The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 14: Burnt Offerings
The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 14 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
In a continuation of the last scene of the previous episode, this episode begins in the War Room, where Craig Tester has just revealed that the 106-foot-deep wood found in Borehole FG-12 in Season 7, Episode 11 was carbon dated from 1626-1680. The crew members agree that this discovery warrants the sinking of the first caisson of the season overtop of FG-12. In an aside, the narrator informs us that FG-12 is located 25 feet northwest of Borehole H8, which yielded fragments of parchment and human bone back in Season 5.
Later that day, several members of the Oak Island team meet at Smith’s Cove with Laird Niven. The archaeologist tells the treasure hunters that the box-like structure discovered in the bump-out area back in Season 7, Episode 9 is probably not of cultural significance, implying that it was likely built by previous treasure hunters rather than the builders of the slipway, and gives them the green light to excavate the structure as they please. Billy Gerhardt proceeds to expose one side of the structure with his backhoe while Craig Tester and Jack Begley strip away the remaining dirt by hand. During this process, Jack has a brush with the island’s curse when a large rock breaks free from some nearby dirt and slams into his shoulder. Shortly thereafter, half of the structure collapses.
The next day, Rick Lagina and Jack Begley stand by as Gary Drayton conducts a metal detecting operation in the northern section of the swamp. After finding a modern nail, Gary comes across a hefty strip of iron with a sharp 90 degree bend at one end, which he tentatively identifies as some sort of bracket or a strap “that went around a chest or a box”. The artifact reminds Rick of the wrought iron hinge which Gary discovered near the Smith’s Cove slipway back in Season 6, Episode 16. The treasure hunters phone up Laird Niven and inform him of the discovery. Shortly thereafter, the archaeologist arrives on the scene and examines the piece. “It is old, isn’t it?” he remarks. He goes on to suggest that it might have been used to reinforce a large timber, and advises the treasure hunters to show it to blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge.
Later, Marty and Alex Lagina accompany Gary Drayton to the so-called Uplands- the area between Smith’s Cove and the Money Pit, beneath which the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel is believed to lie. Hoping that they might intercept the flood tunnel, the treasure hunters begin to excavate and examine the area, Marty removing earth with a backhoe and Alex assisting Gary as he sifts through the spoils with a metal detector. Several feet below the surface, the boys discover a handful of square timbers which appear to be part of some sort of shaft or tunnel.
The treasure hunters are soon joined by other members of the team. While Steve Guptill determines the coordinates of the newly-discovered structure, Marty Lagina remarks that the find evokes the wooden shafts discovered nearby, beneath the erstwhile Smith’s Cove crane pad, in Season 6, Episodes 19 and 20. These structures are believed to be the exploratory shafts which Robert and Bobby Restall sank at Smith’s Cove in the mid-1960s.
The following day, Marty Lagina shows Rick Lagina and Laird Niven the structure he unearthed. There, the treasure hunters meet with Gary Drayton, Billy Gerhardt, and Alex Lagina, who have since excavated more of the structure, uncovering a log which bears some resemblance to those which comprised the U-Shaped structure. The boys keep digging, unearthing an old square nail which Drayton tentatively dates to the early 1800s. Charles Barkhouse then appears on the scene and, when shown the nail, suggests that the structure might constitute undocumented work by the Truro Syndicate. Below the nail, the treasure hunters come across a massive log which rivals the diameter of any of the logs discovered at Smith’s Cove.
Later that day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, and Gary Daryton drive to the Ross Farm Museum, where they meet with Carmen Legge. The treasure hunters show the blacksmithing expert the metal strap they found in the swamp, as well as the pick and spade head that Jack Begley and Gary Drayton discovered near the Eye of the Swamp in the previous episode. Legge opines that the spade head is not a spade head at all, but rather a piece of sheet metal which might have been used to cover the inside of a wall or box. He declares the pickaxe head to be hand-wrought, says that it was intended for mining or tunneling, and dates it form the mid to late 1700s. Finally, Legge identifies the metal strap as a piece of a sailing ship used to hold timbers together, much to the pleasure of Gary Drayton. He measures the artifact and finds it to be nine inches long- a length, he says, which was common for such items between 1710 and 1790. He concludes his assessment by declaring that the strap was subjected to a hot sustained fire, finding charred material embedded in the fibre of the iron. The treasure hunters take this as potential evidence that the ship which they hope lies in the swamp was burned in an effort to conceal its presence.
Later, the Oak Island crew meets at the Mug & Anchor Pub in the town of Mahone Bay. There, Marty, Alex, and Gary inform their fellow treasure hunters of Carmen Legge’s assessment of the artifacts they discovered. In light of the blacksmithing expert’s interesting analysis, the crew members discuss the theory that the Oak Island treasure consists of the contents of a treasure ship which ran aground at the site of the Oak Island swamp. According to this theory, the ship’s crew hastily constructed the Paved Wharf, unloaded their treasure, and buried it on the island. In order to hide the evidence of their work, they either burned or blew up their ship.
In this episode, Gary Drayton discovered a wrought-iron metal bracket in the northern section of the Oak Island swamp. Blacksmithing expert Carmen Legge later measured this artifact, found it to be nine inches in length, and subsequently identified it as a strap used to hold together the timbers of a ship. He dated the artifact from 1710 to 1790, and added that it bore evidence of having been subjected to a hot and sustained fire.
Following Legge’s interpretation, several members of the Oak Island team took this artifact as potential proof of the theory that a ship once existed in the swamp. Legge’s statement that the bracket was subjected to fire implies a new twist on this theory, namely that the ship in the swamp was burned, perhaps in an attempt to conceal evidence of its existence.
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R J Daniels
The box like structure was found in episode 7, not 9.
It should not be confused with the wharf-like structure found in episode 9 which has a dendrochronological date of 1741