On last night’s The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down episode, Secret Weapons, show host Matty Blake profiled some of the extended members of Rick and Marty Lagina’s treasure hunting team, also known as, “the fellowship of the dig.”
The Laginas have spent the last 10 years working to solve the 223-old mystery of Oak Island, which legend claims may involve buried treasure as diverse as William Shakespeare’s original manuscripts, Marie Antoinette’s lost jewels, the Ark of the Covenant, and vast stores of pirate loot. But they could not have done it alone. Who are the men who have made significant contributions to the work effort over the years?
Metal-detecting expert Gary Drayton was raised on farms in rural Lincolnshire, England, where he was, “always looking down, picking up coins,” and other artifacts such as glass and pottery. He took his curious finds home and carefully researched their history.
Today he lives in Florida where he metal detects the sandy beaches there as well as sites worldwide. After finding a 1790 gold guinea on a riverbank he decided to go into metal detecting full time. Since then he has found treasure coins, religious artifacts, and a $500,000 gold and emerald piece connected to the ancient Incas.
It was Gary who had the insight to explore the western side of the island, which he describes as a gold mine. Since 2014 he has found several items he calls “bobby dazzlers“, such as possible ancient weapons, 17th century coins, and golden jewelry. Marty describes Gary as, “an expert at the peak of his craft,” and Rick says of him, “If there’s something to be found he’ll find it.”
His most significant find to date is a medieval lead cross found in 2017 in Smith’s Cove, a discovery that could potentially change the trajectory of North American history.
Professional diver and extended team member Tony Sampson met the Laginas by accident. A former police detective and member of the military, he originally came to the island to help with a diving operation already in play. The team recognized his value and since that time he has done numerous dives as a part of the team. Marty describes him as, “a tough guy who knows all the answers and exudes confidence.”
In 2014 he found a major clue in the swamp, a big oak tree stump. Not only do oak trees not grow in swamps, the find supported a major Oak Island theory proposed by the late searcher Fred Nolan who believed the swamp was man-made in order to hide a treasure ship. In 2016 Tony made another huge discovery along with Jack Begley, when the two found a ship’s plank that dates to the 1600s.
Native New Yorker Dan Henskee came to Oak Island in 1965 when he was 26 years old, and took up residence in the old Restall cabin. In the early 1970s he helped the late Dan Blankenship to expand the 26-inch borehole 10X to an 8-foot diameter, enabling Dan to put a camera down and discover what he believed was a treasure chest along with human remains.
In 2013 Dan Henskee was part of the group that discovered coconut fiber, carbon dated to between 1260 and 1400 A.D., in Smith’s Cove.
Historians and researchers Doug Crowell, Charles Barkhouse, and Paul Troutman have been crucial to the information hunt on the island. Charles is a Chester native who grew up studying the history of Oak Island, hoping to be the one to make a breakthrough discovery regarding the rumored treasure. He designed the island’s interpretive center and is the Friends of Oak Island Society’s lead tour guide.
Charles helped to choose borehole site C.1., named in his honor, in the Money Pit area, and Marty says that Charles is, “the perfect person to introduce anyone to Oak Island.”
Doug Crowell grew up in Nova Scotia and Rick describes his dedication and drive to the solving of the island’s mystery as being, “like a terrier with a bone.”
It was Doug who secured permission to look in a book bindery basement for the legendary 90-foot stone. There the team found a stone which may prove to be the elusive stone crucial to solving the island’s mystery, and he calls that event, a “really rewarding investigation.”
Paul Troutman is from Maine and became interested in the island after his father, James Troutman, briefly worked for Robert Dunfield on Oak Island in 1965. He has shared his dad’s original film of his work on the island, film that has intriguing clues from that time period. “In a way I’m following in my father’s footsteps,” says Paul.
Marty says that originally he envisioned hiring individuals to work on the island as contractors for hire, but as Rick notes, all of the extended search members have since become friends.
Will this be the breakthrough year that Rick and Marty and their dedicated team finally solve the centuries old Oak Island riddle?
Be sure to tune in and find out!
The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c.