Treasure hunting is something that we’ve all dreamed of, one time or another. Past amazing stories of swashbuckling pirates and treasure chests, did you know that you can actually find things of value underwater?
If you have a passion for diving, are comfortable underwater and would like to try real treasure hunting, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve written down all the things you need to know for how to start underwater treasure hunting begin this new hobby.
And unlike other hobbies, this particular hobby actually pays!
Table of Contents
I. Timing is Essential
The best time to scour shallow waters or deep waters for valuables is during the summer season. Why? Because we want those beaches full of people. The higher the volume of people, the better the chances of finding valuables left behind in the sand and the water.
In addition to underwater treasure hunting, you should also try metal-detecting on beaches as there are likely a lot of valuables on land, too. Jewelry, cellphones and other valuables are often left in the sand and a regular metal detector will be able to easily pick up signals coming from these items.
If it’s your first time to try metal-detecting underwater, you will need a lightweight but rugged device that works well underwater as it does on land. The Fisher CZ21-8 underwater metal detector is a good choice as its default setting is a ‘short arm’ that is preferable when you are detecting objects underwater.
The Fisher CZ21-8’s reach can easily be extended it is used on dry land. If your target area is no more than 250 feet in depth, this is the perfect tool for you. Built for both freshwater and saltwater locations, use this metal detector if you are beach hunting or if you’re planning to dive into shallow saltwater or lakes.
II. Keep a Sharp Eye on Likely Spots
The secret to effective underwater treasure hunting is keeping a close watch on the submerged terrain. Water is the main force that changes the location and depth of hidden treasures.
The general direction of the current will give you a clue as to where possible treasures are buried in the sand/mud/silt.
Irregularities in the substrate are often telling – if a watch or a waterproof camera is down there, the objects will change the appearance of the sand/mud even if they are buried.
Should you hunt in the daytime or at night?
We highly recommend daytime treasure hunting for obvious reasons: visibility is higher underwater and it is easier to navigate if you’re going to treasure-hunt a few miles from shore.
Obviously visibility will go down the deeper you go into the water. If it’s your first time to try underwater treasure hunting then obviously, you need to try out your physical capability and tools in shallower waters first.
Metal-detecting and digging up potential finds underwater is challenging if you’re not used to swimming and diving.
The body is also less agile underwater unless you’ve been doing this your whole life. It’s possible that you’ll lose tools and equipment underwater.
We do not recommend diving alone – bring someone else who can help you underwater if you encounter difficulties.
III. Master the Art of Treasure Hunting on Dry Land First
Treasure hunting is an art and admittedly, everyone starts on land before attempting it underwater. If you have zero experience with treasure hunting, trying it out on dry land first would be the logical first step.
It will take some time before you are able to master your new metal detector. Yes, underwater metal detectors can be used on land, too. You have the added bonus of being able to adjust the arm length easily as underwater metal detectors have easily adjustable telescoping arms.
The next important advice we can give you when hunting on dry land and underwater is to be patient. Yes – it’s possible that you first few hunts will yield nothing. This is normal.
Actually finding something of value will depend on your experience in adjusting the settings of your metal detector, the amount of area you can cover in one day, your persistence in checking out signals (even the faint ones) and yes, your willingness to dig.
When you do find something, be sure to have a container with you for safekeeping. On dry land, an empty tin is alright. Underwater however, you may want to use a sealable bag that you can attach to your waist with a short cord so you can easily reach for it when you place something inside.
Beginning treasure hunters would do well with less expensive metal detectors like the Tesoro Sand Shark Underwater Metal Detector. This unit features an amply-sized 10.5” coil and uses pulse induction circuits, an advanced form of metal detecting technology controlled by microprocessors.
This metal detector is designed for wet salt beaches, specifically. The environment plays a crucial role in determining the accuracy of metal detectors. Be sure to use a metal detector designed for the type of environment you are planning to visit.
IV. Preparation is Key
Never go treasure hunting without adequate preparation. This includes knowing your site well and doing your research.
Also, you may want to familiarize yourself with current maritime law in your area – for instance, in the event that you do find something of high value like a substantial amount of jewelry, would it be legal for you to just carry it off?
Understanding local and state laws that may affect your treasure hunting activities is a no-brainer. You wouldn’t want to end up in trouble after spending all that time and effort, right?
Second, it would also be considered a ‘best practice’ if you took full stock of all the tools and equipment needed on your trip.
If you’re going into the water, obviously you’re going to need your diving gear, a trowel, your re-sealable container for treasures, your underwater metal detector and most importantly – spare batteries!
Not carrying any spares with you can be disastrous especially if you’re going to spend some time in the water and the rest of your time on the beach. The more hours you spend outside, the higher the likelihood of running out of juice.
Third, be prepared for false positives. A false positive is a ‘hit’ or ‘ping’ on the metal detector that yields garbage and other non-valuable stuff. The obvious upside of going for even the faintest signals is you get to practice actual treasure hunting!
Admittedly, much of the training you actually need is familiarizing yourself with the signals being given off by your metal detector and finding out which signals are likely hits. So in the beginning it would really be a good idea to investigate even weak signals.
Third – let’s talk about your metal detector’s coil size. If you want a more sensitive coil for higher sensitivity, you need a large coil that is at least ten inches in size.
If however, you are searching in an area with lots of visible junk, a smaller coil would suffice (six inch coils are ideal). For beginners however, a ten-inch coil is recommended so you can really scan the area for possible finds.
The Whites MX Sport Waterproof Metal Detector is another ideal unit for beginners as it has a properly sized coil and free headphones, too! You can purchase additional coils if you want, but the default coil is sufficient for most beginners’ hunts.
V. The Three Kinds of Underwater Hunts
The simplest form of treasure hunting underwater is snorkel hunting. If you know how to dive and have moderate swimming skills, this one is best for you.
Short dives with your metal detector can yield stuff like lost jewelry (bracelets and rings) and even watches. You never know what people have lost on the beach or while on boats. Your metal detector will guide you where the sea has buried the goodies.
Technically, snorkeling is diving to an average depth of six feet. You can snorkel both at sea and in freshwater bodies. However, make sure that your metal detectors was designed to resist saltwater before surf wading! Metal detectors that were built for land use only or for freshwater bodies will take damage at sea, guaranteed.
Scuba hunting is going down to a depth of more than six feet with the proper breathing gear. For this type of hunt you will have to invest in the following: double valve snorkel, snorkel mask, fins, a snorkeling vest, a trowel, a multi-utility and multi-pocket belt, a mesh bag and of course, a wet suit.
Scuba hunting is definitely more expensive than your average snorkeling hunt because you need to be able to breathe and swim adequately in deeper water. And while it’s true that some people can manage to go down to hundreds of feet of water with just an oxygen hose (don’t try this!), it’s still a best practice to go down there with complete gear.
Once you complete the basic requirements for scuba detecting, you can also go shipwreck diving. Take note that you do not have to go inside shipwrecks to find treasures or things of value. Many scuba detectorists target the areas around abandoned shipwrecks.
Why? Because water has a tendency to carry away light material and items. If you have ever lost anything to the sea, you’ll get what we mean immediately. Light objects are carried away instantly and are eventually deposited in sand some paces away. This applies most especially to objects carried away by water underwater.
Different regions will yield different results and experiences to would-be underwater detectorists. Water current, sand conditions, water temperature, water clarity- all these factors have a final impact on your dive. But don’t be disheartened!
If you have had training underwater and have passion for finding valuable and/or potentially historical things, then this is one hobby that you will not regret starting!
VI. Recovery Techniques for Underwater Treasure Hunting
Treasuring hunting in the water can be disorienting in the beginning because, well, being underwater means you’re in another world. Everything changes, from the visibility of everything around you to how your body interacts with the water and the equipment you are carrying with you. Here are some tips to make it easier, even if it is you first time to dive with a metal detector:
1. Follow a line! This can be an imaginary line marked visually or a real line marked with a rope or anything else you’d like to use to make sure you are following a straight path. In addition to inspecting what is directly in front of you, you have to explore six feet to the left and to the right of this line.
2. Move your metal detector in a circular motion when inspecting the sand. The shallower the sand, the smaller the ‘circles’ you should be making with your metal detector. Also, remember our guideline on ‘trashy’ areas. If there is a lot of junk around, use a smaller coil (no more than six inches).
3. If you’re in the water to find gold, you need to increase the sensitivity and discrimination of your metal detector to maximum.
Yes, this will greatly increase the chances of false positives, but gold is gold. Luckily, you will be able to dig more deeply into sand underwater because everything is already submerged. Your small trowel will be much more effective in wet sand than it ever will be in gravel or loamy soil.
4. Learn to ‘fan’ the sand and use the water current to your advantage. Do not overexert underwater (you’re going to use up more oxygen, more quickly at that, too) and there’s no need for ‘heavy muscle’ underwater (unless you’re lifting logs away from a shipwreck).
A long screwdriver can be used to pry out or at least reveal hidden stuff under the sand. A long-handled trowel is best for deeper digs. Use your screwdriver to maintain your depth in the sand when the water is just dumping sand you’ve just swept away faster than you can dig the target spot again.