Monday, May 16, 2011

5/16/11 Report - Cannon, Lost Merchant Shipwreck & the Danger of Over-Simplification

One Treasure Coast Beach Yesterday at Low Tide.

More on that below along with today's photos.

The Mel Fisher organization is building a custom designed Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) capable to go after the treasure of the Lost Merchant off the coast of North Florida. They have just finished an electronic survey of 37 miles of ocean and will use the new ROV to recover the treasure once this wreck is located.

Kovels Komments reports A bronze Chinese cannon covered with designs and words and stored for over 80 years at the back of a storeroom went to auction with an appraisal of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $149,500. The papers with the item said the 800-pound cannon, made in 1695, was sent to the United States as a souvenir by an American soldier. U.S. forces took part in a "China Relief expedition" that went to China in 1900 to rescue U.S. citizens, Europeans, and others who were in danger because of the Boxer Rebellion.

I often get emails from people asking where to look for different types of things. Unfortunately the answer is not real simple. The answer appeared more simple to me at one time but has become increasingly complex. The more you learn about things, the more complex your models become.

One thing you might have learned from the survey on where cobs are found is that cobs have been found in every major zone on our beaches - from the water's edge to the back dunes. After a person finds their first cob, no matter where it was found, the tendency is to continue looking in that area. And then when a few more are found in that area, the tendency is to focus exclusively on that area. That creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it is a trap.

If you believe that cobs are found in one zone and you continue to focus on that zone, that is where you will find cobs in the future. The thing is, there will be cobs elsewhere that you will miss simply because you did not spend enough time looking in those other places.

Yes, there are some places that are generally better than others. I would have guessed that the survey would have showed a higher proportion of cobs coming from the cuts. The survey wasn't a scientific survey and the exact numbers are questionable. I can't personally verify where other detectorists have found their cobs, but I have personally verified that cobs are found in all of the mentioned beach zones. I've found cobs in all of those zones myself.

The main point that I am getting to is that your mental model of where cobs will appear on a beach should become more complex as your experience increases. While it is fine to believe that cobs are found in zone X, Y or Z when you are starting, as you gain more experience your model should expand to include more factors. Instead of saying something like cobs are found in zone X, your model should be something more like, on beach X, or on beaches of type X, under condition Y, cobs will be found in zone Z. In other words, take into account the particular beach or type of beach you are dealing with and the conditions that are current on that beach.

Lets say you are at one of the beaches where the cobs generally come from the back dunes. That is what happens on some beaches. If you believe that cobs are found only near the water below dips on the front beach, and if you only hunt, you would miss any cobs that were recently washed out of the back dunes. You would probably strike out because of your over-simplified model.

I walk the line in this blog trying to make things simple while at the same time trying to avoid over-simplifying. If you are relatively new to detecting or haven't yet found your first cob or first few cobs (or whatever you are targeting), simplification can be helpful, but it can also be a trap.

It is true that there are some zones and different types of areas that are generally better than others to detect. But there are also times when those same places aren't the place to be. That is why I highly recommend sampling. Sampling will help you quickly check out the areas that you most suspect and then move on to check out other areas when the first spots don't seem to be producing.

I continue to learn. I've certainly learned a few things lately. To do that I test my theories and revise them whenever experience dictates.

Having received a lot of email and being involved in a lot of discussions, I am more sure than ever that a lot of people are being limited by over-simplification. To give one example, I know of some people that have found many shipwreck spikes and many other types of items, but have not yet managed to find a single cob. On the other hand I know people who have found lots of cobs, but not a single spike. Why?
They hunt different areas. They've become focused on one type of area rather than another, and that is the reason they find so many of one type of object but none of the other. I've observed that those two different types of objects are most often found in different types of areas, and that is why some people find one rather than the other. It has to do with where and how they hunt. (I won't comment on the "how" in this post. Maybe some other time.)

I am an empiricist and use an experimental procedure. Data rules. I suppose that is partly due to the fact that much of my professional life was spent in an academic research setting. I am always trying to improve my models of how the beach works and how different types of objects move and are uncovered. There isn't much out there to read that will really help you on that other than some basics, and that can lead you down the track of over-simplification.

Treasure Coast Beach Forecast and Conditions.

Area Where Swells Were Breaking at High Tide This Morning.

I got out on the beach this morning. My timing was way off. It was high tide and although there were a few scallops and cuts, which surprised me, it was really hard working the low tide zone. The swells were crasing on the front beach pretty hard during high tide and creating a rolling shell pile on the beach side of the dip. There were targets in the rough water, but it was hard to get them. I wished that the tide would back off, but I didn't have time to wait it out.

If you look closely at this photo, you'll see some of the rocks and shells that were being churned up. You can see where the larger pieces were being exposed near the at the right side of the photo, just below center. I have a nice video of the churning action that was going on there but couldn't get the video to load to the post.

This is very close to the area shown above which shows low tide yesterday. I did manage to pick up a few things while working the rough water.

I'll give you a few tips on working rough water in an area like this some other time.

A Few Cut Scallops Found On the Beach This Morning.

This was a bit of a surprise. I suspect you'll find similar scallops and small cuts on some of the other beaches around the Treasure Coast.

There were definitely some interesting spots even though overall conditions remain poor.

I'd go out around low tide and work the recently churned area where rocks are accumulating. I picked a few nice sized fossils out of the churning water as they were flying up and down the slope. They can really smack your feet or shin bones.

There were also some metal targets being churned up with the other stuff.

Happy hunting,