The Curse of Oak Island returned after a festive hiatus last night with one of the most poignant and historic episodes to date.
If all goes to plan, Dan’s Breakthrough, as the episode was titled, will hopefully in future years mark the moment when the team started drilling down into the original Money Pit before finding a vast horde of treasure or priceless artifacts. Hopefully both!
As in the season premiere, the episode was tinged with sadness as the team remembered the tragic loss of Craig Tester’s son Drake, Jack Begley’s brother.
It also opened up new avenues of research to pursue and left the team with, as always, lots more questions. Hopefully soon some of those will be answered.
Here’s ten things we learned from The Curse of Oak Island Season 5 Episode 8, which marks the half-way point of the 16-episode season.
1 They really did bring in the big guns
If you thought last year’s ensemble of equipment was impressive, this year’s takes it to a whole other level.
For the dig down into the H-8 shaft, Irving Equipment assembled more than 400 tons of equipment including a 50,000lb custom-built rotating oscillator which will drive 50in caissons 200ft deep into the earth using, wait for it…3million lbs of torque.
The oscillator was custom built in South Korea before being shipped over specifically for use for drilling this single hole on Oak Island.
We know one thing for sure — custom-built oscillators made overseas then transported a quarter way round the world don’t come cheap. You’d think the team must be pretty sure they’re on to something big to go to such a huge effort and expense.
2 The bones are a big old conundrum
Last week we learned that one of the two human bone fragments found in H-8 spoils came from a person with Middle Eastern ancestry, while the other had European origins.
This week we found out they are both also seriously old, with both pre-dating the original discovery of the Money Pit in 1795.
Using radiocarbon dating (C-14), the Middle Eastern bone fragment was found to be from between 1682 and 1736, and the European one was from 1678 to 1764. Both were found at around 162ft. How did they get there? Nobody had the faintest idea.
But as Marty said: “I don’t care which theory you take. It puts people way deep in the Money Pit, way prior to when it was discovered.
“That has always been one of my absolute requirements to get excited about this — it’s that definitive evidence of human workings deep in the Money Pit prior to 1795. And those bones might be it.”
3 Lot 16 is prime Gary Drayton territory
Gary Drayton had taken a bit of a back seat over the past few episodes, so it was good to see him back finding things left right and center.
As usual, once set to work it didn’t take him long to get some hits, uncovering a bit of grape shot from a cannon, which could either have been shot at the island or at someone off the island.
He also found a coin with irregular sides, which pointed to it being old. Marty thought it might be a Spanish Maravedi like the one they found in the swamp back in Season 1.
Lot 16 was the same place Gary found two coins back on the Season 5 premiere. However, it was a sign of just how far the team have come that the discovery of a potential Maravedi — the biggest discovery of Season 1 — didn’t really even raise an eyebrow this time round.
4 Samuel de Champlain’s map is seriously odd
As anyone who’s into cartography knows, Samuel de Champlain was no amateur when it came to making maps. You don’t get called the Father of New France if you don’t know what you’re doing.
So missing somewhere the size of Mahone Bay — where Oak Island is located — off his map of the area seems very strange indeed. Charles Barkhouse said: “How could he miss it? He would have to be blind.”
Obviously the suggestion is that he must have left it off intentionally. But why? To hide something! Which leads us nicely to…
5 The Rochefoucauld name is more significant than we thought
This bit was slightly complicated, but stick with us. Basically:
a) Samuel de Champlain came over from France with Pierre Dugua de Mons, who was the founder of the first French Colony in Nova Scotia.
b) The Dugua family tree — found by Alex Lagina, Peter Fornetti, Charles Barkhouse and Doug Crowell at Center of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown — showed that François de La Rochefoucauld married into the Dugua family.
c) La Rochefoucauld has a lineage that stretches back to the Lusignan family, who were among the ruling class in the Holy City of Jerusalem during the crusades, and whose blood line also extended to George Washington, Winston Churchill and Prince Charles of England.
d) The name Rochefoucauld appeared on a hand-drawn map shown to the Oak Island team last season by Zena Halpern.
e) Doug Crowell said all these various facts pointed at there being a “pathway” through the family from the Holy Land to Oak Island.
The question is, did Champlain not include Mahone Bay when he created his maps because he was under the direction of Pierre Dugua and the Rochefoucauld family, in an effort to protect something of great value hidden there?
So, how are they going to get to the bottom of this? Well…
6 They’re going to France!
We all know what Rick loves the most — “boots on the ground”! So after the Rochefoucauld link surfaced, he decided there was only one thing for it — hire a researcher based in France, then get some of the team, including himself, to head over themselves.
He hired researcher Nicola Louis to follow up leads for the team in the country, and she managed to organize for them to meet with Sonia Matossian, a descendent of the Rochefoucauld family who lives at the chateau that bears their name.
Rick said: “I truly think that the answer to solving this mystery lies in many places, and perhaps we’ll find some of those answers in Europe.
“There’s a specific reference to a specific family on the 1347 map‚ it’s one of the best clues on the map — we have to follow it up.”
7 They’ve got to be seriously careful
Rick was speaking for a lot of fans when he admitted of using the big guns at the H-8 dig site: “There is significant trepidation on my part — fear, if you will — that we damage something that is irreplaceable.”
Marty added: “We’ve got pottery at 192ft, leather book binding — we’ve got indications of the Chappell Vault, we’ve got bone. He doesn’t want the last quote up there on the wall in the museum to say ‘Rick and Marty Lagina: They solved the mystery and destroyed the treasure.'”
There MUST be a significant risk of damaging whatever is down there. But we know how much this all means to the team, so the treasure is hopefully in safe hands.
8 Starting the drilling was a hugely poignant moment
The moment when Dan Blankenship pressed the button that started the drilling down into H-8 was a massively symbolic and significant moment — for him, in memory of Drake Tester, and for the whole team.
As Robert Clotworthy said in a voiceover at the end of the episode: “For Marty and Rick and the team, the possibility of solving the 222 year old mystery has never been greater than it is right now.”
What will they find? That remains to be seen. But the moment marked a culmination of more than a decade of work by the Lagina brothers and their partners, and a lot longer for Dan and the other Oak Island treasure-hunters that came before him.
The episode showed Marty write “Dan’s Breakthrough” on the huge caisson before the drilling started — a phrase his brother Rick has repeatedly used to describe what Dan has been seeking for more than 50 years.
It was hard not to well up when Jack Begley then added a poignant tribute to his late brother Drake, writing “Forever Family” — the same words Drake wrote on one of the caissons during the team’s drilling efforts last year.
As the drilling began, Rick said in reference to Dan Blankenship: “This is going to be your proof. What you started long ago, you will now see the completion of it, hopefully in this hole.”
As Dan himself said — let’s hope he’s right.
We’ve seen hints dropped repeatedly over the past few weeks about a big Templar link to come this season — from Rick and also Curse of Oak Island producer Joe Lessard. There’s also been so many things uncovered that are consistent with a Templar link this season.
As revealed above, Rick, Alexa Lagina and Peter Fornetti head to France next week to meet with Sonia Matossian at Château de la Rochefoucauld.
The sneak peek at the end of the episode showed Rick asking her: “There are references to your family name. Are there Templar connections?”
She replies: “There obviously is a connection.”
As well as the castle the team visit a prison, which is thought could be one which was used to hold Templar Knights before they were taken to trial. The team see Templar crosses etched in the wall. Rick says: “It’s what we came for, really.”
10 It’s time to make history
Pottery, book fragments, bones, pieces of metal, wood…something is down in H-8, and whatever it is, it’s going to be in some way historic.
The sneak peek for next week showed Marty holding something gold and shiny. It looked like pottery, but it’s heading in the right direction.
Everything that has happened on The Curse of Oak Island since it first began back in 2014 has been leading up to this. Money Pit here we come! (Hopefully).
The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on History.More: The Curse of Oak Island