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Metal Detecting Lost Item Recovery & Lessons

Category: Learn

Uncovering History at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary

Just north of San Francisco, the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary overlooks 900 acres of open water that is closed from October 1 to March 31 each year to…

Lyford House

A Winchester bullet shell found on the beach property near the Lyford House.

Just north of San Francisco, the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary overlooks 900 acres of open water that is closed from October 1 to March 31 each year to serve as a sanctuary for migrating waterbirds. This beautiful property is maintained by the Center with trails and gardens that are open year round, summer camps, a youth conservation leadership program, and numerous volunteer opportunities.

As a metal detectorist, I’m interested in the history of the property which includes the Lyford House – a home originally located at Strawberry Point, moved by barge in December 1957 when threatened with demolition. Once owned by Benjamin Lyford (1841-1906) and Hilarita née Reed (1839-1908), it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

After speaking with the Center Director and obtaining permission to metal detect on Lani’s Beach lining the property, I am now cataloging my finds and learning more about the history of the property and its owners.

Beach metal detecting finds including a spoon, shoe buckle, and metal scraps

A group of finds from Lani’s Beach on the Audubon Center Property

Because this is not a tourist beach in the traditional sense, the items found on this property are more likely to be relics of another time or items washed up from Richardson Bay. Some items discovered so far include Winchester bullet shells dating from 1901-1920, what appears to be a shoe buckle, mystery pieces of metal, vintage lead fishing weights, pieces of a small statue, and more. I’m excited to see what turns up after I spend more time on the beach.

Close up view of a Winchester brand

Close up view of a Winchester brand “Repeater 1901” No. 12 shotshell headstamp. Manufactured between 1901 and 1920.

It would be no surprise that in the early 1900s this would be a good spot for hunting. So far I’ve found four of these shells on one small area of the beach along with some other smaller caliber shells as well.

Detail view of what may be a metal shoe buckle

Detail view of what may be a metal shoe buckle

Small bronze loop

Photo after finding a small bronze loop.

I encourage locals to volunteer at the Richardson Bay location, or plan a visit! Let them know that GeekyBeach sent you.

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Metal Detecting Show & Tell – Replay: June 18, 2020

I was very fortunate to have two special guests on my first Show & Tell episode last week! Phil Massie and John Wooten joined me for a live discussion about…

I was very fortunate to have two special guests on my first Show & Tell episode last week! Phil Massie and John Wooten joined me for a live discussion about metal detecting and we took some audience questions.

Watch the replay below where I highlight the best stories and answers from our live webinar. And don’t miss the next time we go live! Stay tuned to GeekyBeach on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter so you can join future episodes.

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The Excitement of Show & Tell

Between March 19 through June 10, 2020 I didn’t do any detecting! Late into the COVID-19 shutdowns, various beaches began opening throughout the state of Florida, but traveling to them…

Between March 19 through June 10, 2020 I didn’t do any detecting! Late into the COVID-19 shutdowns, various beaches began opening throughout the state of Florida, but traveling to them didn’t feel like a wise move. Many of the locations saw too many visitors and decided to shut down again.

This past Wednesday, June 10, Miami-Dade County beaches reopened successfully. It was odd to be back on the beach with my detector early that morning – I felt a strange sense of unease. I went back out in the evening just to see if it would change my feeling. Fortunately, I saw people keeping their distance and staying in their family bubbles.

Even though I had an uneasy feeling, it was fun to once again share photos and videos of my finds on Instagram. During the shutdown, I did a few livestream sessions with my digital microscope to share some interesting finds with others. The virtual events and videos don’t fully replace the excitement of sharing finds with people in person, but it was a nice substitute.

What I realized is that the “show and tell” piece of detecting really brings us together and gets us excited, but a lot of times we don’t interact with each other in “real life.” That inspired me to reach out to some great accounts on Instagram to see who might want to participate in a show and tell session!

I’m happy to say many fellow detectorists are interested and we have the first one planned for Thursday, June 18th at 8 pm Eastern time. I can’t wait! If nothing else, having a discussion with another detectorist will help me feel connected even in this socially distanced time.

My first guest on June 18th will be Phil Massie – his finds in the PacNorWest compared with my Miami beach should be really entertaining! He has a great YouTube channel as well.

Sign up to attend so you can ask questions!

 

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Working from home isn’t always like this!

After many years working in small and large offices, I am at a place now in my career where I can work remote…and I prefer it! My natural working habits…

After many years working in small and large offices, I am at a place now in my career where I can work remote…and I prefer it! My natural working habits include a lot of time alone without the distraction of coworkers stopping by with questions or small talk that can derail my train of thought.

It’s a little bit like being out with a metal detector hunting before the sun sets and having a stranger stop to ask a bunch of questions about what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s okay, but when time is short or you’re in a groove…it really stinks to stop and try to be friendly.

I am more productive, more balanced in my life needs, and overall more creative when I work from home.

But now we’re in strange times – COVID-19 has many people transitioned to working from home for the first time. Obviously many careers aren’t possible to take remote. We need to thank everyone in healthcare, food, transportation and delivery, first responders, utility company technicians…and so many others who are working and taking more risk right now to help us. Not just thank them…we need to fight to make sure those careers are paid well and supported!

But for those of you who are faced with working from home for the first time…it’s not usually like this. At least part of the stress you feel right now is shared – we’re all facing the uncertainty of this particular virus situation. Then there are other stressors caused by our unique environments.

I’m working from home alone, so I don’t have to fight for quiet space when I’m on a conference call. I just have to mute when my cat meows in the background. I also don’t have kids to monitor or a dog to walk. But being alone also means I need more interaction time in my off hours with friends and family via phone, text, etc.

So your set of challenges may be different and may be causing an additional layer of stress. That’s still not typical for remote working. Generally when it’s a choice you’ve made, you would have had a chance to set up a home office with all the equipment necessary to be productive. And your kids would still usually be off to school or daycare…aaaaand you wouldn’t be worried about a global pandemic.

So cut yourself some slack right now if you’re a parent. Your colleagues are probably enjoying your kids and pets interrupting during Zoom calls. Allow yourself the space to be human and remember it doesn’t have to be perfect. What you likely need the most help with is communication, environment, focus, and discipline.

Communication

There are some unique challenges depending on your work. Maybe your internet connection isn’t as fast at home as it was at the office. Certain things are probably taking longer than usual – let your managers and supervisors know! It’s important right now that we all embrace communication and transparency about our struggles.

We also have to work harder right now to prioritize and stay connected. If you don’t have a team chat room, it might be time to start one. There are free services out there like Discord that you could use to create chat spaces for your teams. Or if you aren’t using a project management software yet, it might be time to start. Check out services like Asana.

Environment

A home office is different than your desk in a traditional office space. Take some time soon to set up your space or reconfigure it to suit your daily tasks. Take advantage of whatever view or spot in the sun you can find and make sure you are comfortable, aren’t slouching to see your computer screen, and have access to most of what you usually have on your desk. Don’t choose a spot that you have to clean up or put away each day unless you have no other option. Let this become your spot.

You also have more options when stepping away for a break. Once you figure out how to manage it, it’s a blessing. But right now you may find it overwhelming and distracting.

Focus

dart boardThis is going to be important during this experience because we’re all still trying to get work done. Yes, deadlines might be a little tricky, but as a remote worker it’s important to find times when you can focus and get through your tasks.

When you get up for a drink or to take a mental break, have a plan for what you’re going to do and for how long. Sure…take that time to throw in a load of laundry, wash a dish or two, or walk the dog. But then keep it to just that activity during your work hours. Some find it very hard to resist tackling additional chores and then before you know it, you’re away from the work mindset for an hour or more. If you find that certain break activities are pulling you away too easily, save those for after hours.

Discipline

You’ve likely heard this advice everywhere already. Keep up with good healthy habits and establish some new ones specific to this odd quarantine time. But discipline isn’t just for your work, it’s for your personal life and health too! Keep track of how much time you’re spending in focus mode and don’t let it eat too much into your time with family, pets, and yourself.

Just like with caretakers, you are more helpful to others if you’re taking care of yourself. Find time for stress-relief and aerobic activity. Maybe your normal habits are still something you can do, but if you can’t (like metal detecting for me), then you might need to find an alternate for the spring months. Make a list of activities that you’d like to do and reference it when you’re feeling stressed or bored.

Bizarre Tip: Try wearing house shoes. If you can dedicate a clean pair of comfortable athletic shoes to wearing in the house, you might find that it helps you feel more productive or capable. Give it a try and let me know if it works for you!

Good luck to all of you. Say thank you to people in your life who are in healthcare or healthcare-related fields. Make sure you reach out to your family members. Even the people in your life you think always “have it together” might need a phone call. They may be silently in need of some communication time too.

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Understanding Longshore Drift and Metal Detecting

I spent some time in my local metal detecting shop recently and had the opportunity to listen as a customer purchased a brand new Minelab Equinox 600. He was so…

I spent some time in my local metal detecting shop recently and had the opportunity to listen as a customer purchased a brand new Minelab Equinox 600. He was so excited! It was just the three of us in the shop, so it was a friendly discussion of experience.

He asked questions about beach hunting like, “Do I need a pinpointer?” “What kind of scoop should I buy?” “Is low tide the best time to search?” Everyone has a different answer for those questions, and my advice is always that experience is going to be the best guide!

I shared some stories of beachgoers asking me if I could find their lost item. I will absolutely help someone find their item if they can describe it very well, but there are a lot of factors to consider when you set out to find something specific.

That’s when we started talking about how things move in the sand – including the longshore drift. Though we didn’t refer to it as “longshore drift” while talking in the store, that’s the name of the process we were referring to when discussing how lost items move along the coast over time. For this topic I consulted my smart sister Kim – she’s a geologist who helped me understand this process on a deeper level!

What is longshore drift?

The basic definition of longshore (littoral) drift is the movement of sand and sediment along a shoreline over time, with the longshore current. The longshore current refers to the movement of water along a shoreline which is caused by the energy generated by breaking waves.

Let’s start by watching this short video:

The longshore drift is determined by the prevailing wind – that is the direction the wind generally comes from in that area. Most of the time, waves approach coastlines at an angle and push sand and sediment along the beach at that angle. The backwash pulls the sand straight back, where it becomes subject to the waves again.

Because of this, the sand will travel along the coast in the direction of the longshore current. That’s longshore drift in a nutshell!

How do longshore drift and longshore current relate to metal detecting?

The white arrows show the general drift south along these shorelines in Florida. (Not to be confused with the Gulf Stream!

Understanding longshore drift and current will help you learn how a beach changes over time, inform your choice of areas to hunt, and may help when you are searching for a lost item.

Put it to practice: Detect Smarter

Understanding how a beach and its sand and sediment change and move over time can help you find hot spots – areas where you notice patterns for the types of objects you find.

Related to the longshore drift, you can detect smarter by paying attention to where beachgoers spend their time on the beach and in the water, and remembering that over time, the things they lost may end up farther along the coast.

Put it to practice: Find a Lost Object

I’ll start by saying that this is as much art as science, and it’s a lot of science. It’s understanding basic geology and physics, then combining that with practical knowledge of human behavior! In addition to knowing how the weight, size, and shape of an object combined with the coarseness of the sand will impact how deep an object can go, the longshore drift can determine the position along the coastline.

1) Know your beach. You can use data from agencies like NOAA (see this handy PDF) to determine the prevailing wind direction for your area. Personal experience and observation if done in a methodical way can help too.

2) Understand your target. The basic questions you should know the answer to include: Where was the item lost initially? How long ago was it lost? What are the weight, shape, and metal type of the object? What weather or other factors have occurred in this location during the time since it was lost?

3) Remember you’re dealing with humans! People have inaccurate memories when it comes to their position in the water or on the beach. They may give you a spot on a building they remember seeing, or a general area between two lifeguard towers.

They also may not know their lost object as well as they think. When someone says “gold ring” or “silver bracelet,” they may be incorrect. Is the object simply silver in color? Is it actually stainless steel, pewter, silver plated?

Example

If someone lost a lightweight silver ring with a stone setting in the water at the shoreline two months ago, where should you begin your search for it?

Most people use a grid method to methodically search an area – that’s great once you know where the likely area should be! First, you need to know in what direction the item may have moved over time. Did any strong storms impact the area in the time between losing the item and now? What has been the prevailing wind direction in the past two months?

The better you know the area, the easier it will be for you to know the factors impacting that beach. In this example, you might start by creating a grid in the general area where the person said they lost the ring, and track first in the direction of the longshore current that has been in place for the time since the item was lost.

The prevailing wind direction can vary by season, or by the environment you’re in. Using Miami as an example, the prevailing wind direction in the summer months is from the East/Southeast. However, the longshore drift is generally south over a long period of time!

So most Florida detectorists might say, “lost items on Florida beaches move south.” That can be generally true, given enough time for the object to become subject to longshore drift, but for objects lost more recently, the direction may be north!

I hope this has helped you to understand longshore drift and current. Does your local beach have a clear direction? Many beaches have problems with erosion for this reason and go through renourishment projects.

What is your beach like? Leave me a comment below!

Resources

Beaches
Learn more about Waves, Beaches, and Coastal Erosion reprinted from “Natural Hazards and Disasters” by Donald Hyndman and David Hyndman.

Wind
A great tool for wind data and forecasts from Windfinder.

Renourishment Projects
As an example, read Miami-Dade County’s Beach Erosion Control Master Plan

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Keep it Clean

It’s a new year and maybe you have resolutions, or maybe you have resolved to keep it the same! Either way, we can all do better when it comes to…

It’s a new year and maybe you have resolutions, or maybe you have resolved to keep it the same! Either way, we can all do better when it comes to cleaning up trash. I have found some interesting objects on the beach including a VERY sharp knife and some really long rusty nails.

In those cases, I keep my junk & trash bag handy. Sometimes the trash is surprising. Like this lightbulb! Because of its construction, it is still perfectly useful. So when I’m out, I’m sure to pick up things that are out of place. None of us want to step on these things or let them become a hazard for sea life and beach critters.

If you’ve never been a trash keeper, I challenge you to do your best and keep it clean!

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Top 10 Metal Detecting Tips & Rules

Kellyco recently posted a great article by Jami Olive – 7 of the Best Kept Metal Detecting Secrets. The 7 secret topics are about clubs, gear, batteries, pinpointers, disappointment, competition,…

Kellyco recently posted a great article by Jami Olive – 7 of the Best Kept Metal Detecting Secrets. The 7 secret topics are about clubs, gear, batteries, pinpointers, disappointment, competition, and checking twice. I thought I would consider their secrets, add a few thoughts, and a few more tips!

Let’s talk about metal detecting clubs

This bit of advice is a good one for most, but some personality types may prefer to go it alone. Have you ever thought, “If I meet other people who detect, they might steal some of my spots!” That’s not really an uncommon thought. After all, if you’re facing competition from other detectorists, it brings up a feeling that someone else might find something before you have the chance. But when you improve your skills, you can find something great even in a place crowded with other detectorists!

Or maybe you’ve had the thought, “I don’t want to feel bad about myself if other people are finding better things than me.” That can be difficult too. Sometimes in clubs you’ll encounter members who always seem to find something good! It might inspire you to go out and learn more, or it could turn you away from the hobby. Which way does it make you feel?

My advice is to never be among those who embellish their find stories. You will have much greater confidence, fun, and respect by always being honest with yourself and others. So if you are looking for some buddies, find your local club and join! Even if you don’t attend regularly, you will meet other people who know your area well and may have fantastic advice and stories to share.

Big Time Gear

Kellyco’s article suggests that bigger isn’t always better, and heavier gear might make you tired quicker. Certainly some people try to “gear up” to look more experienced. If you’re guilty of that, what kind of gear have you purchased that was a mistake? Does it prevent you from spending as much time out searching?

I can admit that when I purchased my handled scoop, I underestimated the initial toll it would take on my back! My muscles went crazy after the first time using it because I was out for hours. But now I have stronger muscles that can support using the tool. It comes down to your motivation. Don’t buy expensive, heavy or bulky gear just because you want to “look experienced.” That’s a recipe for failure. Seek the appropriate tools for YOU! If they don’t work out, consider it education and try, try again.

Extra Batteries

This is just great advice for really any piece of gear for any hobby. In my photography, it is absolutely necessary to carry extra batteries. And just like photography, a finds hunt is an active adventure where you can’t stop and plug a charger into a wall. Depending on your detector, that might mean an extra lithium ion battery or store-bought standard batteries. In either case, it’s a good thing to keep in your bag.

Here’s another thing to consider: A Solar Charger! I have one that I can clip onto my backpack and use to charge anything with a USB connector like my phone or an external battery.

Pinpointers

This one depends a lot on where and how you’re digging. When you’re digging up a plug in dirt, a pinpointer is absolutely going to save you some misery and make it easier to cleanly repair the hole. In coarse or dry sand, it may not be as necessary since a good sifting scoop may work in most conditions. Dense sand or clay will be much easier with a pinpointer for sure. The key is, don’t buy a pinpointer just because you think you “have to.” Get one when the conditions are required for you whether that’s now or in the future.

Discouraging Digs

Sometimes you won’t find anything but pop tabs, especially if you’re in a “dig it all!” mood. I’ve had some shorter adventures like that and it can be pretty annoying in the moment. How do you handle days like that? If you’re in the hobby for the right reasons, you will likely eventually think of it as just a great day out of the house, and a pile of aluminum out of the ground. The posts you see on social media or articles you read about gold finds…those don’t happen every time. It may only happen once or twice for you. If you are looking to find more, you’re going to have to put in a LOT of work! As long as you enjoy it and look forward to some time outside, you’ll eventually get that great feeling of finding something special.

Don’t Worry About Competition

With beach locations, the finds change or move around all the time with the surf. Even in fields, the detectorists you see who beat you there don’t find everything! Dig up whatever they missed. Go slower, dig more. Maybe you’ll find a can full of coins. Those masked signals that other people ignore could end up being your big find.

Always Check Again

This one is pretty easy to agree with – you’ve pulled out something from a target hole…don’t fill it in until you’ve checked again! Sometimes it’s a pocket full of coins, or in some cases the way soil or sand is moved around by water can bring several items into one spot. So wave over one more time to be sure.

Top Ten Tips

So now that I’ve gone through all seven of the secrets that Kellyco provided, let’s add a few more and wrap it up into a Top Ten list!

One thing that’s missing is related to what is a standard practice in metal detecting, but may start to fall away over time if we don’t make sure new people in the hobby keep it up. That is…keep it clean! This refers not only to replacing the holes you create, but cleaning up while you work. Keep a junk bag handy and pick up plastic trash, nails and sharp metals, and make it a nicer place for everyone. I know it can be difficult particularly with plastic trash – some places might just be full of trash. If you are in a spot with a lot, perhaps make a separate trip with friends and have a clean up day or report it to local government to create a pick up day. It’s not always on you because otherwise we wouldn’t have time to dig, but you can help play a part in keeping it clean.

Mind your space. Don’t get close to where other people are enjoying their own time. And if you’re not using headphones, you should keep even farther away. Don’t assume that everyone is interested in what you’re doing and that the beeps will make them want to come talk to you. (For most of us, we don’t want people talking to us anyway.) Keep your distance, respect the privacy of others especially on beaches.

You don’t have to restrict your detecting on beaches to dawn and dusk, but if you are out with others, it’s polite to keep a distance. Rule of thumb: You should have a bubble of space around you as big as an average swimming pool at minimum. Anything less than that and you will risk annoying people. We want to keep this hobby from being discouraged, so if in doubt, more space is better.

The Final Top Ten List

  1. Keep at it – don’t get discouraged by off days.
  2. Keep it clean – it should look like you never dug there, and cleaner than you found it.
  3. Mind your space – don’t get too close to other people and keep the noise to yourself.
  4. Don’t blindly follow advice – not all advice (even from experts) will work for you.
  5. Check it twice! – Just like Santa, don’t forget to check again.
  6. Invest in only the most appropriate gear for you.
  7. But definitely get backup batteries and spare parts.
  8. You might find something the other detectorist missed – don’t let competition fool you into leaving.
  9. Find your own way to enjoy – If you want to talk with others, join a club. You might prefer keeping your own private journal or blog. Follow or use the hashtag #FindsClub on Instagram!
  10. Don’t be a show off – always be honest about what you find and you’ll have a lifetime of fun.

Metal Detecting is for Anyone. Some people have a mental image that is outdated and incorrect. Metal detecting may not be something that everyone will enjoy, but men and women of all ages might love it. Don’t be afraid of the stereotype or let it prevent you from enjoying yourself or just giving it a try.

I will be anxious to see what your thoughts are about these tips. Send me a message or leave a comment below. And don’t forget, I offer metal detecting lessons here in South Florida if you want to learn how to detect and see if you like it!

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