I have been an avid water hunter since the early 1970's when several of us started hunting the beaches surrounding New York City. It was an exciting time since competition was virtually non-existent and finds were plentiful. However, the equipment we used was crude at best land detectors (mediocre by today's standards) converted for use in the water. We ruined our fair share by dropping them in the water but there was not much else to choose from in terms of commercially available equipment. My first waterproof detector was one from Whites Electronics called an Amphibian a basic TR-unit with no discrimination but it served me flawlessly for years. Well, as water hunting grew in popularity, other manufacturers started producing detectors for this use and their performance improved. Whites has maintained a line of water detectors since the days of the Amphibian and has devoted as much time in the research & development of new water units as they have land detectors. Their newest addition the BeachHunter ID is one that incorporates features not found on any of its predecessors and I was looking forward to trying it out on both salt and fresh water sites.
The BeachHunter ID was developed through considerable engineering research and feedback from hunters worldwide testing numerous prototypes. Using a dual-frequency circuit, it was designed to allow treasure hunters to search both fresh and saltwater sites with one detector. Typically, VLF detectors are best suited for use in fresh water and pulse units are best in salt water. The drawback to pulse detectors is that they lack discrimination resulting in unnecessary digging in areas that contain a large number of trash targets.
The BeachHunter ID only requires three controls to adjust its operation. The THRESHOLD knob is used to turn the unit on and adjust the background hum heard through the headphones. The optimum setting is when a slight hum is heard over any background noise that may be present. The detector can be run completely silent; however, a slight loss of detection depth will occur. The SENSITIVITY knob also serves a dual purpose. By turning the knob to the BATT CHK position, the LEDs will indicate relative battery strength. In any other position, it controls the power output of the coil. A common misconception is that more power equals more depth; however, if adverse ground conditions are present, less depth may actually be the result. There is a preset mark which is a good starting point you should turn it up as high as possible without sacrificing stability. This control also affects the target ID LEDs if set to high, the accuracy of the lights will be reduced.
The final control is the GROUND knob that adjusts how the detector's ability to compensate for ground mineralization. The more precisely this control is set in each area the detector is used, the better the detection depth and target ID accuracy will be. It is adjusted in the same way a manual ground balance detector would be; i.e., slight adjustments are made so that the background audio threshold remains constant as the coil is lowered to the ground. Anytime the SENSITIVITY setting is changed, the GROUND control will need to be readjusted in order to maintain optimal performance.
There are two distinct search modes on the BeachHunter ID ALL METAL & DISC(riminate). When operating in the DISC modes, one of three distinct audio tones will be produced depending on what type of target has been detected. A low tone indicates iron or steel, a medium tone indicates lead, nickels, pull-tabs and most gold jewelry and a high tone is indicative of coins or silver targets. In addition to the tones, there are three colored lights (LEDs) RED, YELLOW & BLUE/GREEN - on the face of the control housing that correspond to the tones being produced to help aid in identifying targets. The ALL METAL mode is extremely helpful for pinpointing or when searching in confined spaces since the amount of coil movement required for optimal performance is considerably less than the DISC mode. When operating in the ALL METAL mode, the audio ID feature is disabled; i.e., all targets produce the same response; however, the LEDs still provide probable target ID.
The BeachHunter ID uses that same style drop-in battery pack found on many of the other Whites detectors. The pack that comes with the detector holds 8 AA batteries that produce 30 to 40 hours of operation. The rechargeable pack offered by Whites can be used to reduce operating costs.
The searchcoil is a 9.5-inch design providing good ground coverage while not sacrificing sensitivity to smaller targets.
The timing of this field test was less than ideal an early Fall cold spell hit central Pennsylvania and the water temperature dropped a good 10 degrees in just a few days. Digging out my cold-water wetsuit and finding out it must have shrunk since I last put it on (the only reason I could come up with to explain why it was as snug as it was). I loaded my dive gear and the BeachHunter ID into the truck and headed over to a large lake quite popular in the summer about 50 miles away.
The first site I visited was a public beach with a nice sandy beach. The interesting point about this site was that it had been much larger in the early 1900's but the older section was now overgrown with weeds and a layer of muck. As a result, this area receives less pressure from the other water hunters than the section still in-use. Since I knew several local hunters had worked the active beach consistently throughout the season, I was not expecting much but I felt it would give me an indication of how the BeachHunter ID performed in a 'non-virgin' site.
Suiting up, I ground balanced the detector and selected the DISC mode and waded into the shallow water at one end of the beach and started working a pattern parallel to the shore. In order to check the BeachHunter ID's target ID accuracy I opted to dig any signal I received. The first pass produced three IRON signals that turned out to be well-rusted hairpins. Starting my second pass I received a HIGH tone and the corresponding GREEN light came on. In the second scoop I found a quarter at least I knew the previous hunters did not get it all! The next few passes produced several more coins and almost all of them were at least 6 to 8 inches deep, with a few down close to a foot based on the depth of my holes before filling them back in.
Anxious to see how well the BeachHunter ID worked in salt water, I drove to a popular beach in Rye, New York. It had been more than 20 years since I had lasted hunted this site and I was hoping to find a few keepers for 'old times sake'. The tide was just starting to go out so I would work my way out as the water receded. As I looked down the beach I saw two other detectorists working the wet sand area so I knew that that area was being hunted on a regular basis. With a quick wave, I waded into the water and started hunting. Ground balancing was easy and the threshold remained rock-solid as I worked parallel to the beach. For the first 30 minutes I only received LOW tones indicating ferrous junk targets which I ignored. Finally a HIGH tone produced a clad dime from almost 10 inches. I spent most of the day working the shallow water and was quite satisfied with my results. In addition to a handful of clad coins, I had three wheat cents, two silver dimes, two old beach tags and a 14KT wedding band engraved with the date 08-12-51.
Over the next few weeks I visited several fresh & salt water sites and was impressed with the ability of the BeachHunter ID to handle the ground conditions present as well as locate targets at depths which indicated others had missed them. I used the BeachHunter ID both in the wading and diving configurations. In addition to almost 200 coins, I recovered several pieces of gold jewelry, keys, buttons and other items lost by swimmers over the years.
The new BeachHunter ID is a detector that is equally at home in salt water, fresh water or on land. The dual-frequency circuitry handles adverse ground conditions without sacrificing detection depth or target ID accuracy. The ability to identify targets even when hunting in the All-Metal mode is a feature that expands the usefulness of the BeachHunter ID. In high-trash areas, the fact that it responds to all targets in the ground takes some getting used to; however, the audio target ID system combined with the LEDs helps one pick out the 'keepers' from the junk.
Due to space limitations, I abbreviated some of the details regarding my experience in the field; however, the complete account is available on the Lost Treasure website (www.losttreasure.com)
If you are a water hunter or thinking about giving it a try, contact your local Whites dealer to take a look at the new BeachHunter ID as you get ready for the 2002 hunting season. It comes with the standard 2-year transferable warranty and retails for $799.95. Contact the factory at 1011 Pleasant Valley Road, Sweet Home, OR 97386; (800) 547-6911 or visit their website at whiteselectronics.com.