The landscape of Oak Island is harsh. Connected to the Nova Scotia mainland by a causeway and just an hour away from the capital of Halifax, the 140 acre island has seen its share of inclement weather. But it isn't just the storms that rattle off the Atlantic that have shaped this environment.
Oak Island is marked by an unceasing search for buried treasure. Mine shafts dot the island. Makeshift roads, following centuries of new leads, criss-cross the damp sands and pine forests. For 200 years, explorers, dreamers, and adventurers from around the world have visited the island in search of the treasures said to be buried somewhere on this speck of land. Now, two brothers from Northern Michigan are inching closer to solving this mystery.
Rick and Marty Lagina's search — chronicled on HISTORY's The Curse of Oak Island — is the most fruitful to date. The series premieres its new season November 10 at 9/8c on HISTORY. Bringing in state-of-the-art equipment, experts from around the world, and traveling the world to chase clues, the brothers are going all-in. They've discovered everything from a 363-year-old Spanish coin to clues suggesting Oak Island actually does hold that huge cache of treasure. But this isn't a passing interest for the Laginas — it's held Rick's fascination since he was a boy.
Rick learned about the island as a student, when he picked up a copy of Reader's Digest. "I was fascinated by it, and it was less about the treasure than about the wonderful story," he says. He's quick to clarify that Oak Island has never been an obsession for him, exactly; he describes it as an intrigue, almost like a riddle, with the answer to be discovered. The biggest riddle? The actual treasure, what Rick and Marty are looking for — which is completely unknown. It could be anything.
"The key thing about Oak Island is, there's 220 years of search, but no one, including us, knows what we're looking for," Rick says. "It's incredibly complex, more puzzling than any other treasure hunt."
But he's confident they'll find something; he's the eternal optimist. When he was a kid, he convinced Marty and the neighborhood kids to search for treasure around their Kingsford, Michigan home. They found a rock banded with quartz, which they decided was a harbinger of a successful treasure hunt. It turned out, unfortunately, that it wasn't, but Rick and Marty had the bug.
Where Rick brings the unyielding passion, Marty brings a sense of analytical sensibility. He's got a career in oil and gas under his belt, which he describes as its own sort of treasure hunt. The skeptic of the duo, Marty keeps the hunt grounded in reality. The two have moments of disagreement, but each sees the other's qualities as integral to solving the mystery. "Rick is a relentlessly positive influence," says Marty. "We both get down sometimes, but it doesn't take him very long to bounce back up."
When the brothers went to the island, their approach was simple: bring the best tools and the best people to operate them. "We thought that technology alone would give us an upper hand," Marty says. Their initial strategy was to throw all the gadgets they could at their hunt. But it wasn't enough. The many years of search by countless other treasure hunters means the island is dotted with the tracks of teams all looking for the same thing. Surface clues have been moved or lost. Poorly marked tunnels zigzag beneath the surface of the island — some old, some really old.
Coupled with all the shafts and searcher tunnels to navigate, the brothers are dealing with a landscape that's naturally vexing. "The way the clay lenses are so massive makes searching a major chore," Marty says. It's almost as though the bedrock of the island was chosen for its ability to conceal secrets — even from technology that was unthinkable when the treasure was allegedly buried.
Rick and Marty came to Oak Island looking to solve a mystery. They've stepped closer and closer, including finding what could be a chest and newly discovered tunnels 235 feet below the surface. Throughout the search they've grown closer with the surrounding community. By now, they're not just looking for treasure; they're looking to close the book on a mystery that's hung around for centuries. "From the youngest to the oldest, everyone we meet on the island is genuinely concerned that we don't give up — that we solve this mystery," Rick says. "It's amazing how that story has captivated people."
With fresh leads, new discoveries await the brothers. Their search is reaching a pinnacle, but with each challenge, they have to recall the victories along the way. One came on a rare hot, clear summer day. "We find this coin — finally something that isn't coconut fiber or some old wood," Marty recalls. "It wasn't worth a lot of money, but it was a real old Spanish coin. We'd been in this damn swamp all day. It stinks, it's hard to walk, and we're lugging metal detectors around. And when we found the coin, I looked over at Rick and said, 'Maybe this is real after all?'"