TV: Coconuts of Oak Island

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Oak Island

Oak Island


Everyone interested in mysteries and hidden treasure has heard of Oak Island. The History Channel is now running a new show, The Curse of Oak Island, about two brothers, Rick and Marty Lagina, who have rights to much of Oak Island and are trying to figure what, if anything is in the Money Pit.
I watched the first episode out of boredom, but found it interesting enough to watch the rest of the episodes back to back, enjoying these aspects: the camaraderie of the two brothers and the whole team in general, the use of the technology to uncover and analyze evidence, the persist effort to uncover evidence, and the discovery of interesting evidence. This is one of the better historical enigma shows. It feels real, without the klutzy staging and hype I feel with America Unearthed and Ancient Aliens.
Frankly, I always thought that Oak Island was a hoax. I even thought the story about planks every ten feet was made up, along with the Money Pit being flooded from the sea.
However, the Money Pit legacy says that two different sets of people found logs every ten feet: The first digger, Daniel McGinnis, gave up after digging thirty feet, and the second bunch, the Old Gold Salvage group, found logs down to ninety feet. If it’s a prank, someone made quite an effort and risked their life by digging down ninety feet to fool others.
Speaking of the logs, is one still around? A simple carbon date would tell us how old they are. Maybe Rick and Marty will find a piece of one and get it dated. Tree ring dating might also work if a cross section still exists. Even its place of origin might be determined.
Marty is not fooling around. He is a petroleum engineer by profession and he brings expertise, technology, and money to the project. I’m sure archeologists would be appalled if Oak Island were a real historical site, but it’s a hoax, so who cares, right?
Start with a submersible PIG. I’m calling it a PIG because in the gas distribution business we call it that. It’s a camera that can be run through a pipe to check the pipe’s condition and see what stuff is in it, kind of like your doctor’s endoscope, but bigger.
Follow with gas lifting sediment from the bottom of the Money Pit. High pressure air is injected down the center of two concentric pipes. It bubbles up through the donut area between the pipes lifting sediment and small objects with it. The only problem is finding a way to efficiently sift through several cubic yards of sediment.
All of this was fun to watch, but I was unconvinced until they went to the beach to look for coconut husk fibers. Fibers had been found there before, and it is theorized that the husks were used to filter the intakes of the tunnels that flooded the Money Pit.
Turns out that there are a lot of uses for coconut husks, and one of them is to prevent erosion. It makes a lot more sense to me that the husks were a modern method to slow down the erosion of the beaches in Smith’s Bay.
Sure enough the team found some material under a couple of feet of sand and it looked like coconut husk fiber. I’m thinking it’s seaweed, or something indigenous, not coconut fibers. So they take the fibers to the local college and a biology professor examines it under an electron microscope. We get to watch. Sure enough it is coconut fibers. So now I’m thinking it needs to be carbon dated.
Guess what? They send it for carbon dating. The age comes back with 95% certain to be from between 1260 AD and 1400 AD.
My jaw drops. I doubt anyone used ancient husk fibers for erosion control. I doubt anyone planted ancient fibers for a hoax. Where would you get ancient coconut fibers anyway? Steal them from a museum? The idea that they are planted is becoming far fetched.
One of the theories about the island is that the Knights Templar buried something there. I’ve always dismissed that as ridiculous, but the mean of the date analysis is 1330 AD, just 23 years after the Knights Templar were rounded up and imprisoned (Friday, October 13, 1307). Unless ancient coconut fibers are ubiquitous in the oceans of the world, it is beginning to look like the Knights Templar were involved.
So I ask myself, were coconuts even known to Europeans at that time? Coconuts had been used in India and the Middle East for several thousand years, so it is possible that the Knights were aware of coconuts and their uses.
Why would the Knights end up at Oak Island instead of somewhere else in America? Certainly some of the Knights Templar were Normans, descendants of the Vikings. The history of Leif Erikson may have been passed down through those families, after all the Crusaders were only a couple of hundred years removed from their Viking ancestors (Ericson discovered Vinland circa-1000, the Battle of Hastings, a Viking descendant wins control of England-1066, the Norse colony in Greenland was still active circa-1340, Templar demise-1307). In fact, I can’t image that the story of Vinland was lost. If the Knights were trying to reach the New World, they would follow Erikson’s footsteps. They wouldn’t know if an alternative route would work.
A section of the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry can be viewed in Bayeux, France.

A section of the Bayeux Tapestry depicting the Battle of Hastings. The tapestry can be viewed in Bayeux, France.


Did the Knights Templar have ships that were sufficiently seaworthy to cross the Atlantic? The compass was established in Europe by 1300. The Knights centered their fleet at La Rochelle, and shipped between the Mediterranean and England. They were familiar with the Atlantic. They would have known about Greenland, although the Little Ice Age was locking Greenland off from Europe.
All this sounds so implausible that I have trouble accepting it, but I can’t come up with another theory to explain the age of the coconut husks.
In any case, the show is fun to watch for all the reasons I listed. Of the historical enigma shows, I would say it is the most satisfying.

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