Discrimination Mode "Sensitivity" and "Depth" in Single-Frequency VLF Metal Detectors

*Used with permission of Fisher Labs*

Dave Johnson, Chief Designer @ FTP & Fisher

Some metal detectors are “more sensitive” than others, and “how deep” a particular metal detector can detect a specific metal object depends on many variables.

“Air test sensitivity” refers to the maximum repeatable detection distance achievable in air using a standard metal test piece (typically a US nickel coin), with the searchcoil that’s standard with that model, in a location without electrical interference, the machine adjusted to just barely eliminate background chatter. If ground balancing is available on the machine, it must be done using ferrite. …….. A properly done “air test” provides an indication of a machine’s potential to “go deep” on buried coins. Because of interference from magnetic iron minerals in the ground, actual detection depth will usually be much less than what’s achieved in “air test”. (NOTE: for maximum depth on buried objects, search in the all-metals ground balanced mode, which is much less affected by iron minerals.)

“Sensitivity control” A control labeled “sensitivity”. It actually controls either gain or threshold, or a combination of both, depending on the machine. If both, the higher settings vary threshold and the lower settings vary gain.

“[Audio] threshold control” Determines the signal strength level corresponding to the threshold of audibility. A negative threshold setting is used to suppress signals by a fixed amount so that only signals stronger than that amount will be heard. Negative threshold settings are used to silence internal “circuit noise” and electrical interference. Machines which have no threshold control have an internal threshold which allows silent operation, or a control labeled “sensitivity” which actually controls threshold. …..Some models allow positive threshold settings. In most cases the positive range controls the loudness of a minimum detectable signal, a separate internal threshold determining what will or will not be detected.

“Gain control” This makes signals bigger or smaller. High gain settings make signals bigger, and therefore signals which were originally weaker can more easily exceed the audio threshold, and be heard. If the gain setting is too high, electrical interference or internal circuit noise may cause constant audio chatter. ….Lower gain settings reduce the size of signals, so that relatively weak unwanted signals (electrical interference, deep iron fragments, aluminum foil shreds, etc.) can be silenced.

The effects of discrimination “Discrimination” between different metal objects is done using a different set of signals than the ones used for detection. Since the overall purpose of discrimination is to eliminate response to certain classes of metal objects beginning with metallic iron, magnetic iron minerals in the ground will tend to make nonferrous metal signals look more like ferrous, increasing the probability of their being rejected by the discrimination circuit. Some machines provide data on the amount of iron mineralization, so with experience you can estimate the depth of effective detection and discrimination on that site.

Interactions between controls There are many types of discriminators, all of which have some effect on “air test sensitivity”. The most common pattern (nearly universal in older all-analog machines) is that “air test sensitivity” decreases slightly as discrimination is increased. Most of our recent designs do discrimination entirely in software, where control settings are actually data which don’t necessarily do the same things to signals that circuit components used to do. In the case of the T2 and F75, those differences were confusing to some users. In general if a T2 or F75 seems too noisy, the solution is to set the discrimination level to the iron range; and if that doesn’t do the job, also reduce the sensitivity setting. In the F70 and F5 which are more recent designs, the interactions between control settings and signals are even more complex, but we did a better job of hiding the details thereby giving the user an improved sense of predictability.

Electrical interference In many (probably most) machines, elimination of electrical interference is best achieved by setting the discrimination level to the top of the iron rejection range, then reducing the threshold setting (if threshold control is available; it may be labeled “sensitivity”). Even if the machine chatters in air, while actually in motion searching over the ground it will usually quiet down, except for occasional random pops which don’t sound like targets. (Frequency shifters found on some machines are beyond the scope of this essay.)

How much depth should I get? There is no single answer to that question. In a few places, you may get in-ground depth almost as good as in an air test. There are also a few places with so much iron or salt mineralization that most detectors are not even usable. In most soils, the best discriminators will usually detect coins to a depth of 7 inches or more, and will usually provide usable discrimination and target ID to a depth of 5 inches or more. However, a particular target may not be detected or may be misidentified because of the proximity of rocks or other metal targets, disturbed soil caused by digging, peculiarities of the target, or suboptimal user technique for that target in that setting. On sites where the discriminator doesn’t provide enough depth for your purposes, search in the all-metals ground balanced mode if the machine provides one.

Copyright First Texas Products and Fisher Labs File: sensitivity and depth last update 18 Sept 08

What Kind of Detector Should I Buy?

That’s a goooood question! There are lots of people who have been in the hobby for many years who still try different machines on a steady basis. (I’m one of them 🙂 ) There are others who have found a detector they are comfortable with, and have stuck with it, having no desire to change. That’s fine too!

If you’re a person considering getting into this great hobby, I suggest finding someone who already has a metal detector and asking them if you can try it. If they will let you, spend some time throwing coins on the ground, listening to the sounds the detector makes. If the person is REALLY generous maybe they’ll let you borrow it for a few days to make sure this hobby is really one you would like.

Now, you’ve taken the above suggestion and tried out metal detecting, and you think “This is a hobby for me!”… What next?

Well, it’s time for you to buy your own. There are lots of good metal detectors out there. The huge variety is due to different preferences and needs. Generally, there are three “financial” categories of metal detectors.

  • First is the “bargain” or entry level machines. They are the least expensive, and generally offer the least number of options, or somewhat subdued performance. These usually run in the $100 to $300 range.
  • Second is the “mid-level” detector. These are a middle of the road machine, usually offering higher performance or more features than the entry level, but not quite as much as the next category, the high end detector. Here you’re looking at the $350 to $600 dollar range (give or take). For the most part, these detectors have very respectable performance and offer enough to satisfy even the avid hunters.
  • Last, is the “high end” detector. These are the pinnacle of current hobby detectors. They usually offer the best a company has in performance and user options. Now, I know you’re thinking “THAT’S WHAT I WANT!”, please consider that a lot of new users have bought this type right from the beginning and felt frustration when trying to learn so much at one time. Other new users have bought these and been just fine… Here you’re looking at the $700 to $1200 dollar range. That’s a lot of cash!

Ultimately the choice is yours, but my suggestion is either the mid level detector or certain entry level machines for first time hunters. Why? Well, the first thing that causes new detectorists to “fall out” of the hobby is frustration. Frustration of not understanding what the detector is “telling” you, frustration of not finding good stuff every time you dig, frustration from the weight or ergonomics of your detector.

A good entry level machine will let you do what you want….find cool stuff! The definition of “good machine” in this context is one that comes from a reputable company. (Fisher, Bounty Hunter, Garrett, White’s, Minelab, Tesoro, etc.) I, of course, have my “favorite” companies for my own detectors, but I’m not going to suggest them, because I feel that would be unfair to you as a new person to the hobby.

There are many good metal detecting sites where people in this hobby talk about their detectors…here are a few.. this one of course 🙂 www.detectorstuff.com , www.findmall.com, www.thetreasuredepot.com, www.detectorx.com . Most people on these sites are polite and friendly and will be more than willing to offer suggestions and advice to new users. However, be aware, just like some folks like Chevy more than Ford (or vice-versa) there are some who will swear by a certain brand of detector. Take it all with a grain of salt, accumulate all the info. you can, and visit a local detector dealer to check out what they have. DO NOT succumb to strong sales tactics (ie: “Oh, you don’t want that cheap detector! Buy this one *they point at the most expensive one in the store* You’ll like it MUCH better!” 🙂 ) You will also find detector website “sponsors” to be a good moral choice. By “moral” I mean they are the one’s who pay the websites for advertising. As such, the sites are available for reading and information due to their contributions. Without them, little to no info.

Buying used is another option. The sites I listed above will usually have a buy/trade/sell forum where hobbyists swap around detectors. Caution, of course, is advised, and be aware most companies do not allow transferable warranties.

Once you’ve found a good general purpose metal detector, and not paid a fortune for it 🙂 after a while, you may think “Hmmmm, I really like this hobby! I think I’m gonna stick with it!” At this point you’re ready to “consider” buying that “high end” machine you’ve been lusting over 🙂 You should know enough about the hobby by this point to understand what it is you want out of a detector. Who knows? You may find enough with that entry/mid level detector to PAY FOR that top end machine!

Welcome to one of the greatest hobbies in the world!

Metal Detecting Code of Ethics

Like all things in life, ethics should dictate our behavior as metal detector hobbyists.  This is “universally accepted” ethics list observed by most in this hobby.

  • I WILL respect private property and WILL NOT trespass without the land owners permission.
  • I WILL NOT destroy property, buildings or what is left of ghost towns and deserted structures.
  • I WILL NOT litter, always pack out what I take in and remove all trash dug in my search.
  • I WILL leave all gates and other accesses to land as found.
  • I WILL appreciate and protect our heritage of natural resources, wildlife, and private property.
  • I WILL use thoughtfulness, consideration and courtesy at all times.
  • I WILL abide by all laws, ordinances or regulations that may govern my search, or the area I will be in.
  • I WILL fill all holes, regardless how remote the location, and never dig in a way that will damage, be damaging to, or kill any vegetation.
  • I WILL report the discovery of items of significant historical value to a local historian or museum in accordance with the latest legislation.
  • I WILL Be an ambassador for the metal detecting hobby. Be polite and informative to those who inquire about your hobby – you are the ambassador of a pastime we want to protect and we will be judged by how you act & respond.
  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – Miscellaneous Tips

One of the great thrills of beach hunting is that “big one” that always awaits… your chance to strike it rich. I’m very serious when I suggest that you always be on the alert for treasure stories and legends. Don’t ignore those tales of missing treasures…of great losses and “almost” or partial recoveries. Not only will this add excitement to your hobby, but the stories sometimes prove to be true!

Before you spend too much time seeking the mythical “pot o’ gold,” however, you should attempt to verify the sea story you are following. Major concerns before you get yourself seriously involved in tracking legends are, first, to make certain that the treasure ever actually existed; then, to locate the precise spot where it is rumored to have been lost or where it was only partially recovered. Remember that beaches run for miles and that names of various areas can change regularly. Also, the appearance of beaches change. Erosion may take years to alter a beach radically, but storms can transform its appearance in just a few hours.

Investigate stories and legends before ever turning on your metal detector. Check newspapers, police records, historical societies, local coin shops. Uncover sufficient information to convince yourself beyond the shadow of a doubt that the facts are correct. Then, you can pursue the tale, knowing that what you are searching for actually exists. When you locate unusual treasures on the beach, look more closely at nearby land and sea areas; you may have located a sunken treasure ship!

Schedule your beachcombing expeditions according to current (hourly) weather reports. Stay alert to weather forecasts and go prepared to withstand worst.

Plan your treasure hunting expedition. Make a list of all you will need the day before you make the trip and check all gear carefully before you leave.

Always put batteries at the head of your list (see above). And, always check your batteries first if your detector should stop working. Some hobbyists take these longer life batteries for granted and expect them to last forever. Believe me, they won’t. You’d be amazed at how many broken detectors can be “repaired” with new batteries.

Take along a friend, if possible. If you go alone, leave word where you’ll be. Always carry identification that includes one or more telephone numbers or persons to call (with a quarter for the pay phone taped to the list). Your personal doctor’s name should be on this list.

Be wary of driving in loose sand. Carry along a towrope and a shovel. You may need someone to pull you out of trouble, or you may have to dig ramps for your wheels if a tow vehicle isn’t handy.

If there are no regulations to the contrary, you may want to search among crowds. But, don’t annoy anyone. Angering the wrong person can result in immediate trouble, or you may find a complaint filed against you personally and the metal detector fraternity in general. You certainly wouldn’t want to cause a beach to be put off limits for metal detecting.

Whenever possible, return any find to its owner. Try to oblige when someone asks your help in recovering a lost article. It might be feasible for you to loan them your detector and teach them how to use it. Who know? You might add a new member to our brotherhood. When helping look for a lost article, it’s a good idea to keep its owner close by throughout the search so that they will know whether you succeed or not. If you can’t find the article, get their name or address; you might find it another day.

Do not enter posted or “No trespassing” beaches without obtaining permission. Even in states where you are certain that all beaches are open to the public, do not search fenced or posted areas without permission. Never argue with a “loaded shotgun;” leave such property owners to themselves.

Finally, remember that modern metal detector is a wonderful scientific instrument. It searches beneath the sand, where you cannot see. It is always vigilant about the presence of metal. But, no detector can “do it all.” You must develop powers of observation that keep you attentive to what a detector cannot see. Watch for the unusual! Sometimes you’ll visually locate money, marketable seashells or other valuables. The real benefit of developing keen powers of observation, however, is to enable you to enjoy the glories of the beach to their fullest and never to overlook the signposts pinpointing to detectable treasure.

As you scan along the waterline and observe the sands under the water, you may eye a coin shining in the water. Check the spot with your detector. Perhaps you ground only a freshly dropped coin, or it could be the top layer of much greater treasure. And, how about that rock outcropping, the gravel or shells peeking through the sand, that accumulation of debris…any of these might mark the location of a glory hold. Remain alert and be rewarded!

There’s treasure to be found near the water! And, vast amounts are waiting…enough for all. I sincerely hope that you’ll join the rest of us beachcombers in searching for this lost and hidden wealth. When you do, perhaps I’ll see you on the beach!

  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – Trash and Debris

This matter of trash on a beach is one that daily becomes more urgent to all of us beachcombers. I refer especially to plastic trash that is more than just unsightly. Fish and sea birds become entangled in six-pack rings; sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and swallow them; birds peck at plastic pellets and feed them to their young. Similar harm results from countless other plastic items that are carelessly discarded on our nation’s beaches every day. What can a beachcomber do about it?

Most metal detectorists carry out the metal trash they dig because all treasure hunters benefit from its removal. But, what about non-metallic trash? Certainly, none of us carries around a container large enough to hold all the plastic trash and broken glass we find in only a few hours. Let’s join together to help, however and dispose properly of as much trash as we can. We perform a service not only for all beachcombers and sun worshippers but for sea creatures and bird life as well. How about if…can’t we join together and help one another?

  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – Scanning Tips

Do not race across the sand with your search coil waving in front of you. Slow down! Work methodically in a pre-planned pattern. Unless you are in a hurry and seek only shallow, recently lost treasure, reduce scan speed to about one foot per second. Let the search coil just skim the sands and keep it level throughout the length of a sweep. Overlap each sweep by advancing your search coil about one-half its diameter. Always scan in a straight line. This improves your ability to maintain correct and uniform search coil height, helps eliminate the “upswing” at the end of each sweep and improves your ability to overlap in a uniform manner, thus minimizing skips. Practice this method; you’ll soon come to love it-and, especially its results.

It would be well to mention “hot rocks” here. Gravel on the beach may sometimes include pieces with enough mineral content to be classified as a detectable hot rock. A VLF detector occasionally gets a good reading on one of these rocks and sounds off with a “metal” signal. When this happens, set your discriminating mode to zero rejection, switch into that mode and scan back over the gravel. If it is a hot rock, your detector will ignore it, or the sound level will decrease slightly. The subject of hot rocks is covered more fully in my book, Modern Metal Detectors.

Don’t ignore either very loud or very faint detector signals. Always determine the source. If a loud signal seems to come from a can or other large object, remove it and scan the spot again. When you heave a very faint signal, scoop out some sand to get your search coil closer to the target and scan again. If the signal has disappeared, scan the sand you scooped out-you may have detected a very small target. It might be only a BB, but at least you’ll know what caused the signal.

Remember, Your metal detector will never lie to you. When it gives a signal, something is there.

During your search near the water, when you begin detecting trash (pull tabs?) in a line parallel to the waterline, search for a nearby parallel trough. Remember that more than one trough may have been created, and that those farther out can contain heavier treasure items. Walk out from your “trash trough” and seek out one that produces keepers.

When pinpointing, always try to be precise. Good pinpointing saves time and lessens the possibility of damaging your finds when you dig.

Various pinpointing and retrieving ideas and methods have been reviewed. Here are a couple of final suggestions that could increase your take. As part of your beach gear, consider adding a garden rake. When you encounter debris, seaweed and other materials spread over an area you want to scan, use the rake to remove such material. Try to place raked materials where they can be picked up by beach cleaners and not washed back out to sea. Removal of any overburden will let you scan your search coil closer to the ground, moving you down just a little closer to those deep treasures.

Try exploratory trenching to clean out deep troughs and locate glory holes. Choose a spot where you have found a concentration of good objects (not items flung from a blanket) and dig (as long as it’s legal) a trench about a foot deep. This trench should be wide enough for you to insert your search coil in its normal scanning position. Be sure to scan the sand you dig out. The trench length can be as long as you like. If you are digging in a spot where you have found several items close together, determine if you are in a natural drainage pattern. If so, dig toward the low side (the direction water flows) because that is the direction that coins and jewelry will have been washed. If your trench is being dug to locate a trough, dig in a perpendicular direction to the “line” along which you were locating targets. You may have to dig several parallel trenches to locate the trough.

No matter, where or how much you dig…always fill your trenches and remove trash that you uncover.

  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – Understanding Sand Formations

Another reason for working beaches immediately after a storm is that the beach continually reshapes and protects itself. Sands shift normally to straighten t he beachfront and present the least possible shoreline to the sea’s continuous onslaught. During storms, beach levels decrease as sand washes out to form underwater bars which blunt the destructive force of oncoming waves. Following the storm, waves return this sand to the beach.

To understand how articles continually move around in the shallow ocean, consider the action of waves upon sand. At the water’s edge, particles of sand from the sand bank. When a wave comes in, sudden immersion in water causes the grains of sand to “lighten” and become more or less suspended in the water. Such constant churning keeps particles afloat until the next wave comes in. The floating particles are then carried some distance by the force of the water.

In the same manner, coins, jewelry, seashells and debris are continually relocated, generally in the direction of prevailing wind and waves. As they move, waves and wind carry material until a spot is reached where force of the water lessens. Heavy objects fall out and become concentrated in “nature’s traps.” So, whenever you find a concentration of seashells, gravel, flotsam, driftwood and other debris, work these areas with your metal detector.

Similarly, look for tidal pools and long, water-filled depressions on the beach. Any areas holding water should be investigated since these low spots put you closer to the blanket of treasure. As the tide recedes, watch for streams draining back into the ocean. These will locate low areas where you can get your search coil closer to the treasure.

As experience accumulates, you will discover “mislocated” treasure in areas away from people. How did this happen? Perhaps this is where people used to congregate; it might once have been a swimming beach. Then, for some reason, the old beach was abandoned along with its treasure. Another reason is natural erosion that redeposit objects. Even though such action is seldom permanent, always keep in mind the forces that cause it to happen-and watch for them in action. These forces do not occur accidentally, and they can create treasure vaults for you to find and unload.

When searching a large area of beach, you should clearly define your area of search and systematically scan every square foot. There are many grid methods to use, some simple, some elaborate. The simplest perhaps is to guide on your previous tracks as you double back and forth. Using a stick or other object you can draw squares in the sand. Work the first square completely and then draw an adjoining square and work it. These methods work if others don’t destroy your tracks and lines as fast as you make them.

You can drive stakes into the ground or just guide yourself on piers, trash containers, trees and other permanent objects.

When not following the tide out, some hobbyists prefer to walk a path parallel to the water. They then turn around, move about two feet away from the water and walk a return path. Others prefer to start at the high water mark and scan down to the water. They then turn around and walk a return path about two feet tot the side of their first path. This second method has more merit since it permits treasure troughs to be spotted more quickly.

Here’s how. These troughs, or “cut” areas that bring you closer to bedrock and the treasure blanket lying there, sometimes form parallel to the water line. When the tide goes out, the troughs fill with sand; still, they can sometimes be found. While scanning a path between high tide and the water’s edge, each time a find is made, either mark the location or remember it. After you have scanned some distance down the beach and made several finds, look back and study where you have worked. Observe the location of your finds to see if a pattern is developing. Most may have occurred in a narrow belt parallel to the waterline. If so, you’ve probably discovered the location of a buried trough where a storm or other wind and wave action have created a treasure vault. Empty it!

When selecting a beach on which to walk your grid pattern, seek one where you earlier observed a cut forming perpendicular to the waterline. High tides or waves pouring back into the ocean form these cuts, usually at low spot that have resulted from previous storms. Remember, cuts are important to you because they bring you closer to treasure; also, coins and jewelry washing off a beach are pushed into these cuts by streams of draining water.

Now that you will be searching in patterns rather than randomly, you will soon see the value of keeping precise logs of your treasure finds. Even with others working the same beach, it is likely that valuable patterns will emerge on the pages of your notebook that will lead you directly to “hot spots.” You may think that with others and yourself steadily working a particular beach, all its treasure would soon be recovered. Why keep track, you may ask. You’ll learn, however, that active beaches are continually replenished by “new” lost treasure and that all beaches add “old” treasures that tempests have withdrawn from deeply hidden storerooms.

Pay attention the next time you get close to turbulent surf. When a wave breaks near the beach, notice that water appears brown because of suspended sand. Crashing waves transport this sand onto the beach. If the waves are breaking perpendicularly j-at a ninety degree angle to the beach front- most of this sand is washed right back out to sea by the receding water.

Waves rarely break perpendicularly; rather, they bring sand in at an angle that sets up a current. This angle of transport washes sand to either side of its origination point. Some of the displaced sand remains on the beach and some is washed out to a new location. The result of this action is sand movement in the general direction of the waves.

Understanding this phenomenon is important because the same “ocean transport system” via storms and high waves causes a redistribution of treasure from the point where it was lost to its present location awaiting your metal detector. The ability of water to move heavier-than-sand material depends on its speed. Large waves and fast-moving currents can carry sand, coins and jewelry along a continuous path. When wave action slows down, movement subsides. When wave action picks up, movement resumes. Growing shores are ”nourished” by material that has been eroded from a nearby stretch of beach. Heavy treasure takes the path of least resistance, moving along the lowest points of cuts and other eroded areas. As coins and jewelry are swept into new beach areas, they become fill along with the new sand. Being heavier, they gradually sink to lower levels and become covered. When a beach or shore area has become fully “nourished,” the buildup essentially stops, leaving the treasure buried and awaiting the signal of a metal detector.

Since shorelines and beaches are continually being reshaped, you must be observant. One key to success is establishing permanent tide and sand markers. Such markers can be a piling or structure readily visible at any time. Ideally, your water marker will be somewhat submerged during both high and low tides. Checking this marker lets you measure water depth at all times to learn if the water is rising or falling.

Your marker in the sand is important because it is a gauge of sand height. Chances of finding treasure increase as more of this marker is exposed, indicating low sand levels. There are high and low sand formations. At low levels you may find treasure as it becomes uncovered by the action of wind and waves. High formations do you no good except to serve as gauges when storms erode cliffs. Imaginative beachcombers expect such erosion to reveal accumulations of debris and treasure that have been buried for decades. As noted earlier, stay alert for references to old settlements or ghost towns. What has been covered for generations may be uncovered before your eyes.

  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – How to Scan for Treasure

WINDS, TIDES AND WEATHER-Wouldn’t it be great if the ocean suddenly receded several feet, leaving your favorite hunting beach high and dry? You could walk right out and recover lost treasure so much more easily. Well, the ocean does recede slightly every day during low tide. About twice a day a full tide cycle occurs-two high and two low tides. It’s low tide that interests the treasure hunter…when the water level has dropped, leaving more beach area exposed. A drop of only a few inches in tide level can take the ocean several yards farther out, especially on gently sloping swimming beaches. This exposes more beach to be searched and also makes more shallow surf area available.

You can learn when maximum low tides occur by reading tide tables in newspapers or obtaining them from scuba shops or fishing tackle stores. Weathermen on radio and television in coastal cities often report times of high and low tides. On some days, especially after a new or full moon, tides will be lower than usual. Take advantage of these opportunities.

The successful beach hunter begins working at least two hours before low die and continues that long after the ocean begins to rise. That’s four to six hours of improved hunting. Be alert to lowest of ebb tides when you can work beach areas not normally exposed. Timing search periods is important. I try to wok dry beaches during high tides and then follow the tide out, working a parallel path hugging the water’s edge. Each return path is nearly parallel to the preceding one. When the length of the paths is too long, each path will veer outward as the water recedes. Wide search coil sweeps can offset these veering paths.

Listen regularly to weather reports and forecasts to learn of prevailing winds. Strong offshore (outgoing) winds will lower the water level and reduce size and force of breakers. Such offshore winds also spread out sand at the water’s edge, reducing the amount that lies over the blanket of treasure. On the other hand, incoming wind and waves tend to pile sand up, causing it to increase in depth. Pay attention to winds and tides, especially during storms.

Weather is a contributing factor to tide levels, which can be dramatically altered by storms and high winds. A big blow moving in from sea may raise normal tides by several feet. When this occurs, wave action can become so violent that it is impossible and dangerous to hunt-even far up on the beach. But, the stage is set, and you should hit the beach when calm returns.

Conversely, an outgoing storm can cause lower tides and a compression of wave heights. These conditions and the changes they cause is a continuing process that controls sand deposits on the beach and in shallow water.

Storms often transfer treasure from deep-water vaults to shallower locations. Plan a beach search immediately following a squall. If you are hardy enough, try working during the storm itself. It may be revealing, Indian John told me of working a Florida beach during a deluge. Suddenly, at water’s edge, a gully began forming before his eyes. As it grew deeper, he suddenly caught the unmistakable glint of treasure. I don’t know how much he took from that glory hole, but he smiles when he tells the story.

Always remember that extremes in weather, wind and tides can make unproductive beaches suddenly become productive. Storms play havoc with beach sands. Fast-running currents that drain a beach can wash deep gullies in the sand to bring you closer to the blanket of treasure.

  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – Other Hot Spots

Learn from my success at finding the icon. “Reading” a site requires recognition of key features and the forces that my have acted upon them over the years. Beaches protected from winds that cause large waves are more popular than unprotected beaches. For instance, southward-facing beaches on the west of the United States are more protected from prevailing winds and heavy surf than beaches facing west or north. Popular beaches usually feature fine, clean sand with a wide and gradual slope into the water. Remember that changes continually occur as a result of both man and nature. Popular play areas of yesterday may scarcely be recognizable as beaches today. Many such identifiable sections of “lost” beaches can be hunted profitably. Not all are still connected to the mainland; some are separated by lagoons and marshland. Some have been converted into bird and wildlife sanctuaries.

As areas have grown more populated, former swimming beaches have disappeared or been permitted to erode. Land development and new business and industry took precedent over recreation and natural beauty. Breakwaters, harbor extensions, jetties and damming or otherwise diverting streams and rivers have destroyed once-popular play areas. Treasure lost there years ago, however, will remain forever-or, until it is found. Search out these treasure vaults and reap a harvest.

Obvious other places to search for beach treasure are man-made spots. Walk onto a beach and observe people at play. Watch children of all ages as they frolic. Then, when they tire of that activity, watch them scoot away. Coins fall from pockets…rings slip off of fingers…bracelets, necklaces and chains fall into the sand as young people play their games. Other more subtle games are being played on beach chairs and blankets, but wherever people relax, coins and jewelry fall into the sand.

Search around trails, walkways and boardwalks. Never pass up an opportunity to scan the base of seawalls and stone fences. People without chairs often camp by these structures where they can lean back. Always search under picnic tables and beaches. Sure, you’ll find lots of bottle caps and pull tabs, but you will also find coins, toys and other valuable objects. Search around food stands, bathhouses, shower stalls, dressing sheds and water fountains and under piers and stairs. Posts and other such obstacles are good “traps” where treasure can be found.

  • March 2, 2009

Garrett Guide to Beach Hunting – Finding the Best Spots

To find treasure you must begin by being at the right place at the right time with the right equipment. Research sources will indicate the right place. Discussions of weather, tides and beach selection elsewhere in the Guide should put you there at the right time. Now, you must develop the skill needed to “read” a site. If you learn which features are important and which are not, much of your battle is already won. As you research records, histories and old maps be on the alert for clues to landmarks and locations. For instance, the name of a beach led me to a valuable Spanish icon that is very precious to me. Wouldn’t a name like “Massacre Beach” cause your ears to perk up? Let me tell you of this experience where visual and mental study led me almost directly to one of those “X-marks-the spot” locations.

I was with a group of treasure hunters on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Guadeloupe. Submerged at the entrance to a cove were numerous old and very large anchors protruding a few feet out of the water. Quite an unusual sight! We learned that the anchors had been placed there centuries ago to prevent enemy ships from entering the cove which then served as a harbor. This location had obviously experienced some interesting history. I was intrigued, of course, but primarily by treasures that might have been lost during this history. It took little imagination to visualize enemy ships sailing in with cannons blasting and shore batteries returning the fire. Vessels must have been sunk in that harbor.

Only a short distance away was the area known as Massacre Beach. Such a name stirs the imagination. What scenes of brutality had occurred here? How violent must they have been to mark this pretty place forever as a site of ruthless killing? Could any treasure hunter standing on such a beach resist searching beneath it for artifacts and relics that must surely have been lost in the slaughter? Do any of them still lies somewhere beneath its sands? Where?

As I studied the area, my eye was caught by an outcropping of coral protruding a few inches out of the water and ending abruptly where the sea washed upon dry land. It seemed logical to me that anything ever lost here in the sand could still be trapped by that coral that prevented high water from washing it back into the blue waters of the Caribbean.

Also, I thought of that barrier of anchors and the ships it had been designed to deter. If any of them had ever been sunk in the cove, storms could have hurled treasure from their wreckage onto this beach where objects might still lie captured by the coral. I walked to the edge of the water next to the coral outcropping and turned on my Master Hunter detector. After only a few scans, it sang out with that glorious “sound of money.”

At a depth of about one-foot, I dug into a shelf of solid coral that had become smooth from centuries of water and sand abrasion. When I moved my hand over the coral and failed to locate a target, I reasoned that it must be below the coral ledge. I scanned again and heard the detector frantically signally the presence of something large and “valuable.” Again, I dug my finger around in the hole, and sought to probe under the coral. My fingernails caught on something that moved. I grasped the object and lifted it out of the water where I first judged it to be just a piece of coral. Looking more carefully as I wiped away the sand, I saw that it was some sort of man-made object either carved or cast out of metal.

This breathtaking discovery proved to be a Spanish icon made of pewter. The Virgin Mary was holding the Christ Child in her arms; halo rays adorned both heads. As companions surrounded me, another member of the group continued scanning and quickly discovered a Spanish cob date 1692. This date, plus features of the icon, date the religious relic to the years just prior to 1700.

Careful study of the are worked in my favor. The name Massacre Beach stirred up my interest. Knowledge of wind and wave action led me almost to the precise location where my metal detector and digging tool completed the search.

  • March 2, 2009