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The Curse of Oak Island recap: series 1- 5

With the launch of series six of the incredibly popular The Curse of Oak Island we thought we’d go back to the start and put together a recap of everything that has happened in the show so far.

Series 1 (2014)

In the first series, Rick and Marty discover the presence of man-made formations under Oak Island. They find non-indigenous coconut fibre, aiding the theory that the famed Money Pit is in fact booby-trapped. They also find a 17th century Spanish 8 Maravedis copper coin, a discovery that hints at what the treasure under Oak Island might actually be.

The first series of the show introduces us to the tiny island of Oak Island in Nova Scotia and explains the curse that supposedly surrounds it. Ever since three boys dug into a strange circular depression back in 1795 and discovered a shaft, now known as the Money Pit, people have come to Oak Island in the hopes of finding treasure. However, legend states that the treasure will not reveal itself until seven people have died. So far, the island has claimed the lives of six treasure hunters!

Willing to put legend aside and finally unearth the mysteries of Oak Island are brothers Rick and Marty Lagina from Michigan in the U.S. Ever since he was a young boy, Rick has been obsessed with the mystery of Oak Island. In 2006, wanting his brother to achieve his lifetime goal, Marty secured a majority share of the company that owns Oak Island. Armed with the latest technology, the brothers now hope to answer the 200-year-old question of what lies beneath the island.

They first turn their attention to an abandoned 50-meter deep shaft, first excavated back in the 60s, known as Borehole 10-X. Initially they lower in sophisticated camera equipment to see what is in the shaft. Promising footage of man-made tunnels lead the team to use water pressure to pump material to the surface. Via this technique, they find a few metal fragments. The more they pump, the more they discover evidence of man-made formations under the ground.

The team next turn their attention to Smith’s Cove, a man-made sheltered bay just 500 feet away from the original Money Pit. Previous treasure hunters of Oak Island believed the cove was the key to unlocking the mystery. The team discover non-indigenous coconut fibre on the beach, which is later dated to be from 1260-1400AD, some 400 years before the Money Pit was discovered.

With the nearest coconut tree some 1,500 miles away, it seems that the presence of coconut fibre on Oak Island is not by sheer chance. It’s hypothesised that the people who brought it to the island did so with a clear purpose in mind - to aid in their creation of an elaborate booby trap to protect whatever mystery lay within the Money Pit.

Workers in the 1850s discovered that the Money Pit was being flooded by water that seemed to rise and fall with the tide. It was believed that Smith’s Cove was the source of that water. After digging into the sand, the workers found evidence of five stone box drains, which seemed to converge at a point and head towards the Money Pit. The drains were covered with several layers of coconut fibre, which acted as a filter to allow the water in whilst keeping the drains debris free.

After the advice of Dan Blankenship, a man with over fifty years of treasure hunting experience on Oak Island, the brothers next turn their attention to a swamp which Dan believes is man-made and hiding something. After partially draining the swamp the brothers bring in the metal detectors and begin digging. They discover a Spanish 8 Maravedis copper coin from the 1600s. These coins were used by explorers who came to the new world during the 17th and 18th centuries and also by pirates to pay crewmembers. This discovery could prove the theory that what lies beneath Oak Island is a Spanish or pirate hoard of treasure.

Although no more coins are found, the brothers end the series vowing to continue their search.

Series 2 (2014-2015)

In the second series, the Lagina brothers find another coin on Oak Island, this one apparently showing the cross of the Knights Templar. Whilst they fail to find the exact location of the original Money Pit, they do discover what could be a lost treasure chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X.

The series picks up exactly where the first series left off – the swamp.

After finding the Spanish copper coin, which experts were able to date to exactly 1652, Rick and Marty want to know if there are any more precious metals left in the swamp.

They bring in a team of expert metal detectors who operate a Lorenz Deepmax X6 over the swamp. This metal detecting device is capable of finding gold and silver treasures up to 40 feet deep. Although the results are encouraging, searches in the swamp over the course of the series end in failure, leaving the team to re-focus their efforts elsewhere.

Rick and Marty decide to find the original Money Pit on Oak Island, the area first excavated in 1795, which has been the main focus of treasure hunting on the island ever since. In June 1897, at a depth of 153 feet, a previous treasure hunting expedition discovered a large box or vault, which came to be known as the ‘Chappel Vault.’ Samples taken showed it was seven foot tall with walls made of Oak seven inches thick. It was also covered in a white chalky substance, which could have been a type of cement. The area was flooded shortly after the vault’s discovery meaning its secrets are still hidden in the Money Pit.

Nearby, the team discover another coin, which is later theorised to be a coin of the Knights Templar. In this series, we’re introduced to the theory that the treasure under Oak Island could well be one of the many treasures of the famous Catholic military order known as the Knights Templar.

From the Middle Ages to the 11th century, the Templar’s not only protected pilgrims to and from the Holy Land but also stored and guarded vast amounts of gold and silver in their many fortresses. These castles became the world’s first banks and when the Templar’s eventually faced persecution, they took their many treasures with them. Such treasures are said to include the Holy Grail, the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Menorah of King Soloman’s Temple.

After travelling around Europe and ending in Scotland, the brothers are presented with a theory that the Templar’s sailed for the New World with all their treasures…could Oak Island have been their final destination?

Rick and Marty turn their attention back to Borehole 10-X, which is said to be the back door into the Money Pit. Wanting to find out what exactly lies at the bottom of the shaft, they send in a team of expert divers who can only get so far. They then use sonar to help map the shaft. They discover a lost chamber, first found some 40 years prior and some 235 feet down. The sonar suggests there are man-made objects in the chamber and it could potentially lead into the Money Pit.

The brothers decide it’s too dangerous to send a dive team that far down without properly prepping the shaft and so the series ends with the team dedicated to finding out what lies in the lost chamber of 10-X.

Series 3 (2015-2016)

In the third series, Rick and Marty reach the lost chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X. The waters off Oak Island prove fruitful, as not only do they discover strange triangular shaped rocks pointing to the Money Pit, but the brothers are also presented with what could be a genuine Roman Sword found underwater.

It’s finally time to dig on Oak Island.

After two years of ground investigation, data capturing and surface level excavations, Rick and Marty are finally ready to start digging. The series begins with the arrival of massive digging and excavating equipment on the island.

The brothers head for the area known as the Money Pit, although the exact location of the famed shaft it is still unknown. After decades of excessive and careless digging by previous treasure hunters, the Money Pit has been lost for over 50 years. Rick and Marty manage to locate it although to properly excavate it the brothers will need to dig a hole 40 feet wide and 150 feet deep. They’ll also need to sure it up so that it doesn’t succumb to the flooding that has plagued treasure hunters for over 200 years. The equipment currently at their disposal is not up to the job.

The brothers once again turn their attention back to Borehole 10-X. Further sonar scans have shed more light on the details of the structure and contents of the lost chamber that was found at the end of series two. It seems to contain what appears to be a chest and some human remains.

To verify these claims, the brothers need to send a diver into the chamber. Before they can do so they spend a great deal of time and money clearing out corroded pipes and other debris from within the shaft. They then send an ROV (Remote Operated Underwater Vehicle) equipped with a camera down into the chamber. Whilst the results seem to support the sonar scans, no signs of any man made formations can be seen.

However, Rick is determined to know what lies within the chamber and so the brothers find a dive team prepared to take on one of the most dangerous dives in the world. The diver will not only have to descend 181 feet into the eight foot wide shaft, but will also then have to descend a further 40 feet through a section of the shaft that’s only 27 inches wide, before they can enter into the chamber.

Before the final dive is completed, the brothers learn of other links the Knights Templars might have with Oak Island including mysterious 500-year-old Portuguese stone carvings found nearby which bear the Templar’s cross. Rick and Marty are also presented with a new theory that claims that Oak Island has links to the ancient Aztecs. Following this theory leads them to the property of Fred Nolan, a long time enemy of Oak Island co-owner Dan Blankenship.

Most of the 140 acres of Oak Island are owned or controlled by the Lagina’s and their partners. However, 20 acres are owned privately, 16 of which are owned by Fred Nolan who in the past has been reluctant to collaborate with the Lagina’s. However, the 40-year-feud is laid to rest and Fred joins the team and the brothers are allowed to look for treasure on his land.

The brothers also conduct sonar sweeps of the waters surrounding Oak Island and find strange triangular shaped stones, which seem to point towards the Money Pit. Sticking with the water theme, the brothers are presented with an alleged Roman sword, which was found in the waters off Oak Island back in 1940. After scientific analysis, however, the sword turns out to be a replica, made sometime post 1880/1890.

Back at Borehole 10-X, after a few failed attempts, a diver finally reaches the lost chamber. He confirms the results of the ROV that the cavity is a natural formation and not man-made. No chest or human remains are discovered contradicting the initial sonar results.

The brothers once again end the series vowing to continue their search.

Series 4 (2016-2017)

In the fourth series, the Lagina brothers finally dig into the famed Money Pit and find evidence of man-made objects underground, including a 17th-century metal bracket supposedly from a treasure chest. During the series, they also discover plenty of evidence supporting the link between the Knights Templars and Oak Island and find pieces of a sunken 16th-century Spanish galleon in a swamp.

After uncovering the whereabouts of the famed Money Pit in the last series, the Lagina brothers go for broke and invest $2 million into excavating it. With bigger drilling rigs and more high tech gear now at their disposal, they hope to finally discover whether something of value has been buried in the Money Pit all those centuries ago.

However, even with their equipment, the Money Pit proves somewhat elusive and trying to locate its exact position underground poses a great challenge.

Rick and Marty start by digging in two locations at the Money Pit, Valley-3 and C-1. Although Valley-3 is the supposed location of the ‘Chappel Vault’, a previously discovered but unexcavated underground wooden box, the brothers find no evidence of it in their searches.

Hopes then turn to dig site C-1 where the brothers dig a 40-inch wide, 171-foot borehole. The location of C-1 is based on a previous drill test, which proved successful after a camera was lowered down and captured something shiny and gold coloured. However, the brothers find no evidence of this object when they dig down, even after divers are sent into the borehole to further explore.

Rick and Marty decide to dig two more holes in the Money Pit, T-1 and GAL-1, although no vault or treasure hoard is uncovered at these sites either. The digging efforts at the Money Pit do, however, uncover a few items of historical importance and add evidence to some of the Oak Island treasure theories. One of these finds is a metal bracket dating from 1650-1800 and theorised to be from either a treasure chest or a ship.

The ship theme is a constant throughout the series. The brothers decide to fully drain the swamp now that they have access to the parts of it previously withheld by Fred Nolan. In the swamp a metal detector picks up an old spike, which is later shown to be from a 16th century Spanish galleon. An 18ft long plank with a strong resemblance to ship decking is also found in the swamp and carbon dated to a similar time as the spike. These finds seem to support the theory that the swamp holds an old ship wreck, which may or may not have been sunk deliberately by Spanish pirates or more specifically the Scottish pirate Captain William Kidd, to hide the valuable secrets it contained.

The theory of Inca gold is presented during the series along with more evidence linking Oak Island with the Knights Templars. Not only does Rick find a carved stone that bears an ancient hooked X, a Templar symbol used to mark their path during their exploration of North America, but three recently discovered ancient Templar documents are also presented to the brothers, all showing links to Oak Island.

One of the documents is a 14th century map, which bears a striking resemblance to Oak Island and shows the location of a hatch. Searching that location the brothers discover a strange man-made hole in the ground. Although the hole goes nowhere, the brothers believe there may well be a backdoor into the Money Pit through a hatch somewhere on the island.

Previous dives and scans into borehole 10-X had thrown up nothing of note, however, Rick and Marty turn their attention back to the shaft and focus this time on pumping out any materials that may lie within it. They discover a bone and some wood dating between 1670-1780. A 1700s King George II coin is also discovered via metal detection on the island.

The series ends with the team hopeful of what they still might discover on the island.

Series 5 (2017-2018)

In the fifth series, Rick and Marty discover a Medieval Templar Cross that could change the history of the world. They also discover a 500-year old rhodolite garnet, whilst a piece of parchment and centuries-old human bones are unearthed at the famed Money Pit.

Before the brothers can even think about digging on Oak Island again, they first have to tackle the devastation wreaked on the island by a bad winter storm. The south-shore road to the Money Pit has to be rebuilt after being completely washed away.

The good news is the weather has churned up the surface of the island and caused plenty of erosion, meaning new finds could be made on ground already searched.

This proves to be the case straight away, as metal detecting expert Gary Drayton uncovers a cut Spanish Maravdis Copper coin as well as a Charles II farthing from 1673. Now that a plethora of coins has been discovered on the island, the theory that pirates did visit it in the past seems to be a strong one.

Via metal detection, a number of items are discovered this series. First being a rose-headed nail, said to be centuries old, which helps to prove that people were on the island hundreds of years before the discovery of the Money Pit. Also found is a 200-year old military button, a decorative lockplate which may have been part of a chest, as well as a semi-precious stone - a 500-year old rhodolite garnet set in a brooch. This discovery adds weight to the theory that the treasure on Oak Island could well be the lost jewels of Maria Antoinette.

Perhaps the biggest find of the series was also found via metal detection at Smith’s Cove. A Medieval lead cross with a square hole at the top is discovered which is potentially dated to be from the 1200s.

Different theories are presented about its origins and purpose, both including the Knights Templars. If a definitive link were made between the Templars and Oak Island, it would show they had travelled to North America as many as seven centuries ago, which would effectively change the history of the world.

Focus turns again to the Money Pit and this series the brothers adopt a different drilling approach to help them sift through the myriad of holes and shafts left underground by previous digs. They plan to pattern drill over 40 6-inch wide boreholes to a depth of 200ft in the hope of pinpointing the exact location of the original Money Pit and extracting whatever treasure it may hold.

Whilst Rick and Marty don’t strike gold, one particular drill site, H-8 proves historically fruitful, adding a number of artefacts to the final series hoard of 600. This series also sees the team having to hire an archaeologist to oversee any future digs upon the request of Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage.

In the spoils from drilling H-8, the team discover a piece of leather, some parchment and two human bones. The bones even have soft tissue and hairs on them. After they’re sent for testing one of the bones came from a person with Middle Eastern ancestry said to have lived between 1682 and 1736, whilst the other had European origins and was said to have lived between 1678 and 1764.

The leather is suggested to have been from a bookbinding and combined with the piece of parchment lends credence to the theory that the treasure could be some sort of ancient book or manuscript. One theory suggests the treasure is the manuscripts of Sir Francis Bacon, a 16th-century author, whom some believe was the man behind the works of Shakespeare.

Although H-8 promised even greater things, so much so that Rick and Marty had a custom-built rotating oscillator shipped in from South Korea, the elusive ‘Chappel Vault’ remained just that…elusive. In the end, the final finds of the series came at Smith’s Cove which threw up a piece of old wood which was remarkably dated to be within four years on either side of the estimated dates for the Middle Eastern bone found in H-8.

As such the team vow to cofferdam Smith’s Cove next series in the hope of uncovering the whole structure, the wood came from as well as bringing in more expensive digging equipment for the Money Pit.