“Caribbean Hurricane Coins”
By Tony Mullen
My father, Frank Mullen, and I are relatively new treasure hunters, but after our recent trip to the Caribbean we came home feeling like old pros. Actually, the truth is we just came home feeling old! We have been detecting for about a year now; but it is difficult for us to get together to hunt since we live 200 miles apart. I live in Claremont, North Carolina, and he lives in Roanoke, Virginia. Over the last year, however, any excuse to get together and detect was a good one.
This particular story started with a phone call at work in late August. Dad called to see if I would be able to clear my schedule in October for a trip to the Cayman Islands. All of the details were soon worked out, and the arrangements were made; but now the most difficult part had begun: a month and a half to wait. That leaves a lot of time for a treasure hunter’s imagination to run wild! You know how it is – visions of pirate’s gold, not to mention modern coins, watches, rings, and other valuables literally littering the beaches, just waiting to be scooped up! Finally, the day had come.
On October 12 I loaded up the family, my wife Teresa and daughter Suzanne, and we met my parents, Frank and Barbara Mullen, at the airport in Charlotte. We all arrived safely on Grand Cayman that afternoon.
As you know, when you fly, the big question is, where will your luggage go while you are on vacation? So, we thought it best to take our detectors as our carry-on bags. That proved to be an interesting experience, as my bag and I got a great deal of attention from security at the airport in Charlotte. After I showed them the manual for this “device,” as they called it, they had no problem allowing it on the airplane.
Shortly after we arrived on the island, another visitor blew into the country. Her name was Irene. . . later to become the infamous Hurricane Irene. The rain squalls began before we actually got out of the airport. We arrived at our condo and settled in for our first topical storm on foreign soil.
We spent most of Tuesday trying to hunt between down pours, but with little luck.
Wednesday was about the same: 40+ mph winds and lots of rain.
Despite all of this, we still managed to find a few coins, but nothing to write home about. By late Wednesday, however, cabin fever was kicking in. Finally. we just decided to hunt in the storm.
So, we hit the beach, stopping occasionally under the Australian pines for shelter.
Although we began finding a fair amount of coins, after about an hour of hurricane hunting we decided to hang it up until tomorrow.
Thursday morning came, and we were up before the sun. As dawn broke we made our way to the beach, and our hearts sank when we saw what had happened. Rough seas had eroded the beach overnight, stripping away 2-4′ of sand. I thought, “It’s all gone now”. We were standing, looking over a 3′ drop- off into the water when we saw what we thought was a coin. I jumped in to get it, and my Fisher CZ-7A went crazy! There were coins everywhere! Dad jumped in with his White’s XLT, and we were scooping up coins left and right! After the initial rush of 20 to 30 coins, we decided to settle down for some serious, methodical searching. So, we spread out regained our composure, and began searching. After about two minutes of hunting, I heard Dad shout, “Bingo!” When I turned around, he was grinning and holding up a lady’s 14K ring with six diamonds and three emeralds… the first ring he had ever found. Not a bad start! The hurricane that we thought was going to ruin the hunting turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us. All day long we continued to dig coins from the 250-yard stretch of beach. Even while we were digging, there were more coins washing up on the beach.
Money was just rolling in out of the ocean! We had never seen anything like it, and in all likelihood we probably never will again. Eventually, my mother decided to venture out, and she too began finding coins.. . without a detector! After a couple of hours we decided to head back to the condo for lunch. I couldn’t wait to tell Teresa about the morning we’d had. She was unable to get out that day because Suzanne, who is only 9 months old, was running a fever. You know how new mothers are about taking their babies out in hurricanes!
However, Teresa was not to be outdone. While doing some laundry, she had found a handful of coins in the washer and dryer at the condo where we were staying! That day alone netted us over 350 coins, three rings, a silver cross, and a pendant.
The next morning we were up with the sun once more, and, as before, the beach had eroded overnight. So, we decided to hunt the same area again. When I got to the beach, I headed south with high hopes. For some unknown reason, though, I turned around and began working my way back north. When Dad got to the beach, he asked me where I had turned around, and he started searching from there toward the south. About 45 seconds later, I hear the familiar, “Bingo!” You guessed it. There he stood, grinning again, holding up another 14K ring, this one with four sapphires and three diamonds. I could kick myself for turning around! As I said, we hunted the same stretch of beach again that day. and it was almost as productive as before. The real challenge was keeping our detectors out of the water. We were hunting in pretty rough surf that was ankle-deep one minute and waist-deep the next. It was amazing to see waves like that in the Caribbean.
As the week progressed, the weather improved. Unfortunately, as the weather improved the erosion stopped the finds decreased. Not only that, but our week was coming to an end. We were scheduled to return to the U.S. on the following Tuesday.
We decided to take an inventory of our finds before we left, and on Monday night we laid it all out and took pictures. At that time we had found 928 coins, five rings, a bracelet, numerous pendants, charms, earrings, 49 hotel keys, and a pair of sun- glasses that I wore home. (Mom wore the rings home!) After we counted the coins, we thought it would really be a shame to be that close to 1,000 and come up short. So, we decided to go for 1,000 We only needed 72 coins to make it. Determined to reach our goal, we set out early and hauled in 77 coins Tuesday morning to bring the total to 1,005 coins. We had never imagined anything like this! The heart-stopper of the trip was when Dad dug a Spanish coin dated 1792. But we found out later from a local coin dealer that the coin had been cast several years earlier for the Caymanian’s nationally celebrated Pirate’s Week.
We are now in the process of cleaning all those coins, many of which are encrusted and still unidentified. So far, we have coins from six different countries, and the oldest is a 1947 Wheat cent. However, with so many coins left to clean, I expect that we may have few more surprises awaiting us in the bunch.
The trip is over now. We have returned home to face reality once again, but we really enjoy showing the pictures and talking about all the treasure we brought home. The fact is, though, that I took the real treasure with me – the time spent and memories made with my family. The stuff we dug up was just a little bonus. Thanks for a great trip, Mom and Dad. Last but not least, thank you, Irene.. .
wherever you are!
TONY MULLEN gave up golfing and started metal detecting about a year ago. He says he prefers detecting over golf because he takes out fewer divots!
-July 2000 western & Eastern Treasures