HomeNova ScotiaThe Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 2: Core Values

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 2: Core Values

The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 2: Core Values

The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 2 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!!!]

 

 

Plot Summary

This episode begins in the Oak Island swamp, where Choice Drilling is busy retrieving core samples of the mysterious ‘ship anomaly’ indicated by the results of the seismic survey carried out at the end of the previous season. Tom Nolan, the son of Fred Nolan, joins members of the Oak Island team as they inspect a sample taken from a depth of 13-16 feet below the swamp floor. Disappointingly, the sample appears to contain little aside from mud and organic matter.

The ship anomaly in the Oak Island swamp.

A second sample, taken from 18.5-21.5 feet, is composed of arid, crumbly clay, being perhaps the driest core sample ever collected on Oak Island. Heavy equipment operator Billy Gerhardt remarks that that the clay is similar to some of the material he has seen in core samples taken from the Money Pit area. The narrator then attempts to draw a parallel between this clay and the blue clay said to have been found in the original Money Pit by the Onslow Company in 1804, neglecting to point out that the latter was described as having a puttylike consistency very different from that of the moistureless material found beneath the swamp.

At a depth of 30 feet, the drill bites into something hard. A core sample taken from that depth contains more dry clay similar to the material found at 18.5-21.5 feet. Within the sample is a piece of hard rock, which Marty Lagina refers to as a “caprock”. The narrator explains that “caprocks” are sheets of hard rock which overlie weaker material, forming impermeable barriers which prevent the flow of fluids from one side of the rock to the other. Marty’s reference implies the theory that this caprock and others like it prevent the swamp water from leeching deep into the ground below, suggesting that the presence of such rocks might explain the dryness of the core samples the team has unearthed.

When Choice Drilling attempts to drill further into the swamp, the drill seizes up, presumably having encountered a hard rock. The Oak Island crew reluctantly decides to abandon the hole and sink another one later.

The next morning, while Choice Drilling repositions the floating platform upon which their drilling rig stands, Craig Tester, Alex Lagina, Laird Niven, and Steve Guptill meet at Smith’s Cove with Ground Penetrating Radar experts Don Johnston and Steve Watson of Global GPR Services Inc. Tester explains that he would like the GPR experts to search the area for underground voids in the hope that they might locate the legendary Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Equipped with a Noggin 100 GPR sensor- a geophysical tool which uses radio waves to map the underground- Johnston and Watson proceed to scan Smith’s Cove’s upper beach, where the team believes the convergence point of the flood tunnel’s supposed finger drains might be located. The pair quickly discovers a 7-metre-long anomaly which begins 5 metres below the surface and runs roughly parallel to the shoreline.

Oak Island’s U-shaped Structure at Smith’s Cove.

Meanwhile, Rick Lagina Dan Henskee, and Gary Drayton head to Oak Island’s Lot 21 to do some metal detecting. Located at the westernmost end of Oak Island, Lot 21 is the area at which Gary and other crew members discovered the glass brooch in Season 6, Episode 1; a French grenadier’s hat badge in Season 6, Episode 5; and a lead cloisonné in Season 6, Episode 18, the isotopic signature of which proved to be identical to that of the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove. On this latest excursion, the trio discover a hefty triangular piece of iron with a large hole through the middle, which Drayton suspects might be the head of a quarry hammer. In a later interview, Rick Lagina remarks that the possibility of the artifact’s being a quarry hammer evokes the headstone at the centre of Nolan’s Cross, believed by some to have been shaped by man. Shortly thereafter, the three men come across what appears to be yet another quarry hammer head, this one more substantial than the first one.

The next day, Rick and Marty Lagina meet with geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner of Acadia University on the South Shore road and show him some of the core samples taken from beneath the swamp. Dr. Spooner observes that the sediment from the samples contains a high concentration of clay, which he states is a characteristic of marine environments. He also remarks that the samples contain less organic material than he would expect to find in an ancient wetland, and concludes that the swamp floor likely constituted sea bottom at some point in the relatively recent past. Spooner agrees to conduct a more thorough examination of the core sample material in his lab.

Later, Craig Tester, Doug Crowell, and Laird Niven take GPR experts Don Johnston and Steve Watson to the Cave-In Pit, around which they ask them conduct a GPR scan. The narrator explains that some theorists believe that the Cave-In Pit lies directly on the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, constituting an air-shaft constructed by the flood tunnel builders. The Oak Island team members hope that Johnston and Watson might be able to locate the tunnel which the Pit possibly intersects with their sensor. Sure enough, Johnston and Watson discover several anomalies in the vicinity of the Cave-In Pit, one of them 25 metres (82 feet) below the surface and the other 28 metres (91 feet) deep. Tester remarks that those depths roughly correspond with the depth at which the flood tunnel is believed to lie in the area of the Cave-In Pit.

The swage block discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 21, which Gary Drayton initially suspected to be a quarry hammer.

The next day, members of the Oak Island team meet in the War Room with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they show some of the metal artifacts discovered on Oak Island this season. Legge identifies one artifact, the discovery of which was apparently made off-camera, as an 18th Century English ox shoe. He then identifies the triangular pieces of iron, which Drayton suspected might be quarry hammers, as crude swage blocks used for sharpening rock drills, and opines that their presence on the island is suggestive of “some major mining or tunneling operation”. He claims that such artifacts are very rare, and estimates that the ones found on the island may date as far back as the mid-15th Century.

Following Legge’s revelation, Marty Lagina deduces that the builders of the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel would not have had much use for the swage blocks, as they dug through glacial till rather than rock, and would therefore probably have done their tunneling with pickaxes rather than rock drills. He suggests that the artifacts’ presence on Oak Island may be indicative of tunnel work that took place on the western side of Oak Island, as the bedrock there is composed of hard slate as opposed to the softer anhydrite limestone which characterizes the bedrock on the eastern side of the Island.

Later that day, the Oak Island crew heads to the swamp, where Choice Drilling has finished extracting a number of core samples from depths up to 50 feet. Geologist Terry Matheson, who examined the samples beforehand, informs the team that the cores are absent of wood or any other evidence which might indicate the presence of a ship, which some crew members hoped the ‘ship anomaly’ might designate. The cores do, however, contain more of the same dry clay found earlier, through which, Marty Lagina remarks, it would be possible to tunnel.

Later, members of the team meet in the War Room to discuss the inconclusive results of the exploration drilling operation in the swamp. In light of the discovery that the swamp is underlain by a layer of hard, dry clay, Steve Guptill theorizes that the ‘ship anomaly’ revealed by the seismic survey might denote an underground tunnel rather than a buried ship. Talk then turns to the many steps the team will need to make in order to acquire a digging permit which will enable them to test this theory. “First, we have to decide what our target is, and how deep we’re going to go,” says Marty Lagina in a later interview, “and then we [have] to figure out how and what’s permissible.” Rick Lagina concludes the meeting by suggesting that the team attempt, in a scientific matter, to determine, once and for all, whether or not the swamp is manmade. The team concurs with Rick’s suggestion.

 

Analysis

Exploration Drilling in the Swamp

In this episode, the Oak Island team took core samples of the so-called “ship anomaly” in the Oak Island swamp, the presence of which was indicated by the seismic survey carried out at the end of Season 6. Although the samples did not contain any wood or other evidence indicating that a ship might lie buried beneath the swamp, as some crew members had hoped, they did contain curiously dry clay, along with fragments of natural caprock which presumably prevents the swamp water from leeching deep into the ground below.

Dr. Spooner’s Swamp Theory

In this episode, geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner of Acadia University inspected some of the core samples taken from beneath the Oak Island swamp. Spooner argued that the samples’ high concentrations of clay, coupled with their dearth of organic material, appear to indicate that the swamp is a young wetland, and that the area which it comprises lay beneath the sea sometime in the relatively recent past. This hypothesis is consistent with the theory that Oak Island is an artificial conjunction of two separate islands, the strait between which now constitutes the Oak Island swamp.

Oak Island as two separate islands.

Dr. Spooner’s intriguing theory appears to conflict with the handful of oak stumps which have been discovered in the swamp over the years, including the stump discovered at the Mercy Point area in Season 2, Episode 1, which was carbon dated from 1450-1640, as well as the stump which Tony Sampson discovered in Season 4, Episode 3, which appeared to be rooted to the swamp floor. Back in Season 2, Episode 4, tree expert Joe Peters analyzed one of the stumps pulled from the bottom of the swamp and determined that it could not possibly have grown to its current size while submerged in brackish water. Discounting the possibility that they were thrown into the swamp by former treasure hunters, Island residents, or the mysterious men behind the Oak Island mystery, the presence of oak stumps in the Oak Island swamp hints at the possibility that the swamp area once comprised dry ground in which oak trees were able to take root- a notion which appears to conflict with the idea that the swamp area was covered by seawater in the not-so-distant past.

Cave-In Pit Anomaly

In this episode, GPR experts Don Johnston and Steve Watson conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar scan of the Cave-In Pit with the aim of locating the flood tunnel which the Pit is believed to intersect. The pair discovered two anomalies, one of them 25 metres (82 feet) deep and the other 28 metres (91 feet) deep. Craig Tester pointed out that those depths roughly correspond with the depth at which the flood tunnel is believed to lie in that area.

Swage Blocks

In this episode, Gary Drayton, Rick Lagina, and Dan Henskee discovered two hefty triangular pieces of iron with large holes through the middle on Oak Island’s Lot 21. Although Drayton initially suspected that the artifacts might be the heads of quarry hammers, blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge later identified the items as swage blocks which would have been used for sharpening rock drills, and dated them from 1450-1750. Legge opined that presence of these objects on the island appears to be indicative of “some major mining or tunnel operation” which took place in the distant past, evoking the theory that the original Money Pit builders tunneled beneath Oak Island’s bedrock.

The swage block discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 21, which Gary Drayton initially suspected to be a quarry hammer.

Marty Lagina expanded on Legge’s theory by proposing that the rock drills which the swages sharpened would have been employed most effectively in tunneling operations on the western end of Oak Island, the bedrock of which is composed of hard slate. Unfortunately, aside from the swages, there is currently little evidence to support the notion that any such operation was ever carried out on the western part of Oak Island.

David Hanson’s Theory

One facet of the theory that tunnels run beneath Oak Island is the argument put forth by the late Oak Island theorist David Hanson, which holds that 16th Century English explorer and privateer Sir Martin Frobisher discovered iron pyrite, or fool’s gold, on Oak Island by chance in 1575. In a misguided effort to encourage the Queen to finance future voyages, the Englishmen sailed back to Britain with the erroneous news that they had discovered gold in the North Atlantic.

Thomas Bushell.

With the approval of Queen Elizabeth I, English mining engineer Thomas Bushell and a crew of Cornish miners sailed to Oak Island, where they spent two years sinking shafts and digging tunnels beneath the island, extracting iron pyrite ore form the earth. When the Britons returned to England with their worthless haul, the Queen considered the fraud so humiliating that she erased all records of the incident.

Hanson believed that a crew of Englishmen later returned to Oak Island and interred treasures of great value within Bushell’s mine shafts. Specifically, Hanson believed that these treasures consisted of the original handwritten plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare- which, he argued, were actually penned by English noblemen Edward de Vere- the corpse of de Vere himself, and the lost treasure of the Plantagenet dynasty, lost by King Richard III of English during the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field.

Marty Lagina expanded on Legge’s theory by proposing that the rock drills which the swages sharpened would have been employed most effectively in tunneling operations on the western end of Oak Island, the bedrock of which is composed of hard slate. Unfortunately, aside from the swages, there is currently little evidence to support the notion that any such operation was ever carried out on the western part of Oak Island.

 

 

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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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