The Curse of Oak Island- Season 4, Episode 2: Always Forward
Last night, American fans of the History Channel were able to watch the newest chapter of Canada’s greatest and longest-running treasure hunt. For my fellow Canadians who don’t feel like waiting until Sunday, and for our American friends who want to learn a little more about what they just watched, here is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 4, Episode 2 of The Curse of Oak Island, entitled Always Forward.
The episode begins where Season 4, Episode 1 left off: at the location on the western end of Oak Island at which New Yorkish Knights Templar researcher Zena Halpern’s mysterious map suggests a ‘hatch’ might be found. Treasure hunters Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Craig Tester look on as their fellow treasure hunter Jack Begley clears the area of brush.
As Begley works, the narrator recounts how Halpern, in the previous episode, presented Oak Island Tours Inc. with three old documents which came into her possession by chance, and which she believes are connected with the Oak Island mystery. The first of these documents, now popularly known as ‘La Formule’, bears a strange inscription
containing many of the same characters as the Kempton symbols, believed by some to have been inscribed on the long-lost ’90-foot stone’ (which was discovered in Oak Island’s Money Pit at a depth of 90 feet in 1804). The second document Halpern presented to the team was a map of what appears to be Nova Scotia, labelled in French and dated 1179. The third document Halpern came forward with- the aforementioned map of Oak Island- bears the date ‘1347’, and is similarly labelled in French. Specifically, the French labels on Halpern’s map of Oak Island indicate the presence a number of landmarks on the island. Some of these landmarks, like ‘the swamp’, the Money Pit, and ‘the stone triangle’, are familiar to Oak Island researchers. Others, like ‘the valve’, ‘the anchors’, and, most relevantly, the ‘hatch’, are entirely new pieces to the Oak Island puzzle. In this episode, Oak Island Tours Inc. hopes to investigate ‘the hatch’, one of the most intriguing of these new puzzle pieces.
After clearing the area in question of vegetation, Jack Begley starts digging by hand. His manual excavation reveals an angular cavity in the underlying rock. Marty Lagina speculates that the cavity might be artificial, prompting his elder brother Rick to express his concern that a more rigorous excavation might compromise the integrity of what, if anything, lies below. Both brothers agree that an archaeologist ought to examine the structure before any more digging is done.
Later, Rick Lagina and Jack Begley meet with Lorne Flowers, Perry Power, Andrew Folkins, and Mike Lynch of Irving Equipment Ltd. (a contracting company based out of Saint John, New Brunswick), and with Allan Sutherland of Brycon Constructions Ltd. (a similar company headquartered in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia). The men congregate at the Money Pit area, where they discuss how best to prepare the area for the long-awaited ‘Big Dig’ with which the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. hope to liberate the Money Pit of its precious contents. Due to a particular treasure-hunter’s heavy-duty excavations in the Money Pit area in the late 1960’s, the earth in which Rick, Marty, and their crew plan to dig is unstable, and unable to support heavy machinery. In order to rectify this problem, the men decide to level the area surrounding the Money Pit, reinforce it with layers of gravel, and construct an access road to the work site.
After the meeting, Rick Lagina and Oak Island historian and tour guide Charles Barkhouse accompany local researcher Doug Crowell of Blockhouse Investigations to New Ross, Nova Scotia where, in Season 4, Episode 1, the three of them had done some investigation. As they drive, the narrator explains how Zena Halpern’s mysterious map of Nova Scotia- labelled in French and dated 1179- suggests the importance of a place called “RhoDon”, apparently situated at what is now New Ross, Nova Scotia. After summarizing a belief, held by some local researchers, that a particular New Ross property was once the site of a Knights Templar castle, he goes on to explain how Rick, Charles, and Doug, in the previous episode, had studied a mysterious stone-lined water well on that property and discovered strange lines on its bottom, a finding which they believed warranted further investigation.
In New Ross, Rick, Charles, and Doug meet with authors and property owners Alessandra Nadudvari and Tim Loncarich, as well as with professional diver Tony Sampson. It is decided that Sampson will dive to the bottom of the well to see if, as Nadudvari and Loncarich suspect, the well bottom is merely the entrance to a secret underground chamber.
As Sampson prepares for the dive, the narrator describes the fringe theory, hitherto unsupported by anything aside from folk legend and circumstantial evidence, that outlawed Templar knights visited the New World sometime after the suppression of their order in 1307, bringing with them some of their most valuable treasure including, perhaps, the Ark of the Covenant. He goes on to describe three pieces of evidence proponents of this theory have used to support their claim.
The first of these items suggesting a pre-Columbian Templar voyage to the New World are two of the carvings that adorn the interior of Rosslyn Chapel, a 15th Century Scottish castle commissioned by the grandson of Scottish-Orcadian nobleman Henry Sinclair (whom some researchers have proposed sailed across the Atlantic in 1398 on some sort of Templar-oriented mission). One of these carvings depicts what some claim to be Indian corn, a New World crop which would not have been known in Europe (except, perhaps, by the Norse Vikings, who
established temporary settlements on the Canadian Atlantic coast as early as the mid 10th Century) during the mid 1400’s, at the time of the chapel’s construction. The other Rosslyn carving cited by proponents of the Templar theory depicts what some maintain is a three-petalled trillium flower, another plant endemic to the New World.
The second piece of evidence the narrator cites as verification of a 14th Century Templar voyage to the Americas are the legends of Glooscap, a hero of Mi’kmaq (a Nova Scotian First Nation) mythology. Some Oak Island researchers have argued that Glooscap shares some characteristics with Henry Sinclair, whom some believe brought the Templar treasure to Oak Island in the late 1300’s. The supposed similarities between these two individuals seems to imply that the legendary Glooscap may be based on the real-life Henry Sinclair, who, according to this theory, apparently interacted with and thoroughly impressed the Nova Scotian Mi’kmaq during his alleged 14th Century voyage to the New World.
The third and final piece of evidence the narrator brings up is the claim that the flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation is the reverse image of a Templar battle flag, suggesting that the Mi’kmaq borrowed the image from visiting Templars in the 14th Century.
At the New Ross property, diver Tony Sampson and his team construct a sturdy wooden frame around the well, from which they suspend a bosun’s chair. During a preliminary safety inspection of the well, Sampson discovers a rock bearing a triangle-shaped carving. Upon close inspection, the crew discovers another obscure marking inside the triangle which Sampson, a Freemason, suggests might be an eye.
The narrator follows up on Sampson suggestion by explaining that the symbol of a pyramid with an eye in its centre- also known as the ‘Eye of Providence’ or the ‘All-Seeing Eye’- was adopted by late 18th Century Freemasons, and that some researchers believe it was also employed by the Knights Templar. He goes on to state that the symbol of the triangle is a recurring motif on Oak Island, being the shape of the Oak Island swamp and one of the Kempton symbols (believed by some to have been inscribed on Oak Island’s 90-foot stone).
Following the discovery of the carved triangle, Tony Sampson dons his diving gear and descends into the New Ross well. Near the well’s bottom he discovers another stone in which the image of a broad arrow appears to have been carved.
Following this discovery, the narrator explains that the broad arrow, also known as the ‘King’s Mark’, is an English heraldic symbol which can trace its origins back to 14th Century English King Edward III, and which was used by the British Empire to mark Crown property.
Eventually, Sampson ascends from the well, whereupon he informs the crew that the bottom of the well is not, as Nadudvari and Loncarich had hoped, a flat flagstone layer. The crew then discusses the potential significance of the broad arrow carving, recounting that an arrow is one of the symbols believed by some to have been inscribed on Oak Island’s 90-foot stone. With that, they pack up their gear and return to Oak Island.
The following day, Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Jack Begley meet with archaeologist Laird Niven. After briefly explaining its backstory, the crew leads Niven to the partly-excavated angular cavity situated on the spot at which Zena Halpern’s map indicates the presence of a hatch. After inspecting the anomaly, Niven agrees with the treasure hunters that the cavity is likely man-made. With that, Rick and Marty decide to apply for a permit from the Canadian government allowing them to legally excavate what appears might be an archaelogically-significant structure.
One week later, Marty Lagina, his son Alex, and his business partner and fellow treasure hunter Craig Tester meet in the War Room, Oak Island Tours Inc.’s on-site headquarters, to discuss the engineering problems regarding the upcoming Big Dig in the Money Pit area. They are soon joined by Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship, who inform them of the death of 88-year-old Oak Island veteran Fred Nolan. Frederick G. Nolan, a surveyor whose relationship with Oak Island began in 1966, passed away on June 14, 2016, one month and one day before his 89th birthday. The crew expresses sadness at Nolan’s passing, and at the fact that they will no longer have the opportunity to work alongside the seasoned treasure hunter with whom they had so recently made peace.
As a tribute to the treasure hunter who had spent nearly six decades of his life working to solve the Oak Island riddle, the narrator relates some of the discoveries Nolan made over the years, including the famous Nolan’s Cross, various stone inscriptions, and submerged structures hidden in the Oak Island swamp.
The crew unanimously agrees that Dan Blankenship, Oak Island’s other long-time treasure hunter who feuded with his rival for more than half a century before making peace with him in the summer of 2015, ought to be informed of Nolan’s passing. Although Blankenship’s true sentiments regarding the death of his long-time rival are difficult to interpret, Rick Lagina asserts his believe that Dan and Fred are more similar than perhaps they realize/d. In his words, “… they both persevered in the face of all kinds of adversity. They risked, they sweated, they worked, they labourered towards the common goal. You don’t get any closer than that.”
As they leave Dan Blankenship’s house on Oak Island, the crew reflects on how Nolan’s passing is a sort of passing of the Oak Island torch from the old generation of treasure hunters to the new. David Blankenship agrees, but insists that they must look to the future, to which Rick replies “sempre avanti”– always forward.
In this episode of the History Channel’s The Curse of Oak Island, the narrator suggests that several stone carvings inside Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel- commissioned in the mid 1400’s by Scottish-Orcadian nobleman William Sinclair, grandson of Sir Henry Sinclair whom various theorists have attempted to connect to Oak Island- might be evidence that the Knights Templar sailed to the New World long before Christopher Columbus’ 1492 discovery. One of these carvings appears to depict stylized ears of maize, or Indian corn. Corn is endemic to the Americas, and would not have been known in Europe (except, perhaps, by the Vikings) during the mid-1400’s, at the time of the chapel’s construction. Another plant unique to North America which makes a lithic appearance inside Rosslyn Chapel is the three-petalled trillium flower. Some believe that the existence of these carvings in a church constructed decades before Christopher Columbus’ first voyage suggest that the designers of Rosslyn Chapel were privy to very unique knowledge. Some people believe these carvings are evidence that the Knights Templar sailed to the New World and later returned to Scotland, where they informed members of the Clan Sinclair of their findings.
Whether or not the carvings inside Rosslyn Chapel are proof that the Templars sailed across the Atlantic and back is up for debate. However, an enigmatic letter sent in 1546 from French Regent Mary of Guise- the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots- to William Sinclair- son of the William Sinclair who built Rosslyn Chapel- suggests that Rosslyn Chapel may be, at the very least, connected with a secret of one kind or another. A line from this letter reads: “We bind us and oblige us to the said Sir William and shall be a loyal and true mistress to him. His counsel and his secret shown to us, we shall keep secret.”
The Mi’kmaq Nation Flag
Perhaps one of the most striking clues supposedly connecting the Knights Templar with Oak Island is an observation made by Oak Island researcher Mark Finnan. Finnan, in his 1999 book The Sinclair Saga, claims that the flag of the Mi’kmaq Nation, a Canadian First Nation indigenous to the Maritime Provinces, is the mirror image of one of the many battle standards used by the Knights Templar.
There are at least two potential problems with Finnan’s theory. The first is that the most prominent vexillum belli, or battle standard, used by the Knights Templar was the beauseant, a half-black half-white banner sometimes adorned with a red cross. If Finnan’s ‘Templar battle flag’ was truly a military flag used by the Knights Templar, it was a relatively obscure one. However, to Finnan’s credit, the ‘Templar battle flag’ he espouses incorporates a number of known Templar symbols; the red cross on a white field, a symbol reflecting the Crusaders’ call to martyrdom, adorned the surcoats and mantles of the Templar knights, and the symbol of the sun and moon, curiously evocative of the Islamic star and crescent, is known to have been used in at least one 13th Century Templar seal. The second potential problem with Finnan’s theory is that the design of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag (pictured above), also known as the Sante Miwiomi flag, is widely attributed to the influence of the French Jesuits who converted many Mi’kmaq to Roman Catholicism in the 1600’s.
The All-Seeing Eye
In this episode, professional diver Tony Sampson, while exploring a mysterious water well situated on an equally mysterious property in New Ross, Nova Scotia, discovered a stone featuring a vague marking which he suggested might be the Eye of Providence, or the All-Seeing Eye. The narrator suggested that this finding might somehow link the Oak Island mystery with Freemasonry, and perhaps fortify its supposed connection with the Knights Templar.
Although the All-Seeing Eye, in recent years, has increasingly been associated with the New World Order conspiracy theory [which proposes that a small, secret group of powerful elites- perhaps members of some Freemasonic Lodge or the (long-defunct) Bavarian Illuminati- are conspiring to bring about a global authoritarian government], its historic origins are much less sinister. During the Renaissance, the symbol of an eye encased within an equilateral triangle came to represent the concept of Divine Providence, or God’s Hand in worldly affairs. The triangle’s three sides represented the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which holds that God is a single entity comprised of three distinct persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.
In the late 18th Century, the symbol of the All-Seeing Eye was adopted by the Freemasons, for whom it represented God’s omniscience. Today, in non-English-speaking countries, the All-Seeing Eye serves as a universal, non-sectarian Freemasonic representation the Grand Architect of the Universe (i.e. God; the letter ‘G’, sometimes encased in a square and compass, often performs this function in English-speaking countries).
In 1779, Benjamin Franklin (a Freemason), Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and artist Pierre Eugene du Simitiere incorporated the All-Seeing Eye into their design of the Great Seal of the United States so as to represent God in their seal. This symbol was placed atop an unfinished 13-leveled pyramid- representing God’s role in the formation of the embryonic 18th Century United States, the Thirteen Colonies- and flanked by the Latin phrases Annuit Coeptis– meaning “He has favoured our undertakings”- and Novus Ordo Seclorum– which translated to “New Order of the Ages.”
In this episode, diver Tony Sampson uncovered another interesting rock in the New Ross well bearing what he believed to be an inscription of an arrow, perhaps a broad arrow, or a ‘King’s Mark.’
The broad arrow has, since the 17th Century, been used to mark British government property. Initially adorning British Army and Royal Navy equipment, the broad arrow symbol spread throughout the Empire, from Australia to India to British North America.
In colonial North America, the British Royal Navy laid claim to lumber by scoring a tree’s bark with three hatchet slashes, forming a crude broad arrow. British colonists largely ignored these broad arrow claims and felled whatever trees they pleased, often selling their lumber to the French and Spanish, Britain’s colonial rivals, who paid much more for the wood than their English counterparts. When British authorities attempted to enforce their broad arrow policy, New Hampshire colonists revolted in what is known today as the Pine Tree Riot. This act of resistance against the British Crown was the first of a succession of revolts which would ultimately culminate in the Revolutionary War.
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