What a 'Bobby Dazzler': Gary Drayton interview
It's the biggest season yet in The Curse Of Oak Island with the team bringing with them more resources and technology than ever in their quest to solve the 224-year-old treasure mystery.
Sky HISTORY caught up with metal detectorist Gary Drayton who's known as much for his catchphrases as his top pocket items to talk about the upcoming season and the most valuable treasure he's ever discovered.
How did you first get into metal detecting?
I used to be a very proud ‘mudlarker’. I would go along tidal river banks, searching for old bottles and clay pipes and all sorts of things. Then one day I dug down in this area where I pulled out a few nice little bottles and clay pipe bowls, and at the bottom of the hole, I saw a shiny 1789 gold Guinea.
That was the day. I thought, 'Wow, imagine if I had a metal detector?' and I changed hobbies and I got into metal detecting big time.
What’s the most valuable item you’ve discovered with your metal detector?
A $500,000 emerald ring. It’s a 1716 Spanish emerald ring made from 22 ½ carat Inca gold with nine flawless emeralds that was probably part of Queen Isabella’s dowry.
This treasure was intended to go back to Spain, but the galleon was wrecked along with ten others on the Florida coast. That would be my most valuable find, the best shipwreck treasure ever found in the Americas. That was the ultimate bobby dazzler.
What it’s like working with Rick and Marty Lagina?
They’re fantastic guys. The thing that stands out about Rick and Marty is that they are both passionate treasure hunters. But they’re very respectful of the island itself. You could say they are stewards of Oak Island. I have to say I'm proud to call them my friends.
What’s your favourite top pocket item to date?
That would have to be the lead cross because it is so out of place. We tested the cross and the lead came from a mine in France. To discover a medieval artefact on Oak Island, in North America, I’m proud of that, I really am. The guys even call it 'Drayton’s cross'. To have an artefact named after you is pretty special.
What should fans be most excited for in the new series?
Viewers can expect to see some amazing new discoveries which were found in unexpected areas of the island.
Do you have any favourite theories about what the treasure potentially could be?
You’re talking to the guy who found a medieval cross. In my opinion, the treasure is probably Templar related. I've detected and recovered too many artefacts going back to the medieval period with a European connection, not for the treasure to be medieval. Medieval tools and jewellery, are you kidding me? It’s Templar baby!
Are you focussing on any area of the island this year?
There’s been one area of the island that’s been a focus, especially this year. One amazing discovery took up a lot of the team’s search effort. My focus was on metal detecting this area. I've always said that the best ability is availability and the team kept me really busy this year.
Can you tell us about any new tech you are using this season?
There was a lot of new equipment I’ve never used on the island before. I was able to use some deep-seeking metal detection equipment this year from mega large search coils to new high-tech ground scanning equipment. I was searching for artefacts out of the range of normal surface metal detectors.
Do you think your catchphrase, ‘Bobby Dazzler' will catch on in the States?
It’s too late, it’s already caught on. I get stopped everywhere when I’m walking off a plane or when I’m in the supermarket, even walking the dog here in Florida. It’s just so funny a car will drive past and as soon as you hear the screech of the breaks you know it’s an Oak Island fan, and they’ll back up and say, ‘Mr Bobby Dazzler’. They call my dog, ‘the top pocket dog’. If I pick something up off a supermarket shelf – and this is everywhere – people will always go ‘Is that a top pocket item?’
You’ve discovered items from many different eras. What’s your historical period and why?
It would have to be the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. From 1492 to the golden age of piracy in the Americas in the mid-1700s. Spanish conquistadors to English privateers, treasures to tragedies: It doesn’t get any better than that, as far as treasure’s concerned.
That's my passion, Spanish treasure. I love searching Spanish treasure on the Treasure Coast of Florida. That's what I do in the off season. It's incredible, I find Spanish, gold, silver and emeralds.
Once you find that first piece of treasure, a big Spanish eight reales piece and you see that cross on one side and that shield on the other, a big one-ounce piece of silver, that was lost 300 years ago on a shipwreck – I know it sounds corny – but I defy anyone not to get Spanish treasure fever.
If you could metal detect anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would go back to South America. That is my favourite place because of all the things I said about Spanish treasure. I found a heck of a lot of Spanish treasure in Florida and the Caribbean, but I would like to retrace the steps back to South America, looking for the motherload.