Guest Post: Beach Basics

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Detecting on the beach can be one of the most pleasurable forms of detecting. Shuffling down the beach in the sun, swinging your detector is a great way to spend the day. The ease of target retrieval in the soft sand is an added bonus. Many people agree and there is a growing community of beach hunters. To become a successful beach hunter you can use a variety of strategies. Some of these strategies can be implemented immediately and some of them take time and observation. The most successful hunters will use all these strategies and generate their own insights as their experience grows.

The number of targets at any detecting site, including the beach, can be derived from a simple equation composed of four variables. These variables are the length of TIME the site has been in use, the NUMBER of people that visit the site, the level of physical ACTIVITY people engage in at the site and the environment, or GROUND COVER, that can hide objects that have been dropped. Another variable to consider is the TYPE of people frequenting the site.

Time and site population are a consideration, but they can be deceiving. There have been many great finds at sites that are not very old. There can also be sites that appear to be unused today but were heavily used in the past. A little research can pay big dividends in this regard. For modern beaches presently in use the seasons also play a part. More people visit the beach in the summer.

Activity refers to the type of play people engage in at the site. Playing volleyball, frolicking in the waves, playing catch and throwing a Frisbee would all be considered activities that result in more valuables being lost.

The beach has three kinds of ground cover. There is dry sand, wet sand and water. Water is the best ground cover. Water prevents a visual search and the movement of the water can displace dropped objects. The sand is almost as good since objects are quickly swallowed up.

In general, all types of people use the beach. They do, however, congregate by age group for certain activities. The younger folks are usually more apt to wear valuables and be more active. Some of the older folks will be more cautious and leave their valuables in the car or hotel.

When you are at the beach, take a look around. You may see kids on the play sets with mom nearby, teenagers playing volleyball, a swath of sunbathers on towels and blankets, families playing in the wet sand and people playing in the water. Consider the variables presented above and apply them to what you see. It is evident that all these beach areas have potential.

It is important to understand that the beach is always changing. Waves, currents, storms, wind and rain can dramatically change beach geography. Buried objects behave predictably in this environment. Most metal objects are denser than the surrounding sand and will bury themselves deeper and deeper over time. The beach actually vibrates due to the pounding surf which accelerates this process. Objects will continue to sink until they come to rest upon a denser surface. This could be a layer of gravel or clay. The point here is that you want to look for areas of the beach that have had a lot of sand removed. If you see gravel or clay, or deep cuts in the sand, then you would want to hunt those areas. Objects also migrate along the beach. A current washing along a beach will deposit objects of similar density in the same place. This will result in a line of objects varying from lightest to heaviest along the beach. If you pay attention to the trash items deposited by the current and look for the heavier objects there is a good chance valuable items will be in the same place.

The beach is subject to other phenomenon, namely tides and wind. During low tide, areas that were deep water are now shallow and shallow water is now wet sand. This allows you to get farther out and hunt areas that are difficult to hunt at any other time. There are a few times a year that the tides are very low. They are called minus tides. If you can time your trip for one of these tides you will find that you can venture out much farther than at any other time of the year. Wind can lower the water level if it is blowing out to sea. If you can hit the beach during a minus tide with the wind blowing out to sea, do not miss the chance to do so.

Once you have analyzed the beach variables and geography it is time to choose the type of hunting you would like to do, or the type you think would be the most productive. These include hunting the deep water, shallow water, wet sand or dry sand.

Hunting the deep water requires a submersible detector and can be physically challenging. Wave action can make deep water hunting very difficult. If your beach is not too rough, hunting the deep water can be very rewarding. Cool water tends to shrink fingers and people can lose rings without even knowing it. Diving under the water can cause necklaces to slip over the head, or they can break off in the surf.

Shallow water requires, at least, a submersible coil. It is much easier than hunting deep water and many finds can be had. A lot of people will get into the shallows and sit in the water or splash around. Since this is the place where people are initially affected by the cold water many items are lost here.

The wet sand is a great area to hunt. Families play in this area and people going into or coming out of the water can lose items. A mother building a castle in the wet sand with her child can lose a ring or break a bracelet while digging in the sand. It is also where people walk or run along the beach. There is a lot of activity in this area and people tend to congregate where the wet sand meets the shallow water.

The dry sand has many potentially good areas. One of them is the line along the beach where people lay their towels and blankets. When people leave and shake out their towel they may scatter items they accidentally left on their towel. They may get up to run to the water and the slippery suntan lotion will cause rings to slip off their fingers. It is also a place where people spend a lot of time, increasing the likelihood of losing items. The rest of the dry sand area can be compared to an inland park. The volleyball courts and play sets can generate finds. The paths that people walk to and from their cars are another good area. Any route where people are forced through a narrow path is a place you would want to hunt.

One other item to consider, at least on some beaches, is competition. If a lot of detectorists hunt the beach in your area then you may have to time your hunts to get the fresh drops. The most obvious way to do this is to get to the beach as the crowds are leaving and hunt into the evening. Luckily, most beaches are very large and there is plenty of ground for everyone. A lot of fellow detectorists on the beach can be a good thing. Get to know them, share stories of your finds and you will discover that you may have a new detecting partner, or a new site to hunt that they have shared with you.

Do not forget to dispose of all the trash you find, fill all your holes and, most importantly, have fun.

Happy Hunting!
The Beep Goes On

Author: Chris Burroughs (TBGO)
My name is Chris, although I go by The Beep Goes On (TBGO) when posting on the various metal detecting forums. I started detecting in 2002, mainly in Galveston. Life got a little hectic and I stopped detecting at the end of 2004. I took a couple of years off. I got a new DFX and started up again in February 2006. I decided to concentrate on local parks and, surprisingly, my finds increased dramatically. I do not think anyone had hunted the grass parks and sports fields in my area. Since then I have become a fairly avid detectorist and have really enjoyed getting out and hunting. I also enjoy participating in the growing online detecting community.

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