Medical detectors hit beaches in search of treasure
On Tuesday, when the wind from Monday's storm had died down a bit and the rain had passed, Don and Carol Mayers gathered their equipment and went to the beach. They put on their waterproof boots and winter jackets, picked up their metal detectors and hoped that the storm had washed up some treasure.
"Everyone complains about beach erosion, but idiots like us love it," Don said, with a hearty laugh.
Earlier in the day he had some luck at a beach in Milford. There, he found a silver ring and a mercury coin. The items were far from their original shining glory, but, for Don, it was a score.
The Mayers, residents of Oxford, are members of the Putnam / Westchester Metal Detectorists & Archaeological Society. Don is vice president and Carol serves as the organization's librarian.
Metal detecting may just be a hobby for the couple, but they are quite knowledgeable about various types of metal, the history of coins and technical terms.
Don explained that the silver coins they find are often in poor condition because of chemical reactions that take place over time. Silver reacts with the salt in the water and leeches out over time, leaving behind a corroded piece of metal that is only a semblance of its original shape and design.
Due to this process, many of the pieces of metal found are often quite fragile. In fact, some are so much so that they often disintegrate when the sand around them is disturbed by the shovel. Carol said this is called "ghosting."
Fortunately, a Standing Liberty Quarter she located on Jennings Beach remained intact. Don said this is a great find. Yet, according to the society's Web site, www.greattreasure.com, Carol is no stranger to great finds. Three items she located in September 2009 were named among the society's "Finds of the Month."
"Every once in a while we get lucky," Don said, looking out on the expansive stretch of sand before him at Jennings Beach. It was low tide -- prime time to search for buried treasure, as much more beach is exposed.
A few hundred feet away, Carol glided her metal detector across the sand's surface as walked up and down the beach - waiting for the beep that would signal the presence of something. The beeps were only audible to her. Both Carol and Don wear ear muffs that are connected to the metal detector. "We wear them so as not to bother anyone with the beeping," Don said.
He had a hit, dug up the sand with his small shovel-like tool and sifted through the sand for the metal object. No such luck; the signal was gone, with nothing to be found. He pushed the sand back into the hole and continued his slow pace along the beach.
A steady set of small waves crashed and rolled up toward Don's feet. A few dogs ran nearby, one in pursuit of a tennis ball and another after a group of seagulls, as their owners looked on.
"It's a lovely beach," Don said. "We appreciate the opportunity to come down here."