Geeky Beach

Geeky Beach

Adventures in metal detecting

Understanding Longshore Drift and Metal Detecting

I spent some time in my local metal detecting shop recently and had the opportunity to listen as a customer purchased a brand new Minelab Equinox 600. He was so…

I spent some time in my local metal detecting shop recently and had the opportunity to listen as a customer purchased a brand new Minelab Equinox 600. He was so excited! It was just the three of us in the shop, so it was a friendly discussion of experience.

He asked questions about beach hunting like, “Do I need a pinpointer?” “What kind of scoop should I buy?” “Is low tide the best time to search?” Everyone has a different answer for those questions, and my advice is always that experience is going to be the best guide!

I shared some stories of beachgoers asking me if I could find their lost item. I will absolutely help someone find their item if they can describe it very well, but there are a lot of factors to consider when you set out to find something specific.

That’s when we started talking about how things move in the sand – including the longshore drift. Though we didn’t refer to it as “longshore drift” while talking in the store, that’s the name of the process we were referring to when discussing how lost items move along the coast over time. For this topic I consulted my smart sister Kim – she’s a geologist who helped me understand this process on a deeper level!

What is longshore drift?

The basic definition of longshore (littoral) drift is the movement of sand and sediment along a shoreline over time, with the longshore current. The longshore current refers to the movement of water along a shoreline which is caused by the energy generated by breaking waves.

Let’s start by watching this short video:

The longshore drift is determined by the prevailing wind – that is the direction the wind generally comes from in that area. Most of the time, waves approach coastlines at an angle and push sand and sediment along the beach at that angle. The backwash pulls the sand straight back, where it becomes subject to the waves again.

Because of this, the sand will travel along the coast in the direction of the longshore current. That’s longshore drift in a nutshell!

How do longshore drift and longshore current relate to metal detecting?

The white arrows show the general drift south along these shorelines in Florida. (Not to be confused with the Gulf Stream!

Understanding longshore drift and current will help you learn how a beach changes over time, inform your choice of areas to hunt, and may help when you are searching for a lost item.

Put it to practice: Detect Smarter

Understanding how a beach and its sand and sediment change and move over time can help you find hot spots – areas where you notice patterns for the types of objects you find.

Related to the longshore drift, you can detect smarter by paying attention to where beachgoers spend their time on the beach and in the water, and remembering that over time, the things they lost may end up farther along the coast.

Put it to practice: Find a Lost Object

I’ll start by saying that this is as much art as science, and it’s a lot of science. It’s understanding basic geology and physics, then combining that with practical knowledge of human behavior! In addition to knowing how the weight, size, and shape of an object combined with the coarseness of the sand will impact how deep an object can go, the longshore drift can determine the position along the coastline.

1) Know your beach. You can use data from agencies like NOAA (see this handy PDF) to determine the prevailing wind direction for your area. Personal experience and observation if done in a methodical way can help too.

2) Understand your target. The basic questions you should know the answer to include: Where was the item lost initially? How long ago was it lost? What are the weight, shape, and metal type of the object? What weather or other factors have occurred in this location during the time since it was lost?

3) Remember you’re dealing with humans! People have inaccurate memories when it comes to their position in the water or on the beach. They may give you a spot on a building they remember seeing, or a general area between two lifeguard towers.

They also may not know their lost object as well as they think. When someone says “gold ring” or “silver bracelet,” they may be incorrect. Is the object simply silver in color? Is it actually stainless steel, pewter, silver plated?

Example

If someone lost a lightweight silver ring with a stone setting in the water at the shoreline two months ago, where should you begin your search for it?

Most people use a grid method to methodically search an area – that’s great once you know where the likely area should be! First, you need to know in what direction the item may have moved over time. Did any strong storms impact the area in the time between losing the item and now? What has been the prevailing wind direction in the past two months?

The better you know the area, the easier it will be for you to know the factors impacting that beach. In this example, you might start by creating a grid in the general area where the person said they lost the ring, and track first in the direction of the longshore current that has been in place for the time since the item was lost.

The prevailing wind direction can vary by season, or by the environment you’re in. Using Miami as an example, the prevailing wind direction in the summer months is from the East/Southeast. However, the longshore drift is generally south over a long period of time!

So most Florida detectorists might say, “lost items on Florida beaches move south.” That can be generally true, given enough time for the object to become subject to longshore drift, but for objects lost more recently, the direction may be north!

I hope this has helped you to understand longshore drift and current. Does your local beach have a clear direction? Many beaches have problems with erosion for this reason and go through renourishment projects.

What is your beach like? Leave me a comment below!

Resources

Beaches
Learn more about Waves, Beaches, and Coastal Erosion reprinted from “Natural Hazards and Disasters” by Donald Hyndman and David Hyndman.

Wind
A great tool for wind data and forecasts from Windfinder.

Renourishment Projects
As an example, read Miami-Dade County’s Beach Erosion Control Master Plan

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Metal Detecting T-Shirt!

When someone comes up to you and asks if you can help them find their lost item…you might be thinking, “I can dig it!” Here’s a new shirt that I’ve…

When someone comes up to you and asks if you can help them find their lost item…you might be thinking, “I can dig it!”

Here’s a new shirt that I’ve just created that lets you wear your passion for metal detecting! It’s produced by Cotton Bureau and they are very comfortable shirts. You’ll be able to wear them to detect or out for fun. There are several beautiful colors and sizes up to 5X!

Get out and dig it!

Click here to purchase.

Click here to purchase.

 

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Metal Detecting in the News

There are some hobbies and interests that others find perplexing. “What a weird waste of time!” they might even say to themselves. I know sometimes I see videos online where…

There are some hobbies and interests that others find perplexing. “What a weird waste of time!” they might even say to themselves. I know sometimes I see videos online where a person spends hours or DAYS on culinary creations like cakes and cookies and I think…”Wow…all that work just to eat it!”

But as we all know, it’s not always about the end result or product. And everyone has a preference for how they spend their time. There are some of us crazy creatures who just enjoy the process. We find comfort, entertainment, joy…just in the activity itself.

We also tend to appreciate the professionals and masters among us. Some people start out as hobbyists and end up at the top of the field – like they were born for it! Others prefer to keep their interests from becoming careers. Whichever way you consider it, metal detecting is one of those interests which draws curiosity, but is still considered an “odd” hobby.

So I’m starting a collection here of all the news stories I can find about metal detecting. Share your thoughts below or send me a story if you find one!

News Stories About Metal Detecting

Indiana

Forty years of metal detecting hunts

Kansas

Museum Receives Interesting Metal Detector Find

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Help! I lost something!

Did you lose something important, priceless, expensive, or sentimental? If you’re in Florida, I can probably help you pretty quickly. Even if you’re somewhere else, reach out and let me…

Did you lose something important, priceless, expensive, or sentimental? If you’re in Florida, I can probably help you pretty quickly. Even if you’re somewhere else, reach out and let me know where you lost it and I’ll see if I can come help you!

Contact me!

There was a great story in the New York Times where a used metal detector came in handy. Read the story.

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Keep it Clean

It’s a new year and maybe you have resolutions, or maybe you have resolved to keep it the same! Either way, we can all do better when it comes to…

It’s a new year and maybe you have resolutions, or maybe you have resolved to keep it the same! Either way, we can all do better when it comes to cleaning up trash. I have found some interesting objects on the beach including a VERY sharp knife and some really long rusty nails.

In those cases, I keep my junk & trash bag handy. Sometimes the trash is surprising. Like this lightbulb! Because of its construction, it is still perfectly useful. So when I’m out, I’m sure to pick up things that are out of place. None of us want to step on these things or let them become a hazard for sea life and beach critters.

If you’ve never been a trash keeper, I challenge you to do your best and keep it clean!

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Top 10 Metal Detecting Tips & Rules

Kellyco recently posted a great article by Jami Olive – 7 of the Best Kept Metal Detecting Secrets. The 7 secret topics are about clubs, gear, batteries, pinpointers, disappointment, competition,…

Kellyco recently posted a great article by Jami Olive – 7 of the Best Kept Metal Detecting Secrets. The 7 secret topics are about clubs, gear, batteries, pinpointers, disappointment, competition, and checking twice. I thought I would consider their secrets, add a few thoughts, and a few more tips!

Let’s talk about metal detecting clubs

This bit of advice is a good one for most, but some personality types may prefer to go it alone. Have you ever thought, “If I meet other people who detect, they might steal some of my spots!” That’s not really an uncommon thought. After all, if you’re facing competition from other detectorists, it brings up a feeling that someone else might find something before you have the chance. But when you improve your skills, you can find something great even in a place crowded with other detectorists!

Or maybe you’ve had the thought, “I don’t want to feel bad about myself if other people are finding better things than me.” That can be difficult too. Sometimes in clubs you’ll encounter members who always seem to find something good! It might inspire you to go out and learn more, or it could turn you away from the hobby. Which way does it make you feel?

My advice is to never be among those who embellish their find stories. You will have much greater confidence, fun, and respect by always being honest with yourself and others. So if you are looking for some buddies, find your local club and join! Even if you don’t attend regularly, you will meet other people who know your area well and may have fantastic advice and stories to share.

Big Time Gear

Kellyco’s article suggests that bigger isn’t always better, and heavier gear might make you tired quicker. Certainly some people try to “gear up” to look more experienced. If you’re guilty of that, what kind of gear have you purchased that was a mistake? Does it prevent you from spending as much time out searching?

I can admit that when I purchased my handled scoop, I underestimated the initial toll it would take on my back! My muscles went crazy after the first time using it because I was out for hours. But now I have stronger muscles that can support using the tool. It comes down to your motivation. Don’t buy expensive, heavy or bulky gear just because you want to “look experienced.” That’s a recipe for failure. Seek the appropriate tools for YOU! If they don’t work out, consider it education and try, try again.

Extra Batteries

This is just great advice for really any piece of gear for any hobby. In my photography, it is absolutely necessary to carry extra batteries. And just like photography, a finds hunt is an active adventure where you can’t stop and plug a charger into a wall. Depending on your detector, that might mean an extra lithium ion battery or store-bought standard batteries. In either case, it’s a good thing to keep in your bag.

Here’s another thing to consider: A Solar Charger! I have one that I can clip onto my backpack and use to charge anything with a USB connector like my phone or an external battery.

Pinpointers

This one depends a lot on where and how you’re digging. When you’re digging up a plug in dirt, a pinpointer is absolutely going to save you some misery and make it easier to cleanly repair the hole. In coarse or dry sand, it may not be as necessary since a good sifting scoop may work in most conditions. Dense sand or clay will be much easier with a pinpointer for sure. The key is, don’t buy a pinpointer just because you think you “have to.” Get one when the conditions are required for you whether that’s now or in the future.

Discouraging Digs

Sometimes you won’t find anything but pop tabs, especially if you’re in a “dig it all!” mood. I’ve had some shorter adventures like that and it can be pretty annoying in the moment. How do you handle days like that? If you’re in the hobby for the right reasons, you will likely eventually think of it as just a great day out of the house, and a pile of aluminum out of the ground. The posts you see on social media or articles you read about gold finds…those don’t happen every time. It may only happen once or twice for you. If you are looking to find more, you’re going to have to put in a LOT of work! As long as you enjoy it and look forward to some time outside, you’ll eventually get that great feeling of finding something special.

Don’t Worry About Competition

With beach locations, the finds change or move around all the time with the surf. Even in fields, the detectorists you see who beat you there don’t find everything! Dig up whatever they missed. Go slower, dig more. Maybe you’ll find a can full of coins. Those masked signals that other people ignore could end up being your big find.

Always Check Again

This one is pretty easy to agree with – you’ve pulled out something from a target hole…don’t fill it in until you’ve checked again! Sometimes it’s a pocket full of coins, or in some cases the way soil or sand is moved around by water can bring several items into one spot. So wave over one more time to be sure.

Top Ten Tips

So now that I’ve gone through all seven of the secrets that Kellyco provided, let’s add a few more and wrap it up into a Top Ten list!

One thing that’s missing is related to what is a standard practice in metal detecting, but may start to fall away over time if we don’t make sure new people in the hobby keep it up. That is…keep it clean! This refers not only to replacing the holes you create, but cleaning up while you work. Keep a junk bag handy and pick up plastic trash, nails and sharp metals, and make it a nicer place for everyone. I know it can be difficult particularly with plastic trash – some places might just be full of trash. If you are in a spot with a lot, perhaps make a separate trip with friends and have a clean up day or report it to local government to create a pick up day. It’s not always on you because otherwise we wouldn’t have time to dig, but you can help play a part in keeping it clean.

Mind your space. Don’t get close to where other people are enjoying their own time. And if you’re not using headphones, you should keep even farther away. Don’t assume that everyone is interested in what you’re doing and that the beeps will make them want to come talk to you. (For most of us, we don’t want people talking to us anyway.) Keep your distance, respect the privacy of others especially on beaches.

You don’t have to restrict your detecting on beaches to dawn and dusk, but if you are out with others, it’s polite to keep a distance. Rule of thumb: You should have a bubble of space around you as big as an average swimming pool at minimum. Anything less than that and you will risk annoying people. We want to keep this hobby from being discouraged, so if in doubt, more space is better.

The Final Top Ten List

  1. Keep at it – don’t get discouraged by off days.
  2. Keep it clean – it should look like you never dug there, and cleaner than you found it.
  3. Mind your space – don’t get too close to other people and keep the noise to yourself.
  4. Don’t blindly follow advice – not all advice (even from experts) will work for you.
  5. Check it twice! – Just like Santa, don’t forget to check again.
  6. Invest in only the most appropriate gear for you.
  7. But definitely get backup batteries and spare parts.
  8. You might find something the other detectorist missed – don’t let competition fool you into leaving.
  9. Find your own way to enjoy – If you want to talk with others, join a club. You might prefer keeping your own private journal or blog. Follow or use the hashtag #FindsClub on Instagram!
  10. Don’t be a show off – always be honest about what you find and you’ll have a lifetime of fun.

Metal Detecting is for Anyone. Some people have a mental image that is outdated and incorrect. Metal detecting may not be something that everyone will enjoy, but men and women of all ages might love it. Don’t be afraid of the stereotype or let it prevent you from enjoying yourself or just giving it a try.

I will be anxious to see what your thoughts are about these tips. Send me a message or leave a comment below. And don’t forget, I offer metal detecting lessons here in South Florida if you want to learn how to detect and see if you like it!

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Storm Delay

There are some times when an on-and-off rainy day is the perfect time to metal detect on the beach. No crowds to deal with means you can spend as much…

There are some times when an on-and-off rainy day is the perfect time to metal detect on the beach. No crowds to deal with means you can spend as much time as you want and check areas usually occupied during day time instead of being limited to the few early morning hours when no one has arrived. But what about when there is a tropical storm around?

I’ve slowly gotten over my reluctance to be seen by anyone on the beach, but that has a price as well. I’ve been a subject in what they think are surreptitious photos, they stop and ask me really strange questions, and in general there’s just an uncomfortable feeling knowing that I’m a subject of either interest or annoyance.

But a rainy day? That’s when I can be out with only the other crazy people. I’m talking of course about kiteboarders, and hardcore beachgoers.

The kiteboarders give me a knowing nod when I pass by. I’m sure they find my hobby boring and I find theirs terrifying! But we both enjoy windy days which are often those overcast, rainy ones I’m taking about.

But what about a tropical storm? I don’t take chances being out when lightning is high risk factor, but when a tropical storm is on the way in or out, there are several days of overcast, windy, and rainy days that keep the beach crowds away.

I still get nervous making the decision to detect on these days. First, the ocean is typically rough, so it’s sand only. But the waves bring in fresh batches of new goodies that have been sitting off shore, so it’s a perfect time to check the tide line. It can also scrape away a top layer of sand and reveal a new level now in range of my detector.

It’s also just a lot of fun to be out on the beach when conditions are a little rough. It’s maybe not for everyone, and it shouldn’t be scary, but it can give you a head start if you do have competition with other detectorists, and it can make an otherwise potentially boring day way more fun. Have you ever detected on an unusual day?

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Did you know Kellyco has a Military Discount for Minelab products?

I don’t keep it a secret that I’m a big fan of Minelab. I absolutely love my CTX-3030 and know it’s worth every sand-encrusted penny! 😉 But one thing I…

I don’t keep it a secret that I’m a big fan of Minelab. I absolutely love my CTX-3030 and know it’s worth every sand-encrusted penny! 😉

But one thing I didn’t learn until recently was that Kellyco offers a 15% discount for active duty and retired military personnel who order by phone or in the showroom! Here’s how you can take advantage through Kellyco.

Military Discount – Minelab Metal Detectors!*
*Call Kellyco (1-888-535-5926) to get 15% off your purchase of a Minelab metal detector. Discount available to any active or retired military with proof of ID. Some exclusions apply.**

**Discount applicable on phone only. Must provide proof of Military ID or DD-214 to receive discount. Excludes Minelab GO-FIND metal detectors and all demo, consignment and refurbished machines. Cannot be combined with any other offer or discount. Not redeemable for cash value.

A few reasons why I think this is a great hobby for veterans:

1. Be in the moment

This hobby gets you out with a sense of purpose – headphones on, focused, and completely where you are. I find myself able to put outside thoughts and influences out of my mind while I’m detecting. It becomes all about thinking through the task at hand and narrowing focus when retrieving a target.

2. Let’s Get Physical!

It can be a pretty demanding workout depending on where you are hunting and how much you’re carrying. Beach and water hunting in particular when using a heavy handled shovel. Even if you’re out in a field, you typically carry a backpack full of equipment, water…anything you need for those hours out finding.

3. Military History

Depending on where you live, you may actually find a piece of military history. People post stories all the time about their Civil War finds and more. Perhaps this is something that could appeal to you and lead you to travel to look for relics. Plus, early metal detectors were used to find and clear actual landmines from World Wars I and II.

4. Finding a Community

There are metal detecting clubs all over the place. Many people find it fun and fulfilling to join a club where you know there is a shared interest. Make new friends, talk about what you find, and dig in deeper with your community.

Thank you to all military service members past and present!

Learn more about Kellyco – my preferred supplier

Get the Military Discount from Kellyco

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New Digs

I love getting new equipment for any of my interests, and metal detection is no exception. That feeling when you get a brand new computer, cell phone, camera lens…it’s exciting…

I love getting new equipment for any of my interests, and metal detection is no exception. That feeling when you get a brand new computer, cell phone, camera lens…it’s exciting on those first few days or weeks when you’re learning its quirks or just admiring how clean it is!

You might think there’s not really much to buy for metal detecting – grab a detector and go, right? In many cases, that’s a fine way to start. You really don’t need much to get started in this activity at the beginning so don’t be afraid. However, the landscape and style of search vary enough to require some changes when you’re searching more often and become more experienced.

So that’s why I’m excited to tell you about my newest acquisition: A Stealth 920iX X-treme scoop from Sunspot Tooling Systems!

The coin from Chile was one of my first finds with this new scoop and it was thrilling to see it at the bottom of this perfect scoop.

Now before you jump off to their website to buy your own, here are a few thoughts that you should consider.

Are you hunting frequently in water?
These scoops are designed for water/sand use. This isn’t one for digging in your yard. Just thought I’d make that clear right away! Ocean waves can be pretty tricky even at low tide, so this kind of scoop makes a huge difference in the ability to recover finds out there.

Have you been in the hobby for a while now?
This isn’t a cheap scoop, so if you’re not sure that you’re going to like detecting, don’t buy this yet. Contact me if you want a personal recommendation. Or better yet, if you’re a beginner come visit and take a lesson from me.

Do you have a waterproof detector and headphones?
You’re going to absolutely need a waterproof detector and headphones to go all in with water hunting. I find that I end up doing a hybrid of snorkeling and hunting at the same time. WEAR SUNSCREEN ON YOUR BACK/NECK!! I learned that one the hard way.

Read all that and still want to buy one? Okay, here’s exactly how I set mine up and below that, exactly why.

  • 920iX X-treme, 20 degree tip back
  • Mount for Handle, Tube
  • Handle, 47 inch ash (recommended)
  • Bottom 1/2 inch holes
  • Rear 1/2 inch holes
  • SuperRugged Package with ToePad

The 920 is 9″ wide and mounts at a 20 degree tipped back angle. The angle is a preference depending on how you’re used to searching. If you’ve never used a handled scoop, then try to think about how it might feel to use. With a 90 degree angle, you’ll have to reach out farther to set up a deep dig, but then tipping it up will be more likely to keep all the sand in the scoop as you pull it out of the water. Up to you!

I went with the tube mount mostly because of the recommendation that using a carbon fiber tube later will require this mount. The only downside I might see is that the fully round sections are vulnerable to sand entry. To counter this, Sunspot provides you with some electrical tape to seal up the mount to prevent sand from entering and making it difficult to remove the handle.

I purchased the wood handle because it comes pre-treated with water resistant paint (the gray portion in the image) on the lower handle to prevent water logging from making it impossible to remove the handle if there is swelling. Also, carbon fiber was sold out at the time I ordered! I’ll upgrade later for sure.

The bottom I chose is 1/2 holes which is (at this time) the only option for the 920iX. Either way, I would have chosen 1/2″ because I deal with larger shells.

And for the choice of rear, again I need the scoop to filter out larger shells. I see the benefits of the hybrid option though and would consider having both depending on the situation I’m in.

The SuperRugged package I just see as a must unless you want to save a tiny bit of weight. I hunt without wearing water shoes most of the time, so this helps get that full push into the sand.


You might vary your order from mine after thinking about how you hunt. Also consider the 7″ model if weight is an issue or you’re using a smaller coil. Also consider the travel handle or carbon fiber if they are available when you order. Now go buy one already!

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Change from Chile

Today was beautiful – the water was warm, clear, and calm enough to get out for nearly three hours in the water to search for some cool finds. My favorite discovery…

Today was beautiful – the water was warm, clear, and calm enough to get out for nearly three hours in the water to search for some cool finds.

My favorite discovery today made its way to my clear blue waters from Chile! It’s 100 pesos, so certainly not a big dollar value find, but it’s beautiful and in great condition. It reminded me of a poker chip when I first saw it in the basket – I hope it’ll be my new lucky coin.

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