The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 3: Swamp Things
Rick and Marty Lagina and the crew are back in the bog in this week’s episode of The Curse of Oak Island. For Americans looking for a refresher, and for Canadians hungry for a sneak peek, here is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 4, Episode 3: Swamp Things.
Treasure hunters Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, Jack Begley, Marty’s son Alex, and Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room following the funeral of veteran Oak Island treasure hunter Fred Nolan. In honour of the Nova Scotian surveyor who had dedicated so much of his life to the Oak Island quest, Marty reads a poem entitled The Surveyor, by Don W. Thomson. The narrator follows up on Marty’s reading by briefing Nolan’s long Oak Island history and describing some of his most prominent discoveries, including the giant cross-shaped pattern of Oak Island boulders styled ‘Nolan’s Cross.’
Rick Lagina states that, while Nolan’s passing has elicted grief, it has also hardened his resolve to get to the bottom of the Oak Island mystery. The rest of the crew echo Rick’s sentiments. The crew then briefly discusses the possibility of future excavations in the Oak Island swamp (formerly Nolan’s property), and the upcoming Big Dig in the Money Pit area.
The following morning, Rick Lagina and Charles Barkhouse meet at the Money Pit area, where heavy equipment operators of Brycon Construction, a Nova Scotian contracting company, are levelling the Money Pit area for the Big Dig, and building an access road to the worksite. While the two men examine wooden debris the contractors have dug up- likely timbers from previous searcher shafts- the narrator recounts treasure hunter Robert Dunfield’s heavy-duty operation in the late 1960’s which ultimately transformed the entire Money Pit area into a massive backfilled crater.
While sifting through the freshly-exposed earth in the Money Pit area, Rick discover small fragments of pottery- likely relics of previous treasure hunting syndicates. Shortly thereafter, Charles discovers a small flat stone, which he believes to be a piece of tile. Upon closer inspection, the two men identify a vague marking on the tile, which Charles suggests might be an “‘X’ with a hook.” The narrator then describes how forensic geologist Scott Wolter- host of the H2 TV series America Unearthed– has recently posited that this particular symbol is a medieval rune adopted by the Knights Templar, whom some theorists believed buried their most valuable treasure on Oak Island following the suppression of their Order in 1307. Rick suggests that they ought to have a geologist take a look at the inscribed tile to determine whether it is natural or worked by man.
Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Marty’s son Alex, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse meet in the War Room with Matt Savelle, a metal detection expert of Canadian Seabed Research Ltd. This is not Sevelle’s first Oak Island experience; the metal detection expert’s The Curse of Oak Island debut took place in Season 2, Episode 8, in which he, along with co-worker Pat Campbell, used the MALA Rough Terrain Antenna System (a Ground Penetrating Radar device) to survey the southwestern section of the Oak Island swamp, the Mercy Point area (situated at the apex of the Oak Island swamp), and the so-called Enochean Chamber area (situated at the central-western edge of the Oak Island swamp).
The narrator reveals that Savelle returned to the island earlier that year to conduct additional tests in the Oak Island swamp with a Geonics EM-61 MK IIA metal detector. At the Mercy Point area at the swamp’s apex- at which professional diver Tony Sampson, in Season 2, Episode 1, discovered an old oak stump- and in the swamp’s southwestern section, the metal detector got ‘big hits’.
Back in the War Room. Savelle explains that the Mercy Point reading indicates that the metal in question might be located beneath the point at which Tony Sampson discovered the stump. He also explains that the metal in the southwest section of the swamp appears to be long and flat. The crew decides to task diver Tony Sampson with exploring these two locations.
Later, while brothers Rick and Marty Lagina discuss the upcoming swamp exploration, the narrator explains how, in the summer of 2014, the Oak Island crew discovered a 1652 copper Spanish 8 maravedis at the Mercy Point area. He goes on to briefly summarize the theories that Oak Island’s mysterious underground workings are attributable to the crew of a lost Spanish treasure galleon and European buccaneers, respectively.
At the swamp, Rick and Marty Lagina and Jack Begley meet with Tony Sampson. The four men travel to the Mercy Point area, whereapon Sampson manually examines the area at which Savelle’s survey indicated the presence of metal. Sampson, equipped with a hand-held metal detector, soon discovers discovers some sort of metal object which appears to be encased in a large stump rooted to the swamp floor. Sampson pries the object loose, revealing it to be a survey marker placed decades ago by Fred Nolan.
Following the discovery, the narrator launches into a brief history of Fred Nolan’s swamp excavations, and his belief- also held by a number of independent researchers- that the Oak Island swamp is artificial. The narrator also recounts the theory espoused by some researchers that Oak Island was once actually two islands, and that the men who built the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel joined the two islands together in an effort to conceal something between them. According to the narrator, Nolan believed that this ‘something’ was a treasure galleon, which is now buried beneath the Oak Island swamp.
The narrator goes on to describe the theory, presented by writers Alan Butler and Kathleen McGowan in Season 2, Episode 7, that a chamber reminiscent of the Chamber of Enoch from ancient Hebrew scripture lies at the central-western edge of the Oak Island swamp. He also alludes to Scandinavian cyptographers Petter Amundsen and Daniel Ronnstam’s theory that a Rosicrucian (i.e. pertaining to the Order of the Rosy Cross, a mysterious Renaissance-era secret society) vault lies at the Mercy Point in the Oak Island swamp.
Back at the swamp, Marty Lagina expresses his disappointment that Sampson’s investigation did not produce a more significant discovery, as well as satisfaction that Savelle’s data was accurate. Without further ado, the Lagina brothers, Jack Begley, and Tony Sampson proceed to the second area of interest in the swamp indicated by Savelle’s survey.
At this new location, Sampson promptly unearths a long wooden plank. Although the crew initially fears that the hits from Sampson’s metal detector are attributable to nails or bolts embedded in the plank, a thorough examination by Jack Begley reveals the board to be devoid of metal. Sampson fails to uncover anything else in the area, and the crew eventually calls off the operation.
In an aside, Rick and Marty explain that Sampson’s failure to uncover any metal in the area is an indication that the metallic object revealed by Savelle’s survey is buried beneath the swamp floor. If true, it is likely that whatever lies at that location is relevant to the Oak Island mystery.
Following the diving operation, Rick and Marty Lagina, Tony Sampson, and Jack Begley examine the long wooden plank Sampson uncovered in the swamp. The treasure hunters suggest the plank might be a fragment of the ship Fred Nolan believed lay beneath the Oak Island swamp, and agree that a carbon dating is in order.
Later, Rick Lagina and Craig Tester meet with geologist Phil Finck and present him with the flat stone piece Rick discovered in the Money Pit area which Charles Barkhouse suggested might be a tile inscribed with a hooked ‘X’. Finck informs the treasure hunters that the slab is sandstone, and that most of the markings on its surface are natural glacial striations. However, he concludes that the hooked ‘X’ inscribed on its surface is likely man-made.
After concluding their meeting with Finck, the Oak Island crew congregates in the War Room, where Craig Tester informs them that the plank of wood Tony Sampson unearthed in the Oak Island swamp was carbon dated from 1680-1735 with a 95% degree of accuracy. Marty Lagina remarks that the carbon dating is consistent with a number of Oak Island theories, including Fred Nolan’s theory that a ship laden with treasure was buried in the Oak Island swamp. Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse remarks that the plank’s carbon dating is but the newest of a succession of discoveries supporting Nolan’s theory, which include Nolan’s discoveries of “parts of a spar… and also a section of a ship called a ‘scuppers'” in the Oak Island swamp.
Talk then turns to the mysterious metal object in the southwest section of the swamp, apparently located beneath the plank Tony Sampson unearthed. Marty states his desire to excavate that particular section of the swamp- an interesting turn of events considering his historic aversion to the Oak Island swamp. With that, the meeting is concluded.
Frederick G. Nolan, a one-man treasure hunting company and professional Provincial Land Surveyor from Bedford, Nova Scotia, had been looking for Oak Island treasure since 1966. Nolan first came to Oak Island as a tourist in the late 1950’s. In 1962, after receiving permission from Mel Chappell (who owned Oak Island and its Treasure Trove licence at the time), he returned to conduct a comprehensive survey of the island while Robert and Bobby Restall (contemporary Oak Island treasure hunters) laboured in Smith’s Cove. While conducting his survey, Nolan recorded the positions of various Oak Island landmarks, including the stone triangle on the South Shore Cove. In this way, he preserved a number of potentially significant landmarks that were later destroyed in Robert Dunfield’s heavy duty excavations, carried out in the late 1960’s.
After persistently urging Mel Chappell to allow him to partake in the treasure hunt and being sharply rebuffed, Nolan made a trip to the Registry Office in nearby Chester and learned that Oak Island’s Lots 5 and 9-14- all but one of them situated around the Oak Island swamp- were not owned by Chappell but rather by the heirs of the late Sophia Sellers, who had inherited Oak Island property from her father Anthony Graves. Nolan quietly approached the heirs with an offer and succeeded in purchasing seven lots of Oak Island real estate for $2,500. Ever since his purchase and subsequent acquisition of an Oak Island Treasure Trove licence, there has been two official treasure hunts on Oak Island. Once Mel Chappell got wind of Nolan’s purchase, a friendly rivalry ensued, which quickly devolved into a bitter feud. This feud between Fred Nolan and his rival Oak Island treasure hunters (which spilled over from Chappell to Dan Blankenship’s Triton Alliance to Oak Island Tours Inc.)- involving a series of financially-draining legal battles and malicious pranks in which both parties were equally culpable- continued for four decades, greatly hampering the progress of the Oak Island treasure hunt. While not engaging his treasure hunting rivals in court or on the Oak Island battlefield, Nolan made a number of interesting discoveries on his property. These discoveries include:
- Four stone cairns, located on Oak Island’s northeastern hilltop, which appear to form two triangles, one pointing west towards the swamp, and the other pointing northwest towards Joudrey’s Cove.
- A number of drilled rocks similar to the ones discovered by Oak Island treasure hunter Gilbert Hedden in 1937.
- A number of rocks with metal ringbolts embedded in them.
- The Old Well, a well located at the edge of the Oak Island swamp.
- Parts of a ship’s spar in the Oak Island swamp.
- A ship’s scuppers in the Oak Island swamp.
- Sandstone survey markers.
- The remains of three ancient oak chests in theOak Island swamp.
- Various marked rocks and stone strutures.
- Nolan’s Cross.
In the summer of 2015, Fred Nolan made peace with Dan Blankenship, Dave Blankenship, and Rick and Marty Lagina of Oak Island Tours Inc., effectively ending a bitter feud that had greatly hindered the progression of the Oak Island treasure hunt for 40 years. This peace pact was manifest in a formal agreement between Nolan and his former rivals, in which Nolan granted the Blankenships and Oak Island Tours Inc. access to his incredibly detailed survey maps, much of his property, and the various places of interest on Oak Island he has pinned down over the years based on his interpretation of the orientation of the various landmarks he recorded on his survey maps. According to Rick Lagina in an “Ask Me Anything” thread which he Marty Lagina submitted to Reddit.com in November 2015, “being able to work with Fred Nolan” was one of Oak Island Tours Inc.’s biggest successes on Oak Island to date. On June 4, 2016, one month and one day before his 89th birthday, Frederick G. Nolan passed away, leaving behind his wife Ora, his son Thomas J., his granddaughters Catherine and Shannon, his brother Frank, and a number of nieces and nephews.
In 1981, Fred Nolan made what is arguably his most important discovery on Oak Island. That year, he discovered that five conical granite boulders on his property, each of them approximately 8 feet wide and 9 feet high, formed a perfect Latin cross. Upon this discovery, Nolan dug a hole at the centre of the cross and unearthed a large sandstone boulder which bears vague resemblance to a human head. This cross- dubbed ‘Nolan’s Cross’- has an 867-foot-long stem and a 720-foot-long crossbeam and has been fodder for countless theories regarding the nature of the Oak Island treasure, including the Templar theory, the Rosicrucian theory, the Freemason theory, and others.
In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, Rick Lagina comes across a small, flat piece of stone upon which Charles Barkhouse suggests is inscribed a ‘hooked X’. Later, geologist Phil Finck determines that the supposed inscription on the rock’s surface is indeed man-made.
The notion of the historical and archaeological significance of the ‘hooked X’ character is most prominantly espoused by Scott Wolter, a forensic geologist and fringe historian who hosts the H2 TV series America Unearthed. Wolter first came across the symbol of the hooked X while examining the Kensington Runestone -a large stone inscribed with runic markings discovered on a farm near Kensington, Minnesota in 1898, which some researchers believe is evidence of a 14th Century Scandinavian expedition deep into the American continent- as a geological professional. Wolter was intrigued by the presence of a recurring ‘hooked X’ character on the runestone, which runic scholars were unable to identify. Upon further investigation, Wolter discovered what he believes to be variations of this same hooked X inscribed on a disparate variety of seemingly unrelated stones and documents, including:
The Copiale Cipher, an encrypted 18th Century manuscript which, upon its decipherment in 2011, revealed the existence of a secret sub-Freemasonic society called The Oculus Order of Wolfenbuttel (seriously)).
- The Larsson Papers, the 1883 notes of then-16-year-old Edward Larsson, a Swedish tailor’s apprentice who had immigrated to America. Larsson’s notes suggest that the hooked X character represents the letter ‘A’. It should be mentioned that the Larsson Papers appear to call into question the authenticity
of the Kensington Runestone, suggesting that the inscription on its surface be written in a 19th Century secret runic alphabet favoured by Swedish craftsmen.
- The Talpiot Tomb, an ancient rock-cut tomb in the Old City of Jerusalem around which a controversial theory revolves.
- The signature of Italian explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus, whom some Oak Island researchers believe had a hand in the Oak Island mystery.
- The walls of Rosslyn Chapel, which features prominantly in the theories that the Knights Templar or members of some Freemasonic Lodge are responsible for Oak Island’s underground workings.
- The Spirit Pond Runestones, three stone allegedly inscribed with runic inscriptions which were discovered in Phippsburg, Maine, in 1971.
- The Narragansett Runestone, a 2.5 tonne stone inscribed with allegedly runic markings which, prior to its theft in 2012 and resurfacing in 2013, was situated between the high and low tide lines on the shores of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.
Wolter has used his findings to weave a bizarre, controversial conspiracy theory involving the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Catholic Church, and the Holy Grail, which he outlines in his books The Kensington Runestone: Compelling New Evidence (2005), The Hooked X: Key to the Secret History of North America (2009), From Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers: the Mysteries of the Hooked X (2013), and Templar Sanctuaries in North America: Sacred Bloodlines and Secret Treasures (2016). Charles Barkhouse’s suggestion that the small flat stone discovered by Rick Lagina in the Money Pit might be inscribed with a hooked X appears to be an effort to establish some sort of connection between Wolter’s theories and the Oak Island mystery.
In this episode of The Curse of Oak Island, diver Tony Sampson discovered a long wooden plank submerged at a particular section of the Oak Island swamp at which metal detection surveys revealed the presence of a large quantity of buried metal. This board was later carbon dated from 1680-1735 with a 95% degree of accuracy. This carbon dating is congruent with a number of prominent theories regarding the nature of Oak Island’s underground workings, including:
- The Spanish theory, which holds that the Money Pit and Smith’s Cove flood tunnel were built by the crew of a shipwrecked Spanish treasure galleon laden with New World silver.
- The William Phips theory, which involves New English treasure hunter and privateer William Phips, the treasure of the sunken Spanish treasure galleon La Concepcion, and a British conspiracy revolving around the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
- The Captain Kidd theory, which posits that Oak Island’s underground workings are attributable to the crew of privateer captain William Kidd, who was hanged for piracy in 1701.
- Fred Nolan’s theory
Fred Nolan’s Theory
In this episode, the narrator reveals that the late Oak Island landowner and treasure hunter Fred Nolan believed that the eastern and western ends of Oak Island were, at one point, actually separate islands, and that those who constructed the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel sailed a treasure-laden ship between the two islands, joined the two islands together in a massive earthworks project, and sank the treasure ship beneath the artificial swamp that was created.
In The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 3, Episode 7, Fred Nolan explained his belief that Oak Island’s artificial swamp, the Money Pit, and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel were constructed by the British during the American Revolution, and that the treasure they buried was bullion and specie from the Thirteen Colonies.
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