|Fri Aug 2 2013 15:58:26|
Metal Detectors: A-OK or Declasse?
By: Julia Wilkinson
Someone I know recently bought a fancy metal detector, and now he spends his early mornings or late dusks swinging it to and fro on the beach near his home. He's collected quite a stash, and gotten no flack, but that's apparently not the case for all "detectorists": a recent Wall Street Journal story reported that they "get hollered at on beaches and chased away from parks." And it goes on to say that "even the ultimate pop-culture endorsement - a bunch of reality-TV shows like "Dig Wars"...are seen as a diss."
"They make us look bad," one detectorist, a Mr. Thompson, said. On one show according to him, "They'll pull out a backhoe to dig up a parking lot. We don't excavate." One metal sleuth was yelled at on a beach; another had the police called on him as "a suspicious man carrying a rod."
It's gotten so bad that some metal detectorists resort to ploys like using a detector that looks like a cane. Some others skulk around under cover of the night, apparently known as "nighthawking."
As a teen who lived in the beach town some summers, I used to feel bad for what I deemed the old fogies who had to resort to roaming around with their divining rods for what might amount to a few coins. But the detectorists in the article and my acquaintance who just started detecting have dug up some pretty interesting things: a Spanish real from 1780, an old gun, a bullet, two toy cars, and even a civil-war button from a uniform.
My Florida friend has found all kinds of rings: a Coach ring, a class ring, part-gold rings with small stones. Nothing earth-shattering yet, but he roots these things out regularly.
All of which begs the question: is there something ethically wrong with this? Would the person who lost the item have come back and found it, or is it simply finders, keepers?
What about historical and antique artifacts? Should they all be fair game, or should there be limits? Certainly no one is talking about digging around in graveyards...at least I hope not!
What do you think of the practice of metal detecting? Do you do it, or would you do it? Is it fair or foul? Post a comment here!