HomeNova ScotiaThe Curse of Oak Island- Season 5 Premiere: Forever Family

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

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

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

 

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

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[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

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Season 5 Special: The Journey So Far

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

Borehole 10-X.

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

Spanish 8 Maravedis.

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

The boxdrains on Smith’s Cove.

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

An interpretation of one of the mysterious metal objects recovered from GAL1.

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

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

 

Season 5, Episode 1: Forever Family

Plot Summary

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

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

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

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

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

C1 Shaft.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Analysis

The Isaac’s Point Coin

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

The C1 Anomalies

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

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

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

The Rose Head Nail

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

 

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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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