Piling Canada

ROC Equipment Digs for History

Bringing equipment and know-how to a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia in the hopes of solving a 200-year-old mystery and to be part of the reality television series, The Curse of Oak Island
Written by Paul Adair
October 2019

Bringing equipment and know-how to a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia in the hopes of solving a 200-year-old mystery and to be part of the reality television series, The Curse of Oak Island

By Paul Adair

The mystery surrounding Nova Scotia’s Oak Island has captivated the imagination for more than 200 years. Since 1861, a number of unsuccessful, and sometimes tragic, attempts have been made to solve the puzzle, and the search for truth more often than not has led to more questions.

From a treasure trove of pirate booty to holy artifacts related to the Knights Templar, public speculation continues to run rampant on what exactly lies beneath the surface of Oak Island. Now, a drilling company out of Salt Lake City, Utah, alongside a popular television series hopes to finally uncover the mystery of Oak Island.

Created in 2007 by Louis “Lou” Lucido, ROC Equipment is a foundation equipment company that provides new and used specialty foundation drilling equipment. The company specializes in foundation drilling, anything from small diameter (20 inches) up to 14 feet in diameter. This versatility allows ROC to work with both smaller operations, as well as some of the largest contractors and owners in the world.

A change of leadership

In 2012, Lou sadly passed away as a result of an industrial accident and his then 26-year-old daughter, Vanessa, took over the reins of the company.

“It was a forced and hurried introduction into the business as I became head of ROC,” said Vanessa Lucido, CEO at ROC Equipment. “I was able to rely on my team’s industry knowledge and experience, learning to trust those who worked under my dad. We may be a small team here at ROC, but we are high-performing and consider ourselves to be family.”

In the years since taking the helm, Lucido has greatly expanded the reach and capabilities of her company. Originally ROC stayed close to home and served the Western U.S. The company’s presence is now felt around the globe. ROC serves customers in both North and South America while maintaining physical locations along the U.S. West Coast. Its equipment yards are situated in Phoenix, Ariz., where ROC manufactures and repairs its equipment. ROC also assists with overseas projects in Europe and Australia.

“We have also introduced a rental component to ROC, as well as consulting services where we now will go and teach people how to use the equipment,” said Lucido. “We might not be the ones doing the job, but our people are often in place training those that are.”

Specialty drilling contracting customers have come to expect and appreciate the company’s straightforward manner and well-earned reputation for delivering with a quick turnaround. ROC takes great pride in its ability to solve its client’s specific – and often complex – issues when they call. The company strives to be ready in assisting its clients; whether that means swiftly supplying them with equipment or providing technical assistance when they already have a piece of equipment and are simply looking for help. ROC aims to ensure that its customers are getting the answers they require, quickly and honestly, in order to get their jobs done.

“Our team at ROC is made up of the kind of people that when you tell them to be there at 7 a.m., they will be there at 6 a.m., and be willing to work through the night,” said Lucido. “I have really lucked out with my amazing employees who will do anything to go the extra mile for our customers.”

ROC is active in Canada and serves a number of clients along the East Coast, as well as in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Looking ahead, ROC is planning to move towards offering larger diameter equipment to meet its customers’ drilling needs. As such, the company has designed a 3.8-metre and a 4-metre oscillator and rotator, and anticipates pursuing that market soon. In addition, ROC is also exploring opportunities with Reverse Circulatory Drill (RCD) technology and has been successful in introducing its RCDs to both the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Safety is priority one

Safety is paramount to ROC and the company strives to raise the bar and be an industry leader when it comes to improving health and safety on its jobs. ROC routinely calls for extra guardrails, safety plates and splash guards on its projects to help ensure that all workers go home at night in the same condition as when they arrived at the job site.

“Seeing as though my father was killed because of a preventable industry-related accident, we take health and safety concerns very seriously here at ROC,” said Lucido. “We strive to go to great lengths when it comes to manufacturing, quality control and safety checks here at ROC, and I personally consider it to be of the highest importance to make sure that we always work safe.”

ROC also believes strongly in giving back to the communities in which it serves, as well as to its employees. Internally, the company has established a scholarship program for its employees’ children as they explore post-secondary opportunities. ROC is also proud to donate funds that help to support a number of children hospitals; both at the local and national level.

“Sure we could just keep building and innovating, but we are all still humans working alongside other humans,” said Lucido. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if you have the nicest building, the strongest bridge or find the richest treasures – if you don’t take the time to care for one another; it’s not really worth anything.”

The Curse of Oak Island

In 2015, ROC’s broad range of specialized equipment and reputation for excellence attracted the attention of the producers for the Canadian reality television series, The Curse of Oak Island.

Oak Island first premiered in early 2014 on History and, for six seasons, has sought to solve the 223-year mystery of what is under Oak Island. Armed with engineering know-how and the muscle of heavy machinery, the popular show follows brothers Rick and Marty Lagina in their quest to finally crack the code of Oak Island and unearth the treasure that is rumoured to exist below.

“The Oak Island team kept calling our Salt Lake office and, in all honesty, I didn’t believe it at first,” said Lucido. “We had never received a request like this before and the idea of chasing treasure just sounded completely out of my element. So – I am embarrassed to admit – we just kind of ignored their phone calls for a while.”

However, at the encouragement of an industry colleague, Lucido eventually picked up the phone and, as they say, the rest is history – television, that is.

Straight shooters

Being part of the search for treasure on Oak Island was a completely foreign experience for both Lucido and ROC, which had never been asked to use its equipment in a situation such as this. Before taking on the role, the company conducted exhaustive research on what had been previously attempted on Oak Island in order to better assess whether or not the company and its equipment would be up to the task.

The one thing that Lucido felt that ROC could provide the project, and that had so far stymied the search, was the ability to drill a completely straight shaft. All of the earlier drilling attempts had resulted in shafts that were out of plumb, where the drill rod would spur to the side and result in the top of the hole being askew from the bottom by as much as 40 feet.

“We knew that they had a target down at the bottom of the hole and that the Oak Island team needed to make sure that, whichever company was drilling, they could drill a plumb shaft,” said Lucido. “We felt that doing this fell well within our expertise at ROC, so I was very confident that we could accomplish what they were asking, and that made me pretty excited to go up and help. And for me, it was also exciting to hear talk about all the history at Oak Island and all the potential ‘what-ifs’ that we could find.”

During the course of filming, ROC provides the complete drill spread and New Brunswick-based Irving Equipment brings in the crane to perform the dig operations. In all three seasons that ROC has been involved with the search, the company has relied on one of its specialty oscillators. In Season 4, ROC used a smaller oscillator while, for the last two seasons, the company has put down five-foot diameter shafts using one of its larger oscillators.

Overcoming challenges

Many of the challenges presented by working on Oak Island are related to the remoteness of the location. Should any of ROC’s equipment break down, help is not a simple phone call away. For this reason, the company ensures that one of its mechanics is on standby at all times in case something goes wrong.

At the beginning, Lucido did not expect to be part of the process itself and was anticipating simply going in, showing the crew how the equipment worked and getting out. So when the cameras appeared, she did what many would do and hid inside a casing to avoid being seen. Fortunately, after three seasons, the experience has begun to feel less foreign.

“I am definitely not a camera person and I was extremely nervous at the start, which is why I hid in the casing,” laughed Lucido. “But they had questions about all the equipment, so I had to come out to explain and – from that day forward – I have worn a microphone and had a camera following me around. Now the whole process is easier because I know everyone and it’s more like talking with my friends. They have become like another family and I love just hanging out with the whole Oak team while I’m there.”

When ROC began with The Curse of Oak Island, Lucido was taken aback by how much was man-made and placed under the surface; historical objects that drillers never encounter on any other projects.

“We are more than 100 feet down the hole and still pulling up man-made stuff,” said Lucido. “We have literally drilled thousands of shafts all across North America and we have never encountered anything quite like this and it has been a truly amazing experience to be a part of this process. These are the most genuine, good-hearted and smartest group of individuals you will ever meet. If there is any group that is going to finally uncover this mystery… it is going to be this one.” 

Season 7 of The Curse of Oak Island premieres Nov. 5. Check your local listings on History Television. 🍁

Category: Projects

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

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