Treasure Enterprises of Australia

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BEACHCOMBING TIPS

 

It’s unbelievable! Those words were repeated over and over again – a recent trip to the Queensland Gold Coast beaches proved this just after some stormy weather. After a quick inspection of the damage done by the rough seas I found that the sand dunes had been undercut at a point where literally thousands of people had previously been.

Returning to the car to collect my metal detector, I went back to the spot and adjusted it to the ground conditions, as there was a fair bit of black sand deposited on the beach. Within 15 seconds, I had found my first coin, and then another and another – the detector just went crazy!

An amazing thing happened – there was no junk to be found. Every signal was either a coin or a valuable jewellery item all of them giving a short, loud and positive response. It was realized that the force of the waves pulled all the lighter junk items such as aluminium pull tabs from this part of the beach into the ocean leaving all the coins within eight feet of the sand bank. The area close to the water was checked, but the results were negative in this instance. After ten minutes of detecting, the first jewellery item was found - a gold zodiac pendant.

A pattern started to emerge with coins being found in ‘channels’ of up to 20 coins in one spot. I could even hear more coins ‘down under’ but I was finding enough to cope with without going deeper. I will recover these later at a time when more sand is washed away. On many occasions I found coins up to 20 inches deep plus – I know that because my whole arm was in the hole! In just over 2 hours I had only detected an area of approximately 12 feet x 8 feet.

With the tide starting to change, I continued to detect along the bank and after about another 4 hours, I called it a day. In total I had found just over 700 coins including a few foreign ones. The condition ranged from near new to extremely ‘grotty’ as well as 18 rings, 4 pendants, 1 gold ingot which had broken off a chain plus other miscellaneous ‘bits and pieces’.  

David Cooper

Now .... let’s get back to basics ……….

RESEARCH

Research plays a very important part in beachcombing – just like inland treasure hunting. Have a look at some of the early historical photographs – these can generally be found in books produced by local councils, schools and historical societies. These show the location of early swimming beaches and jetties, which are longer in use and can produce some remarkable old finds and coins.

For further information and a run-down on the legalities of treasure found in Australian waters ... I refer you to the following web-site:

http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/shipwrecks/legislation/index.html

 

WEATHER CONDITIONS

These are the most important factors affecting the chances of recovering treasure. A beach may one day yield its treasure and yet the next day you may not find anything at all. It’s no point detecting the loose sandy areas if the wind is blowing in from the sea as the sand builds up further thus covering lost items at a greater depth.

Yet, on the other hand, this condition is ideal for eroding sand dunes and the like, as described earlier, provided the rough wave action does its job.

It is important to note that when an object is lost in the water, it simply falls to the bottom and sinks into the sand where it becomes buried. Only with very high winds will the object move.

The key here, is to watch for heavy winds from a direction where they are blowing off the beach to the water. For example: those beachcombers and treasure hunters who live on the eastern coast of Australia wait for the winter westerly winds (June to September) of 60 km/hr or more. Stronger the better! What will occur is a confrontation between two forces. The heavy breakers forcing their way toward the shore will be neutralized by the direct winds thus exposing the high to low water area cutting away tons of sand leaving all the goodies. This pounding and cutting action coupled with the storm-generated waves in fact, forces those deep coins to the surface with water pressure.

The moon is a principal cause of tides. It produces very low tides to very high tides. The best time of course is low tide when more area can be covered in the water (without going under!). Generally speaking, the best time to go metal detecting is during the two hours either side of low tide. When all these factors fall into place, the rewards cannot be put into words – it’s simply unbelievable.

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED

The main piece of equipment of course is a good quality metal detector whether it is a budget-priced unit or a more expensive one with all the ‘bells and whistles’. One important point is to make sure that the detectors search coil is waterproof if it is intended to be used in the water. Many people have found that by purchasing a budget-priced unit first gives them the opportunity to gain experience in using a detector and with all the ‘goodies’ they find put it towards a more expensive detector in the future. Many of these people have even paid for their detector in the first week of using it.

The most important accessories that you will also need for beachcombing are: headphones, coin trowel, a small spade, a sand scoop and not forgetting spare batteries. Most people prefer the plastic sand scoop these days as it doesn’t ‘respond’ to the metal detector if it gets in the way of the search coil. The sand scoop is excellent for loose sand and if working in the damp sand or in shingle situations, it is best to dig the hole with a trowel and then put the contents into the sand scoop and shake it in the water … it’s that simple! It is very important these days; to have a sand scoop otherwise you could cut yourself or worse still, jab yourself on a syringe!   .... However, please don't forget one important factor:   You will  not  detect a syringe with a metal detector ... it is not conductive enough.

As suggested, a good quality pair of headphones is a must when beachcombing. It enables you to hear those weak signals below without the noise of the surf in your ear.

If you are working out into the water, it is best to make up a flotation sieve. This comprises of an aluminium sieve (13" or 18" in diameter) mounted inside a car/motor cycle inner tube. Make sure that you tie a nylon line from the flotation sieve to your waist; otherwise it could float off to the other side of the world with all your 'goodies' in it!

HOW ARE ITEMS LOST?

Let’s take a typical example of what happens at the beach.

Firstly, we find that many people just lie on their beach towel to sun bake - or whatever! – generally with their valuables. When they leave, the first thing they do is to give their towel a good shake, and everything from sand particles to jewellery, rings and coins generally fly off into outer space. The object hits the sand, buries itself quickly and can’t be found again in a hurry. When they realize that something is missing, they panic! … moving the sand around the place doesn’t help and of course the situation is worse than before.

Try this … throw a coin backwards into loose sand (don’t look) and see if you can find it again … I bet you don’t … and don’t even think of using a metal detector either – that’s cheating!

For those who like to swim and love to wear rings and jewellery at the same time is a recipe for disaster. Most people generally wear rings a little loose and the chances are that they will lose it. A simple scientific principle of expansion and contraction applies here – in this instance, cold water contracts the finger – the water and the surf acts as a lubricant – the ring falls off and settles down through the sand with its flat side acting as a cutting blade, going deeper and then it’s lost – simple as that! This can also apply to other jewellery items too and it happens every day.

DETECTING TIPS & TECHNIQUES

With new technology improving detector circuitry all the time, it is impossible for me to go into depth on how to use various models for beachcombing. However, if you apply the following simple techniques to your detector you will still be successful.

The main problem in using some of the earlier produced VLF (Very Low Frequency) / TR (Transmit-Receive) models of detectors was the ability to use them in wet sand. They would ‘squawk and carry on’ and become unstable because of the wet sand. This sand is saturated with salt which according to a metal detector would read as a metal object.

The first thing if using the ‘All Metal’ mode on either VLF or VLF/TR metal detectors is to try and ground balance the detector at the dampish high water line. If the detector is still unstable, make sure that you reduce the sensitivity control slightly until the unit becomes stable. Work parallel to the shoreline or waters edge. If the condition is about the same throughout you won’t have to re-balance the detector until you detect the next strip. Check and re-balance the detector before you detect the next strip. As you go closer to the water the detector will probably become more unstable. If this is the case, reduce the sensitivity further or alternatively raise the search coil slightly higher from the ground.

Also, with a bit of practice and experience and by reducing the sensitivity, coins which went undetected before will now be found – in fact – they will jump at you.

As a 'rule of thumb' the sensitivity control is set around 75% or in other words: Turn this control fully clockwise and turn back by about 25%.

Never work at right angles to the water line. In other words, don’t detect on the downward or upward slopes of the beach. This can produce false signals and a loss of depth.

Work slowly, but sometimes in some areas of high mineralization and some salt pockets, scan a little faster even to whipping action. It can effective, but tiring.

Make sure that you keep your detector tuned properly at all times and keep your search coil as close as possible above the surface. Shake the coil occasionally to remove ‘sand build-up’ on top otherwise you are adding extra weight.

Always re-check the signal area, as there can be many other targets there too.

For those of you who may have the early TR (Transmit-Receive) metal detectors the best way to search on damp-salty beaches is to have the tuning threshold silent (normally you have the threshold to a faint hum where it is most sensitive). If you have a discriminator, make sure that the detector is in the Discrimination mode where it will generally reject small ferrous (iron metal) targets, place the search coil on the ground, then you can 'scrub’ it in a circular motion. By doing this, you will find in most cases that the detector will become stable. If you find that you still get some erratic noises, either reduce the sensitivity control or raise the coil slightly higher from the ground. If you have push button tuning, make sure that the coil is on the ground, press the re-tuning button and slightly raise the search coil from the ground, then start searching.

Some times at the beach you may come across wire fences, these can be a problem sometimes as the search coil picks up the steel fence! If you are using a detector, which has a threshold tuning hum, turn this control back until it is silent and search slowly by dragging the coil parallel to the fence. This should solve the problem in most cases.

If you have a silent-search metal detector, just reduce the sensitivity control slightly, and then slowly drag the coil parallel to the fence. If your detector can be fitted with a small coil (approximately 4" in diameter … similar to what is available in the Bounty Hunter range) use this, as you can get closer to the fence-line. However, you may lose a little depth in some cases.

Also if your detector is fitted with automatic tuning, it is best to ‘scrub’ the coil in the ground either in VLF or TR in the method as previously described.

For general beachcombing, it is best to use the standard sized search coil which is supplied with most detectors which is generally 8" … alternatively you can use a 10" one for a little more depth but you could sacrifice small targets. Larger coils than the two mentioned, are generally not used unless of course, you are looking Pirate Pete’s chest of buried treasure!

DISCRIMINATION

Many professional beachcombers and treasure hunters (like me) still prefer to use the All Metal mode when detecting at the beach and when receiving a signal simply dig it up. If you do need to use some degree of discrimination, please keep it at the minimum position where it just rejects small ferrous (iron) targets. Don't turn this control up too far; otherwise you can quite easily reject some small gold rings. Whilst on this subject, many people say they don't want to pick up the aluminium pull-tab! ... so - what do they do? .... turn the discrimination up and wipe it out! Well, let me say this: If that's what they want to do – let them go for it! For those who really know what that can do, is just what I said a moment ago ... it can wipe out some gold rings too! However, the decision in using this feature is up to you.

WHERE WILL I FIND TREASURE AT THE BEACH?

The following list will give you idea as to where to search at the beach, whether it's at a roaring surf beach or a quiet river / creek estuary. Remember; just go anywhere where people congregate.

  • Car parks

  • Tracks to and from the beach

  • Sand dunes and 'nooky' spots

  • Retaining sea walls

  • Dressing sheds

  • Picnic areas

  • Under shady trees and bushes

  • Sun-baking areas

  • Boat launch ramps

  • High water mark right down to the low water mark

  • Rocky outcrops and headlands

  • Storm water pipes that partly run out to sea

  • Jetties / piers

  • Kiosks

  • plus ... many, many more!

WHERE WILL I FIND TREASURE AT INLAND LAKES?

The following list will give you idea as to where to search at inland lakes, reservoirs, dams, quiet rivers and creeks, swimming holes etc. Remember; just go anywhere where people congregate.

  • Man made beaches

  • Public Boat Launch Ramps

  • Jetties

  • Campgrounds

  • Diving platforms

  • Swimming areas

  • River Banks

  • Under shady trees and bushes

  • Picnic areas

  • plus ... many more!

 

SOME TREASURE THAT HAS BEEN FOUND

One treasure hunter detecting on a Queensland Sunshine Coast dug up a cigarette packet inside a plastic bag, which also contained over $10,000 of cut opals.

Another treasure hunter found a jar full of two shilling pieces in a sand dune on a Queensland Gold Coast beach, which must have been buried for over 40 years!

Another lucky find for another person was a $2,500 diamond ring on his first day out.

The almost unending number of locations and areas to search time and time again with a metal detector makes beachcombing perhaps the most interesting and profitable hobby around, provided you know your detector, have some patience, persistence and a little luck.

SOME TREASURE IS STILL TO BE FOUND

A few days before war was declared in 1914 the German Consul in Sydney and a group of wealthy German residents dispatched a copper box full of valuables to their homeland on the steamer 'Sedlitz'. The box contained 2,500 gold sovereigns and a quantity of jewellery and some private documents. Fearing that his ship would be captured, the captain of the 'Sedlitz' decided to bury the treasure with the intention of retrieving it after the war. The spot he chose was on a beach somewhere near Ballina on the New South Wales north coast. The captain and the others who knew where the treasure was buried died, so the treasure location still remains a mystery to this day.

Somewhere near the water’s edge in one of the small bays of the North Shore in Sydney (New South Wales) lies buried several boxes containing a large quantity of Spanish dollars and Georgian silver coins which were transported from the Bank of Australia in George Street. These were part of the proceeds from a robbery that occurred on the 14th September 1828. According to historical records these have never been recovered.

UNDERWATER METAL DETECTORS

These units are capable of being submersed in either salt or fresh water. It is ideal for locating treasure in permissible shipwrecks. This unit can also be used for surf and beach hunting.

SHIPWRECKS

For those who dare to go down to the sea in ships, there appears to be treasure still waiting around the coastline of Australia. However, please observe any regulations in place in regard to historic shipwreck localities and islands. Permission must sought from the relevant authorities before entering and recovering of any treasure.

The following list is state-by-state, and only represents a few of the many hundreds of wrecks which litter the Australian coast.

QUEENSLAND

BOOT REEF: Frank Jardine, one of the giants of Queensland history who ran the old Somerset settlement near the tip of Cape York last century, and the owner of a pearling lugger was trapped in a shallow lagoon on this reef during a storm in 1890. In order to get the vessel back out to sea, his crew began smashing coral between the boat and the deeper water. One mass of coral split open and disclosed a large conglomerate of Spanish silver dollars. Similar smaller hoards were found nearby with coins dating back to the 17th and 18th century.

FRASER ISLAND: In 1884, the ship Chang Chow left Newcastle bound for Hong Kong with around 120 Chinese diggers aboard returning to their homeland with their gold and gold sovereigns struck the Great Sand Shoal reef off Sandy Cape. It was reported in the newspapers of the time that some of the Chinese were carrying up to 800 sovereigns each, possibly more, and that one of the men who fell into the sea had 30 pounds of gold strapped to his chest and disappeared. The tides and currents may have swept their treasure-laden bodies to any number of locations on Fraser Island. To date, the treasure has not yet been recovered.

LONG ISLAND (Whitsunday Passage): Towards to end of last century part of an ancient ship previously seen by the aborigines was seen again. It is likely that this could have been part of a Spanish treasure ship as a local farmer claimed to have found silver coins and cutlery nearby.

MAGNETIC ISLAND (off Townsville): A story relates that around 1680, a Japanese pirate named Yamada Nagamasa plundered ships in the south-west Pacific, buried a large portion of this treasure believed to be pearls on this island. It is estimated that the treasure is worth over $100 million and has never been found.

MORETON ISLAND: In 1863 the boat 'Princeza' sank near the northern tip of the island. It carried U.S. gold coins worth several hundred thousand dollars, none of which have ever been located.

MURRAY ISLAND: In the 1840’s, castaways carried chests of gold coins from a wrecked ship to this island. They were killed by the natives, so it is quite probable that this treasure remains there to this day.

PORTLOCK SHAWL REEFS: This island lies north-east of Cape York and in 1890 a large quantity of Spanish silver and gold coins were discovered by a group of pearlers when they were trying to free a stranded trawler from the coral. It is believed there are more to be found.

PRINCE OF WALES ISLAND: Situated at the tip of Cape York, this island has been the subject of many unsuccessful searches following the discovery of a skeleton and a gold goblet in a cave in 1926. This find has led to a suggestion of a forgotten buried treasure somewhere on the island.

SETTLEMENT POINT (Gladstone): The remains of a Spanish ship lie high up in the sand whilst at Auckland Point on a hill, there is a carving on a rock bearing the date 1606 and old teak wells at South Trees Point.

STRADBROKE ISLAND: Aboriginal legend has it, that a possible Spanish galleon still remains buried with its treasure at the southern end of Eighteen Mile Swamp, 2 miles north of Swan Bay or approximately 5km north of Jumpinpin.  

  • An article on this "treasure" can be read in the 'Australian Gold, Gem & Treasure' magazine.   December 2006).

  • There is also a web-site that relates to this as well,  and can be viewed at: www.stradbrokeislandgalleon.com

TORRES STRAIT: Spanish galleons sailed in these waters for 200 years after Spain conquered the Philippines often carrying gold and pieces-of-eight valued in today’s terms in excess of $10 million and later, the American trading ships used Torres Strait as a quick route to China and the East Indies carrying large quantities of silver dollars, struck many of the coral reefs in the area.

(More under construction)

NEW SOUTH WALES

SEAL ROCKS: The 'Catterhun' was lost on these rocks in 1895. It was carrying ₤11,000 in gold of about one third was recovered. The rest is still believed to be there.

SYDNEY: It is claimed that the 'Edward Lombe' sunk off Middle Head, Sydney Harbour in 1834 carrying 300 sovereigns in a box.

SYDNEY: The ship 'Dunbar' was lost off Sydney Heads in 1857. It was carrying ₤70,000 in coins and treasure. Some of these have been found by some lucky treasure hunters on the nearby beach.

(More under construction)

VICTORIA

CAPE OTWAY: Off Cape Otway the 'City of Rayville' sank in 1940. It was claimed that ₤34,000 in treasure was contained in the ships strongroom.

(More under construction)

TASMANIA

DERWENT RIVER: Near the mouth of the Derwent River (between Betsey Island and the Iron Pot – now known as Hope Beach) the ship 'Hope' was wrecked on the 29th April 1827 which is supposed to have been carrying a chest of coins valued at ₤30,000 for the troops stationed at Hobart.

KING ISLAND: This island in Bass Strait is the resting place of the 'Neva' that sank somewhere around this island which was rumoured to be carrying ₤50,000 which was to pay the troops and officials stationed in Tasmania.

PORT DAVEY: In about 15 fathoms of water somewhere near Port Davey lies the 'Brier Holme' which was carrying ₤40,000 in silver plate and jewellery.

SWAN ISLAND: This island can be found on the most north-easterly tip of Tasmania. The ship 'Union' was carrying ₤2000 in gold when wrecked on a reef about a mile and a half north-west of this island in 1852.

(More under construction)

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

(Under construction)

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Possibly the most popular known shipwrecks in Western Australia are the 'Batavia', 'Zuytdorp' and the 'Gilt Dragon', These are not covered here.

FREMANTLE: The 'Lancier' was wrecked on Straggler's Rocks, Rottenest Island, near Fremantle in about 1839. Whilst sinking, a chest containing 7,000 sovereigns being transferred from the ship to a boat alongside was accidentally dropped into the sea.

PELSAERT ISLAND: This island is within the Abrolhos Island group also known as Houtman Rocks about 45 miles west of Geraldton. On the 13th September 1842, the ship 'Ocean Queen' was wrecked on rocks on the eastern side of the island. It is claimed that a chest of gold was buried on the island's beach.

ROCKINGHAM: Near here a reef, the Carlisle Castle' was wrecked in 1899, and was said to have been carrying ₤50,000 in gold, none of which has been recovered.

(More under construction)

NORTHERN TERRITORY

(Under construction)

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By:  Christina Swaneveld

Courtesy of:  Gold Coast Bulletin

Saturday  14th July 2007

 

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