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Rick Lagina

'It takes more than a shovel': Interview with 'The Curse of Oak Island's' Rick Lagina

Sky HISTORY spoke with Rick Lagina and other members of ‘The Fellowship of the Dig’ including local historian Doug Crowell, European researcher Corjan Mol and Rick’s nephews, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti about the monumental new season.

Image: The Curse of Oak Island

The Curse of Oak Island is back on Sky HISTORY every Wednesday at 9pm, as part of Mystery Season 2024. Now in its eleventh season, the show follows the Lagina brothers on their epic quest to solve a 220-year-old treasure mystery. Ahead of the new season Sky HISTORY spoke with Rick Lagina and other members of ‘The Fellowship of the Dig’ including local historian Doug Crowell, European researcher Corjan Mol and Rick’s nephews, Alex Lagina, and Peter Fornetti to find out what we can expect from Oak Island's latest installment.

Have you made any new discoveries this season?

Rick Lagina: As always, the discoveries you make are incremental. Sure, we'd like to have the one ‘Aha!’ moment, but everything we find we use and adapt and change the search agenda for the following year.

In terms of a 'find'. I think we perhaps might be on the cusp of – I won't say rewriting history – but putting a new perspective on history as we know it. That is every bit as valuable as a treasure.

Doug Crowell: There are a lot of lot of exciting things happening on the island this year. We were pursuing original works, and I don't want to give away what we found but we were we were quite excited with the results.

What challenges have you faced this season?

Rick Lagina: We've been thrown some curveballs this year by Mother Nature, and we've suffered some setbacks because of that. We have to address that and figure out a way of moving forward. The problem, of course, is there's a finite amount of time in which to accomplish the task at hand.

Rick, how have your feelings about the Oak Island mystery changed since you first read about it in the pages of Reader Digest as a boy?

Rick Lagina: When I was a little boy and I turned to the last page, I thought, ‘Surely someone will solve this’. Everything you need to know was written in these five pages. So, it's just a matter of writing the last page. We have been taught differently. It's incredibly complex. Oak Island is like a Gordian knot. You unravel one knot and two more two more knots surface.

But in that complexity, lies the fun and lies the real truth. Together all of us are quite resilient in how we approach this because we are committed to the greater good, and the greater good here is unravelling, the story and giving it to the world.

What have you learned about treasure hunting over the years?

Rick Lagina: It takes more than a shovel. As little boys, my brother and I would dig for treasure everywhere. On some level, I thought we'd just go and dig it up, but it's not that easy. There are technology issues and environmental and permitting issues and things, that as a little boy, you just don't understand at all.

When we first came to Oak Island, I don't think we considered archaeology as a large component of the search agenda. We have come to learn that it has to be an integral part because the very definition of archaeology is trying to unearth a story.

Without an archaeological component, those acorns are difficult to crack. There certainly is a treasure component that has kept this mystery alive for 228 years but to find the treasure, you have to understand the story.

Doug Crowell: One of the things I've learned about treasure hunting is not to make assumptions. When I was a young child, I visited Oak Island and I learned that it was a story about pirate treasure. My time with the team on the island treasurer has taught me that that assumption is likely wrong.

The treasure is likely something from a much earlier period historically and to me, that's intriguing. As Rick mentioned, I think we have a chance to recover lost history and to me, that's a treasure in itself.

Corjan Mol: It takes a patient man and a patient woman. For me, this treasure hunt has turned into a history hunt. It's been a journey of persistence in digging, both in the ground and in the archives.

Our fans love the technology featured in the show. What can they expect from season 11?

Doug Crowell: In the last few years in the show, we had been employing caissons [a watertight retaining structure] in the money pit area to pursue the treasure. Last year we took a different avenue, and we rehabbed an old shaft on the island in hopes of reaching original works. That work has continued this year, and the results are quite interesting.

Corjan Mol: While technology is progressing on the island and we try to apply the newest techniques, in our archival and documentary research, we do the reverse. We're pushing the timeline back and I find myself looking at older and older documents that do appear to relate to the mystery.

How does the reality of treasure hunting differ from what the viewers eventually see on screen?

Rick Lagina: What is strange and hard to relate to on a television show is that we stick to the task at hand. On the show, one minute we're in the swamp and the next minute we're in the Money Pit. We don't just jump around from here to there. We do finish projects.

Alex Lagina: It's the amount of time that everything takes. On the show, we will jump from the setup to the results. Sometimes on the island, we have to wait, a week for those results. So, there's a lot of patience involved on our part, that doesn't make it to the TV show.

What's one thing viewers might not realise about the show?

Rick Lagina: The Curse of Oak Island is much more than the fellowship. There's a huge amount of very experienced and very talented people behind the scenes. But perhaps more important is the kindness and the support of people that we meet daily who are supportive and generous with their time and excited about what we're doing. We could have literally 1000s of people on the island with shovels digging, metal detecting exploring with us. Every day we get those offers and they are genuine, and they're most appreciated.

Together, we want to say thank you to everyone from the production side, but also to the people who have bought into this wonderful magical story and, who continue to do so.

Doug Crowell: I would like the viewers to realise that we do draw a lot of inspiration from them: We do want to bring answers to everybody not just ourselves.

What do you think explains the enduring popularity of the show?

Rick Lagina: I think it's about human nature and the inquisitiveness of humanity and the search for answers and how compelling that can be. Our goal is to solve this mystery, but each and every person who watches the show seems to take away something a little bit different. We've had viewers tell us it's inspired them to change their lives. It's those moments that inspire us to keep moving forward.

Watch the brand new season of The Curse of Oak Island, Wednesdays at 9pm only on Sky HISTORY.