The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 3- Depth Perception
The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 6, Episode 3 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
Jack Begley and Peter Fornetti watch as the crew of Irving Equipment Ltd. assemble a crane on a newly-constructed concrete pad at Smith’s Cove. The narrator explains that this crane will be used to build a cofferdam which will enable the Oak Island crew to excavate the beach. Marty Lagina then explain, in an interview, that a major problem with all previous Smith’s Cove cofferdams was water seepage beneath the structures. To rectify this problem, the new cofferdam will be constructed of sheet piling driven 23 feet into the earth.
Later, Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, and Charles Barkhouse make the long westerly road trip to Calgary, Alberta, where they visit the headquarters of Eagle Canada. The narrator reveals that the purpose of this journey is to receive the results of the seismic survey conducted in the Money Pit area back in Season 6, Episodes 1 and 2. On the way, Craig Tester remarks that the “Mega Bin” area should yield excellent data. When prompted by Marty, he explains that the “Mega Bin” constitutes “the Triton Shaft, where Dan [Blankenship] felt he hit the tunnel, and they brought up wood.”
The narrator elaborates on Tester’s statement by explaining that the Mega Bin is located about 600 feet north of the Money Pit area, and that Eagle Canada conducted a separate seismic survey in this area in conjunction with their Money Pit survey. The narrator further informs us that, in the early 1970s, Dan Blankenship had 40 exploratory boreholes drilled in the area in the hope that some of them might reveal evidence of underground tunnels.
When the Oak Island boys arrive at the headquarters of Eagle Canada, they are ushered into a boardroom where geophysicist Jeremy Church presents the results of the seismic survey. First, Church shows the treasure hunters a map of the Mega Bin, on which various colours and contour lines have been overlaid. He directs the treasure hunters’ attention to a shapeless red-coloured enclave in a sea of blue, which he explains represents an underground void measuring 50 metres in length and 7-12 feet in height– the largest underground anomaly in the surveyed areas. When prompted by Marty Lagina, he affirms that this anomaly, the ceiling of which lies at a depth of 50 feet, is “consistent with a chamber, with a roof and a floor”.
“It’s astounding… what you’ve drawn right there…” says Marty after Church’s exposition, “because Dan told Rick and I years ago that he’d drilled that well- the so-called ‘Latrine Hole’- and he believed, at the time, that it was the relief area for an underground chamber, where people were working.”
Next, Jeremy Church shows the treasure hunters a graph depicting the results of the seismic survey in the Money Pit area. He points out a small anomaly in the middle of the graph and claims that this feature, which lies at a depth of 160-170 feet, appears to be a cavern in the hard limestone. Borehole H8- which yielded scraps of leather, parchment, and human bone back in Season 5- apparently intersected the edge of this cavern. The Oak Island crew members display considerable excitement at this information and agree that an investigation of the cavern is in order.
Next, Church directs the treasure hunters’ attention to a succession of anomalies in the Money Pit area which lie at a depth of 100-110 feet. Craig Tester instantly observes that this feature appears to be consistent with the legendary Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.
Following the presentation, the Oak Island crew members thank the men of Eagle Canada for their work, and conclude that the survey results necessitate additional drilling.
Meanwhile, Jack Begley, Gary Drayton, and geophysicist Mike West head to the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 26 to do some metal detecting. In an interview, Drayton explains that he and West will work in tandem, he wielding his more mobile Minelab CTX 3030, and West carting his deep-penetrating EM61 Metal Detector.
After Begley reminds his fellow treasure hunters that Lot 26 was once owned by Captain James Anderson, Drayton and West commence their beachcombing operation. West quickly discovers a long rusted nail with a square shaft, which Drayton claims is a “textbook 1700s” artifact. Shortly thereafter, West discovers a large rusty hook.
That night, the Oak Island team gathers in the War Room, where Marty Lagina relates the results of Eagle Canada’s seismic survey. Talk soon turns to the chamber in the Mega Bin and its apparent congruence with the theory that the men who built the Money Pit tunneled away from the shaft at depth and buried their treasure in a chamber at the end of the tunnel. The treasure hunters agree they ought to investigate both the Mega Bin anomaly and the 160-170-foot anomaly in the Money Area via exploration drilling.
Later, the Oak Island team meets at the Oak Island Visitors’ Centre with representatives of Choice Sonic Drilling Ltd. The narrator explains that Choice Sonic employs a unique method of drilling in which drill bits are substituted with high frequency soundwaves that are powerful enough to “pulverize obstacles”. This company, the narrator informs us, has been tasked with drilling the aforementioned places of interest on Oak Island.
While the contractors transport their rig across the causeway, Craig Tester and geologist Terry Matheson determine the particular location at which they’d like the Choice Sonic guys to bore their first hole- a spot they name DE6. Assuming the data from the seismic survey is correct, this drill hole ought to intersect both the 100-foot-deep tunnel-like anomaly and the mysterious cavern in the limestone.
In no time, the rig is erected over top of DE6 and the drilling operation is underway. At a depth of 93 feet, the drill drops into what is clearly a shallow void. A core sample taken from the roof of this void is found to contain fragments of old wood. Craig Tester speculates that this might be the remains of a wood-shored tunnel, although perhaps not the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, as was previously surmised. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to have the wood carbon dated in order to determine whether it belonged to a searcher tunnel or to original workings.
Meanwhile, Jack Begley, Gary Drayton, and Mike West resume their metal detecting operation on the beach of Lot 26. The treasure hunters quickly unearth an artifact which had been lying mere inches below the surface. An astounded Drayton tentatively identifies this item as a crossbow bolt designed to pierce chainmail armour. “This is old!” exclaims Drayton. “We’re talking, like, Templar old… That could be anywhere from 1000 to 1500.” The narrator then gives us a brief lesson on the history of the crossbow.
The elated treasure hunters phone up Rick Lagina and inform him of the find. Rick, accompanied by Craig Tester, immediately heads to Lot 26, examines the artifact, and independently echoes Drayton’s theory that the object appears to be a crossbow bolt.
The Mega Bin, the Triton Shaft, and the Void
In this episode, it is revealed that Eagle Canada conducted a seismic survey not only in the Money Pit area, but also in an area north of the Money Pit, which Craig Tester calls the “Mega Bin”.
The story of the Mega Bin begins in 1973. That year, Dan Blankenship drilled a series of holes at strategic locations north of the Money Pit area, where drilled rocks and other surface markers appeared to indicate the presence of something significant. Core samples from several of these holes yielded wood below the 100-foot level.
One of these drill holes, located 660 feet northeast of the Money Pit, yielded a two-inch piece of low-carbon steel wire at a depth of 110 feet. Immediately below this artifact, the drill bit into what Dan Blankenship was sure was a solid metal plate. Dan and the men of Triton Alliance (the treasure hunting syndicate of which Dan was a leading partner) decided to investigate the area further and constructed a 12’ x 6.5’ shaft, known as the Triton Shaft, in the area. Unfortunately, the shaft had to be abandoned at a depth of 98 feet on account of groundwater seepage, whereupon it collapsed. In a video released by the History Channel in December 2014, Dave Blankenship revealed that another factor which contributed to the abandonment of the Triton Shaft was his, Dan Blankenship, and Dan Henskee’s simultaneous contraction of pneumonia.
In this episode, we learn that Eagle Canada’s seismic survey revealed the presence of an underground anomaly in the Mega Bin area. This anomaly appears to be a void at a depth of 50 feet, which measures 164 feet (50 metres) in length and 7-12 feet in height. Although the width of this void is unspecified, the anomaly appears to have a maximum width of around 49 feet (provided that the diagram of the structure displayed in the show is to scale).
The H8 Cavern
In this episode, we learn that Eagle Canada’s seismic survey indicates the presence of a 10-foot-tall, 160-foot-deep cavern in the Money Pit area. This pocket is located below searcher depth within solid limestone bedrock, suggesting that it may well constitute original workings. Interestingly, the fragments of parchment, leather, and human bone brought up from the 162-foot depth in Borehole H8 were found at the edge of this cavern.
The ‘Flood Tunnel’ Anomaly
In this episode, geophysicist Jeremy Church points out a third underground anomaly indicated by the results of Eagle Canada’s seismic survey. This long, narrow gap in the earth lies in the Money Pit area at a depth of 100-110 feet, and bears vague resemblance to a tunnel. It is suggested that this anomaly might be the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.
Indeed, it is believed that the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel once intersected the Money Pit at this approximate depth. Back in 1862, the Oak Island Association- an Oak Island treasure-hunting syndicate- excavated the original Money Pit to a depth of 110 feet. There, the workers claimed to have found a 4-foot-tall hole in the side of the shaft from which water gushed violently. One worker reported that “the water hurled around rocks about twice the size of a man’s head with many smaller, and drove the men back for protection.”
Despite this, the anomaly indicated by the seismic survey is almost certainly not the original Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. In the late 1960s, treasure hunter Robert Dunfield dug an enormous 100-foot-wide crater in the Money Pit area. Although heavy rains constantly caused the sides of the pit to cave in, he managed to dig the hole to a depth of 140 feet. This excavation completely destroyed all traces of original workings and most of the adjacent searcher shafts. Therefore, if the anomaly indicated by the seismic survey is located anywhere in the neighbourhood of the original Money Pit, its resemblance to the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel is likely coincidental.
The Crossbow Bolt
At the end of this episode, Gary Drayton discovers what he identifies as a crossbow bolt on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 26. Drayton suggests that this artifact was designed to pierce mail armour, and implies that it might have belonged to a member of the Knights Templar.
According to Carsten Rau, the author of the book European Arrowheads and Crossbow Bolts: From the Bronze Age to the Late Middle Ages (2017) and archivist of Berlin-based publishing company Barbarus Books, this artifact does resemble a crossbow bolt, but not one of European origin. “The tang is far too long for Europe or North Africa,” he told this author. “[It] looks more Asian. The length would suit Asia.”
Rau additionally opined that this artifact might be an incendiary crossbow bolt used to set fire to buildings and equipment. These projectiles were wrapped in fuel-soaked fabric and set alight before being fired. “These are rare,” Rau explained, “and not really to be found outside Europe.”
In addition to using archaeological methods, we may attempt to shed more light on this artifact by taking a closer look at history. In light of The Curse of Oak Island‘s attempts to connect the crossbow bolt with the Knights Templar, a commentary upon the role of the crossbow in the world of this monastic military order is required.
During the Crusades, the arbalest- a particular variety of crossbow- was a mainstay of Christian armies. Unlike the bow, the crossbow required relatively little training to competently operate. With a few weeks of practice, a company of crossbow-wielding infantrymen might be able to hold its own against a squadron of Muslim horse archers.
Despite the essential role it played on the Palestinian battlefield, the medieval Church considered the crossbow a cowardly contrivance better suited to a lowly peasant than an honourable monastic knight like a member of the Knights Templar. In 1139 (the same year that the Knights Templar were formally recognized as a military order by the Catholic Church), Pope Innocent II banned the use of crossbows against other Christians.
In spite of the stigma which surrounded crossbows in the Middle Ages, some Templars are known to have owned these armaments. In fact, a 12th Century document called the “Latin Rule”, which outlined the ideal behavior of a Templar knight, contains a number of passages which seem to indicate that the crossbow was a common item in a Templar’s outfit.
Nevertheless, the crossbow was seldom used by Templar knights in battle. The Knights Templar were heavily-armoured cavalrymen who specialized in smashing through enemy lines at full speed. The sword, the lance, and the mace were their weapons of choice.
Although Templar knights may not have used crossbows with any degree of regularity, one appendant body of the Templar army did. Like most Crusader armies, the Knights Templar often rode into battle with large numbers of Turkish and Syrian mercenaries called Turcopoles. These native horsemen were lighter and more maneuverable than their knightly companions-in-arms, and served to protect the Templars and their warhorses so that their charges were more effective. Many of these mounted auxiliaries were archers and crossbowmen. Thus, if the crossbow bolt found on Oak Island’s Lot 26 truly has some sort of connection with the Knights Templar, it is more likely a relic of a Middle Eastern Turcopole than the possession of a European knight.
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