By STEVE HATHCOCK
Special to the PRESS
To me, Spring Break is the unofficial opening day of a new metal detecting season. Thousands of college kids partying on the beach, losing coins, jewelry and sunglasses. Ahh yes, just beneath the warm sands of South Padre Island, lies a veritable treasure trove awaiting discovery.
For surf hunting, you’ll want to use a detector that will not be confused by salt water and black sand. (Sand with a high mineral content). The detector I use, the Fisher Impulse, has a high impact plastic case to protect the electronics. It can be operated in the surf, on the beach or 350 feet underwater. Tuning is very simple. There are only two knobs on the face of the machine. One is for fine-tuning the discriminator, while the other controls the volume. That’s it, period. There are no flashing lights, bells or whistles. If the coil is passed over anything metallic, whether on the surface or under four feet of sand, the Fisher emits a screaming sound, much like that made by an irritated baby. When hunting the beaches of South Padre Island, this is not a drawback, though. A ten K gold ring will sound off with the same tone as one of the newer zinc clad pennies. Pull-tabs and bottle caps will ring loud and clear but so will a heavy, gold class ring.
Strangely, objects that have been buried in the ground for any period of time will have a tendency to be easier to find than something that has recently become “lost.” This is due to a chemical reaction that takes place between the acidity of the soil and any metallic object. A kind of “halo of energy” forms around the object. Metal detectors are very sensitive to this energy field and can detect something buried three or four feet underground. I dig up a lot of junk but I know I am going to find anything that lies buried beneath the ground that my coil passes over.”
Your choice of digging implements is very important as well. In the surf, I use a long handled mesh scoop made of stainless steel. I fill the scoop with sand and let the action of the tide wash out the sand and little shells. What remains behind is larger shells, rocks and yes, on occasion, a nice gold ring or valuable coin.
It’s important to study the lay of the land. Watch how the offshore current and the wind are affecting the tide. If the surf is heavy, it will be all you can do to maintain your footing in the rushing water. Smaller objects are harder to pin point due to the effect created by the water’s movement. On days like this, it would be wise to hunt along the shore. Experienced detectorists have learned to hunt the areas around volleyball nets or where sunbathers would normally lay in the sun. I like to hunt around logs that have washed up. Lovers, thinkers and joggers take advantage of good resting spots. Moonlight skinny dippers, often times, will hide their valuables where they can easily retrieve them. Loose change, jewelry and car keys will turn up in these spots on a regular basis so check them often.
If the water is calm, study the patterns of the waves. Time the water’s movement so you become in-sync with the tide. As a result, you will work more efficiently. I stay away from the breakers, concentrating on the first three “rifts”. It’s here, along the troughs that run parallel to the shoreline, that heavier coins and gold jewelry will be found. Lighter silver necklaces and smaller denomination coins will be found closer to the surf line. It is not uncommon to find little “pockets” of treasure where the current washes closest to shore.
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