“The Curse of Oak Island” is must see TV!

Graphic from: http://kittyinaz.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/jolly-roger-4.jpg

Graphic from: http://kittyinaz.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/jolly-roger-4.jpg

A curse. Pirates. A treasure. Booby traps.

It has all the trappings of the next “Indiana Jones” or “National Treasure” movie. The main difference? This is for real.

Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Three boys discover a pit (“the Money Pit”) on and begin to dig. As they get deeper, strange artifacts begin to pop up. Flagstones. Wooden platforms. Small metal artifacts. And then, at around 27 metres (that’s more than 80 feet), they find a stone cipher that when translated says, “Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried.” The boys dig a little more, and then leave for the night. When they return, the shaft is underwater. They conclude a booby trap has been triggered by their digging, which flooded the shaft to protect the treasure from plunderers (oakislandtreasure).

In modern times, Dan Blankenship and his associates dig a shaft parallel to the Money Pit (called 10X), fortifying it with steel. He takes some video in which he insists he can see a body, a treasure chest, and other buried  items. 10X eventually floods as well. Due to disagreements over land ownership, digging on the island ceases until brothers Rick and Marty Lagina buy a controlling stake in the island’s tourism company and are able to resume excavations.

I saw the first episode of History’s “The Curse of Oak Island” yesterday; I haven’t been that excited since seeing “In Search of Noah’s Ark” when I was a kid. The premiere episode explains the history of the Money Pit and 10X and documents the Lagina brothers’ excavation of the pits as they search for the fabled treasure. Viewers get to see the Blankenship video and meet Dan Blankenship (now 80 and just as obsessed as ever) and his son who are active members of the Laginas’ team. The first thing they do is send a camera into the Money Pit, but the footage comes back inconclusive and the files mysteriously disappear from the computer midway through the viewing. Perhaps this is part of the curse, they wonder.

Next, the team drills into the hole while one of the brothers searches the fill. They find bits of blue transfer ceramic, but not much else. Lastly, air is pumped into the shaft in an effort to remove the water. They jerry-rig a sediment holding tank and use a shovel to start mucking about, but turn up only a single metal artifact. Later, the team takes a boat ride to see the island from the water. They hypothesize the presence of five box-drains, used to draw sea water into the shafts and plan to dive at a later date to confirm or debunk their existence.

In “The Curse of Oak Island,” the Laginas and the Blankenships document their real-life adventure as they search for pirate treasure. The curse promises that seven will die before the secret of the Money Pit is revealed, which only serves to bolster the excitement which makes this an hour of tv worth watching. What I like about “The Curse of Oak Island” is that, unlike other salvaging shows, the Laginas do things legally. They let us know the credentials of the team members, as well as the permits needed and the legalities and cost of the dig and that the task they have undertaken is dangerous, with the implicit message not to try this at home.

“The Curse of Oak Island” is not only exciting television, it’s also responsible television. And that’s good archaeology.

Did you see “The Curse of Oak Island”? What did you think?

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