The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 1: The Torch is Passed
The following is a plot summary and analysis of the Season 7 premiere of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
The Curse of Oak Island’s 2-hour-long Season 7 premiere begins with Rick Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Craig Tester driving to Oak Island for another season of treasure hunting. During the drive, the narrator explains that legendary Oak Island treasure hunter Dan Blankenship passed away in his home on March 17, 2019, at the age of 95, having dedicated over fifty years of his life to the search for Oak Island’s elusive treasure. The treasure hunters mourn Dan’s passing before heading to the War Room to meet with the rest of the crew.
In the War Room, the Fellowship of the Dig calls up Marty Lagina and Jack Begley via Skype. First, the team observes a moment of silence in honour of Dan Blankenship. Rick laments that he and the crew were unable to “give Dan his breakthrough”, or unearth an artifact or piece of treasure which might justify Dan’s lifelong quest to solve the Oak Island mystery, and suggests that they ought to try make that breakthrough this year.
Next, surveyor Steve Guptill shows the crew the results of the seismic survey carried out in the Oak Island swamp by Eagle Canada in Season 6, Episodes 21 and 22. We learn that the survey indicates the presence of a 200-foot-long anomaly in the swamp, the shape of which, Marty remarks, bears some resemblance to the side profile of a sailing ship. Marty’s observation accords with the theory, once held by the late treasure hunter Fred Nolan, that an old ship lies at the bottom of the Oak Island swamp, having been buried by the mysterious builders of the Money Pit and the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. According to this theory, the eastern and western ends of Oak Island were, at one point, actually separate islands, joined together in a massive earthworks project by the original builders. This exotic hypothesis is supported by some intriguing evidence, including a potential scupper and piece of spar which Nolan discovered in the swamp in the 1980s; an iron spike discovered in the swamp, which one expert identified as a nail used in late 17th Century Spanish galleons; and the wooden plank unearthed from the southwestern corner of the swamp in Season 4, Episode 3, which was carbon dated from 1680-1735. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to investigate this new anomaly, which Gary Drayton speculates might be the remains of a Spanish galleon.
Next, the treasure hunters discuss their plans for the Money Pit this season. Craig Tester suggests that they drill some more holes in an effort to pinpoint the locations at which they will later conduct a larger excavation. Doug Crowell expresses interest in Borehole S6, which yielded large, old, axe-hewn oaken timbers, as well as a link of hand-wrought iron chain, in Season 6, Episode 17.
Lastly, talk turns to the U-shaped structure and the slipway discovered at Smith’s Cove the previous season, the wood from which dendrochronologist Dr. Colin Laroque determined was felled in the 1760s and ‘70s. Craig Tester suggests that the crew conduct a rigorous search for artifacts at the end of the slipway, where it seems likely a ship would have been moored several decades prior to the discovery of the Money Pit. In order to do this, the crew will need to extend the cofferdam fifty feet seaward.
After their meeting in the War Room, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and surveyor Steve Guptill meet with diver Tony Sampson and his assistants Krista McLeod and Dana Sweeny at the Oak Island swamp. Sampson dons his diving gear and the treasure hunters pile into a dingy, whereupon Steve Guptill leads the company to the northernmost section of the anomaly.
About fifteen metres northwest of the anomaly, Sampson discovers a hard object on the swamp floor using an iron probe. Shortly thereafter, he discovers two similar objects closer to the edge of the swamp, each of them located directly on the line between the first object and the point on the shoreline to which it is most proximate. Sampson suggests that the pattern evokes the cobblestones of an ancient roadway. He dives on the objects, which indeed prove to be rocks with flat surfaces. He then marks the rocks’ locations with inflatable buoys, allowing Guptill to plot their coordinates.
Later, Gary Drayton and Charles Barkhouse conduct a metal detecting operation on Isaac’s Point, at the easternmost end of the island. This is not the first time such an operation has been carried out at Isaac’s Point. Back in Season 5, Episode 1, Gary Drayton and Peter Fornetti unearthed the rusted head of an old woodcutter’s axe and an 18th Century copper coin of either French or English origin at that particular section of the island. In the following episode, Drayton, Fornetti, and Jack Begley discovered a musket ball and a neatly-cut quarter of a copper coin which Drayton suspected might be a Spanish maravedis. Later, in Season 5, Episode 4, the trio discovered a cowboy-style cap gun at Isaac’s Point which belonged to Richard Restall, who grew up on the island with his family in the 1960s.
On this latest excursion, Drayton and Barkhouse uncover a modern 12-gauge shotgun shell. Shortly thereafter, they discover an old silver dandy button bearing a starburst design, which Drayton dates from 1650 to 1750. This date range corresponds with many of the fascinating discoveries made in Season 5, including the human bones discovered in the Money Pit and the late 17th Century British coins found on Lot 16.
Later that day, Drayton and Barkhouse meet with other members of the team in the Oak Island Research Centre. There, they show their fellow treasure hunters the button they discovered at Isaac’s Point, which they subsequently examine under a microscope. Archaeologist Laird Niven observes that the button’s starburst design appears to be hand-carved rather than molded. Niven opines that the object is slightly younger than Drayton’s estimate, dating it from the 1720s to the 1770s- a range which accords more closely with that of the various wooden structures discovered at Smith’s Cove. The archaeologist then expresses his hope that a maker’s mark revealing the artifact’s date, the identity of its crafter, and the city in which it was made will be revealed when the button is professionally cleaned.
The next day, Rick Lagina accompanies his brother, Marty, to Oak Island. The brothers head to the War Room, where Steve Guptill updates Marty on the swamp anomaly indicated by the seismic survey. He also shows the crew a diagram which indicates that the potential roadway discovered by Tony Sampson appears to be about twelve feet wide and runs perpendicular to the anomaly, the southern edge of its midsection lying about two metres north of the anomaly’s northernmost tip. Historian Doug Crowell then opines that the stones discovered by Sampson might actually constitute a wharf rather than a cobbled path, suggesting that it may have been built for the purpose of transporting treasure from the supposed ship to the shore. Despite his historic aversion to the swamp, Marty Lagina agrees that the seismic data and Sampson’s discovery justify a future drilling operation in the anomaly area.
Later, the Lagina brothers and Craig Tester meet with Fred Nolan’s son, Tom, and Brennan McMahon of Choice Drilling at the Oak Island swamp. The five men watch as Brennan’s crew transports their equipment to Oak Island and begins to erect a floating drilling platform in the swamp.
Later that afternoon, the Oak Island crew meets in the Research Centre with conservator Kelly Bourassa, who has come to clean the silver button discovered at Isaac’s Point. After seeing the button, Bourassa explains that he intends to clean the object with a toothbrush, and with a glass fibre brush if necessary.
Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina then embark on yet another metal detecting operation. Although the show states that the pair have returned to Isaac’s Point, the men appear to be scouring the woods that front Smith’s Cove. There, not far from what is later revealed to be the Cave-In Pit, the two come across what appears to be the frame of a Victorian lady’s hand-mirror.
Later, while actually searching on the beach at Isaac’s Point, Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina find a hand-forged iron spike. Alex observes that the spike is not pitted, which Gary suggests is an indication that it is made of old wrought iron with a high carbon content. Drayton further suggests that the spike came from a galleon, and speculates that it might be much older than the 1700s.
This is not the first iron spike to be uncovered on Oak Island:
- Back in Season 4, Episode 7, Gary Drayton discovered a large iron nail at the northern end of the Oak Island swamp. Although the artifact strongly resembled a railroad spike, antiquities expert Dr. Lori Verderame identified the item as an iron barrote nail of the type commonly used in the construction of Spanish galleon decks, and dated it from 1575-1600.
- Later, in Season 5, Episode 1, Drayton discovered a hand-forged rose head nail in the spoils from Borehole C1.
- In Season 5, Episode 5, Drayton discovered an 18th Century wharf nail on the Boulderless Beach not too far from Isaac’s Point.
- In Season 5, Episode 10, Drayton discovered a wrought-iron spike coated with limestone or concrete in the same batch of spoils from Borehole H8 which yielded fragments of human bone.
- In Season 6, Episode 3, Drayton discovered a strange-looking spike-like object on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 26. Although variously identified as a medieval crossbow bolt and an Imperial Roman pilum, the artifact was eventually determined to be an old crib spike- a nail-like tool used in the creation of wharves, derricks, platforms, and cribbing.
- In Season 6, Episode 8, Drayton discovered an 18th Century spike at Smith’s Cove, along with a gold-plated coin.
Gary Drayton claims that this latest spike is unique in that it is shorter and thicker than most of the other spikes he has uncovered on Oak Island.
Later, Rick Lagina and Laird Niven meet with Kelly Bourassa in the Oak Island Research Centre. There, Bourassa shows the men the freshly-cleaned button from Isaac’s Point. The conservator informs them that the starburst design on the button’s face appears to be stamped, that the button’s back is affixed with a raised foot, and that the silver laminate on the artifact’s surface appears to be covering a mold seam- a feature unique to objects cast in a mold. Upon consulting Ivor Noel Hume’s 1970 book A Guide to the Artifacts of Colonial America, Bourassa dated the artifact from 1720-1770, consistent with Niven’s earlier diagnosis. When prompted by Rick Lagina, he states that it is possible that the button was worn by a military officer.
Later that day, members of the Oak Island team meet at Smith’s Cove with Mike Jardine of Irving Equipment Ltd. The treasure hunters explain that they would like to add a fifty-foot extension, which they refer to as a “bump-out”, to the existing cofferdam which will enable them to excavate more ground in the vicinity of the mysterious slipway.
That afternoon, members of the Oak Island team congregate in the Research Centre in order to update each other on the developments of the day. The crew nominates the wrought iron spike discovered by Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina the most interesting find of the day, and suggest that they have it analyzed by Carmen Legge, the blacksmith who identified the Smith’s Cove crib spike discovered in Season 6, Episode 3 and analyzed the iron hinge discovered in Season 6, Episode 16.
Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton travel to the Ross Farm Museum in the town of New Ross, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge, to whom they show the iron spike discovered at Isaac’s Point. Legge identifies the artifact as a hand point chisel- a tool used to carve stone- and dates it from the 14th to the late 18th Century. Rick remarks that the artifact’s connection to masonry evokes the theory that members of some Freemasonic fraternity are behind the Oak Island mystery. Carmen Legge then suggests that the artifact may have been used to etch characters onto some of the many inscribed stones on Oak Island, including, perhaps the legendary 90-foot stone.
After Rick and Gary share Carmen Legge’s analysis of the iron spike with the team at the Mug & Anchor Pub in the town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, the Fellowship of the Dig meets at the Oak Island swamp, where a floating drilling platform has been erected. The platform is towed into position and the drilling rig is started up. The episode ends as the drill descends into the swamp.
The Silver Button
In this episode, Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina discovered a badly corroded silver laminate button at Isaac’s Point, on the easternmost end of Oak Island. Conservator Kelly Bourassa, using Ivor Noel Hume’s 1970 book A Guide to the Artifacts of Colonial America as a reference, dated the artifact from 1720-1770 and suggested that it was possibly worn by a military officer.
Back in Season 5, a number of fascinating discoveries were made which seemed to indicate a European presence on the island in the late 1600s or early 1700s. The dendrochronological dating of the U-shaped structure and the slipway near the end of Season 6, however, hinted that a significant event took place on the Island sometime in the late 1760s or early 1770s. Bourassa’s dating of the silver button is among the first items discovered on the island consistent with this dating. Another artifact congruent with the date range in question is a British copper coin bearing the date 1771, which Gary Drayton discovered on Oak Island’s South Shore Cove back in Season 2, Episode 3. Another such artifact is a fragment of Staffordshire slipware which Gary Drayton discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 22 in Season 5, Episode 9, which Laird Niven dated from the mid-1700s to the 1770s. It must be mentioned that artifacts of this age are not necessarily out of place on Oak Island; the island was surveyed and subdivided back in 1762, and private citizens owned some of its lots as early as 1765.
The Hand Point Chisel
In this episode, Gary Drayton and Alex Lagina discovered a wrought iron spike at Isaac’s Point. Although Drayton initially expected that the artifact was a deck nail from an old Spanish galleon, he conceded that it was shorter and thicker than all the other spikes he had uncovered on the island. Sure enough, blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge identified the artifact as a hand point chisel- a tool used to carve stone- and suggested that it might have been used to create many of the mysterious stone inscriptions found throughout the island, including, perhaps, the legendary 90-foot stone.
The Ship Anomaly
In this episode, we learn that the seismic survey carried out in the Oak Island swamp by Eagle Canada in Season 6, Episodes 21 and 22 indicate the presence of a 200-foot-long anomaly beneath the swamp. Members of the Oak Island team remarked that the shape of this anomaly bears some resemblance to a sailing ship, evoking Fred Nolan’s theory that a ship lies buried in the swamp.
History tells us that we ought to take the exciting implication of the survey results with a grain of salt. Back in Season 6, Eagle Canada conducted seismic surveys in the Mega Bin and Money Pit areas and retrieved data indicating the presence of multiple underground chambers. A subsequent investigation, however, revealed these potential chambers to be nothing more than pockets of sand and loose earth which were less dense than the surrounding rock and till. Perhaps a closer examination of the ship anomaly will yield similar results.