The Curse of Oak Island recap: Have the team found a treasure-filled cellar?

Charles Barkhouse, Craig Tester and Marty Lagina during the excavation work at Smith's Cove on The Curse of Oak Island
Charles Barkhouse, Craig Tester and Marty Lagina during the excavation work at Smith’s Cove on The Curse of Oak Island. Pic credit: History

On the latest episode of The Curse of Oak Island, the team finally got down and dirty in Smith’s Cove — discovering what may be a treasure-filled cellar, while also receiving an expert opinion on what they hope is the fabled 90-foot stone.

In the episode, titled Unearthed, the team gather at the now dry Smith’s Cove where Rick Lagina tells the team that they’re finally ready to start excavating following completion of the 525-foot long cofferdam.

It has been the team’s costliest project to date, and Rick shares his hopes that something will be found that reveals a historic cultural influence on the island.

The massive amount of spoils uncovered from the excavation will go through a wash plant, a machine which shakes and sifts earth, depositing what’s there according to size. The piles will then be sifted through by hand.  

Within the 12,000 square foot area, they find wood straight away. Could it be the base of Dan Blankenship’s previous cofferdam? A powerful storm destroyed the dam the legendary treasure-hunter made in the 1970s before anything significant could be found, but he believed he had unearthed a “u-shaped structure”.

Using old maps and survey data, the team choose the spot where they think the structure could be located.

It doesn’t take long for Gary Drayton and his metal detector to find something of interest in one of the piles. “I see something,” he says, showing the others what appears to be a bit of pottery.

Next he finds a hand-forged spike dating back to perhaps the 1700s, maybe a piece of the u-shaped structure?

Then a non-ferrous hit gets him excited and Rick starts to shovel the spot Gary has pinpointed. A dirty bit is dug up, and Gary exclaims, “look at that, I can see gold color!” Not enough to break out the gold dance, but it is still a potentially significant find.

“It looks gold colored,” agrees Marty Lagina. If it is a gold coin it could be the first piece of actual found treasure. And, if it has milled edges, it would predate the 1795 discovery of the Money Pit. In the end, the crusty bit of metal is declared a top pocket find!

They take it to the research center where a digital microscope is used to magnify the old, encrusted object to 2,000 times its actual size. Nothing distinct is revealed and they agree it’s too premature to have an “a ha” moment.

Nonetheless, they return to Smith’s Cove with hope intact that something significant is waiting to be found.

“Hold it,” Rick yells to the heavy machine operator as a big log is exposed. As only Rick can, or is willing to do, he gets down and dirty crawling on his hands and knees through the muck in order to examine the muddy log up close.

He declares it a big beam and pours buckets of water on it to wash away the mud. “Wait, are those Roman numerals?” Jack Begley shouts. They believe that the Roman numeral for the number seven is carved into the log, which would represent a new discovery as Dan had not spoken of a number seven carved into a log, although he found other Roman numerals.   

When what they believe to be the u-shaped structure is further exposed and cleaned they find Roman numerals three and four, leading Jack to proclaim, “This is awesome!”

If this discovery predates 1795 then it could be a piece of the puzzle that finally leads the team to centuries old treasure.

Meanwhile, in the research center archeologist Laird Niven meets up with team members to see for himself the stone that was discovered in last week’s episode, Rock Solid.

The hope is that the gray boulder on display is the original 90-foot stone. Laird remarks that the stone looks like it has been carved by a knife and that it looks almost like it was polished.

The stone is covered in faint markings and Laird points out the letters L and N which were said to be carved on the elusive 90-foot stone. When asked how they might better illuminate the faint markings, Laird suggests using the old-fashioned method of a paint brush and white paint to highlight the design. Then he suggests that digital modeling would be better, via a process called LIDAR that involves the use of light to map out carvings that are undetectable to the naked eye.

The next day team members meet with experts who conduct LIDAR testing on what they hope is the 90-foot stone. Using a 3D surveying device they collect data that will be used to create a computer model that can be enhanced.

When the laser scan is complete and presented on a big screen, Jack shouts, “Wow that’s amazing!” But, although the visual is impressive, the experts need to do further work to reveal any significant findings.

Elsewhere, team members head to the Money Pit where a new coring operation that uses a sonic drilling rig to pulverize earth and other obstacles has begun.

The goal is to reveal a tunnel leading from Shaft 6 to the Money Pit. Rick believes that finding something significant here will prove that the Oak Island mystery is real. Three weeks prior the team found wood at a depth of 109 feet suggesting that they had located Shaft 6. The hope is that an underground debris field littered with artifacts and treasure is waiting to be found.

The collected spoils are encased in plastic sleeves and then searched by hand. They declare the spoils brought up from 118 feet to be critical, but are disappointed when no wood is discovered. The absence of wood in the core sample is a troubling development. Does it mean they missed the target or are they completely wrong about the location of Shaft 6? Rick calls Craig Tester to say they are now ready to move on.

Wait, not so fast! While Rick is on the phone a piece of somewhat-vertical wood is found and they surmise that they must have clipped the edge of a tunnel!

With their hopes of hitting the Money Pit renewed, Rick declares it a good day on Oak Island and decides that this find supports further investigation.

Elsewhere, at Lot 24, team members visit the site where one week ago signs of a manmade structure were found. A grid system is used to mark off two 2-by-20 feet sections. More pottery is found, but it is impossible to age it exactly.

Then a clay pipe stem piece is discovered, which most likely dates to 1750-1840, and may have been used by the lot’s previous owner, Samuel Ball. Could this mean that they have just found a cellar that contains the treasures they’re searching for?

Tune in next week and find out!

The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesday nights at 9/8c.

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