The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 16: Water Logged
The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 16 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
The episode begins in the Uplands area between Smith’s Cove and the Money Pit, where Billy Gerhardt is busy uncovering what is believed to be the remains of Shaft 5. While the heavy equipment operator goes about his job, Gary Drayton scans the fresh spoils with a metal detector. Gary quickly comes across two large iron spikes, both of which he dates to the 1700s. The narrator remarks that, if the artifacts indeed date to the 18th Century, they were probably left by the builders of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel rather than members of the Truro Company, who constructed Shaft 5 in 1850.
Later that day, the Fellowship of the Dig meets in the War Room, Marty Lagina and Craig Tester in attendance via Skype. Marty and Craig inform the team that they recently met with Jeremy Church, a geophysicist employed by the seismic exploration company Eagle Canada who appeared on the show in Season 6, Episodes 1 and 3. Church and the rest of the Eagle Canada crew have finally processed the data from the massive seismic scan of the eastern half of Oak Island which they performed back in Season 7, Episode 6. The data indicates the presence of an underground anomaly near the southeastern end of the Cave-In Pit at a depth of about 60 feet. The anomaly is linear and appears to run in the direction of the Money Pit, strongly evoking the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. Recall that GPR experts Steve Watson and Don Johnston, back in Season 7, Episode 2, also discovered some underground anomalies near the Cave-In Pit during their ground penetrating radar scan of the area, one of them lying at a depth of 82 feet and the other lying at a depth of 91 feet. A subsequent exploratory drilling operation (conducted in Season 7, Episode 5) revealed the presence of four feet of sand somewhere between 99-109 feet below the surface- deeper, it must be mentioned, than either of the two GPR anomalies.
The narrator then reminds us that, back in Season 7, Episode 4, the team discovered fragments of wood at a depth of around 52 feet in Borehole OITC-6, located on Smith’s Cove’s upper beach. These fragments were later dated from 1735-1784. The narrator suggests that these pieces of wood and the 60-foot-deep seismic anomaly located southeast of the Cave-in Pit may both be part of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.
Two days later, Devin Matchett of Delway Enterprises delivers an enormous long-armed excavator to the island. Matchett explains to Rick and Marty Lagina that this piece of equipment differs from other excavators in that its boom is 60 feet long, while those on regular excavators rarely exceed a length of 35 feet. Once the machine is unloaded, Marty Lagina jumps in the cab and drives to the Uplands pit, which Billy Gerhardt then proceeds to excavate. After several bucket-loads of earth are removed, water begins pouring into the pit. While the treasure hunters admire the spectacle, a huge wall of earth breaks free from the side of the pit and crashes into the water below. The hole slowly starts to cave in, prompting the treasure hunters to backfill it for safety purposes and agree to abandon the excavation for the time being.
The next day, members of the Oak Island team meet at the Eye of the Swamp, determined to investigate the stones that encircle its perimeter, around each of which Gary Drayton discovered the presence of some mysterious iron objects in Season 7, Episode 3. The treasure hunters begin draining the pond with pumps, and Marty Lagina and Billy Gerhardt supplement the effort by removing water with their new excavator.
While the Eye of the Swamp is being drained, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton do some metal detecting on the beach of Oak Island’s Lot 17. There, they come across a large misshapen chunk of scrap lead. Rick suggests that they subject the artifact to a laser ablation test similar to those previously conducted on the lead cross and the cloisonné).
The next morning, the Oak Island team resumes the excavation of the Eye of the Swamp, which is not yet completely dry. One of the first buckets of sludge which Marty Lagina removes from the feature with the excavator contains a rock, which Jack Begley and Gary Drayton proceed to examine. The show neglects to inform us whether this rock contains any trace of the mysterious iron which Gary discovered back in Episode 3 of this season. While liberating the rock from the muck surrounding it, Jack Begley observes that the mud is mixed with what appears to be blue clay- a substance of which other sections of the swamp are devoid.
Shortly thereafter, the treasure hunters uncover the remains of three large tree stumps rooted to the swamp floor, reminiscent of the various oak stumps discovered in the swamp over the years, including those dredged up in Season 2, Episode 1; and Season 4, Episode 3. “These stumps should not be there,” says Rick Lagina in a later interview, “unless there was a transition from dry to wet conditions.” Marty Lagina then elaborates on his elder brother’s remark, stating, “It just is so obvious that something changed radically between when those trees were growing and today, and if that’s a natural process, OK. Doesn’t mean anything. If it’s man-made, it sure means something.”
Gary Drayton examines one of the stump with his metal detector and discovers an iron rod embedded in the wood. This find evokes another discovery made in Season 4, Episode 3, when Tony Sampson discovered a metal object encased in a large stump rooted to the floor of the Mercy Point area in the Oak Island swamp. Sampson pried the object loose, revealing it to be a survey marker placed decades ago by treasure hunter Fred Nolan.
The next day, Craig Tester, Alex Lagina, and Charles Barkhouse head to St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they present Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Christa Brosseau with the iron spikes recently discovered in the Uplands pit. With the help of research instrument technician Dr. Xiang Yang, Dr. Brosseau examines the nails under an electron microscope and finds that they both contain phosphorus, which she says is an indication that they were forged sometime prior to the 1840s. She also states that old iron objects rich in phosphorus are commonly found in Britain and Northern Europe. Alex Lagina then remarks that, if the artifacts were indeed manufactured prior to 1840, they may have been left by the builders of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.
Later, the Fellowship of the Dig meets at the Mug & Anchor Pub in the town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. There, Alex Lagina presents his fellow treasure hunters with the nails from the Upland pit and informs them of Dr. Brosseau’s analysis. In light of the news that the spikes might have been left by the original depositors, the treasure hunters agree that they ought to resume the excavation of the Uplands pit.
The next day, Tom Nolan assists Rick Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Billy Gerhardt in their excavation of the Eye of the Swamp. While digging at the centre of the feature, Billy Gerhardt uncovers a stack of enormous boulder comparable in size to those which comprise Nolan’s Cross. The treasure hunters agree that they ought to have the boulders analyzed by geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner.
The Cave-In Pit Anomaly
Near the beginning of this episode, we learned that the seismic survey of the eastern half of Oak Island carried out in Season 7, Episode 6, indicated the presence of a tantalizing anomaly southeast of the Cave-In Pit at a depth of 60 feet. The anomaly is linear and runs towards the Money Pit area, evoking the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.
This discovery is reminiscent of the anomalies discovered by GPR experts Steve Watson and Don Johnston during their ground penetrating radar scan of the Cave-In Pit area in Season 7, Episode 2. Specifically, these anomalies were located at depths of 82 and 91 feet, respectively. A subsequent exploratory drilling operation failed to determine the nature of these anomalies, although it did yield four feet of sand somewhere between the depth of 99 and 109 feet.
As the narrator mentioned in this episode, the 60-foot-deep anomaly indicated by the seismic survey data also calls to mind the fragments of wood discovered between 50-53 feet in Borehole OITC-6- an exploratory drillhole punched at Smith’s Cove’s upper beach in Season 7, Episode 4. These fragments were later carbon dated from 1735-1784.
Metal Rods in Stumps in the Swamp
In this episode, the Oak Island team uncovered several large tree stumps on the outer perimeter of the Eye of the Swamp. While examining the area with a metal detector, Gary Drayton discovered what appeared to be an iron rod embedded in one of these stumps.
This find evokes another discovery made in Season 4, Episode 3, when diver Tony Sampson discovered a swamp in the Mercy Point area in the swamp. Sampson discovered the presence of some sort of metal object in the swamp which proved to be an iron survey marker placed decades ago by treasure hunter Fred Nolan.
Nails from the Uplands Pit
In this episode, the crew discovers two square-shanked rosehead nails (S5E2) in their exploratory pit in the Uplands area. At the end of the episode, Dr. Christa Brosseau and Dr. Xiang Yang of St. Mary’s University in Halifax examine the artifacts under an electron microscope and find that both of them contain significant quantities of phosphorus. Dr. Brosseau explains that this is an indication that the nails were crafted prior to 1840, and that they were probably made in either England or Northern Europe.
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