The Curse of Oak Island- Season 7, Episode 3: The Eye of the Swamp
The following is a plot summary and analysis of Season 7, Episode 3 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.
The Oak Island crew meets in the War Room with geoscientist Dr. Ian Spooner, who collected some of the core samples taken from the swamp anomaly in the previous episode and brought them to his lab for further analysis. Dr. Spooner, who has since performed that analysis, informs the team that sedimentation present in the core samples appears to indicate that the swamp is relatively young- specifically three to four hundred years old. When prompted by Rick Lagina, he concedes the possibility that the swamp might be artificial. He goes on to speculate that, prior to the swamp’s formation, the triangular area which comprises the swamp today may have supported terrestrial vegetation. This notion accords with the implication of the various stumps discovered in the swamp over the years, and appears to challenge the theory that the triangular area constituted sea floor at the time of the swamp’s creation. When questioned by Dave Blankenship, Spooner states that Oak Island may indeed have comprised two separate islands at some point in the distant past, as some theorists believe, but implies that these islands would have amalgamated into the larger Oak Island long before the swamp’s formation.
We then learn that Dr. Spooner and his team, in a previous operation which was not featured on the show, collected additional core samples from the swamp and probed its floor with an iron rod. Using a map, Dr. Spooner points out a small oval-shaped body of water devoid of vegetation at the northernmost tip of the swamp and states that he and his team discovered a circle of stones there which appeared to skirt the feature’s perimeter. The geoscientist says that the stone pattern, coupled with the area’s lack of vegetation, seems unusual to him, and advises the team to investigate the anomaly.
The next day, Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Steve Guptill meet at the swamp, where they intend to investigate the anomaly identified by Dr. Spooner. After Drayton dons a wetsuit and a snorkel, the four men pile into a dingy and row out to the feature. When they reach the area in question, Drayton gets out of the dingy and, using a probe, quickly discovers a stone on the feature’s perimeter. He then applies his pin-pointer metal detector to the stone and gets a hit indicating the presence of iron. Drayton goes on to discover several more stones nearby, all but the largest of which similarly appear to nuzzle iron. As Drayton probes and scans, Steve Guptill plots the coordinates of the rocks with a GPS receiver.
When Marty Lagina dubs the mysterious formation “the Eye of the Swamp”, the narrator attempts to connect the feature with the “all-seeing eye”- a Freemasonic symbol which treasure hunters and theorists have previously associated with the triangular swamp itself; the mysterious stone triangle which once lay on Oak Island’s South Shore Cove; and a marking on a rock in a water well in the nearby town of New Ross, Nova Scotia, discovered in Season 4, Episode 2.
Later, the Fellowship of the Dig congregates in the War Room, where Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Steve Guptill inform the team of the discoveries they made at the Eye of the Swamp. Guptill shows the team a map depicting the rocks that they discovered in the area, one of which is highlighted in red. Guptill explains that the red-highlighted rock is the largest rock that Drayton discovered, which the metal detecting expert described as being cone-shaped and having a single flat side, similar to the boulders which comprise Nolan’s Cross. This stone also happens to be the only one in the area around which Drayton failed to find any evidence of iron. The team agrees that they ought to drain the swamp and investigate the rocks.
The next day, several members of the Oak Island team meet at the swamp with Shawn Wilson of Wilson Excavation Ltd. We learn that Wilson has been tasked with excavating three areas of interest in the swamp, namely the ‘Ship Anomaly’ indicated by the data of the seismic survey carried out at the end of the previous season; the pattern of stones which Tony Sampson discovered in the Season 7 premiere, which have collectively been dubbed the “Paved Wharf”; and the Eye of the Swamp. Wilson explains to the team that he intends to excavate the areas of interest by using 16’x16’ trench cages, or dig boxes- square caissons which will isolate the areas of interest from the surrounding swamp.
That afternoon, Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, and Charles Barkhouse drive to St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, they meet with Dr. Christa Brosseau, to whom they show the iron swages which Gary Drayton discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 21 the previous episode. Dr. Brosseau uses a file to strip away some of the rust which coats the artifacts and extracts samples of the metal beneath. Then, with the help of research instrument technician Dr. Xiang Yang, she examines the samples under an electron microscope and finds them absent of manganese- a characteristic which, she claims, indicates that the artifacts were likely made prior to 1840. Charles Barkhouse remarks that only two companies searched for treasure on Oak Island prior to 1840- the Onslow Company and the Money Pit’s three legendary discoverers. “Other than that,” he says, “[the swage could only have belonged to members of] a recovery operation or a deposit operation…” Peter Fornetti then asks whether the Onslow Company or the Money Pit co-discoverers are known to have worked on Lot 21, where the swage blocks were found. Barkhouse replies that both of these treasure hunting groups are believed to have concentrated their activities at the opposite end of the island, where the Money Pit lies, the implication being that the swages probably belonged to pre-1795 depositors or recoverers.
The next day, Rick Lagina, Doug Crowell, Terry Matheson, and Paul Troutman meet with Brennan McMahon of Choice Drilling at Smith’s Cove. Matheson explains that Craig Tester drew up a plan to have Choice Drilling drill five holes on Smith’s Cove’s Upper Beach, in the area at which the team hopes the convergence point of the Smith’s Cove box drains might be located. As the contractors begin sinking the first of the holes, Steve Guptill explains to some crew members that the flood tunnel is believed to lie somewhere between 90-120 feet below the surface, the wide depth range being attributable to the many topographical changes which the area between the Money Pit and Smith’s Cove has undergone in the past 150 year. In a later interview, Rick Lagina augments the potential depth of the flood tunnel from 50-130 feet below the surface.
Brennan McMahon and Terry Matheson examine a 69.5-73.5-foot-deep core sample from the first hole and find that it contains moist but solid earth. A second three-foot-long core sample, taken at a depth of 91 feet, contains soft clay mixed with small stones. Matheson describes the material as “amorphous”, or formless, and states that this is the first time such material has appeared in a core sample on Oak Island. He suggests that the material’s shapeless nature might be attributable an explosion which took place in its vicinity. A third sample, taken at a depth of 99 feet, contains charred earth that smells of gunpowder, a fragment of what Terry Matheson believes to be the paper wrapping of a stick of dynamite, and a piece of twisted metal tube inside which the suspected dynamite may have been set. Paul Troutman remarks that dynamite is known to have been used in the area by members of the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897, in an effort to destroy the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. The crew members agree that the material they discovered in the 99-foot-deep core sample undoubtedly constitutes evidence of the Oak Island Treasure Company’s operation, and decide to search for the flood tunnel between this new site and the Money Pit area.
Dr. Spooner’s Analysis
In this episode, Dr. Ian Spooner presented his analysis of the core samples collected from beneath the Ship Anomaly in the Oak Island swamp in the previous episode. Dr. Spooner concluded that the sedimentation of the core samples appears to indicate that the swamp is only three to four hundred years old, and that the area which comprises it likely supported terrestrial vegetation immediately prior to its transformation into a wetland.
This theory conflicts with the notion that Oak Island consisted of two separate islands prior to the swamp’s formation.
The Eye of the Swamp
In this episode, we learned that Dr. Ian Spooner and his team collected core samples and probed for anomalies in the swamp in a previous operation which was not presented on the show. In a small oval pond curiously devoid of vegetation, located at the northernmost tip of the swamp, Spooner and his crew discovered a number of stones on the swamp floor which appeared to encircle the area.
Marty Lagina, Alex Lagina, Gary Drayton, and Steve Guptill investigated these rocks and found that most of them appeared to contain or lie on top of some sort of iron object, which the men were unable to locate. The only rock which appeared to be devoid of iron was the largest rock in the area. Conical, boulder-like, and bearing a flat side, this rock strongly resembles those which comprise Nolan’s Cross.
The Oak Island team plans to investigate this anomaly, dubbed the “Eye of the Swamp”, and its strange circle of stones by draining the swamp and having Shawn Wilson of Wilson Excavation Ltd. excavate the area in question through the use of a 16’x 16’ trench cage- a caisson-like device which will isolate the area from the surrounding swamp.
Upper Beach Core Sample
In this episode, the Oak Island team sank a hole on the Upper Beach of Smith’s Cove, at a location at which they hoped the convergence point of the Smith’s Cove box drains might lie. At a depth of 91 feet, the drill encountered soft clay mixed with small stones. Geologist Terry Matheson described the material as “amorphous”, and suggested that its formless nature might be attributable to an explosion which took place in its vicinity. At a depth of 99 feet, the drill brought up charred earth that smelled of gunpowder, a fragment of what appeared to be the paper wrapping of a stick of dynamite, and a piece of twisted metal tube- perhaps the remains of the setting for the supposed dynamite. The crew agreed that they had almost certainly uncovered evidence of the dynamiting operation carried out by the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897.
Although it is likely coincidental, the combination of clay and small stones found at a depth of 91 feet, coupled with the piece of metal tubing discovered at 99 feet, evokes a discovery made by Triton Alliance back in 1970. That summer, Dan Blankenship and David Tobias hired a contracting company called Becker Drilling to punch holes in the Money Pit area. Below the Hedden Shaft, at a depth of 160-190 feet, Becker Drilling encountered a chamber filled with blue clay in which were suspended equidistant layers of pebbles. At the bottom of this chamber was some sort of brass object which the drill chewed into.
The Oak Island Treasure Company’s Dynamiting Operation
In this episode, the Fellowship of the Dig discovered charred earth, a fragment of what appeared to be the paper wrapping of a stick of dynamite, and a piece of metal tube, all of which they suspected was likely evidence of the dynamiting operation carried out by the Oak Island Treasure Company back in 1897. That spring, the Oak Island Treasure Company attempted to destroy the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel, hoping that by doing so, they would be able to excavate the Money Pit without having to contend with floodwater. They drilled five blastholes in a line running from north to south about 50 feet from the shoreline and loaded them with dynamite charges. Although the two 90-foot-deep blastholes on either end were dry, the middle one filled with seawater upon reaching the 80-foot level, apparently having hit the flood tunnel. When the charges were detonated, a massive jet of water exploded more than 100 feet into the air before subsiding. At the same time, the water in both the Money Pit and the Cave-In Pit, in the words of treasure hunter Frederick Blair, “boiled and foamed for a considerable time, and after the disturbance subsided, the oil in the dynamite showed on the water in both these pits.” This development verified that the Money Pit and the Cave-In Pit were both fed by the same water source, namely seawater from Smith’s Cove, which apparently travelled by way of the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel.
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