TREASURE on the Beach! Metal Detecting is FUN

  • Too Windy to Fish? Fish another Way!
  • On a Small Beach central Florida, a retirement community…4 gold rings, 1 silver ring, over 100 coins, toys, fishing lures, and some trash.  All in one day.
  • How? “Cold wet hands loosen rings, as does hot, sweaty hands, then throw a ball or Frisbee, the ring flies off.  Not lost forever if you are looking.”

By Rich Creason

The author provides hands-on instruction for a newcomer to the art and fun science of metal detecting…treasure hunting, on the beach.

Most folks who enjoy metal detecting start by looking for lost coins in backyards, but once given a choice to try beach hunting, it often becomes their favorite spot to search.

This is the case with my wife and me. We have detected for over 40 years, from Montana to the east coast, and from Florida to northern Canada. We have searched yards, fields, school grounds, Civil War camp sites, seeded hunts, and beaches. Sifting through the sand is the best.

Unfortunately, we live in central Indiana, about as far from a saltwater beach as you can get, but we are fairly close to all of the Great Lakes, plus some fresh water lakes and reservoirs with large beach areas. Another unfortunate fact is many State Parks have water with swimming beaches, but they don’t allow metal detecting. I’ve never understood why, because kids can take their buckets and shovels and dig in the sand all they want with no problem. Also, when we are detecting, we take a lot of pull tabs, bottle caps, hooks, scrap metal, and other trash off the beach which are dangerous for those enjoying the sand without shoes.

Another very productive area is a campground with a swimming beach. These are often busy and sometimes no one has ever detecting these areas. As any other private property, we always ask for permission to search. Since we are causing no damage and usually show the owners all the trash we cleaned up for them, permission is seldom a problem. So, regardless of where you live, some type of sand beach is probably close to where you live.

It doesn’t matter whether you detect around fresh or saltwater beaches, close to water is the best place to find lost jewelry. Not the only place, but the best. Cold wet hands will loosen rings, as does hot, sweaty ones. Throw a ball or Frisbee and the ring flies off. In the water, or even in the sand, it will be hard to find without a machine. Teenagers horseplay and a delicate gold chain is broken and both the chain and the pendant, locket, medallion, or whatever is on the chain is lost in the water until someone with a detector finds them. My best water find so far is a gold ring with three large garnets which appraised at $500.

Another way valuables get lost at the beach is by placing a nice watch or other item on a blanket or towel. It gets accidentally knocked off by kids playing or when the towel is picked up to shake sand off and the item is forgotten. And this happens many times a day on a popular beach.

Of course, the east coast of Florida is famous for giving up gold and silver coins and relics from sunken Spanish ships, especially after strong storms. These items are washed in from offshore and brought close where someone with a detector can find them. This brings up the question, how do you get your share of these lost treasures?

Naturally, the first step is getting a metal detector. New ones range from around $200 up to ten times that much. The basic difference is like a Chevrolet and a Mercedes. Both will get you around. One just has more bells and whistles. Most detectors are waterproof from the coil at the bottom, up to the control box. The electronics inside the box tend to freak out when they get wet. Some brands offer water proof machines up to, and including, the earphones. These are more costly, probably starting around $500. But, one good ring (see above) can pay for this machine. Add a sand scoop for retrieving your finds from the beach ($20) and you are ready to find some treasures.

As soon as you find a sandy beach (gain permission to hunt if needed), you need to decide where to start. If it’s a small fresh water pond or lake, it’s fairly obvious where people hang out. On a huge saltwater area, you need to decide where the most activity is located. If possible, check it out on a hot, summer day. Blankets are usually placed above the high tide line. If young people are having a volleyball game, move into that spot as soon as they are finished. While the girls often are in tiny bikinis with no pockets, we have found several nice rings there. They tend to fly off when hitting the ball. Of course, spend some time hunting in the water. I usually search in water up to my knees. It’s easier to stand in the waves and more people use the shallow water.

If you are walking the beach and notice an area which looks like rain has washed a trough out from the high sand line down to the water, hunt that carefully. Anyplace the sand has been disturbed can bring treasures from deep up to near the surface.

If you are lucky enough to live near big water, search the shoreline (or in the water) after a large storm. The high winds will turn the sand over, bringing treasures to the top. You will often see people with detectors out looking almost before the hurricane winds are gone. Remember where the large crowds were active when the days were nice. Hunt there!

Metal detecting in the water can be fun, provide exercise and a can provide a nice, small payoff in treasure too.

Think outside the box. If you can hunt an out-of-the-way spot, which is not frequented a lot, you may be the first one there. I hunted a small beach on a neighborhood lake in central Florida. It was a retirement community and not a lot of folks spent time there. But apparently enough. I found four gold rings, a silver ring, over100 coins, toys, fishing lures, and a lot of trash in one day. My wife hunted the dry part of the sand and found coins, toys, and a large silver belt buckle. We have hunted several small campground swimming holes and had the same kind of results. If we find any valuable jewelry, we try to find the owner, but usually, there are no markings on the item to identify the owner. The only exception to the rule is class rings. Usually, they have the school, year, and a name or initials on them. We Goggle the school, and call the office. We tell them what we found, and ask if they can look in their yearbooks and help us find the owner.

When we leave home on a fishing trip, or any other kind of vacation, we always pack our machines. Many times when planning a trip on large waters, weather changes our mind. Fishing is out when the wind is too high. Rather than having our visit turn into a bust, we find the nearest beach and start hunting. I have never been west of Montana, but I imagine finding treasures on the west coast is the same as on our side of the continent.  

I always consider metal detecting as the best hobby. Like other activities, (fishing, bowling, golfing, etc.), you must purchase your original equipment to start, but any of those other hobbies will cost you more money each time you participate in it.  Then realize that every time you use your detector, you make money. Sometimes only a few clad coins, but occasionally a nice ring or a valuable coin or relic. My only additional cost is batteries once or twice a year. 

See you on the beach!

The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.

        

SEARCHING for the BIGGEST GAME EVER

  • Join Up To Be Part of a DINO-DIG
  • You Might Meet a T-Rex….FACE-to-FACE
  • Learn that We Live Among Much History

By Rich Creason
The rain began. Slowly at first, then turning into a torrential downpour. The water started running over the top edge of the high bluff along the river. As it ran downward, it washed dirt away forming small grooves in the bluff wall which became larger as the erosion continued, eventually forming several large gullies leading to the river below. The water level in the river rose and quickened, carving away the base of the hillside and allowing more earth to be washed away.

The storm eventually ended and the sky cleared. The local rancher rode his horse across his land surveying the damage. As he rode along the bluff, he noticed a large, dark object protruding from the hillside. Closer examination revealed it to be a bone of some type. The rancher took his find to a nearby museum and was informed he had found a dinosaur bone!

He did not know that before his cattle fed on this pasture, a small herd of 30 or 40 duck-bill dinosaurs grazed along his riverbank. The huge creatures were unaware in the not so distant future, they would all be extinct. The Edmontosaurus annectens were around 30 foot long, weighed four metric tons, and walked on either two or four legs depending on their current activity.

65 million years ago they were plentiful, eating grasses and other plants with their huge mouths, containing hundreds of teeth which were constantly being replaced. Now, the fossilized bones, teeth, and other parts of these giants can sometimes be found in the western part of the U.S. and Canada, usually beginning as a chance find such as the rancher riding by. Some of these bones can also be found on display in the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Each year, the Children’s Museum takes a trip to the far northwest corner of South Dakota to the tiny town of Faith, population 500. Near this town, the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton named Sue was found. This is one of the most complete T.rex skeletons ever found. Another T.rex skeleton called Bucky, found near this town, is now on exhibit in the Children’s Museum. Then, another one was found here, but we were going to this area to search for the remains of the duck-bill dinosaur.

Early last year, my wife, Susie, and I heard about the “dino dig” on one of our frequent visits to the Museum. Members (and also non-members) are invited to join staff at the dig site in South Dakota. For a reasonable fee, we signed up for one day of dinosaur fossil hunting. We were taught how to dig the bones properly, do all the paperwork involved with documenting where each piece was found, and how to actually get each item out of the ground carefully and protect it for its long trip back to Indianapolis.

We enjoyed last year so much we signed up for a five day dig this year. We arrived in Faith on July 10th and checked into the Prairie Vista Inn, the same place we stayed last year. The rooms are large, inexpensive, and extremely clean. Owners Roxanne and Terry Ensz greeted us and even remembered us from the year before. Shortly after we checked in, the Museum van loaded with our fellow dinosaur hunters pulled in, they had flown into the Rapid City airport. Most were from the central Indiana area, but there was one lady from Boston and a couple from New Hampshire. We had about eight total. Dallas, William, and Michelle, Museum staff members, and Jayne, a volunteer, would be supervising our digging. Nicole, another Museum staff was on site the week before we arrived, but had to return to Indy. Cindy, a local EMT from the Faith Ambulance Service, also joined us to look after our health, treat bug bites, bandage blisters, and take care of other, hopefully, minor problems.

Everyone present had been on numerous digs in previous years. My wife and I were the “rookies,” having been here only once before. Later in the week, a few more diggers showed up including Shelley, an administrator at the Museum, and Will, her son. Victor, another dinosaur expert, unfortunately had to stay back at the Museum so the visitors there had someone to answer questions.

Monday morning, we loaded our gear and coolers full of ice water, and headed for the dig site. Due to the extreme heat possible and the exertion required to dig all day, staying hydrated was a necessity. About a block out of town, we left paved road. We then traveled a gravel road to the ranch cutoff which was mostly dirt, maneuvered around a washed out bridge, through several barbed wire gates, crossed cattle guards, followed two wheel tracks across pastures, jumped gullies and finally arrived at our destination.

It looked the same as last year. There was a long structure covered with tarp to give us some shade. Underneath was a dirt ledge with flagged off sections so the finds could be accurately mapped. Since all of us had been here before and knew what to do, we each grabbed a good looking spot and started digging. Our tools consisted of clam shuckers, a small, wide, dull blade used to open clams and dig dinosaur bones, Exacto knives for fine digging, paint brushes for dusting off bones, and bottles of very liquid super glue (like water) called Paleobond. This was used to patch the numerous small cracks in the bones. The bones are very brittle and have to be glued often during the digging process.
We dug carefully with our clam shuckers until we heard a “crunch”. This is the sound when the blade hits a bone.

Then we had to clear all the dirt surrounding the find with the Exacto knife. We left a dirt pedestal intact under the bone to support it until the find could be mapped and removed. When we reached this point, the scientific part began.
My first find was a four inch piece of rib. These are common finds and are often short because they break easily.

Before removing any bone from the ground, the fossil is given a number, pictures are taken, the grid number where it was found is recorded, and the date, name of collector, body part (if known) and other pertinent information, is written down. Then a one meter square frame, divided into 10 square centimeter squares, is placed over the find and its location is drawn on graph paper. When this is finished, the bone is carefully lifted from its multi-million year old home, still on its dirt pedestal, and wrapped in several layers of paper towel to cushion and protect it, then wrapped again in aluminum foil, and taped shut. The tape is then labeled with name, numbers, etc. to correspond with the paperwork. The package is then placed in a large plastic container for its journey back to the Children’s Museum.

In our five days of digging, Susie and I found, dug, and documented 22 bones including five rib pieces about four to eight inches long, several pieces of vertebra from the neck to the tail, a couple chevrons (the underside of the tail), three skull elements (pieces), two jugals (cheek bone), a toe bone, and a couple of yet unidentified pieces. My best find of the week was a 28 inch rib. It is very unusual to find a piece of rib this long.

Numerous other bones were found including two femurs (the large leg bone). These were both around three feet long and took many hours to dig out. A large humerus (upper arm bone) and a large jaw bone were also found. The larger bones (including my rib piece) were wrapped in foil and then had a plaster cast applied to them before moving to help prevent breakage. These bones all went back to Indiana to be cleaned, repaired, and put on display or be used for research.

While duckbill bones are the most common finds at this site, other finds also include bones and teeth from other animals. Some of these include Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex, Dromaeosaurs, Oviraptors, Troodons, and Pachycephalosaurs. Bones from other non-dinosaur critters are turtles, crocodiles, champosaurs (a croc-like creature) and gar fish.

The site we dig at is called a secondary deposit. This means the animal died somewhere else, but a river or stream washed their remains into this area. All the bones are “disarticulated”. This means the skeleton is not whole. The bones found side by side are almost never from the same animal. It is estimated around 2,000 different duckbills are buried at this site.

If you think this sounds like something you would be interested in doing next year, contact the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis at 317-334-3322, or visit www.childrensmuseum.org. You can get information on “Dino Digs”, memberships, events, exhibits, or anything else you need to know about the Museum. Visit the Dinosphere to see the dinosaur fossils, displays, and touch actual bones millions of years old. You can also meet many of the staff who supervise our dino digs and try to stump them with questions you’ve always wanted to ask about dinosaurs.

From author Creason: “If you live anywhere near central Indiana, I would highly recommend getting a membership of some type to the Museum. We purchased a Premier Membership. This allows two grandparents (us), one grandchild and two guests to enjoy the attractions as often as we want, plus it includes many other privileges and discounts. Many other types of memberships are also available. With the large variety of exhibits at the Museum, you don’t even have to be a kid to enjoy visiting.”   The author may be reached at eyewrite4u@aol.com.