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The Curse of Oak Island recap: The one that got Rick Lagina smiling

Marty and Rick Lagina on The Curse of Oak Island
Marty and a grinning Rick Lagina as they discuss one of their huge finds on this week’s episode


Rick Lagina said early on in this week’s episode of The Curse of Oak Island that the excitement was “ratcheting up a bit”  — but by the end it had gone into overdrive for both him and for fans.

Not only did they make some huge finds in Season 5 Episode 5 — and come on leaps and bounds in their bid to locate the original Money Pit — we also got a glimpse of some seriously exciting moments to come in next week’s episode.

But where is this all heading? To a vault filled with treasure, or something different altogether? Here’s 10 big takeaways from Season 5 Episode 5, Bone Dry, which finally left Rick with a huge grin on his face…

1 Finding the Money Pit is no easy feat

The geotech grid
The presumed location of the Money Pit on the geotech grid, before the team got new information

The team really have had their work cut out trying to get to the bottom of the location of the original Money Pit. With so many works taking place over the decades, the area is literally riddled with holes and shafts.

Add to this, as was explained in this week’s episode, how so many of the records of previous works are inconsistent and often misleading, and you have one big conundrum.

The team had already upped their game with the geotech drilling grid this season, but it appeared they were starting to get a bit disillusioned with the lack of significant finds. Marty also highlighted this episode that there is not an “infinite supply of money”.

With costs this season already soaring into the several millions of dollars, the team seemed to know they needed to up their game once again and do more research to make sure every hole dug moving forward gives them the best chance of success. So that’s just what they did.

2 Marty was starting to get worried about Rick

Marty Lagina
Marty Lagina revealing he is worried about the burden his brother is bearing

Ever since the Lagina brothers first took over the island in 2006, and since filming on The Curse of Oak Island began in 2014, this story has really centered around Rick. He is the one that was inspired by that famous Reader’s Digest article back in January 1965.

He is the one that has been ever the optimist. Rick said on this episode that despite the obstacles facing them in the Money Pit search: “I still believe we’ll be successful, I still believe there’s something there to be found, and that we will engage in a large-scale engineering project to recover whatever it is at great depth in the Money Pit so, I’m…not giving up.”

However, the team’s geotech drilling efforts were basically their last gasp in terms of searching in the Money Pit area. If they drilled all 40 holes and found nothing, there’s not really much more they could have done — and Marty could feel the burden this was placing on Rick.

He said: “I worry about my brother, right now he’s carrying the whole weight of this…he is. And I don’t know how he’s going to react if we dig all these holes and don’t find anything. I mean, he’s passionate about it, but he’s got a certain reverence about it that could lead to, you know, some really hard feelings. Not between us, but on himself.”

3 M.R. Chappell’s old documents are full of great information

Alexa Lagina on the phone to Marty Lagina
Alexa Lagina talks to his dad Marty on the phone from the Beaton Institute

The episode saw Alex Lagina, Charles Barkhouse and Peter Fornetti join local area historian Doug Crowell doing research at the Beaton Institute in the town of Sydney, around 300 miles north-east of Oak Island.

The main focus of their perusing were documents donated to the institute by former Oak Island treasure hunter M.R. Chappell — son of William Chappell.

One of the documents was a sworn statement by Frederick Blair, who was involved in treasure-hunting on Oak Island for over sixty years, including with M.R. Chappell.

In the statement, he talked about T. Perley Putnam, who was the general manager overseeing work done on the island between 1896 and 1900 — and revealed that he was the source of the legendary story about bits of gold being found on a drill bit back in the day.

The statement by Blair said: “Mr. Putnam was too conservative and cautious to state publicly the important fact that when the drill came to the surface, it showed unmistakeable evidence of having gone through or into gold. He did, however, make such statements in confidence to me and to a few close friends.”

A “sworn” statement means it was made under oath, and is certainly intriguing, although it’s obviously impossible to know its veracity. However, there was another document too…

4 They team was looking in the wrong place

Map of the Chappell Shaft
A diagram showing how the bottom of the Chappell Shaft was further north than thought

The really important document uncovered at the Beaton Institute for the team was another one which showed that the famous Chappell Shaft — which was dug to find the so-called Chappell Vault — did not in fact lead directly vertically into the ground.

Rather, the bottom of the shaft ended up 10-12ft north of where the top was — which meant it missed a very important area which may well have included the vault.

Before this document was found, the Oak Island team apparently didn’t realise how far north the shaft went and so had not taken that into account when planning their initial geotech grid. So it’s lucky they found it, because…

5 H-8 looks like it could well be the one

Animation showing the location of H-8
An animation showing the location of H-8 on the geotech grid

After rethinking their geotech grid using their new information the team decided to dig eight new target holes in an approximately 10ft x 20ft triangle area not covered in their previous grid.

They hoped that first of these, a borehole marked H-8, would finally lead them to the elusive Chappell Vault.

As well as the remarkable discoveries they did end up making in H-8, which we talk about below, the good news for fans is there’s also something very significant about it that we already know.

H-8 was the borehole shown in the Digging Down episode with Matty Blake at the start of the season which it was revealed the team believe is above the original Money Pit — and which we saw them about to start drilling down into with a huge 60in caisson.

Charles Barkhouse told Rick Lagina on this week’s episode: “I think I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this hole’s going to be it.”

It looks like he could be right.

6 There could have been some sort of wharf on the island

Marty examining spike
Marty examining the “ship’s spike” which could indicate some sort of wharf

With all the excitement surrounding the Money Pit, even the metal-detecting wizardry of Gary Drayton had to take a back-seat this episode. But the discovery of a rose-headed “ship’s spike” on the so-called Boulderless Beach was definitely a significant find.

The discovery was run past archaeologist Laird Niven who said it was “definitely” from the 18th century, and that it was consistent with their being a wharf on the island at some point. But what for?

Dave Blankenship joked that for a spike that size you’d need a ship the size of the “Titanic”, but that might have been slightly optimistic. Narrator Robert Clotworthy speculated more realistically: “Could it have been a place for a pirate to offload his treasure? Perhaps 18th Century privateer turned Oak Island land-owner Captain James Anderson?”

7 There’s definitely SOMETHING in the Money Pit area

Rick Lagina at the Money Pit area
Rick is informed that the drill bit has hit “something” in a void

The H-8 borehole was set on the exact location of the drill platform of 1897, when works on the Chappell Shaft took place.

Initially, despite Rick’s positive outlook, it looked like H-8 was going to be another dud. After getting down to 140/145ft the drill bit apparently struck something in a void — and hopes were raised briefly — but there was nothing conclusive so Rick had to tell them to just keep on digging.

At 195ft, Rick was looking forlorn as he told Dave Blankenship:  “I really had high hopes for this one. Right on the drill platform, it’s crazy geologically, kind of weird. But if this hits rock and we don’t find anything…” [He then signalled “it’s over” with his hand.]

But just as it was looking like a lost cause, geologist Terry Matheson found something amazing…

8 Pottery at 190ft is a huge find

One of the fragments of pottery found in H-8
One of the fragments of pottery found in the spoils from the H-8 borehole

Looking through the spoils from H-8, Terry Matheson suddenly uncovered a tiny fragment of pottery…and then another one. As narrator Robert Clotworthy would say: “Pottery?! At 190ft?!”

Later in the War Room, archaeologist Laird Niven identified it as hand-painted pearlware likely from the county of Staffordshire in England, and which was imitating Chinese porcelain.

He dated it from the 1780s to the 1800s — so potentially just before the discovery of Money Pit.

But it was found deeper underground than any searchers have ever dug shafts before…so how on earth did it get there?

9 They’ve found TWO pieces of human bone

Letter about human bones
The letter revealing two different bones were found — and that both were human

As if the discovery of pottery at 190ft — that’s more than half the length of a 100m running track — wasn’t extraordinary enough, after looking through the spoils from between 160-165ft, Terry uncovered what was initially thought could be the super-dense wood Lignum vitae.

But Rick Lagina was left totally stunned when later, in the War Room, archaeologist Laird Niven told them he was pretty certain it was bone. Rick told Laird: “Everything I thought you were going to say? Bone wasn’t it.”

Laird wasn’t able to tell whether it was human or animal bone, as it was just a fragment, but then there was the sneak peek for next week’s episode — which contained the ultimate teaser.

A letter from St Mary’s University in Halifax revealed that there were in fact TWO bones found — and that both were found to be human. Suddenly all the ominous-sounding previews from earlier in the season make sense.

Like the pottery, this is an enormous discovery for the team — but what will it mean for their drilling efforts and, more importantly, whose bones are they?

10 Bring on next week!

Technician Dr Xian Yiang
Technician Dr Xian Yiang reacts as he examines the bones on next week’s episode

This season was already delivering the goods before we got to this episode. Fans have been commenting how it seems to have a faster pace, with more happening and less recapping of previous information.

Last week’s episode seemed to have people starting to panic — after the most significant find was a capgun which used to belong to Rick Restall.

But this week took things to a completely new level, with what could well be the most significant finds ever made on the island.

The sneak peek for Season 5 Episode 6 showed more is going to be revealed about H-8 as well as the bones, including the fact that they include hair and soft tissue.

We also saw Rick and Marty Lagina BOTH with big smiles on their faces after they finally reveal they think they’ve found the original Money Pit. Next week can’t come soon enough!


“Imagine that, we don’t have an answer from an artifact in the Money Pit.” — Rick Lagina after hearing that the fragment the team found is bone, but that Laird didn’t know whether it was human or animal.

“Why would they have a tea party down there?” — Dave Blankenship on seeing fragments of pottery coming up from 190ft underground.

“We’re getting lots of wood again…just what we need.” — Dave Blankenship at the start of the episode as the exploratory boreholes continued to reveal more underground wood. Rick responded with a knowing nod, adding: “More wood.”

“You won’t get an argument from me.” — Rick Lagina after brother Marty suggests they start drilling some more holes.

The Curse of Oak Island airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on History.

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