Friday, January 6, 2012

Site Survey Saved by Silver

As I mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I've been spending a lot of time lately doing research on some local Civil War camp sites.  Last week, having identified a likely prospect on the map, I visited it in person to check it out.  My friend Tony Stevenson of Detecting Saxapahaw came along for the adventure.

As it turned out, this was a day from the twilight zone.  We got lost en route, several landowners weren't answering the door, and I'm pretty sure we found the headquarters of a cult.  To top things off, when we were completely famished and decaffeinated, we couldn't locate so much as a vending machine.  When we finally found an old country store and approached the register with arm-fulls of gatorade, pop-tarts, etc., the elderly proprietor informed us that she only accepted cash of which we had exactly none.

In any case, after walking several miles and detecting for very little of that time, we ultimately came up empty-handed at this particular location.  I haven't given up on the site by any means and will update readers on progress down the road.  But after a few hours of hiking and nothing but threshold tone, Tony and I decided to relocate the hunt to one of his sites where he'd previously made some good finds including a US belt plate.

My first find at this new locale for me was this nice flat button ...

I'm unable to discern what the writing says although Tony, with clearly superior detail vision than I possess, offered a translation in the field.  I'll have to follow up with him and will update the blog once I have it.

[UPDATE:  Tony just emailed me this awesome picture that shows what the button says.  Thanks Tony!]
The second find was really a fun one.  I've been hunting primarily with my GPX 4800 lately.  And, as fantastic a machine as it is for finding deep relics, it's really a binary detector in that it can only tell you whether a target is iron or whether it's not.  I should note that that's a limitation of all pulse induction machines and that the GPX has the absolute best iron discrimination available.  But on this particular day, I was using my other Minelab detector, the E-TRAC, which is a VLF machine and which has the ability to provide much more information about the target than any PI machine currently available.

In fact, the E-TRAC provides more details on the nature of a target than any other VLF machine on the market, too.  Rather than utilizing a single integer value to characterize alloys, E-TRAC provides two values—a ferrous number and a conductive number that combined are what Minelab calls Smartfind.™

Without going into too much detail, the FE value is a scale from 1 to 35 and the CO value ranges from 0-50.  The beauty of this system is that, while several targets can possess identical values on one scale, the chances of their sharing both CO and FE values are low.  For example, a square nail and a silver quarter both sound good and might even have the same VDI number (to use White's method of classifying targets).  On an E-TRAC they will share the same CO value, but the FE value will be different, allowing the detectorist to tell the difference between valuable and trash targets.

E-TRAC Screen showing FE and CO values for a target.
That being said, any system of classifying metallic targets is prone to some error given soil conditions, depth, and proximity of adjacent targets.  But shortly after finding the flat button, I got an absolutely rock-solid 12-45 reading.  To any E-TRAC owner, that number means one thing: SILVER DIME.  I dug a large plug, flipped it over, and sure enough, out popped this guy.
Cool, a "Seated Liberty" dime.  Flipping it over, I made out the date of 1891 which you may or may not be able to discern in the regrettably poor quality photo below.

1891 Seated Liberty Obverse
This find was literally the silver lining to an otherwise somewhat exasperating day.  Thanks to Tony for sharing his cool site and for the camaraderie.  I promise we'll locate that camp soon!

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