Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cane Knife - 19th Century Florida Artifact

Almost two years ago, my wife Patti, excavated an interesting artifact...and a sharp one at that. A heavy iron blade, which she brought over to show me, after having managed to dig it out of a 12" deep hole. She said "Well, I kept digging and the signal kept going and going and going..." which turned out to be about 22" long and sharp as a razor! 

It weighed quite a bit...probably around 7 to 10 pounds, and we spent a good deal of time trying to research it. We went to several museums in our local area, who were somewhat condescending and looked down their nose at us. "Well, we don't have anything we can compare it to," said one curator, very much interested in straightening a wall-hanging rather than look at the elongated piece of rusty metal we had brought in. Another museum and another curator glanced at it and said "Probably a piece of old farm machinery..." and left it at that, uninterested in our view that it was not found on a farm, and did not, in any way, resemble any known piece of farm machine we could locate in our research. We found it quite curious that these institutions were less than enthusiastic about the artifact, even though we had the location, orientation and depth of the object recorded. Finally, Patti said, "Let's take it by the Seminole County Museum of History; they always seem interested in local history...and they are much nicer!"
The head curator was not in when we got to the museum, but an assistant was there, and said "Wow!" when we showed him the knife. Shocked that we got a response like that, after our previous encounters, we were informed that he would like to hold onto it and research it a bit. We headed off into Sanford for a bite to eat and some perusal of local antique stores when we got a call a few hours later from the assistant curator. "It's a sugarcane looks like it was made by a blacksmith, from the leaf-spring of an old horse-drawn wagon...looks like around 1890 or so." He went on, "The tip is clipped, which is rare in this type of knife." A few days later we returned to the museum and the curator was available. They were planning an exhibit about the history of the sugarcane industry industry in Central Florida and they wanted to know if we could loan them the knife for the upcoming show. Patti said "It's been sitting on the piano in our garage for more than a's yours!"
The blade, 22" long, was dug  12" deep...a smithy produced sugarcane knife cir 1890

 They were pretty pleased and planned to use some museum techniques in cleaning and restoring the blade. Patti was pretty pleased herself in finally getting her artifact on display, and out of the garage. I concurred as I could picture me taking out the garbage one afternoon, only to have the knife fall on my foot on the walk back in, and losing a few toes in the process. The curator also asked us to spread the word to other metal detectorists about bringing their finds to the museum for documentation and possible analysis. So here I am, spreading it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The China Incident - Failed Recovery

As you know (or maybe you don't) my wife and I do metal detecting recoveries for people in need...they need their lost items back...and we try to comply. Free of charge, of course. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we get drawn into things that are not of our making, and many times things are NOT what they seem.
A nice day, Sunday, and we are having a relaxing lunch, when I get the call from a friend of mine, Steve. He has a woman of Chinese descent asking to rent a detector to find a lost ring in her back yard. She has no idea how to use the machine, though, and he has doubts. Steve mentions the members of the Central Florida Metal Detecting Club offer a free service and he calls me. My wife and I break off from lunch and head home, 10-minutes away, to load up our gear and head about a few hour's drive south to the location where the ring was lost.

We arrive amidst a crowd of people, also of Chinese descent, speaking Chinese at us from all different directions, as I unload the gear from the car, Patti meets the young lady who lost the ring, who speaks excellent English and quickly fills us in. According to her, she lost a very valuable gold ring in her back yard, and wants to find it with a detector, and thanks us for coming. While I continue to unload the gear Patti walks into the back yard with the woman to scope out our work area. I hear Patti yell "OH MY GOD!" which launches me practically over the roof, getting to her quickly.

As I skid to a stop, an odd scene unfolds as Patti and the young woman stare into the back yard. The area consists of loose white gravel scattered amid several sets of circular concrete tables with a concentric ring of concrete benches surrounding them up on a long concrete patio slab. On the far right of these backyard patio sets, a 7-foot long, 4-foot wide and 3-feet deep pit, more than large enough to bury a casket, had been dug, THROUGH the concrete patio with a steel mining pick AND was still being enlarged by a Chinese man of small stature swinging the pick like a small diesel-powered  machine!

Picking and Not Singing - Tearing Up a Patio

The lady says, nonchalantly, that her father was helping to find the ring. Patti and I looked at each other. I asked her if she still wanted us to at least scan the area, or we could just depart. She insisted we scan the area for her "ring" as I began to think we may have been hoodwinked here, and maybe the language barrier, with us speaking no Chinese, and her speaking English, but maybe not as well as we thought had brought about a misunderstanding between us.

She said something to her father in Chinese as I picked up my Minelab E-Trac. Her Father glared at me as I approached the "pit" to get a few scans in. Just before I got there, he jumped back into the pit, cutting me off, swinging his pick again, narrowly missing my head by an inch or so! As he swung again, I grabbed the oak handle just before the pick buried itself in my forehead and pulled upward, almost lifting the guy off his feet. Now relieved of his pick, he quickly turned and started yelling into my face. I usually don't tolerate this sort of thing very well, and before things could escalate further, his daughter, now also yelling angrily, jumped in front of me confronting him. During the melee, her mother had arrived with a tray of cold drinks for everyone, and now also jumped into the pit, yelling at her husband for his antics.

"I don't like Americans very much."

Patti whispered "What the hell is going on here?" as I was thinking of the delicious hamburger I had abandoned to be here to help. I was having second thoughts. His daughter apologized and said that he said he didn't like Americans very much. I counted backwards from 10, calming myself down. I told her we would gladly pack up and leave, and hope she finds it somehow. Then something happened  I did not expect. With that she started crying, and hugged Patti as she sobbed, almost like a little kid, not a 23-year old woman! Patti was dumbfounded as her mother and father just stood there and watched. I told her to come out front, and her, Patti and I went out to our car, she sat in the back seat, and Patti and I in the front...I fired up the engine and air conditioner and we talked.

Now the story became clear-er. She was not looking for a ring...she was looking for a 24-karat gold filled jewelry box that went miss almost 3-years earlier. The delicate question was what did she mean by "...went missing?" She dried her tears and said, in perfect English, her father had come into her room and wanted to "see" her jewelry box. She handed it to him and that was 3-years hence. Several days ago, she was going on a date, and went to look in her jewelry box for her favorite ring, and realized her father had never given the box back to her.

Buried, hidden or stolen?

She went and asked him for it back, but he had gotten angry with her and said he did not remember what he had done with it all those years ago. Convenient, no? Then she had gotten angry with him and her mother got into the mix and finally her father said he now remembered. He had put it in a cabinet, in the garage, for safe-keeping. She spent an entire day unloading heavy stored boxes and equipment away from the cabinet, managed to open it and unload it. You guessed jewelry box. Here we go again. Once again confronted, which I guess does not happen to him much in Communist China, he gets angry and says someone must have moved it someplace else! How much simpler could it be???

Pleading with her mother, she stepped in once more and brought her wrath to bear on her husband, who seemed to have less success in fending off his wife, than his young daughter. Finally, he admitted, he said, that he BURIED it in the back yard to keep it safe...yea, that's it...buried it...and 3-feet deep at that! She said when he found out that we were coming, and not really understanding the technology involved, he had rushed out with the pick and in two and a half hours, had torn the patio to shreds..making it impossible for us to hunt. Not only that, it had originally been an in-ground pool leaving tons of iron re-bar all over the back yard.

I explained to her, we could not run a proper hunt, as we had come to find a ring laying in the grass, not a 3-foot deep box of 24-K gold jewelry, which I doubted was there anyway. We felt terrible for her as we left, and felt even more terrible she had a father who would apparently steal his daughter's valuables and then become angry with her for asking for it back! A sad adventure for all, except the thief. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

19th Century Ship Hull Sheathing - Muntz Metal

One of the biggest problems with living in Florida...any part of the threat of tornadoes and hurricanes. But, even though they are horrendous to deal with, especially the aftermath with torn-off roofing and flooded living rooms, opportunities also arise for discovery. One of my favorite finds along a hurricane-torn beach, if sand has been removed and not thrown back up, is fragments of 19th Century hull sheathing. There are many wrecks off most east-coast beaches that are either unknown, or known but unrecorded that contribute to the supply washing in during storms. And although their wooden hulls have been eaten away by worms or degraded from a few hundred years of soaking in salt sea water, the hull sheathing usually remains. And it comes ashore in sheets of a yellow metal easily detectable and in large amounts. This would be an alloy called "Muntz Metal" which I have mistaken time and again, for pure copper sheathing...which it is most certainly not.

This half-foot fragment almost blew my ears off in knee-deep sea water!
Pure copper sheathing is more reddish in color, and much harder to find, as it was used mostly before 1832, before Muntz metal was patented, making it more rare. But it makes one helluva target in your headphones!

One of the best examples of a Muntz metal sheathed hull, is the restored stern draft and rudder of the famous British Clipper Ship Cutty Sark that was built in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line.
The restored stern (with stern draft and rudder) of the Cutty Sark elevated 3 metres above its dry-dock under its glass-roofed visitors' centre in June 2012.-Wikimedia Commons, free media repository

Central Florida beaches can turn up several types of hull sheathing as you hunt. Fragments of lead sheathing are fairly common finds down around the "treasure beaches."  From Melbourne, Florida, southward along Ft. Pierce, you will find remnants of lead sheathing material from the "still-coming-up-every-storm" wreckage of the celebrated 1715 Plate Fleet...which recently celebrated it's 300th anniversary of  making a major mistake in sailing many treasure-laden galleons too close to shore in a Category 5 Hurricane. Strangely enough, the Spanish seaman's name for a galleon was literally "Flying Pig," and is based, from what I hear, on their handling qualities under duress. Get a full compliment of sailors of different nationalities, sharing no common language on a ship that handles like a barge in a major hurricane near shore. Well, I think we've seen the results of that scenario played out to Mel Fishers advantage already.

From Central to Northern Florida, once in a while, small fragments of copper sheathing will come up after a big blow, but rarely, and usually with plenty of greenish-blue patina attached. The greenish-blue coating was extremely poisonous to barnacles and ship worms, hence provided excellent protection of early ships. Copper sheathing was usually used on ships from the 1790's up until mid-1800's, Copper sheathing was very expensive and had to be replaced at certain intervals, so I am not sure how many early ships went to the expense of installing that type of sheathing I have no idea where the fragments originate from offshore nowadays, but can still be found after a raging storm or hurricane. 

Muntz metal still provides the majority of sheathing found, at least by me, along the Central Florida coast while metal detecting. The alloy, composed of 60% copper and 40% zinc was invented by George Fredrick Muntz, an Englishman and metal-roller from Birmingham, who commercialized it following his patent of it in 1832. The metal was much cheaper that pure copper and did a better job. 

Sheathing a ship in copper was expensive-a-mundo...

Muntz metal was also used for other purposes; sheathing pilings under piers, household items and musical instruments all bear the mark of Muntz metal.

I do believe, on occasion, many "sunny-day" detectorists find this metal after storms and pitch it in the ol' beach garbage can along with hairpins, pop-tabs and aluminum cans. Big mistake. A historic alloy that has literally traveled the world, manufactured by people who are now no more than legend, and has technical and historic worth should be given a closer look and at least a place of honor on display, be it a museum, library or your den. If you are interested in ship's sheathing and knowledge and uses of metals in the past, please visit a site I used for some of my information...a fascinating website!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Da' Bee's Knees - A Stinging Adventure

My good friend and occasional metal detecting buddy "Mitch" (he is a Navy diving expert who works for some shadowy government agency, hence the pseudonym) has reappeared again, as he is wont to do, as some secret project is over and he gets a week of "down-time" to do some metal detecting and peaceful hobby-like things before once again going back into the breech for a new project or destination. And Hurricane Irma may have left a few deep-sea goodies on the beach or possibly golden sands, as it were.

Well, after several month's of one thing or another...hospitals, hurricanes and so on, Mitch and I met at the beach for a bit of sand hunting. I was considering hitting the sand-casting with silver workshop with another friend at 10:00 am this morn, but we figured with him actually OFF the beach, we may have had a chance. We got there at 7:00 am, cool breeze and a bit too early for the majority of beach parking-lot nut jobs looking for trouble. My mid-sized coil in place, on the E-Trac with fresh batteries,Mitch with his CTX was ready to go. Getting ready to close the trunk and a large bee buzzes in. I shoo the bee out, and he made a bee-line (right???) and STUNG me right thru my bright orange shirt!!!! Man, that smarted quite a bit, but I hunted anyway, but I was plagued with wasps, bees and yellow-jackets searching me out every time I neared the boardwalk!!! Mitch was like, "I found a nice earring!" and I'm like (running wildly waving my hat in the air around me) "Gaaaaaa!" followed by a small swarm of insects.
Went back to the car to get the little yaller' Ace 250 with the 4" sniper coil and fine mesh scoop for some fine gold chain hunting near the boardwalk entrance . Got chased away by 2 honey bees, a wasp, a bumblebee Heavy and another yellow-jacket!?!?!
I took a circuitous route from the beach back to the parking lot at a fast walk, popped the trunk remotely, practically threw the ACE and the scoop and pouch in, slammed it and bolted for the car door and got STUNG again, almost in the same place, before I could make it into the drivers seat! I had to leave poor Mitch on the beach because I couldn't risk getting out of the car and getting stung again! One of my other younger, back-to-nature friends, who is also a gardener, plant expert, recyle expert, turning coins-into-rings expert, and best of all a beekeeper, let me in on the secret. Apparently when an angry bee, wasp, yellow-jacket or like minded little bastard, stings you, it leaves behind a pheromone,  leaving you literally a marked man (or woman) by imparting an odorous calling card indicating you are an invader to all the other little sharp-ended little suckers, who promptly attack when in range. I need and you need to Bee more careful around these little critters while metal detecting! I am really a sore loser in this regard, but healing pretty quickly. Dang!!!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Attitude Dancing - Solitude Detecting

Today is attitude time and, yes, I know I have not posted for a while. I have lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, Addison's Disease and several other ailments which keep me running my own medical lab practically full time to keep up with my physical degeneration, and various system failures (also called aging) as we say in engineering. My most recent hospital incarceration, a week or so ago, was due to several large blood clots in my left lung; widow-makers my doctor called them. Add blood thinner to my long list of life-saving pharmaceuticals. Onward. I've not had a decent metal detecting day for a few weeks, but the last one was fine. One of my favorite parks is at the edge of the realm (or Orange County, Florida) and rarely sees a detectorist. I've been hunting this beautiful park for 10-years now, and I almost always arrive when the gates open at 8:00 am. A small prairie, to the east, blows cool breezes, and rustles the 200-year old oaks.

I personally know many of the people that work at this park...many of them for so long that they give me tips on where things were in the 1870's near an abandoned orange grove, or where the baseball diamonds had been in the 1930's, and the like. This place is quiet, almost bordering on spiritual, and metal detecting here is like a fine wine, chilled and sipped. I usually hunt alone here, and enjoy every second of my short solitude as I swing the coil and listen closely to what the ground has to say. Morning sunlight and a faint mist filters through the massive strands of Spanish moss hanging from the mighty oaks as I work my way along familiar paths I've trod before countless times; an oxymoron in the metal detecting world.

A loud tone startles me out of my reverie, and I focus on checking the target depth and target analysis on the VDI. The Etrac says it's a pop-tab of one type or another, about 8" deep. The thing is, it does not SOUND like a tab. It is far too sharp, no fuzziness at all, and is a rock solid signal and VDI reading, no matter from which direction you swing the coil.

The familiar recovery process takes control as I watch, seemingly disconnected from the deed, as the target is centered, the plug is removed and loose dirt stacked onto the ground cloth. The pin-pointer bays shrilly like a tiny electronic hunting dog, and a dirty circular piece of metal surfaces from the loose soil. Using a small spray bottle filled with water for exactly these sorts of situations, the mist of water removes a good bit of the dirt for the reveal. 

It's an unfamiliar coin, made of bronze, as it turns out. A rarity to find a coin made of such metal in the United States, and I closely examine it. I've passed over this area probably 50 or 60 times in the past without a peep. But now, a bronze 1958 Nederland (Netherlands) 5-cent piece  has emerged, in pretty good shape. How did it get to this park, and who lost it? No telling. But, under normal circumstances, I would have probably ignored it...almost a ringer for a pop-tab tone wise and VDI wise...BUT the do I describe it...was more SOLID than a normal aluminum pop-tab. Many times I will do a perpendicular and horizontal sweep over a target to see if the VDI number or the tone changes. Usually, a pop-tab coming in as a 12-15, on my Minelab E-Trac, will sweep at a 12-16 or 12-17 from another angle. This was a solid 12-15 from every angle.

Oddly enough, this old park seems to produce a lot of foreign coinage. And usually those coins fall within the pop-tab range; a 1988 Japanese 20 Yen piece, a 1970 Argentinian 25 Centavos coin, a 1935 British Half Penny, and a 1981 Mexican Pesos coin. 

It pays to go low and slow here, and the beauty is sometimes deceptive. The huge oaks harbor more than Spanish moss, and not wearing a hat, can result in a nasty insect bite on the neck. Huge, irritable, ants skydive regularly off the overhead limbs. Hunting the wilder areas of the park can also result in close encounters...not with UFO's, but with poisonous snakes. If you ever wondered where the term "snake in the grass" came from, I'll send you some pictures.

A check of the 1958 Netherlands 5-cent piece in a recent coin pricing book reveals the coin is somewhat rare and sells for around $30 or so. Not a bad find at all! My metal detecting time is always too short, but I'll be back. Hopefully.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Coincidence Saves Us - Marquesas Keys 1987

In keeping with my recent spat of oddness while treasure hunting, I thought I'd relate this little bit of weirdness that happened back in 1987. What makes it weird are the series of coincidences that ensued throughout our misadventure. My good friend, treasure hunter, author and shop owner, Kevin Reilly had been planning a diving and treasure hunting trip for months, and had finally found several low-on-work fishing vessels, the Aubrey and it's sister ship, the Lil Aubrey ready to take our group down to the Marquesas Keys, about 22 miles southeast of Key West. 
My old treasure hunting partner, Kevin Reilly, in 1986, may he rest in peace.
I was informed, a few years ago, by a rather irritatingly rude archaeologist, who worked that area with Mel Fisher, that we had been...trespassing on the Marquesas. "That was ours, that was ours!!" she kept repeating to the point I almost decided to drop their memoir of treasure hunting with Mel Fisher back onto the table. As much as it pains me to say, it was an exceptionally good read! Still, I replied that she and her "group" had left piles and piles of rusted iron theodolite towers all over the islands, 27-years ago as well as most of their trash, and if it was indeed "...their's" than maybe they ought go back and clean it up! Marc Hoover knows who I mean, right Marc? It was a good read though, darn it!
I shot this photo of one of the countless shallow shipwrecks found in the Florida Keys in 1987, no telling how old it is.
The weather was beautiful as we left Key West, with all of us gawking as we passed the moored and famous "Bookmaker," one of Mel Fisher's blower-equipped salvage boats. This was the time of the Spanish fleet's Atocha, and only a few days before Mel's guys finally hit the main pile of treasure that went down with the doomed galleon. We were totally oblivious to all this as we sliced through the crystal blue-green waters, westbound for the uninhabited Marquesas Keys. This is a group of small islands that looks like a tasty shrimp from the air, with a central "lagoon" and separate islands surrounding it.

Shrimp-shaped Marquesas Keys 

After several days of metal detecting and scuba diving scored us a few artifacts, I was using an original hip-mounted Teknetics 8000 Coin Computer with, I think, an 8" concentric coil, which was a pretty good setup for the time. One of the big problems with this detector was if you used it regularly in a marine environment, the mounting hardware rusted up, as it was all unprotected steel. And the rust got all over everything! I got a strong ping on one of the many uninhabited beaches and pulled up a rather worn 1841 Seated Liberty half-dime below a few inches of sand.

My 1841 half-dime perched on the wooden railing of the Lil Aubrey
Everyone aboard the Lil Aubrey were feeling quite free in making up stories on just how the 1841 half-dime had made its way to the island. Everything from a sailor brought a prostitute out to the semi-tropical island from Key West and when he threw his pant's over a tree branch 145-years ago, it fell out onto the sand, to a seagull picked up the then shiny coin off the 19th Century streets of Key West and accidentally dropping it as they flew over the uninhabited key.
Enjoying fresh-caught seafood on the fantail of Lil Aubrey laying off the Marquesas Keys in 1987
We even had a confrontation later the next day with the very same Bookmaker we had seen on the way out of Key West, who hove us over, seeing the metal detectors on board the fantail of the Lil Aubrey, to make sure we were not on their lease. We weren't but they still glared at us, not trusting us, and for good reason. There was a lot of poaching activity around the area, as it was no secret that Treasure Salvors had hit it big before, with the Margarita, and were hot on the trail of the Atocha.

Inside The Pass, Marquesas Keys. I lost the film so it was not developed until 28-years later, hence some light-leakage on the negatives after such a long time in the can.

The captain of the Lil Aubrey, Jon Gerung, a German oceanographer by trade, fishing boat captain by necessity, asked me late one afternoon, if I wanted to go ashore with him and take my metal detector along while he did a independent survey of the on-shore vegetation. No one else wanted to go, so Captain Jon and I pushed off in the little skiff and motored to shore, about 3-miles away. Jon made notes, while I scanned the shore with my machine and came up with a few pieces of rusted iron fragments, not much to write home about.

The small, painfully biting "no-see-um's" started to get bothersome, so Captain Jon and I jumped aboard the small skiff; it was getting dark and we needed to get back to the Lil Aubrey. Jon gave the starter rope a good yank and nothing but a muted putter. We checked the fuel was on and Jon gave the starter another mighty pull. The engine just would not start. The clouds of "no-see-um's" were getting so bad, we pushed away from the shore regardless. Jon picked up a small broom in the bottom of the skiff, and I tightened the screw on my search coil, and we used both as makeshift oars, as we paddled away in the growing darkness. The wind was picking up, which we were paddling against. A few more tries on the outboard produced was dead. Jon and I glanced at each other, feeling the southbound wind, and thinking if we don't figure this out real quick, we might end up in Cuba!

We were having a hard time locating the Lil Abrey in the darkening anchorage, as no one was aboard who knew how to turn the running lights on. As we paddled on, we passed an large, anchored, sailboat. A big white dog suddenly showed up on it's bow and started barking at us, bringing a rather pretty woman in a white bikini to the bow, watching us pass. Suddenly, a guy appeared on the bow holding a drink. He shouted at us, "You guys okay?" whereas Jon yells back, "Our outboard quit...we are trying to get back to our boat!" We  paddled over to the sailboat and the guys says, "Isn't that the skiff from the Lil Aubrey?"

We were dumbfounded. As we reached the side of the sailboat, the guy climbs down into our skiff, and he pulls off the cover of the outboard. "Yea, I'm Jerry. I used to be the captain of the Lil Abrey about seven-years ago, and this sonofabitchin' outboard was always a problem!" He had a pair of Craftsman pliers in his hand, and grabbed a spring in the motor and pulled it tight onto a component. He closed the cover, and gave it a pull. The outboard sputtered a bit, the roared to life. Jon and I had our mouths open...still just dumbfounded. Jerry handed us a flashlight, and off we went, finally getting back to the Lil Aubrey. Jon turned on all the running lights, and we told the story to everyone aboard, who thought we might have been killed by drug smugglers, which was a danger at that time.

The coincidences were simply staggering; we broke down 22-miles from Key West, a dog just happened to bark at us from an anchored sailboat along our course, alerting the owner, a former captain of our fishing boat, who had intimate knowledge of our busted motor, and knew exactly how to fix it! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

ODD THINGS AFOOT- treasure hunting in the Twilight Zone

The other day I was talking with an old friend who has also been treasure hunting for at least as long as I have, more than 50-years, and we shared some odd things that have happened on certain treasure hunts. And I don't mean just a day-trip to a schoolyard or park, but heading into the woods, onto a deserted island, or anchored at sea for a few days.

A trip into the everglades in 1980, on a friend's air-boat. We were looking for the remains of a Seminole Indian village deep in the swamp, where stories of stolen, then buried, U.S. Army gold during the Seminole Indian Wars exerted a strong pull on our sense of adventure. Long before Google and GPS, we used a U.S. Geodetic Survey map to mark the location we thought had been the village, based on some of our library research, existing on a large hammock area in the sea of grass.

A Must Vehicle For Everglades Treasure Hunting

We had the top metal detectors of the day aboard; my green-enameled Garrett ADS Deepseeker with it's 14" white dish-platter coil, Ed's cobalt-blue Whites Coinmaster 5000-D, and Larry's frog-green Garrett Groundhog. We left from a boat ramp just off Florida's Route 27, a few mile north of Alligator Alley, coming out of Ft. Lauderdale and heading across the glades to Naples, on Florida's west coast. About a third of the way across lay The Great Cypress Swamp, a protected wildlife area filled with small and large beasties of all descriptions.

It was late in the afternoon, and we planned to camp on the hardwood hammock, as there was a cleared area high and dry where we would be using our machines. This was also where we had supposed the Seminole village would have been in the 1840's. We skimmed in, propeller roaring, and beached the air-boat. We were carefully watching for ornery little poisonous water moccasins, and peeping-tom alligators, as we dragged our camping gear up onto the dry, and set up our tents, laid out the campfire ring, and eagerly pulled out our detectors.

An interesting afternoon ensued in the few hours before dark, as we dug water-filled holes (if the holes were NOT filled with water, they would be) aplenty around the hammock, finding lead weights, spent bullet casings, guessed it...pop-tabs! Larry's Garrett Groundhog burped as the batteries died, and Ed and I helped wrestle the machine apart (in those days, you practically had to disassemble the machine to replace the batteries, pulling the entire top panel off the machine, then fish thru brightly-colored tangles of wires to get to the battery holder)

Darkness enveloped our little hammock, and we finally lit the campfire inside the small ring of limestone coral rocks. We had a can of McCormick beef stew bubbling over the fire in no time, and we were so hungry by then we almost got 3rd degree burns in our mouths gulping it down by the cupful. The sounds in the everglades in the dead of night are hard to describe, mostly the grunting of alligators, occasional  splashiness in the water as fish outrun larger fish, and a slight hum of insects. What woke me up was the sudden absence of these sounds, and as I pushed my way out of the tent I saw Larry standing by the air-boat, and suddenly noticed an eerie purple glow lighting up the entire hammock. Larry was staring up at a bright purple light parked over the saw grass, and I crept over to where he was standing.
A recreation of what we saw...a poor one, I might add...

The thing was silent and just sitting there, about the size of an automobile, with light coming from it almost in the ultraviolet range. Larry said, "Go get your M-1," which I had brought along, as nobody goes into the everglades without a good rifle or pistol. I didn't say anything, thinking, like I used to do when we hunted wild boars, that shooting it would just make it mad. "What the fuck is that?" said Ed, who had come out of his tent behind me, then he said "Where's the gun???"  The odd characteristic about the thing, other than the fact it existed in the first place, was that a ring of light surrounded it like a glow, but was separate from the object's glow, which seems, even now, impossible. Light just does not behave that way.

Larry said, "Let's get the ever-loving crap outa here!" jumped into the the air-boat, turned the key, and...nothing. The solenoid on the electric starter didn't even click. At that point, without a sound, the object started to move straight up and accelerated until we couldn't see it anymore. We all jumped, now in the pitch dark, as the starter suddenly whined and spun the propeller, then stopped and was silent. "Damn," said Ed. We spent the rest of the night with the campfire roaring and my rifle across my lap, as we drank coffee until the sun finally came up.

We loaded up the gear the next morning. Larry turned the key and the propeller roared to life. We beat it back to the boat-ramp off Rout 27 and never spoke of it again. Larry got killed in a car crash in New York a few years later, and Ed died of cancer a few years after that. If you treasure hunt long enough, in lonely places, you'll see a thing or two yourself.