Adventures With Jim: Beach Hunting Ghosts in the Sand
Unless you’re trying to amuse the local metal detector crowd with that 6 foot deep hole for nothing (and don’t for a moment think you’re the first one) it’s time to learn about saltwater ghosts.
You’ve dug ghost signals on dry land before, admit it. Most of the time these are actually created by RUST, some long dead iron object that’s been completely leached into the soil as a rust pocket. When you break up the rust pocket, the signal vanishes. This is alot like beach ghosting, it has that same “sound.” That iffy, blippy nothing of a tone you’re chasing because, well, the metal detector kinda sorta went beep.
The ghost tone on the beach is even more elusive and vastly more frustrating. As you dig down the signal will appear to get stronger, but no matter how deep you dig, there isn’t an actual object there to be found. What you’re chasing is a salt ghost.
Despite the seemingly regularity of the process, high tide every 12 hours 25 minutes, there are going to be pockets and more importantly, lines of sharply, instantly, changing saltwater content. Your land metal detector can not keep up with these rapid changes and deeply confused, your machine reports a false positive instead.
Those iffy, blurry, blah tones that occasionally result in sweet finds in the woods do not apply here. Masking is RARELY an issue as objects move almost daily, except in special circumstances. Remember the 90 degree rule first before chasing ghosts.
If you’re walking parallel to the surf and run into a salt line ghost, the difference in ground balance between the left and right side of your swing can be as much as 70% of your machines capacity. If you turn your whole body and swing 90 degrees along the line of salt ghost, it will generally vanish. You haven’t lost some long lost deep target, you’ve reduced the ground variability so your machine can better understand the signals it’s getting.
A solid object will repeat no matter which direction you swing, a salt ghost will NOT repeat.
The best way to combat this effect is to move out of it’s way. Shift your walking pattern to one side or the other, your machine will give you far better results swinging on consistent ground. But do make note of that tone, you’re going to hear it all day long.
If the problem persists every where, it’s time to change your settings. Dialing back the sensitivity a little bit may help.
Be aware that breakwaters and buildings can have rebar and concrete chunks buried in the sand around them, along with heavy cables, pipes, etc. It’s best to steer away away from these areas, by 8 to 10 feet in most cases, because you metal detector will be going crazy over the gigantic deep iron. These will also create fuzzy, ghosting IDs that are difficult to pin point, just like ultra large deep iron in the woods.
And yes, there can be large hunks of ships, boats, cars, airplanes, even houses buried out there, but same general rule applies as the woods, if you find yourself with a hole 2-3 feet deep, it probably time to stop. The hole itself begins to screw with the metal detector ground balance, getting you even more convinced there is something good down there. There isn’t. There are no treasure chests full of spanish gold buried on the beach.
The big thing to remember is the scale of things here is very different from land sites, objects can be much larger (like entire cars) and buried at unimaginable depths. But you started out looking for gold rings, right? Don’t waste an hour chasing a 10 ton hunk of scrap metal, let’s get back to looking for the good stuff.
One of the unique things about beach digging is how you deal with faint and ghost tones. Take your broad diggin tool (or just use your foot), scrape the sand aside, down 4 to 6 inches, wide enough to swing your coil inside. A real target will get louder and clear, a ghost, deep iron or hot rock won’t change or the tone my vanish all together. Don’t forget sweep over the pile you dug out, that faint tone may have been something very small, like an earring.
Learning how to deal with those ghost signals on the beach can save you hours of frustration. Don’t waste your time chasing huge deep targets. There are no buried pirates chests on the beach. Focus on the ring and coin sized targets and maximize you metal detecting time at the beach while on vacation.
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