Unforgettable Experiences - NASA Tom

Reprinted from DankowskiIntelligence 4th edition site link

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It was one of those days where, due to life’s events and demands, I had been deprived of “time”. Detecting time. Nearly a full month since I had last detected. So, the fever was extraordinarily high, the temperature was cool and the time was finally available. Good sites were becoming increasingly sparse, but my attitude that day was: “I’m POSITIVE I will succeed”. The attitude you carry into the field can make all the difference in the world. And indeed, on this particular hunt, “positive attitude” fully validated itself.

The area was a 4 acre field in Oak Hill, Florida where I was informed a country store once stood. The store burned down in the Fall of 1920, was never rebuilt and the property abandoned/uninhabited since then.
I had detected the property twice before, fairly extensively, to no avail. Only a few clad coins were found, speculating from passer-by transient hunters. I was certain of the tip that I received in 1997 from a man of whom was born in 1911 and worked at the store in 1919 & 1920 as a helper. In fact, in 1997, it was my CZ-6a that verified a ton of charred nails in the ground, exactly where the man claimed the structure once stood. I could not successfully detect where the structure once stood because the volume of nails were excessive and anything else would be completely masked.

As I walked a path directly away from the iron nail pit, the amount of detectable
signals in my headphones diminished rapidly - to the point of virtually pure silence
about 60 feet away from where the structure once stood. Only a few very deep mid-tone trash items existed along with a few sparce rusty nail signals; exceptionally quiet soil. I recall being surprised with the silence of nearly no metal objects in the ground, yet I wrote it off in my mind as a target-poor, clear site.
Flash-forward on the time continuum to February, 2004. Armed with a new CZ-3D, a positive and demanding attitude, I went back to this pounded site. Positively knowing
there just had to be something worthwhile at this site that would be indicative of the era, I began hunting.

I started the search about 70 feet away from the nail infested area where the building
once stood. Targets were few and far in-between in this area, and mostly consisting
of sparse low-tone nails. Then I detected a very weak, nearly consistent high-tone (zinc penny) reading. In my headphones, the target sounded very deep and also large; about the size of a crushed beer can. Nearly certain it was a piece of tin or copper roof flashing from the old building, I decided to dig it out of the way anyway.
As I began to dig, I suddenly remembered that I had started to dig this exact same target in 1997, but changed my mind due to the fact the older CZ-6a read the target as a trash mid-tone at a labor-intense depth. The CZ-3D read high-tone, so I dug a 12” x 12” x 12” cube of sod out of the Earth. Sweeping the coil over the removed plug yielded nothing. Dunking the 8” coil into the hole, the detector would then report an expected large target in the bottom of the hole. Digging about another half-foot of dirt out of the hole, then sweeping the coil in the hole once again, the detector now reported many broken signals. Realizing that I had hit the roof flashing with my shovel and broke it apart, I decided to router out the hole a bit more. Dunking the coil once more, down into the Earth, I then heard only one weak, short beep. Most of my error and mess would now be in the excavated dirt pile.

I swept the dirt pile and heard my multiple errors. I decided to remove each piece of roof flashing out of the dirt pile, one at a time. In a visually induced adrenaline depleting experience, the first target was a Indian Head penny. Then a ‘V’ nickel. Then another Indian Head penny. Then ANOTHER ‘V’ nickel. Then a Barber quarter. Then 3 more consecutive Indian Head pennies. Coin spill of era! -The dirt pile was now sans metal. BUT, the hole still had one more weak signal. In my unsuspecting, haphazard digging efforts, I had no idea of the critical information as to the exact depth of which these coins were at, but now I would be much more cautious.

Much success comes from being intuitive to specific soil signatures; a critical part of detecting intelligence. Fortunately, the one remaining target was not in the loose dirt in the bottom of the hole, rather, it was deep in the sidewall of the hole. Sweeping the coil from the surface of the Earth, the target was not detectable due to excessive depth. It was only detectable with the coil deep down in the hole and to the West sidewall. I decided NOT to scrape out the sidewall, rather, I would carefully dig another
plug from the surface of the ground and meticulously ascertain an exact depth of where the target was at. At exactly 16”, I yielded 2 more Indian Head pennies stuck together! These pennies were located about 14” away (outward) from the main spill. Realizing I was in a large field in the middle of nowhere, I knew I could ethically dig a moon crater and no one would care. So, I removed 10” of top soil in a 4 foot radius. This labor intense effort yielded yet another Indian Head penny at 16” deep. Physically exhausted, I covered my hole and returned home. Carefully cleaning the coins, I analyzed each one with heavy scrutiny.

The newest coin was a 1908 ‘V’ nickel. Although somewhat corroded, it was nearly mint-condition new. I surmise the coin spill took place in 1909. All of the other coins seemed to support this datum. The country store was built in the early 1880’s and had seen nearly 40 years of service. Sixteen inches = 1909 strata soil. Hmmmmm. If not for a large target coin spill, I would have never detected these coins individually.
It was not until July, 2004 (5 months later) when I realized that I should try the 10.5” coil in the remote areas surrounding the once-standing structure. I had ‘written-off’ the area as undetectable as the wanted targets were at inaccessible depths. The large coil would give up to 15% more depth in Florida’s mineral-free soil if used properly; however, I was fairly certain this would not be enough of a depth boost to ascertain success. Needing 16” depth capabilities on single pennies and dimes would be asking slightly too much from the large coil. It is a normal occurrence for the 1909 soil strata to be at a 16” depth in Florida; in fact, it is actually categorized as “stable soil conditions” in this tropical State.

I arrived on site in the early morning and after a hard rain. As long as iron targets were not abundant, the wet ground would help detecting
capabilities slightly. For a good starting
point, I began detecting right at the infamous
coin-spill spot. The ground seemed to ‘come alive’ quite a bit more with the larger coil. With the 8” coil, the ground was silent. With the 10.5” coil, the headphones became busy with targets. Because of the era of the site, my intent was to recover all mid-tones and high-tones (everything that was non-ferrous). Most of the mid-tones would turn out to be crushed buttons, suspender clasps and fired shotgun shell casings.

Within the first two minutes of detecting, I received a very deep high-tone signal, less than 5 feet from the coin spill spot. This particular
signal was so weak that if I were to raise the coil about 3/4” above the target, all intelligible data would be lost. Being careful not to damage the target and also to ascertain a exact depth measurement, I found ANOTHER mini coin spill. At 15-1/2”, I recovered a 1917D Walking Liberty Half Dollar which was almost directly on top of a pair of Standing Liberty quarters; a 1919 & 1920. The 1920 quarter was almost completely Uncirculated with nearly full mint luster. To date, this is the best condition quarter I have ever recovered. The 1919 quarter was About Uncirculated. I believe that I can safely say that these 3 coins were lost in the Spring of 1920.

Approximately 7 feet away from this spot, I received an even weaker high-tone signal. This particular signal was within 1% of the detectors maximum depth capabilities, as the coil could not be lifted 1/10” above the ground, or the target would be completely lost. The target sounded like ground chatter, but it was repeatable ground chatter and in one specific pin-point location. At 15-1/2”, I recovered ANOTHER 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollar. And four feet to the West of this spot, I recovered ANOTHER Half Dollar at 15-1/2” depth, again. This time it would be a heavily worn 1908 Barber Half Dollar. That’s 3 Half Dollars and 2 quarters ($2.00 face value) in less than 10 minutes; a record-breaker for me.

It is such a rare occurrence that soil conditions are so clean and clear, so as to allow unconditional maximum depth capabilities on targets at such extreme depths with no target masking - which would prevent the detection of these deep coins. I am quite certain that all of these coins were lost in a moments time, by the same person. And $2.00 in 1920 was more than one days wages for many folks.

I continued to hunt for an additional 6 hours and had no further success. I should have turned the detector off and went home after the 1908 Barber Half Dollar.

Hindsight! In retrospect, I recovered only large coins of substantial mass and coin spills. Smaller coins; dimes, pennies & nickels are less than half the mass of a large Half Dollar. In fact, a dime is exactly 1/5 the mass of a Half Dollar (by no accident). And at 15-1/2” 1920 soil strata, 16” 1909 soil strata, and a suspected 17” 1890 soil strata, all of the smaller coins are still perfectly safe, deep inside the Earth awaiting a future generation, deeper technology metal detector. Current technology is preventing anyone from ever accessing these coins. I sure would like to rent a Bobcat and scrape off the first 13” of topsoil in a 200 foot radius surrounding where the building once stood, and detect the sight all over again. I suspect there are approximately 200 coins (pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters) still remaining in the ground at this particular site; lost during the period from the early 1880’s to the Fall of 1920. The older gentleman of whom gave me the tip; the knowledge of where to hunt, had since passed away sometime after 1997. It would have been a deep honor to share any/all of these finds with him, as this specific place on the Earth was much a sacred part of his memorable life. -- Godspeed.