The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 19: Lords of the Ring
The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 19 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
The episode begins at the Money Pit area, where the excavation of caisson OC1 is underway. At a depth of 50 feet, the caisson intersects what appears to be the remains of the Hedden Shaft. The treasure hunters stand by as the hammergrab brings up load after load of timber.
Later, Rick Lagina and Gary Drayton do some metal detecting along the southern lip of the Oak Island swamp. After unearthing the lid of a tin can, they come across an old ring on which a flower and other decorations have been engraved. Visibly pleased with this new discovery, Gary designates the ring a “top pocket find” and puts it away for future analysis.
Rick and Gary proceed to the Oak Island Research Centre, where they show the ring to Marty Lagina, Laird Niven, and Kelly Bourassa. Marty and Laird observe that the ring is quite small- an indication that it was probably intended for a woman. Laird examines the artifact under a Grobet digital microscope, revealing a silver inlay in the grooves that make up the ring’s central flower motif. Bourassa points out that the artifact contains two different types of corrosion, one of them green and the other reddish, which he suggests might be an indication that the ring is composed of a copper alloy. While pondering ring’s implications, Rick refers to the artifact’s central ornament as a “starburst”,
evoking the 18th Century silver laminate dandy button which Gary Drayton and Charles Barkhouse discovered at Isaac’s Point in Season 7, Episode 1. Marty concludes the preliminary inspection by suggesting that they show the ring to gemologist and master goldsmith Charles Lewton-Brain, who analyzed Lot 8 and Lot 21 brooches back in Season 6, Episode 2.
The next day, Rick Lagina, Craig Tester, and Terry Matheson meet with oscillator operator Danny Smith at the Money Pit area, where they learn that OC1 has reached a depth of about 105 feet. Craig remarks that everything extracted below this point is of potential interest and will need to be examined. Rick asks Smith to inform him and the team if anything unusual occurs henceforth in the excavation.
The ROC and Irving Equipment Ltd. crews continue to excavate OC1, pausing after every hammergrab scoop to allow the treasure hunters to process the spoils. The Fellowship searches through each hammergrab load with a metal detector, manually extricates every large timber or piece of wood, and transfers the rest of the muck into the wash plant for sifting. In a later interview, Marty Lagina declares his intention to submit some of the wood extracted from OC1 for dendrochronological testing.
The treasure hunters watch as the hammergrab emerges from the caisson with a large metal object in its jaws. Although the artifact brings to mind the metal artifacts brought up from the GAL1 caisson in Season 4, Episode 15, Craig Tester declares that the object must be the “Hedden shield”- a notion with which his fellow treasure hunters immediately concur. “That hasn’t seen the light of day since 1936,” Doug Crowell says. The narrator then explains that this artifact is almost certainly the 6-foot-tall metal brace of “shield” with which the Hedden Shaft was reinforced back in the 1930s.
Later that day, the treasure hunters examine the OC1 spoils which the wash plant has sorted. Paul Troutman finds several fragments of glass
and pottery with which Rick Lagina is unimpressed. Paul then comes across a large piece of what appears to be bone- perhaps human bone- which had lain at a depth of about 120 feet. The narrator reminds us that, back in Season 5, Episodes 5 and 6, 17th Century human bones were discovered in Borehole H8. These bones, however, were discovered at a depth of 160-165 feet.
That same afternoon, the Oak Island team congregates in the War Room and calls up Charles Lewton-Brain, who has had a chance to examine photographs of the ring found at the southern edge of the swamp. The gemologist and master goldsmith tells the crew that he observed evidence of crude repairs made to the ring, their purposes being to make the ring “much bigger” and “a little smaller”, respectively. These repairs were made with silver, while Lewton-Brain suspects that the rest of the ring is composed of either bronze or a copper-silver alloy. The goldsmith states that the ring’s floral design appears to have been hand-chiseled, which he claims is potential evidence that the artifact was crafted prior to the 1730s. “Saw blades,” he explains, “don’t really become available to jewelers until the 1730s, 1750s, and so, prior to that, you would be cutting the metal out with a chisel.” Lewton-Brain goes on to identify the style as European, and possibly Spanish.
The next day, the crew resumes the excavation of OC1. Somewhere below 120 feet, the hammergrab picks up half of a circular wooden sheet which Terry Matheson identifies as “the top or bottom of a barrel”. In the same load, the treasure hunters find a short wooden slat which Matheson identifies as a stave of the same barrel. These artifacts reminds Doug Crowell of the yellow-painted wooden disk discovered by the Oak Island Association at a depth of 118 feet in 1861.
At a depth of about 147 feet, the hammergrab brings up an axe-cut beam. As the treasure hunters are unaware of any wood-cribbed searcher shafts or tunnels having been constructed at that depth, they deduce that the wood must be part of the original Money Pit. Disappointingly, the next few hammergrab loads contain nothing of interest. The treasure hunters decide to abandon the shaft at a depth of 158 feet in order to avoid destroying the caisson’s teeth on the bedrock below.
The next day, Rick Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and Doug Crowell drive to the home of the late Dan Blankenship. There, they are greeted by Dave’s sister, Linda Flowers, who now owns the house. Linda takes the boys to Dan’s old office, where the veteran treasure hunter kept his records, and leaves them to search through the papers for any clue which might help them select the location of their next Money Pit shaft.
The next day, Rick Lagina meets in the Oak Island Research Centre with Charles Barkouse, Doug Crowell, Laird Niven, and Steve Guptill. Rick assigns his fellow treasure hunters the task of determining the location of their next shaft in the Money Pit area. “We’ve got a lot of date [which] keeps on pointing in a similar area,” Steve says, “but that area isn’t tight enough.” Doug then produces a sheet of paper he discovered in the archive of Dan Blankenship, which he asks his fellow crewmembers to take a look at. Doug explains that this document was produced by Erwin Hamilton, who looked for treasure on Oak Island from 1938-1941, and contains a birds-eye diagram depicting the old searcher tunnels which Hamilton re-excavated during his Oak Island tenure. In a later interview, Rick Lagina expresses his hope that this document will help the team more accurately determine the location and orientation of the Shaft 6 tunnel, which constituted one of their primary goals throughout Season 6. Steve Guptill agrees to compare the diagram with the coordinates he has already plotted.
The next day, the crew meets at the Money Pit area, where the sinking of a new shaft called ‘8A’ is about to commence. The narrator informs us that, aided by Hamilton’s diagram, Steve Guptill was able to pinpoint what he believes to be the location of Shaft 6 and its tunnel. Similar to Shaft S6, which was excavated in Season 6, Episodes 17 and 18, 8A will be sunk at the suspected junction of the Shaft 6 tunnel and the Money Pit- a site located about 20 feet southwest of OC1. The treasure hunters express their optimism in the project as the 8A caisson begins its descent into the earth.
The Ring in the Swamp
In this episode, Gary Drayton and Rick Lagina discovered a metal ring engraved with a floral motif at the southern edge of the Oak Island swamp. Gemologist and master goldsmith Charles Lewton-Brain of the Alberta College of Art and Design examined photos of this artifact and observed that its central motif appears to have been hand-chiseled. He took this as evidence that the ring might date prior to the mid-18th Century, when jewelers began cutting out metal with saw blades rather than chisels. He tentatively identified the engraving’s style as European, and possibly Spanish.
In the days following this episode’s first airing, at least two fans of The Curse of Oak Island posted photos of very similar rings to various Oak Island-related Facebook groups, these baubles being identical in every respect to the artifact found in the swamp save for their coloration and lack of tarnish or corrosion. One of these fans, whose ring has a bright silver colour, claimed to have found his own trinket in 2015, in a farmer’s field in Wisconsin. Another, whose ring is bronze-coloured, claimed to have been given this ring by her mother forty years ago. In a Facebook thread attached to a photo of the bronze-coloured ring, a specialist who has appeared on the show in the past declared that, although he is not a jewelry expert, this object looks “like stamped costume jewelry with a silvered copper alloy core”.
If the bronze-coloured ring is indeed a piece of modern costume jewelry, and if the ring found in the swamp is a piece from the same batch, as it appears to be, then it seems likely that the artifact discovered in this episode is a relatively modern item which was deposited in the swamp sometime in the last century. This possibility evokes the so-called “Swordgate” scandal in which archaeologist Andy White and writer Jason Colavito demonstrated that the supposed Roman gladius showcased in Season 3, Episodes 10 and 11 of The Curse of Oak Island is not a genuine Roman artifact but rather a relatively modern souvenir item of a type once sold to tourists in Italy.
About a week after the first ring owners came forth with their jewelry, an American Oak Island researcher named John Frick announced on various Oak Island-related Facebook groups that he had determined the swamp ring’s manufacturer to be Joseph Esposito, a jewelry manufacturing company established in 1910. Frick purchased a ring of the same model on Ebay and found that, allowing for tarnish and corrosion, it was virtually identical to the ring found in the swamp. Although Frick’s claims drew some harassment from fans of the show, an expert who has appeared on Oak Island in the past came to his defense, writing the following as a reply to his post:
“John Frick did his homework well. Scientific analysis results on the metals that comprise the ring, performed after the filming wrapped and which I read constantly, pointed to a unique plating method that was developed after 1930. Knowing this, even though the earlier opinion that the fabrication method could allow the ring to be much older, it became obvious this year that it was not. What you don’t often see on TV is the real lag time in receiving test results. The show tells the story of the hunt, and sometimes test results come in too late to be of impact to the show.”
The Barrel Bottom
In this episode, the Oak Island crew discovered a piece of what appears to be the head or bottom of a barrel, along with what might be a stave of that barrel, below a depth of 120 feet in Borehole OC1. These artifacts reminded Doug Crowell of a similar object discovered by the Oak Island Association at a depth of 118 feet in 1861.
That summer, the Oak Island Association sank the 118-foot-deep Shaft 6 eighteen feet west of the Money Pit. That accomplished, they tunneled towards the Money Pit, hoping to circumvent the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel (Oak Island Tours Inc. mapped this tunnel via exploration drilling throughout Season 6). Much to their pleasure, the Association men reached the Money Pit without being flooded out; the circumvention was a success. With the elusive treasure nowhere to be seen at that 118-foot-depth, the treasure hunters proceeded to dig through the Money Pit’s eastern wall. As soon as they did, water began to seep in from the east, and in no time, both Shaft 6 and the Money Pit were both completely flooded with seawater. The Association men proceeded to bail water from Shaft 6. That accomplished, they began to clear the tunnel of the mud and debris which had filled it. The first pieces of debris they removed, which presumably slid into the tunnel from the Money Pit during the flooding, included fragments of age-blackened wood, a spruce slab perforated by an auger hole, a hand-cut branch of juniper, and a round yellow-painted object resembling a dish or the bottom of a barrel. The barrel bottom recovered from OC1 reminds Doug Crowell of the latter artifact.
No sooner had the labourers begun the job of clearing the tunnel than, according to foreman Jotham McCully, “they heard a tremendous crash in the Money Pit and barely escaped being caught by the rush of mud which followed them into the West pit and filled it up 7 feet in less than three minutes.”
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