Oak Island is cursed, and that its supposed subterranean treasure is guarded by some sort of supernatural entity. Others attribute these many mechanical and electrical malfunctions to the aura of the treasure itself, which many believe to be a sacred religious artifact such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Spear of Longinus. Whatever the case, the sheer magnitude of equipment malfunctions experienced by Oak Island treasure hunters lends credence to the notion that some strange force, natural or otherwise, is at work on Oak Island.

The following is a list of some of the many equipment malfunctions experienced by Oak Island treasure hunters over the years:

  • In the fall of 1804, members of the Onslow Company, Oak Island’s first real treasure-hunting syndicate, tried to drain the flooded Money Pit with a large, expensive, steam-powered pump- a pump which’s effectiveness and dependability was vouched for by an engineer from Newport (now Brooklyn), Nova Scotia, named Mr. Mosher. The men of the Onslow Company lowered the brand new pump into the Money Pit, only to see it blow out immediately upon being started up.
  • In the summer of 1850, members of the Truro Company built a cofferdam around Smith’s Cove in the hopes that it would allow them to dismantle and plug the Smith’s Cove box drains without having to contend with the Atlantic tide. The cofferdam was swept away shortly after its construction by an unusually ferocious Atlantic storm. Similar events occurred in 1866, when the Halifax Company attempted to build a cofferdam around Smith’s Cove, and in 1970, when Triton Alliance attempted to do the same.
  • In 1861, members of the Oak Island Association attempted to drain the seawater from the Money Pit with a steam-powered cast-iron pump. No sooner had the pump started up, however, than the steam engine’s boiler exploded, spewing boiling water all over the worksite. Many of the labourers were seriously scalded. One of them succumbed to his wounds. This labourer, whose name has been lost to history, was the first man to die in search of treasure on Oak Island.
  • In the spring of 1897, an employee of the Oak Island Treasure Company named Maynard Kaiser was sent into the one of the pumping shafts that had been sunk beside the Money Pit to check on the pump at the bottom. He completed his work in the shaft and was in the process of being hauled to the surface when the rope to which his bucket was attached slipped off the hoist. Kaiser fell to his death, and in doing so became the second man to die on Oak Island in search of treasure.
  • From 1959-1965, motorcycle stuntman and steamfitter Robert Restall and his son Bobby headed the Oak Island treasure hunt. Robert’s daughter, Lee (Restall) Lamb, reveals in her book Oak Island Obsession that her father, from 1961-1963, wrote dozens of letters to his friend Fred Sparham describing various “mechanical failures, breakages, and needs” pertaining to his Oak Island treasure hunt. In 1965, Robert and his son, along with two other men, lost their lives as a result of one of these mechanical failures. On August 17 of that year, the four men, one after the other, fell to the bottom of a shaft after being exposed to hydrogen sulfide gas. Although the rising water level in the shaft should have been kept at bay by a pump placed in the shaft’s bottom, the pump mysteriously stopped working that day. The water in the shaft continued to rise, and Robert, Bobby, and their two companions drowned.
  • In 1976, Dan and Dave Blankenship decided to concentrate on re-excavating Borehole 10-X, pump the water that filled it down to a more manageable level, and cut a series of holes in the steel casing Dan had inserted into the shaft in order to see if anything of interest might be found on the other side. One day that fall, Dan was working in the shaft at the 145-foot depth, while Dave stood by on the surface, operating the winch which controlled the elevation of the bucket Dan stood in. Suddenly, a deep rumble shook the shaft, and pieces of debris began to fall on Dan’s helmeted head. Dan radioed David to winch him up to the surface, saying, “Bring me up; bring me up! Out, out, out, out!” David hauled his father from the shaft as fast as he could, and not a moment too soon; Borehole 10-X’s casing imploded at the 95-foot level mere seconds after Dan cleared it.
  • In Season 1, Episode 1 of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Jack Begley, and Dave Blankenship lowered a Spectrum 90, a high-definition robotic camera designed to take deep-water pictures, into Borehole 10-X. After taking some footage of the shaft bottom, they met with Dan Blankenship in the War Room and began to play the footage they shot. The footage revealed what appeared to be the entrance to a tunnel and a vertical support beam in a cavern at the bottom of the shaft. With an hour of footage yet to play, however, the video file mysteriously disappeared. Some of the crew members, while frustrated, jokingly suggested that the technological mishap might be attributed to the ‘Oak Island curse’.
  • In Season 1, Episode 3 of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick and Marty Lagina and Dave Blankenship met with the Chester Area Paranormal Society, a group of local paranormal investigators, in Dan Blankenship’s house. The Society members briefed the Laginas and Blankenship on the results of a previous investigation they carried out on Oak Island, showing them a number of photographs they took which appeared to contain eerie, unexplainable anomalies, and describing how they heard disembodied footsteps near the swamp. After the meeting, the Lagina brothers and Dave Blankenship accompanied the Society members to the swamp, where the latter conducted another investigation using a K-II electromagnetic field meter (a device designed to locate, qualify, and quantify sources of electromagnetic radiation). After some time, the meter started to beep, indicating the presence of anomalous electromagnetic radiation. Society member Jenn Morrow interpreted this “as an indication that something [in the swamp was] trying to communicate” with them.
  • In Season 1, Episode 4, the Oak Island crew attempted to drain the Oak Island swamp for the first time. Immediately after the pump was started up, a link of one of its two outgoing hoses ruptured, necessitating a replacement- a mishap which Rick Lagina suggested might be a manifestation of the Oak Island curse.
  • In Season 1, Episode 5, following the discovery of the Spanish 8 maravedis, diver Tony Sampson investigated the ‘Mercy Point’, located in the Oak Island swamp, with a hand-held metal detector and his bare hands. While in the water, the metal detector got some erratic and “very confusing” hits which Zazulyk termed “ghost targets”. Although Samson searched for some time, he was unable to locate the source of the metal. (It should be mentioned that later, in Season 2, Episode 1, metal detecting expert Stu Auerbach suggested that the ghost targets Samson received in the Mercy Point area might be attributable to a cloud of dissolved metal emitted from a the copper coin on the swamp’s bottom, which was likely agitated into dispersal by Sampson during his manual exploration of the area.)
  • In the winter of 2013/14, Oak Island Tours Inc. conducted a metal detection scan of Oak Island’s then-frozen swamp. The data from this scan indicated the presence a large non-ferrous metal object about 15-20 feet long and 3 feet wide lying under the western edge of the swamp. Later on, in Season 2, Episode 4, it is revealed that the data from this winter scan was faulty, and that there are only “one or two ferrous metal objects” in the swamp area.
  • In Season 3, Episode 2, the men of Oak Island Tours Inc., with the help of a boom truck, began to winch a corroded eight-inch-in-diameter, 180-foot-long riser pipe from Borehole 10-X in order to clear for an upcoming dive. The pipe was removed 20-foot piece by 20-foot piece, each of which was winched up, secured, and severed with a blowtorch. At first, the operation went smoothly. However, after cutting off one of the 20-foot sections, the slip holding the pipe in place gave out, allowing the remainder of the pipe to plummet down into the water shaft. This pipe knocked a smaller metal pipe on the shaft wall loose during its descent, thus creating a major obstacle that thwarted many future diving operations.
  • In Season 3, Episode 10, divers Harvey Morash and Michael Gerhartz began a descent into Borehole 10-X, hoping to explore the chamber at the bottom. Immediately upon entering the water, it became clear that the receiving end of Gerhartz’s communication equipment was not working. The dive was aborted, and a subsequent dive was scheduled. Gerhartz aquired another mask, microphone, and headset in Halifax and prepared to perform another dive with Morash. Unfortunately, he had to cancel the second dive as well on account of newly-developed “breathing problems” with his new mask.
  • According to internet rumours, Norwegian organist, amateur cryptographer, and documentarian Petter Amundsen, in a particular documentary he produced, attempted to access his ‘Mercy Point’ in the Oak Island swamp (which he introduced in Season 1, Episode 3 of The Curse of Oak Island) when the swamp was pumped dry. Strangely, the navigational implements he used to locate the Mercy Point- specifically a smartphone compass and an old fashioned magnetic compass, which both operate on magnetism- acted erratically the closer he got to the Mercy Point.
  • In Season 4, Episode 11 of The Curse of Oak Island (the following episode), contractor Jeremy Frizzell attempted to construct an inflatable cofferdam around a section of Smith’s Cove. The cofferdam inexplicably ruptured before completion, and the project was abandoned.

Terry Deveau and the Overton Stone

In this episode, historian Terry J. Deveau led Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse to a large stone which he claimed was a carved Mi’kmaq monolith depicting the Mi’kmaq deity Glooscap. This is not Deveau’s first Oak Island experience; the historian and rock expert has appeared on The Curse of Oak Island several times before, perhaps most notably in Season 3, Episode 4, in which he introduced the Oak Island team to the Overton Stone.

An interpretation of the carving on the Overton Stone.

The Overton Stone is a large glacial boulder on the Atlantic coast near Overton, Nova Scotia, upon which is carved- likely with a steel chisel- a stylized Christian cross in a circle surrounded by four dots, an eagle feather, two crossed tobacco leaves, and a crescent moon. It was first publically discovered in around 2009 by a local resident named Beverly Wells-Pinkney (now deceased). Some researchers believe the stone’s carving is evidence of some sort of friendship treaty between early European explorers and the local Mi’kmaq Indians, while others label it a hoax.

Terry Deveau wrote a 35-page essay on the stone, which he published on December 2, 2015. In his article (which can be found at www.neara.org/images/OvertonStone.pdf), Deveau states that the stone, discovered as recently as 2009, is located at “a popular recreational spot for shore walks, watching the waves, and picnicking… [which] leads to the suggestion that the carving was made fairly recently.” In the same vein, he acknowledges that it cannot be ruled out that the stone is a genuine archeological artifact, and thus launches into an investigation of the carving’s various aspects.

Deveau first points out that the weathering of the carving’s patina, when compared with the patina on the rest of the stone, indicates that the carving may indeed be several centuries old. He goes on to theorize that the crossed tobacco leaves- an aspect of the carving which has led some researchers to suggest the carving’s connection with the Mi’kmaq people- are of the species Nicotiana tabacum, a supposition which is corroborated by First Nations rock art expert Edward Lenik. This particular species of tobacco was not cultivated by the Mi’kmaq, although Deveau suggests that the peri- Columbian Mi’kmaq may have acquired it through trade with tribes to the south. On the other hand, the Mi’kmaq have traditionally used Lobelia inflata, a different species of tobacco commonly known as Indian tobacco, as medicine.

In regards to the carved crescent moon, Deveau writes that the Mi’kmaq used a lunar calendar, and suggests that the moon image might be some sort of evocation of the “the Creator, God, or the Great Spirit.”

Deveau states that the eagle feather, another image depicted on the Overton Stone, is another Mi’kmaq symbol associated with the Creator.

Next, Deveau analyses the stone’s stylized cross. He states that, despite extensive research, he was only able to find a few examples of carved crosses stylistically similar to the Overton Stone cross. One of the best examples of these was the cross on the Yallala Rock on the Congo River on the west coast of Africa, the inscription on which is believed to have been carved by Portuguese explorers in 1485. Deveau explains that 15th and 16th Century Portuguese explorers “frequently left wood, stone, and iron crosses as monuments to their activities; these are called padrao crosses and padrao stones.” Upon analyzing these other Portuguese crosses, Deveau has determined that the cross on the Overton Stone “appears to be consistent with the possibility that it was carved by Portuguese explorers…” Later, Deveau makes the case that these unique Portuguese explorer crosses are a variations of the Order of Christ Cross, the symbol of the Order of Christ, a Portuguese military order which was really a continuation of the Portuguese Knights Templar. Deveau explains how the Order of Christ played an important role in the early Age of Discovery, and how many early Portuguese explorers were members of the order.

Deveau states that, if the Overton Stone was indeed carved by Portuguese explorers in commemoration of a friendship treaty with the local Mi’kmaq, the stone would probably also include an inscription of the date and the carver’s initials a short distance from the main carving. Following this assertion, he points out an area below the carving with very little patination relative to the carving and the rest of the stone, indicating that it had been deliberately defaced sometime in the past. Deveau theorizes that the area once held the carving’s date and the carver’s signature, and that 17th Century French or 18th Century British colonials likely struck those markings off in order to destroy evidence of what they might have viewed as an earlier Portuguese land claim without damaging the beautiful carving itself.

Deveau then draws from historical evidence to show that 16th Century Portuguese explorers almost certainly did have an intimate “working friendship” with the Mi’kmaq people, and that the Portuguese, judging from their actions in other parts of the globe, would probably have commemorated this friendship with a padrao stone. He goes on to suggest that Joao Alvares Fagundes, a Portuguese explorer who conducted expeditions- and later founded a Portuguese colony in- Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in the early 1520’s, “could have been the very person responsible for commissioning the memorial exhibited on the Overton Stone.”

After presenting and defending his theory that the Overton Stone carving was a commemoration of a centuries-old friendship treaty between Portuguese explorers and Mi’kmaq tribesmen, Deveau critically investigates other possibilities regarding the carving’s origins. The first of these possibilities is the notion that the carving is a relatively modern creation. One piece of evidence to back this theory up are the initials ‘HT’ and the numbers ‘06/07’, which are carved on the same boulder a good distance from the original carving. Some believe that these additions are evidence that an artist with the initials HT created the Overton Stone carving in June 1807, 1907, or 2007. Deveau counters this theory, along with other theories suggesting the stone is a Norse Viking runestone or a Mi’kmaq petroglyph.

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I'm a Western Canadian writer, carver, and fiddler who has a special place in his heart for history and the unexplained.

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