Treasure hunters have always been fascinated with past civilizations’ riches and artifacts. Still, most archeological research happens behind the scenes, and the public only learns about successful expeditions. History Channel wanted to change that when it premiered “The Curse of Oak Island” in January 2014. The reality TV series follows a team of broad-ranging treasure-hunting experts and enthusiasts who joined the search for potential loot at Oak Island in Nova Scotia, Canada, which started in the late 18th century. Speculations about its contents span from pirate treasure buried in 1701 to mythical items such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail.
However, while the search led by brothers Rick and Marty Lagina and their team has captivated the audience for nearly a decade, the audience was hungry for more. Therefore, History Channel premiered the documentary-style sister TV show, “Beyond Oak Island,” in November 2020 with the same leading cast, joined by Matty “El Guapo” Blake, an actor, narrator, “The Curse of the Oak Island: Drilling Down” host, and an adventurer. That allowed them to expand their treasure-hunting activities, yet their discoveries often influenced their search on the Canadian island. Here’s what they sought and located in the show’s third season, which premiered on 4 October 2022 and promised to touch on sunken shipwrecks, Aztec gold, American history artifacts, and pirate bounty.
- 1 They visited several locations
- 2 Exploring the Atocha shipwreck
- 3 Poverty Island was next
- 4 The search for Aury’s Treasure
- 5 Back to Atocha and Poverty Island
- 6 Hunting North Carolina gold
- 7 Seeking Black Sam’s plunder
- 8 Looking for Cornwallis’ lost cache
- 9 Visiting Oderin Island
- 10 The team returned to Whydah
- 11 Season three ended on a positive note
They visited several locations
Viewers got what the show’s description for season three promised: various places across the USA and Canada that hold treasure yet to be discovered or fully excavated. During their endeavors, the Lagina brothers and Matty visited a few shipwrecks, sought buried chests willed with gold or pirate spoils or war, and Matty headed to a gold dredge abandoned after the first US gold rush. While they found many items that showed they were on the right track, neither was valuable enough to fill the headlines. Regardless, they returned to old sites towards the season’s end with better equipment and more evidence. The three hosts weren’t discouraged when they found a few relatively unimportant items but vowed to continue searching in the yet-unannounced fourth season.
Exploring the Atocha shipwreck
The show’s debut episode, “The Atocha’s Emerald City,” is self-explanatory. The first goal of the Lagina brothers is searching the legendary shipwreck of Our Lady of Atocha, a Spanish treasure ship, one of several that sank in a hurricane near the Florida Keys coral cay archipelago in 1622. Although the vessel officially carried copper, silver, gold, and indigo, it allegedly had millions of emeralds, green-colored precious gems. Emeralds originate from the Colombian Muzo Mine and are often deemed the world’s finest. The narrator explains that the emeralds from the so-called Emerald City are worth between $2,000 and $30,000 per carat, and that the largest they found was 79 carats.
The Lagina brothers mention that the wreck was found in 1985, but the entire hoard is yet to be excavated. For instance, the stern castle of the ship, which carried much more gold and emeralds and potentially 300 more silver bars, remains undiscovered. The vessel remained untouched because the second hurricane, lack of labor, another riches-filled ship nearby, and death of nearly all 265 crew and passengers, prevented salvaging back in the 17th century.
With that knowledge, the Lagina brothers join Matty to visit the family of the late Mel Fisher, his wife Dolores, and five children living in Key West, Florida. Mel located the wreck, and won a legal battle to retain whatever he found, and the family continued his efforts. They could afford to do so because Mel dug up “The Atocha Motherlode,” a cache worth an estimated US$450 million today, before dying in 1998. The family members showed them some emeralds in their collection, and explained that none of the jewelry aboard the ship was accounted for, as it wasn’t taxable when it left the harbor. The cast later found some iron and pottery from the Atocha.
💥 Watch BEYOND OAK ISLAND on the History Channel next Tuesday October 4th to see S3 Episode 1 – "The Atocha's Emerald…
Poverty Island was next
After discussing their game plan and comparing their impressions of the previous season’s quests in the second episode, they were ready for a new hunt in the third. Matty and Marty Lagina set a new goal, to find treasure potentially worth upwards of $400 million, so they headed to Poverty Island, a government-owned uninhabited island in Lake Michigan. They got a tip from Robert C. Kreipke, a corporate historian for Ford Motor Company and treasure hunter, who told them that the French, officially neutral during the war in 1863, may have been smuggling gold to the Confederates in exchange for cotton.
Robert added that one of the ships passed by Poverty Island when the Union boats detected it. Its crew realized that they would be overtaken, so they threw all their gold overboard to prevent it from falling into the Union’s hands. According to some documents, they threw five massive gold-filled chests bound by chains, and a Milwaukee-based treasure hunter, Wilfred Behrens, found them in 1933. Unfortunately, a storm forced Wilfred’s ship, Captain Lawrence, to retreat, allegedly with treasure onboard. While the crew survived, the boat sank to the bottom in pieces. Wilfred wanted to retrieve his treasure-filled boat, but died before he amassed the funds.
Luckily, an 11-year-old son of the Poverty Island lighthouse keeper saw the ordeal, and retold the story later. The Lagina brothers used sonar and noticed spikes on the lake’s bottom, suggesting thata debris field existed. Divers found evidence of shipwreck material, but every move stirred up the muddy bottom, so they ended the search.
The search for Aury’s Treasure
The next episode, entitled “Aury’s Treasure,” signified a return to the team’s roots as they sought treasure hidden by pirates. They headed to the Tampa, Florida beaches, where they believed that in the early 19th century, French pirate Captain Louis-Michel Aury buried 11 caches filled to the brim with valuables. Their search was inspired by a 2021 report that a retiree dug around Honeymoon Island and found some evidence. An underground imaging expert and archeologist joined the investigation.
Captain Aury joined the French Navy when he was only 14, and quickly rose through the ranks to lead his fleet of ships. However, he couldn’t disregard the tyranny of the Spanish towards the indigenous people in Panama, Venezuela and Mexico. After joining the rebellion against the Spaniards, the captain earned a staggering amount of money, about $500,000, worth about $5 billion today. A war on privateers ensued in 1817, forcing him to hide his treasure across many islands.
Historians assume that he hid a significant chunk on Honeymoon Island and Amelia Island, as he had the help of the indigenous people, but he became ill and died young in 1821. Moreover, they found evidence from 1810 that a Captain named “Louis Curry” visited Florida and stayed there; the archeologist quickly realized that the name was intentionally misspelled. The team then used underground imaging to scan the ground, and discovered evidence of items buried exactly 10 feet or 3 meters deep at similar distances. They only found a Native American arrowhead sharpener, however, the search continued after they left, which unearthed first-contact Native American artifacts and one golden earring.
Back to Atocha and Poverty Island
The team returns to the Atocha wreck in the fifth episode, and the Fisher family reminds them that they found 40 tons of gold, including many coins, and keep finding silver coins and emeralds. However, the stern castle part of the ship was still hidden, and the family believed its loot could be worth 20 times more than what they unearthed. Unfortunately, the team only dug up two silver coins from 400 years ago, and no part of the stern castle.
The sixth episode was also an update. At the end of the third episode, divers concluded that there was enough evidence of gold chests near Poverty Island. Consequently, Robert told the team they would acquire new equipment, an Remotely Operated Vehicle – ROV – with a video feed, making their search of Lake Michigan’s bottom much cheaper, faster, and easier. The team returned and boarded the ship at Fayette Historic State Park and Harbor.
After a brief journey, they found definitive evidence of two stacked boat wrecks, which matches the story of Captain Lawrence anchoring near the old wreck before sinking. Furthermore, the treasure hunters spotted evidence of a chain and a square anomaly in the inaccessible part, which could be one of the five chests. However, the team needed salvaging rights before taking anything to the surface.
Tonight at 10et on Beyond Oak Island (History 10/9c) these 3 pirates search for pirates’ plunder! This one gets wild…#BeyondOakIsland #curseofoakisland #pirates #piratelife #history #mystery #tvhost #hostlife pic.twitter.com/XKmigb09k2
— Matty Blake (@TheMattyBlake) March 15, 2022
Hunting North Carolina gold
Matty heads to North Carolina swamps in the seventh episode, the mid-season finale. He says that he wants to help a father and son team, Tim and Ross Fisher, find and unearth the entrance to an old mining shaft. Matty informs people at home that the first gold rush in the US happened in North Carolina, and revealed a little-known fact that even the Lagina brothers didn’t know: all gold transported domestically to the US Treasury between 1804 and 1828 came from North Carolina.
Most importantly, the father and son duo found evidence of gold, suggesting that the miners likely left untold riches in the ground in favor of more promising excavations. Matty brought a metal detector expert, and they found some gold at a 19th-century gold dredge on Fisher’s property in Nash County. They melted it to remove all impurities, and Matty took it home in a small vial.
Seeking Black Sam’s plunder
The show’s eighth episode follows the team’s journey to the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to seek the artifacts and money connected to the Whydah Gally shipwreck. It embarked on its maiden voyage in 1716 but was captured in February 1717 by the English pirate captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, one of the most successful privateers. He used it to seize other ships and apprehend their treasure until 26 April 1717, when it ran into a storm that capsized it.
Barry Clifford, an American underwater archeological explorer, found the wreckage in 1984. Because his team discovered its bell with the name inscribed, it’s the first and only pirate shipwreck identified beyond doubt, and the only fully authenticated shipwreck from the Golden Age of Piracy. Since Barry obtained exclusive rights to recover the artifacts, he and his son Brandon continued on. Brandon told the team that his family found 100,000 artifacts, including gold coins and 61 cannons, and human remains. Brandon and his team of conservationists ran two museums, and were creating a third to display their findings.
They explained that their primary enemy is concretion, a natural process of iron interacting with a maritime environment, encasing artifacts in a lump of minerals. That forces them to use X-rays to look, then a range of chisels and drills to free the valuable artifacts. At the end of the episode, Brandon dove and found a pirate’s spoon and a silver Spanish eight real from 1710, which the experts call ‘the Spanish piece of eight.’
Looking for Cornwallis’ lost cache
In the ninth episode, Matty Blake informs the Lagina brothers that he might have learned of the location of a Revolutionary War treasure. He explained that the British Army General Charles Cornwallis might have buried riches before his defeat during the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. Moreover, Matty says that historians presume that Cornwallis plundered for years while battling colonists. He likely buried spoils of war along the river banks as he went, hoping to return to pick them up once the war ended. Also, the general burned treasure-loaded ships to prevent them from falling into American or French hands, opening up the possibility of undiscovered shipwrecks from the period.
The team then headed to Virginia, where they heard that a man named Wagoman had uncovered a copper chest along the York River in 1909. It allegedly contained $1 million in bullion, and diamonds worth US$500,000, which adjusted for inflation, was worth $65 million in early 2023. They found an iron sword, a pile of handmade bricks, a pewter spoon, and a gold-plated button from the period in the muddy river.
Visiting Oderin Island
Unsurprisingly, in the 10th episode the team returns to nailing down locations of privateer treasure worth millions. They head to Oderin Island, a secretive island in Newfoundland, Canada, where historians believe that a 17th-century Scottish-English pirate, Peter Easton, hid his fortune. His fleet of 10 ships, spearheaded by his flagship, Happy Adventure, attacked Spanish ships in the Mediterranean Sea and the West Indies, then moved over to attack English and foreign vessels from his headquarters, Harbour Grace, near the then colony of Newfoundland.
He retired at Villefranche, a port offering free asylum for pirates in 1613, and invested 100,000 crowns with the Duke of Savoy, who permitted the asylum and gave Peter a pension, converted him to Catholicism, helped him marry a French heiress and become a Marquis. Peter dismissed the crew of eight ships that he didn’t take with him, and quickly stopped all maritime activities with the remaining two. However, he never disclosed what happened to his immense wealth.
One of the team’s divers, Tony Sampson, started searching for one of the ships and found shattered pottery from the period, the top of an olive jar, and unspecified debris. They also discovered a magnetic anomaly that could be buried treasure or the ship’s storage compartment.
The team returned to Whydah
The 11th episode’s introduction reminds viewers that Whydah Gally allegedly carried about five tons of treasure when it sank. Although Barry and Brandon found over 100,000 artifacts, they believed they had yet to hit the motherlode; the team traveled back to Cape Cod and discovered why. The Cliffords explained that at least three layers cover the artifacts on fine white sand. On top is a shifting sandbar, followed by a cobblestone or glacial till, then clay underneath all on top of the artifacts. Moreover, strong winds shake the boat, while the currents and muddy waters make things much more difficult for the divers.
Therefore, the team has to use metal detectors, ensuring not to disturb the surface too much while digging, and record the exact co-ordinates of each artifact for their records. However, despite the potential, the team only found a decorative side piece, a metal adornment for a weapon such as a single-shot handheld pistol, and a Mexican eight real.
Season three ended on a positive note
Although they were disappointed that they hadn’t found millions in any location, Matty and the Lagina brothers returned to their headquarters in the 12th and last episode, “Treasured Adventures.” They gathered around the table in their War Room, and summarized their findings during the third season. Besides planning what they could improve and where they could go, they encouraged people to maintain hope in their searches. The Laginas and Matty said that they would keep diving, digging, or scouring historical records for the finds of their lifetime, reminding viewers that ‘the door never closes on treasure hunts’.