The Curse of Oak Island recap: Medieval document may have been found in Money Pit, but area faces catastrophic collapse

Rick Lagina and the sinkhole in the Money Pit
Rick Lagina at the Money Pit area while surveying the extent of the sinkhole damage. Pic credit: History

On The Curse of Oak Island this week, Rick and Marty Lagina faced their biggest ever setback since starting their multi-million dollar treasure hunt – after a gaping sinkhole threatened to shut down the entire Money Pit operation.

The shocking discovery came during an episode which started off on a high, and included the team receiving new evidence that paper they found in the H8 shaft may have indeed been part of a medieval manuscript. But will the sinkhole development at the Money Pit area bring a halt to their operations — and the potential for new discoveries — for good?

Read our full recap of The Curse of Oak Island Season 6 Episode 14 below!

The episode starts with the brothers checking out Smith’s Cove, which Marty cheerfully declares to be, “a helluva mess!” Excavation has been going on for six weeks and the team still have not determined the purpose of several puzzling finds: massive wooden structures, remains of an ancient slipway used to haul ships in and out of the water, and an inexplicable concrete wall.

The most significant find has been the possible remains of one of five reported stone box drains which some think were used to booby trap the Money Pit with seawater.

Meanwhile Craig Tester and Jack Begley travel to the Oak Island Marina on the western shore of Nova Scotia in order to meet up with a survey team from the Centre of Geographic Sciences.

The experts are prepared to investigate Randall Sullivan’s theory that a second set of flood tunnels lay off of the island’s southern shore.

Using LIDAR technology, the team scan the Oak Island shoreline in the hopes of detecting anything that looks manmade. Their state-of-the-art equipment scans the surrounding waters up to 30 feet beneath the sea bed in a systematic grid pattern that encompasses the island’s coastal area.

Jack Begley using LIDAR
Jack Begley during the scan of the shoreline using LIDAR technology. Pic credit: History

Right off the bat the scanner detects rocks. Lots of them. Then something intriguing that could be man-made is found in the same area where Sullivan theorized that tunnels would be discovered. Could it be one of the offshore holes that Dan Blankenship found in 1980?

That year he noticed four ice holes, circular depressions in ice caused by underground caves or man-made tunnels, in this area. Craig says that the find is, “Very interesting,” but notes that the data will need to be further analyzed.

The scanner then picks up an angular object, one that could be an anchor. If it is indeed an anchor, and from prior to 1795 when the Money Pit was discovered, it could help solve the Oak Island mystery. In the end the team conclude that they definitely saw some anomalies, and are eager to see what transpires once the data is processed. If the data yields promising information, the next step is to put a diver in the water.

In the war room the team consult with Dr. Christa Brosseau, an analytical chemist who has evaluated the most recent finds from H8. Last year the team found parchment, book binding, and two fragments of 17th century human bone in the area. Could these samples be as tantalizing?

Brosseau informs the team that sample 15 is not a bone fragment as hoped. It is metal slag, which is iron rich in sulfur, not usually found so deep underground. Sample 13 is also not leather as they team hoped, but rather plant material, possibly tree bark. Brosseau concludes that sample 19 is also likely tree bark, not leather. “I expected a whole lot more leather this year and these were the best pieces,” replies a disappointed Jack.

However, the news takes a positive turn when it’s learned that sample 17 could be rag paper which was commonly used in books prior to the mid-15th century. Does this mean they have found evidence of books or manuscripts buried in the Money Pit centuries ago?

Sample 18 is also paper, dated to pre-1890. To that Rick says, “wow,” and asks what further testing can be done to precisely date the papers.

Brosseau recommends that the team meet with Joe Landry, an expert in manuscript restoration, so they travel to the School of Art and Design in Halifax where Joe examines the scraps under a microscope. Unable to determine anything conclusive, he soaks both paper fragments in water to see if there is any writing visible.

There is no visible writing, but what he can infer is that the darker colored bit is an older type of paper, either woven paper or thin cloth, dating to the mid to late 1700s, a date which neatly dovetails with the Oak Island origin story.

The other piece has a clear red mark, a line running down it. The team conclude that more evaluation needs to be done, convinced that the red mark is ink and that both scraps are hundreds of years old.

Red ink on paper
The paper fragment featuring the red mark and red line running down it. Pic credit: History

Later, Marty and Doug Crowell meet with Joe in order to analyze the samples with more sophisticated equipment. Using a microscope capable of enlarging the samples to 400 times their actual size, a crystalline substance is discovered, which could be pigment, perhaps a Medieval or Renaissance ink.

According to Landry it’s possible that this is cinnabar, a historic source for brilliant red inks, possibly dating anywhere from the 1300s to 1600. Marty finds Landry’s opinion highly significant. Ironically, he has no idea that these two pieces of paper could end up being the last substantial finds to be taken from the Money Pit area.

Red ink under microscope
The red ink under the microscope. Pic credit: History

Initially, the excavation on borehole H8 at the Money Pit site is going according to plan as the team search the spoils for evidence of gold, treasure, and artifacts. When a chunk of blue pottery is found, Marty declares, “it’s game time.” He thinks possible hidden treasures in the spoils could, “lead us to where we want to go,” with Rick adding, “where we want to go is the original Money Pit.”

Next Jack makes another interesting find, saying, “here we go…this looks like organic material and it doesn’t look like bark. I think it’s leather.” The scrap is bagged for further inspection and then metal-detecting expert Gary Drayton exclaims, “Ohhh, look at that, what is it that?” He’s found, “an oldie, a beautiful square nail,” once commonly used for planking. Could this be a decking nail from a ship?

Gary thinks it’s possible, adding, “It could be a really good find…really good find.”

But as Rick and Craig examine the spoils from H8, the rig responsible for hauling up the underwater soil clanks and shifts, and someone yells, “oh hell no!”

The ground beneath the huge metal oscillator is gone. Quickly the crew scramble to inspect the earth underneath the rig while Rick says, “If they’re worried, we should be worried.”

The team is told that if the earth is severely compromised, it could be a warning that a larger collapse is imminent.

Always optimistic, Rick observes that it is not a huge collapse, but concedes that the equipment has definitely moved away from the deck.

Vanessa Lucido, CEO of ROC Equipment, the company digging the borehole, notes that the ground is like, ‘Swiss cheese,’ with more than 40 shafts, tunnels, and holes having been dug through the years, each eventually flooding, making the soil unstable and compromised. One collapse could end the entire search operation forever.

The team anxiously wait to hear what the work crew discover, and the bad news comes quickly. “We’re not gonna oscillate on the can anymore,” they’re told, after it’s concluded that the borehole is caving in on itself. With voids starting to form underneath the oscillator, a cave-in would be a potentially devastating development.

Then the good news comes: the dig can continue with the 3-ton hammer grab tool, but they must proceed with caution. It could be worse.

The team is assured that the hole is not increasing in depth nor width and Rick is very happy about that, saying that he can deal with this scenario.

Later that night the scenario, and the hole, abruptly shifts. After receiving an urgent call, Rick arrives at H8 where he takes one look and proclaims, “That ain’t good.” The cave-in has started anew, and suddenly a much larger sinkhole, six feet across, is growing at an alarming rate with the underground rumblings clearly audible.

True to form, Rick wants to see for himself what is transpiring beneath his feet, and gets strapped into a harness so he can venture to the edge of the hole. When the earth begins to crumble from under him, he yells, “that’s enough curiosity, let’s go.” He tells the team that the hole is huge and admits, “I’m worried we may be done.”

The next morning the news is worse, as the sinkhole is now 11 feet across. “This is no good,” says Marty. The deeply concerning development means that the entire area is now too unstable for the 220 ton crane and oscillator.

Sinkhole viewed from above
The huge, gaping sinkhole in the Money Pit area viewed from above. Pic credit: History

Rick says, “I’m worried … we’re gonna be in trouble.” These are disconcerting words coming from Rick who has never once shied away from an Oak Island challenge.

“We’re all about safety,” says Marty, and with a decent chance that the whole Money Pit area could collapse, the team must now wait for an engineer to inspect and evaluate the site.

Is the H8 collapse just another confounding Oak Island occurrence? Could it be a sign of another ingeniously designed booby trap? Or will their search in the Money Pit be over for good?

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

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