Q & A with Jim Fielding…

I can best describe Jim Fielding by saying when it comes to metal detecting he has “been there and done that”. He’s a skilled detectorist, a technical guru, an all around good guy and I’m happy to call him my friend. Jim thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and please, please write that book while all those adventures and memories are easy to grab…..

THE SESSION

Q. Jim I know you live in Florida but can you tell us what area?

A. I live in Orlando, Central Florida. I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, lived in Naples, Florida for many years and finally relocated to Orlando. We have all the major theme parks, Disney, MGM, and Universal Studios. My idea of a good time is hanging out in Kellyco Metal Detectors Superstore showroom.

 

Q. Can I be a little personal and ask what it is you do for a living?

A. I was an engineer for many years with many small and large manufacturing companies back when the United States was still an industrialized nation. I worked in aerospace, commercial manufacturing, chemical engineering, electronics and medical device companies. I did a lot of design work, as well as some regulatory and statistical compliance stuff. I traveled the world quite a bit, and I used to joke that my living room furniture was in the rear of a Boeing 767! I had a long career, but lung cancer took me down, along with a host of other illnesses, and I decided to retire in 2008 while I still had some time left to live, instead of working on implants and arguing FDA regulations with someone.

 

Q. I also know you are married to a lovely gal named Patti. How did you two meet and does Patti detect as well?

A. Patti and I met on the old “E-Harmony” online dating site in 2005. She sent me an e-mail one day after we’d met online, wanting to finally to meet in person. She asked me if I was an axe-murderer. I replied I’d never killed an axe that didn’t deserve it. The die was cast, no pun intended.

Patti & Jim Fielding

Yes, Patti has been metal detecting for almost 8-years now. She started with a Garrett Ace 250, and now regularly uses a Garrett AT-Pro. She’s good…real good… and makes some fantastic finds! She’s found Seminole Indian War musket balls and even a musket trigger guard while I was digging bottle caps and pop-tabs. Her last big (and heavy) thing was a 20lb 1926 Model T-Ford “worm gear” which she needed help pulling out of the hole she’d dug.

Worm gear from a 1926 Model T Ford…

Another of Patti’s magnificent finds was a huge, iron knife. It weighs about 6 lbs and measures 21” long. At first we thought it might be a piece of farm machinery, but it has evidence of a handle once being affixed. And it’s STILL sharp! We were hunting a very small park south of the city, and we think it may be an artifact of  the 1838 Seminole War. As usual, we took it to several museums, as well as our local university, with the depth, orientation and location of the artifact, but nobody seemed interested, and no one really tried to ID it, saying, once again, they had nothing to compare it to.

From the Seminole War?

 

Q. Okay upward and on…so what was it that got you interested in metal detecting and when did you start?

A.  My dad had taken me along on a trip to Key West when I was about 8-years old. He was going to buy some diving gear and we stopped on the way back at Art McKee’s treasure museum in the upper Keys. I was completely amazed at the treasure and artifacts he had found (this was before the archaeologists bothered with the wrecks…only after gold and silver started coming up did the massive interest in “preservation” come about) I was an avid reader by the time I reached 13-years old, and as you know, we had no computers or tiny cell phones to stare at 24/7 in 1965! There were no virtual worlds for us, so we actually DID things and MADE things in the real world.

I saw an article in, I think, Popular Mechanics, blaring MAKE YOUR OWN METAL DETECTOR! Basically, the article gave instructions on how to cannibalize an old AM radio of its wound-copper antenna, and other electronic components to create what we called a BFO (beat-frequency oscillator) metal detector.  I remember thinking at the time “I’m gonna’ be rich!” I used a lot of “found” materials around the house to build it. I sawed the handle off my mother’s broom, took down a birdhouse outside, used a good deal of electrical tape, and sloppily soldered together the perforated “circuit board” which ended up in the “case” aka, the birdhouse.

Jim’s Photoshop rendition of his very first metal detector

I had a metal detector that worked! I made a picture of what it looked like in my Photoshop program…I dug up a lot of flattened beer cans with that first homemade machine! Another minor over-sight on my part was that I actually hardwired the Ray-O-Vac batteries into the circuit, soldering them in place!  I got into trouble later for “procuring” some of the materials, but my father was so amazed that it actually worked; he let me off the hook.

 

Q. And your first “real” detector was?

A. Well, my first somewhat commercially made-made detector was actually a Heathkit project. It was a kit for a beat frequency oscillator (BFO) machine that took me a week or two to put together, and to be honest, my original home-built detector was almost as good. The big deal with this detector that made it SEEM better was that it featured a small meter with a pointer that moved when you were over a target. I thought I was really in the big-time with this detector, even though it had no discrimination capabilities whatsoever! My first ready-made machine was an off-brand TR machine that worked well for a number of years, but also had limited discrimination capabilities.  My first brand-name metal detector was a spanking-new Garrett ADS Deepseeker that I bought in 1982, that included both an 8” and 14” concentric coils. It was in the old “Garrett Green” colors that made all the early Garrett machines, like the Groundhog and American series, so easy to recognize in the field.

Garrett ADS Deepseeker

 

Q. What was it that made you purchase that particular brand/model?

A.  I had started to read metal detecting magazines in the early 1970’s; I think it was Western Eastern Treasures magazine or Lost Treasure magazine, I can’t quite remember at this point. I was mesmerized by the Garrett Deepseeker advertisements, and the machine’s capabilities. Like most of the now-vintage machines, it was made of metal, not plastic, and used side-mounted large analog knobs and switches to set modes and discrimination levels. It had a large, easy-to-read meter on the top of the case, a headphone plug (my very early machines only had exterior speakers) in the rear of the control-box and two sizes of search coils. I was totally blown away that you could change search coils, something I had never considered before. The handle, though, left MUCH to be desired; you’d tire very, very quickly with the 45-degree angled and unbalanced configuration that came out of the top of the control box. You would have to force the coil to the ground, as the angle of the handle would cause the machine to want to stay in the horizontal plane. And it would absolutely kill your wrist and arm in a short amount of time. I later converted it to an over-the-shoulder/belt configuration, with a separate shaft mounted coil system that improved detecting endurance immeasurably.

My modified hip-mount Deepseeker

 

Q. This is a test…what was your very first signal/find? Do you remember?

A. It was a flattened can of Falstaff beer; big and wide and a few inches deep.

 

Q. Do you remember what your very first decent find was, as in ‘keeper’?

A. My first “keeper” was a 400th Anniversary copper token celebrating Christopher Columbus’ Voyage of Discovery. I dug that up in a small park in Miami in 1968. I was totally hooked on metal detecting after that!

 

Q. In the beginning did you concentrate on one particular treasure? i.e., did you spend most of your time hunting the  beaches, coin hunting, relics?

A.   I was interested mainly in treasure, mostly Spanish treasure, but I loved coins, jewelry and artifacts! I spent a lot of time in the library looking for books on pirate treasure and shipwreck locations, attempting to find a place no one had previously looked. I also spent a good deal of time at the beach, and occasionally found a silver cob in the damp sand.

Silver beach finds…

I went to Pompano Beach High School, and my last class of the day, when I was a Junior, was “Ocean Science” and since my high school was just minutes from the ocean, we had classes right on the beach!  We were on the beach one afternoon, having class while the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers was dredging sand up onto the beach…I think it was 1968-1969.  The dredge’s outflow pipe started spitting Dutch gold Ducats out onto the sand. People were yelling and scooping up the gold coins. Apparently the dredge had cut through an unknown wreck about a quarter-mile offshore. By the time the dredge crew realized what had happened, they had gone way past the wreck and could never find it again. This incident, of course, whetted my metal detecting “appetite” for lost shipwreck treasure even more, and I got my divers certification that year.

 

Q. How long did it take you to find your first silver coin and do you remember what it was?

A.  Yes! I found a beautiful 1938 Walking Liberty half-dollar under a thick tree root in a park in Margate, Florida with my off-brand machine in 1969. There were no electronic pin-pointers then, of course, and I had to dig halfway to China. No cutting off thick tree roots then, you had to dig under it. We used screwdrivers with ground-off, rounded tips as probes, and gingerly moved the probe around until you felt metal-on-metal contact. It was a rough job recovering it, but it was an absolute beauty! I learned later that they had been having a town fair in that park for many, many years and that accounted for the massive amounts of silver we recovered in the 1960’s.

 

Q. How long did it take you to find your first ring and what kind of ring was it?

A.  It was, as I remember, a small gold ring. I grew up in a small town a bit west of Ft. Lauderdale called Margate. I found it near our town “swimming hole,” in 1967, in South Florida, which was a 40-foot deep rock pit, or shell pit, about half-a-football field wide and filled with crystal clear water. A lot of these pits existed around our small Florida town; they were dug in the 1920’s to procure roadbed material for Florida route 441 otherwise known as State Road 7. Over the intervening years, these pits had filled with rainwater and become small lakes. Every kid in town had been swimming  and diving in these small, artificial lakes, the perimeters of which served as local beaches, and held a good deal of lost jewelry, coins and…roach-clips. I wonder today if anyone knows these were popular hangouts for the locals on hot summer days over 40-years ago?

One of my favorites is this 14K ring with diamonds. Found on beach…

 

Q. Did you spend a lot of time researching in the beginning and if so how did you go about it?

A. Well, there were nowhere near the numbers of people with metal detectors back then, but people would still ask you the same questions, probably even more, “…what did you find? What are you looking for?” What IS that thing, a Geiger counter??” and that sort of thing. However, a lot of people would share with you things like, “…back up Royal Palm Avenue used to be the old city pool in 1929 that they filled in and now it’s a vacant lot…I’ll bet you’d find some stuff there!” or “There was an old dance hall by the lake in the 1930’s…I met my wife there!”

I DID do some library searches at some of the bigger libraries requesting help from the librarians at the help desk, people trained to know where things were…old maps, old magazines, brochures, historic abstracts and the like. I don’t know if libraries even offer that kind of help any more. But their help allowed me to locate old railroad stations, old dance halls, and the locations of old fairgrounds etc.. You don’t see them much anymore, but drive-in movie theaters were a major entertainment venue in the late 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, and old newspapers on microfilm would advertise Drive-ins movies and movie times from years earlier and we located a few deserted fields that were once filled with huge movie screens, people buying popcorn, drinks and dropping silver coins on their way back to their cars.

I did do a lot of research, mostly through the Library of Congress and the National Archives, concerning old Seminole War Era forts. Back then, you’d get entire letters, manually typed-typed using typewriters, from National Archives personnel, who did some research on your behalf, along with photocopies of post returns, actual fort location information, in latitude and longitude, and hand-drawn maps, written in the soldier’s hand in 1842. I had to laugh, as one National Archive researcher, Robert H. Gruber, from the Navy and Old Army Branch of the Military Archives Division, manually typed  two pages of information on Fort Doan, then apologized at the end he did not have time to provide more!! Nowadays  they would refer you to the “web!” if any real people were there to refer you in the first place.

Good luck getting a response like this now…..

Almost all of those fort locations I hunted are now concrete and asphalt and dwellings and office buildings. As far as I can determine, no one in academia ever took any notice of them. Today, of course, if it was still undeveloped land, metal detecting that area, or picking up a lone surface arrowhead, would unleash an entire SWAT team, followed by jail time or worse. Regardless, it’s all gone now.

 

Q. I know you have had a few adventures when it comes to detecting/treasure hunting. Can you tell us about one or two?

A. Well, one of our more involved treasure hunts was back in 1987, when we had chartered a couple of fishing boats to take us to the Marquesas Keys. I was using a Teknetics 8000 “coin computer” machine for the dry sand, and a Whites PI 1000 underwater pulse detector. We’d found a few Spanish 4-real coins in the coral, SCUBA diving not far from the beach. We thought they were probably from the Spanish salvors’ camp, dropped into the water as they brought salvaged treasure coins to the camp on shore.

The next afternoon, me and the fishing boat captain (he was also a marine biologist) took the ship’s skiff and motored in to the beach. He was taking notes on island flora and fauna, I had my Teknetics machine out and was scanning the deserted island beach. I got a real strong signal and only about 4 inches deep, I pulled up an 1841 seated dime! It was getting dark and Captain Jon and I piled into the skiff amid swarms biting “no-see-ums,” a tiny fly about the size of a head of a pin that would leave a painful bite akin to a needle jammed in your face! The Captain yanked on the starter and the motor did not even think of starting. Finally, in desperation, Jon and I, him using an old household broom from the bottom of the skiff, and me using the Teknetics’ shaft and search coil as makeshift oars paddled toward the boat, now getting  much harder to see in the deepening gloom, as no one aboard knew how to turn on the running lights but Jon.

We passed a big sailboat anchored in the small bay, and a big dog came running up to the bow, barking his head off. A woman in a white bikini came up to see what the dog was fussing about. She stood there with a drink in her hand, as a stocky man came up from the cabin below and leaned against the bow-rope, also looking at us. “”Are you guys okay?” Captain Jon told him our motor would not start. He looks down and said “Isn’t that the skiff from the Lil’ Aubrey?” Jon says “Yea!” We got closer and the sailboat guy, introduced himself as “Jerry” jumped into our skiff. He told us he was a past captain of the Lil’ Aubrey himself and told us the “Sonofabitchin’ outboard” had always been a problem.  He opened the case, pulled a loose spring in place and the motor started promptly! We got back to the boat, where everyone aboard thought we’d been killed by drug smugglers. We were totally floored by the coincidences and luck that transpired to get us home, from a dog, to a woman, to a man that were anchored in a deserted bay, but just happened to know what exactly was wrong with our outboard!

 

Q. What would you consider to be your best find after so far?

A. Without a doubt I’d consider my best find, and personal favorite, to be a 1870’s era bronze strap and ring, probably a piece of steam boat deck hardware, that I recovered on a private permission site near the location of an old steam boat wharf on a Central Florida lake. The artifact was about 10” deep, and I was not sure exactly what I had at first. My Minelab E-Trac  practically howled when I passed over  the piece and  the bronze artifact was almost reading in the silver range…but not quite.

I love bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, and the amazing green patina it acquires over the years. After cleaning, the smooth bronze relic practically oozed patina!  Research revealed it was produced by Wilcox- Crittenden, a 19th Century nautical equipment maker from Middletown, Connecticut. The Oviedo Historic Society examined it, and the president of the society told me they all thought of it as a small work of art, the way it was constructed. You can still see file marks, and some remaining textures of the original sand from the sand-mold, on the bottom of the piece. It now resides in the Lawton House Museum in Oviedo, Florida, for everyone to enjoy. History should be shared, not stuck in a drawer in a dusty basement with only the academically anointed able to gaze upon it, in my humble opinion.

 

Q. Okay what is your weirdest find to date?

A. Well, I’d have to say the weirdest find would be a small lead item I found at the amazing depth of 19” inches when I was hunting the site of an old trading post. The site is littered with iron, cans, fishhooks, pop-tabs, shredded aluminum slaw, and foil. It has been hunted hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the years and I had changed the coil to the smallest I had, to try to navigate around the junk. I also cheated somewhat, and brought my discrimination level up quite a bit to knock out the majority of the trash, a real  no-no if you listen to the masses who nowadays advocate no discrimination and a “dig everything” philosophy. I find that every detecting situation is different, and if you know your machine, you can customize your electronic search configuration to suit your style and conditions. I am not going to live long enough to dig everything…time is your most precious commodity and you can’t save it or get it back. Sometimes you just have to get jiggy and hang the rules!

Anyway I got a very faint signal between a couple of noisy targets. I dug the noisy trash targets to clear the field, literally and figuratively, and went back to the faint signal. It was a good target and I kept the dig tight and constrained, way past my elbow and pulled a small lead object out of the bottom. I thought at first it might be a fishing weight, so close to the alligator-filled water, but it had been cut, purposely, into a somewhat odd shape. I turned it over in my hand, and finally got the impression it was supposed to be the shape of an old galleon-style boat or ship hull.

My oldest find. Possibly a grape shot carved in the shape of a boat…

There was a deep thumbnail impression in the lead on the reverse side, which, I assumed, was from the person who carved it. I took it to several museums with the exact location, depth and orientation information of the piece. Several months later, I got the piece back with a report that stated they did not know what it was, as they had nothing to compare it too. My interpretation is that it could have been carved by an Indian, soldier, farmer or fisherman, as the trading post was the Chicago-O’Hare of Central Florida trade at the time, and hundreds, probably thousands, of 19th Century citizens had trod that ground for years,  before one of them lost if forever.

Space debris and another piece of history…

My second weirdest find, was a piece of pitted and bent beryllium copper space debris, found on Cape Canaveral Beach just south of NASA’s and Space-X’s launch facility. This is a very tough alloy used in spacecraft, and especially booster rocket engines. Space-X had a Falcon-9 destruct about 45-miles high in mid-2015, and since then at very low tide, we find fragments of this alloy all over the place. I recently sent a large piece of this to a friend across the pond, as well as the video of the doomed launch. Equitably, he sends me a Roman coin, I send him some space debris!

 

Q. What is your “oldest” find to date?

A. That would have to be a piece of 12,000 year-old Indian pottery I found in the path of an iron null I was digging at another private permission site. Oddly, I didn’t recognize it as pottery at the time. I thought it was a rock, or more likely a piece of coral that I had cast aside on my way down to the target. The signal turned out to be just a small amount of discolored soil, the iron object long ago had turned into a faint smear of iron oxide, but the aura remained.

I filled in the hole, and before I straightened up, I grabbed what I thought was that flat rock and ALMOST pitched it into the nearby lake to see it skip. I froze, mid-pitch, and looked closer…there was something familiar here. I had found remains of Spanish olive jars while scuba diving in the Florida Keys 40 years ago, and this had the same feel. Faint hatch marks adorned one side of the “rock,” with a slight layer of what looked like burned material on the other side. I showed the property owner the piece, who seemed to think it was really just a rock.

I took it to the local museum who took it to some experts, who identified it as, indeed, Indian pottery of a tribe known to be in the area twelve centuries ago. Once again, with the location and depth information, I donated the piece to the museum, and I believe they forwarded it to a university for further study and analysis. I think several digs were made by professionals afterward, according to the property owner.

 

Q. What metal detectors(s) are you currently using?

A. I’m using a Minelab E-Trac currently. I’d previously used a Minelab Explorer SE Pro, but that, along with several thousands of dollars worth of spare coils, pin-pointers, battery packs etc. were stolen in 2013 out of the trunk of my locked car in my locked garage. Go figure. Anyway, the E-Trac, despite the advertising, is not a beginners machine. It has a bit of a learning curve, but getting to know the controls and capabilities goes a long way toward giving you unprecedented control of almost any detecting situation.

In the past I’ve owned Garrett, Tecknetics, Whites and Fisher equipment and they all had their specific advantages and disadvantages in certain situations. Overall, I think the E-Trac meets my needs today, and I’ve spent many, many hours in my test garden, and in the field, making notes on performance, specific readings and ground conditions. I use those little black Moleskin booklets for this; they just fit my pocket and come with lined or graphed paper. Patti is always making fun of me taking notes all the time.  Some CFMDC club members have seen me making notes and Patti tells them “He does that ALL the time!” Maybe that’s why they call me The Professor all the time. I never thought of that before! An old holdover from my college days…taking notes. But there is good data to be had, and it will help you understand your machine and what field techniques work the best! I also record the time date and locations of what I feel are significant finds. I have a stack of these little filled-up books going back a number of years.

A sample of my obsessive note taking…

Patti uses a Garrett AT-Pro with her favorite super-snipe coil, or her 7 x 5” coil. She also has a poor little beat-up but still functional Garrett Ace 250, which we use on occasion, with its sniper coil to locate tiny gold items like bud earrings or gold chains. I made a bet with a guy up in Jacksonville, during one of my “Tech Talks” to our sister club, the Historical Recovery Association of North Florida, that he could not even get a squeak out of his machine on a thin gold chain. He lost…the Ace 250 with the snipe sounded loud and clear, while his older Garrett made nary a peep over the thin gold chain. A lot of puffing on his cigarette ensued.

Patti, and the AT-Pro with the 4.5 super snipe coil.

 

Q. Care to share a favorite setup, program or tip?

A. With my E-Trac, my initial setup starts by installing the smallest DD coil I have and  running in all-metal mode for a time, especially when on a new permission site. It prevents any appreciable target masking, and if the site is relatively clean of iron and trash, I’ll go up a size in coils. Low and slow, is how I like to hunt. The E-Trac has a fantastic array of audio options. Multi-tone, 4-tone, 2-tone. My favorite audio setting is “pitch hold,” which helps me get to the deeper, older coins. With this function, if you scan real slow, you can hear a high silver tone, and VDI display that is just momentary. The machine’s computer extrapolates the target, even if you don’t have a solid lock. I’ve dug silver quarters in loamy soil to a depth of 20” where other detectors get no signal at all! It takes some practice, but that is one of my favorite deep-coin settings!

 

Q. What accessories do you use?

A. Well, I have several, and Patti says our garage looks like a metal detector store. Patti and I both use Sampson Ball Handle shovels, specifically designed for metal detecting. We have found it makes a very precise and clean plug or trapdoor cut. We have various hand diggers, I use a “Gator” Digger myself, and Patti uses an assortment of smaller diggers we’ve collected over the years. We both use Garrett Pro-Pointer II pin-pointers, and we also have a Treasure Products 580 waterproof pin-pointer for use on salt water beaches.

We also have dozens of beach sand scoops of various kinds. I use a long-handled stainless-steel beach scoop I bought in 1988, and Patti uses a smaller, lighter long-handled aluminum beach scoop. We have an assortment of two-way radios, I think about seven in total. We hunt some fairly wild places, here in Florida, and we need instant communication with each other. It takes a little too much time trying to dial a 10-digit cell phone number with a bear staring you in the face…and sometimes no cell signal at all! Patti once missed a step and slid down a riverbank, almost feet-first into an alligator-filled river, grabbing the frond of a palm tree on the way. She blipped the radio key and yelled “HELP!” I was there in seconds.

We also use regularly a couple of wood-handled coin probes, as I like to check before I dig, and sometimes I can even recover a coin (yes, without scratching it) by popping it out of the ground instead of digging it with a coin probe. We both carry a small ground cloth we use to pile dug dirt from the hole we are working. Nothing looks worse on a manicured lawn than a ring of dirt you could not get back in the hole! Of course we always carry spare batteries, both for the detector, plus some spare 9 volt for the pin-pointers, whose failure rate seems to be inversely proportional to how far from the car you are!

Patti with a recent ring return.

 

Q. How often do you get out detecting today?

A. Patti and I get out several times a month. I get chemo treatment for my lung cancer every 3 or 4 weeks which takes me down for a few days, but right now Florida’s mean temperature is in the upper 90’s right now, with humidity also in the upper 90’s so nobody hunts except in the early morning. I am very lucky to have a lot of friends in the hobby, and regularly get asked to participate in permission hunts, both private and historical all over Central Florida, and sometimes western and northern Florida. Some have been cache hunts, some have been just been weekend hunts, but they have all been a lot of fun, and I appreciate the generosity and friendship during these searches. A better group of people I have yet to meet!

 

Q. Are you spending most of your time on the beaches now?

A. No, we have a metal detecting permit, a lifetime permit, to hunt Orange County (Orlando) Parks, so I hunt parks regularly, as well as private and historic permissions. But I do like the beach though, and my favorite beach is either Cocoa beach, or the city of Cape Canaveral Beach. Metal detecting is strictly off-limits on Cape Canaveral National Seashore, and they make it no secret that they can and WILL confiscate your equipment with no recourse for its return. My favorite beach hunting time is usually 7:00am at low tide.

Nothing more relaxing and invigorating than a morning on the beach.

Nobody bothers you and the digging is easy. I find a lot of lead fishing weights during my beach hunts, and I’m happy to donate any and all of them to the ocean fishermen in the morning. And they are pretty happy to get them, as lead fishing weights are expensive. I gave a pile of them to one guy, who wished me luck. I waved and put the coil down, sweeping again up the beach and went a few feet when I got this knock-your-socks-off signal! It took a few tries but I finally pulled up this heavy chain. I thought it was a dog chain!!!! I was thinking “This is why dogs should NOT be allowed on the beach, dammit!!!!” I looked a bit closer and saw .925 and Italy marked on the clasp! The fisherman waved “Alright, man…wow!!”

These beaches are heavily hunted, sometimes you can count up to thirty (yes 30!) detectorists on weekends. Half of them are doing “smiley-faces” or what we also call “U-Boats” and even sometime the “Golf Swing.” Sometimes I’ve seen people waving the coil literally 3-feet above the sand, with someone carrying a small trowel following them. I’ve talked to a few and demonstrated the proper way, but as soon as I move off, they are back to three feet in the air again, or swinging for the trees. The best beach hunting is after a major storm or small hurricane runs up the east coast.

 

Q. You surely have a bucket list. Care to share it?

A. I’d really like to find a gold coin under my detector coil before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I thought I’d found a badly worn $1 gold piece near an old Florida Seminole War encampment on a private permission site a few years back, but after close examination by a few coin experts, they proclaimed it not only not to be a gold coin, but probably not a coin at all!   Probably some sort of brass punch-out. I guess wishful thinking does not make it so. Other than that, I’ve been pretty satisfied with all the items I’ve recovered and especially those I’ve shared with the local museums and historians over the last half-century. One of the big items on my bucket list is to live to see the day metal detecting hobbyists and archaeologist’s team up and make a real difference in recovering more of our vanishing history together.  I find it sad and deplorable that known archaeological material and artifacts are “protected in-situ,” untouchable and allowed to slowly disintegrate into rust or dust. I cannot fathom this.

 

Q. Have you detected overseas at all?

A. Well, not European overseas, but when I was a charter pilot working for a charter company in the late 1980’s out of Pompano Beach Airport, I’d take my Garrett ADS Deepseeker along for the ride on all Bahamas charters. I found so much stuff in the islands, coins and jewelry, that I’d have problems coming back through customs in Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. They would want to see my receipts, and in lieu of that, pay an import duty on the jewelry! Sad to say, it cost too much to bring it back to the U.S. with all the red tape it entailed! Many times I’d provide little “gifts” of jewelry to Bahamian Customs before I left. Just because I couldn’t take it along, didn’t mean someone else couldn’t have it.  Those guys made zilch in the way of pay, and sometimes it helped cut the red tape coming in the opposite direction. A win-win for all concerned!

 

Q. What would your ideal detector look like?

A.  Honestly, as an engineer, I think we’ve taken metal detecting technology as far as it can go unless a there is a huge paradigm shift in our current understanding of electrodynamics at this point. Sure, we could add a few more bells and whistles, maybe play with search coil configurations a bit, and tinker with the display technology, but I think we are at the end of the road with electromagnetic field driven devices.

I believe the Next Big Thing coming along, while the technology is still somewhat crude today, will be subsurface radar technology. Years ago, I looked into purchasing one of these ground radar units, and with a price of  $64,000 for the unit itself, and another $5,000 for the search head, I thought, “Why not buy two?” That same unit today retails for about $7,000 WITH the search head, so prices are coming down. And with the ability to scan for metal, and most anything else…stone, caves, concrete, water, oil etcetera, at depths ranging from 60 to 80 feet deep, it will be a boon to professionals and hobbyists alike.

 

Q. Jim I know you are very active in your club as well as a few others and that they are growing and very successful. Please share the names and tell us just why they are doing so well. What is the (your) secret?

A. I am a member of the Central Florida Metal Detecting Club, which has been in existence since 1972, with us is celebrating our 45th anniversary this year. We are the largest active metal detecting club in the United States. The club has been growing pretty much along with the popularity of the hobby itself. Our club president, Alan James, as well as all of our officers, do a great job in keeping order and keeping things fresh. The club has solved several murders over the last 5-years or so, by assisting a variety of police departments, and have even been asked to help with a police hunt in Laramie, Wyoming, just a tad outside our normal service range.

A club hunt at an 1873 Mansion

We have done countless recoveries for people who have lost their treasured heirlooms and personal jewelry. Earrings, rings, car keys, gold chains, watches…you name it!

The club also assisted the U.S. Navy a few years back, looking for WWII bomber wreckage from an aircraft crash in 1944. We were trying to find the aircraft I.D. plate that would help identify the aircraft, thus the pilot, who had been killed. One of our youngest members, I think he was around 15, found the plate. The wreckage was scattered for a good half-mile or so, from heavy forest then through a plant nursery!

A little “tech talk” at a meeting….

For the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve been doing a 10-minute talk each meeting I call a “tech talk” mostly aimed at new members who are usually new to the hobby also. We try to teach the basics – proper swing, coil-height and control settings. I’ve also given talks to local Historical Societies, whereas I worked up a power-point slide show called “Metal Detecting; the Art, Science and Applications” and I go into everything from electrodynamics, Faraday’s theory of electromagnetism to the tools we use and how to properly dig a target. It can get exhausting, but I like to see the light of comprehension creep into their eyes! As a result, most CFMDC members call me “The Professor,” and seem to have forgotten my real name over the years. Maybe not…

Giving a presentation to the Sanford Historical Society…

 

Q. If you could pass along one or two words of advice to other detectorists, what would they be?

A. After over 50-years in this hobby, I would advise everyone to be responsible in your searches and excavations. Ask permission, be in forefront helping find lost items for folks, fill in your holes and leave it like you found it. Record historic finds photographically and with written dates, time locations, depth and orientation. Take the items and info to a museum, or university for study and consider at least loaning it to them. I cannot blame some of the archaeological lobby for getting royally pissed over people digging on protected sites, or staying mum on interesting and possibly historic finds! Get involved in your local historic society, make friends and get offer to assist the local police department in finding evidence. The way I see it, more and more people are joining the ranks of metal detecting, but fewer and fewer are interested in adding their voice in trying to save the hobby, and that cannot be a good thing. The British did it, with their Portable Antiquities Scheme, and I don’t see why we cannot do the same! I’m off my soapbox now.

******************

9 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

9 responses to “Q & A with Jim Fielding…

  1. Just love the comment “Like most of the now-vintage machines, it was made of metal, not plastic, and used side-mounted large analog knobs and switches to set modes and discrimination levels….”

    Knobs, switches and button would tell you instantly what your settings were……

    • I loved the old analog controls! My biggest issue with the vintage machines, though, was managing to ground balance them properly. It was a somewhat complicated process, as I recall, and more likely than not, I’d screw it up and get false signals because of it.

  2. BigTony

    Wow that was an interesting interview. I had to read parts of it and go back and re-read some parts. It sounds like your doing well with your treatments. I wish you the best.

    • Thank you BigTony. Sometimes I get a little too wordy I think! I am doing okay with the cancer treatments, which has slowed down tumor growth in my lungs by an order of magnitude, I am happy to say. Thanks for your comment, and I hope you are doing well also!

  3. Jim & Dick:
    Very enjoyable. I have to say that looking at Jim’s lead pic there’s more than a hint of the A-Team, al la George Peppard.

    Seems to me Ricardo, that the homemade jobby Jim put together, minus digital readouts, G/Balancing, and all the rest of it, etc, etc, would be ideal for you….nah, nah, cancel that, too complicated!

    I like your style Jim, and more than happy know the treatment is going well…God Bless you.

  4. Jim's brother

    Darn Jim, you always forget to mention that trip we took to Fort Meyers beach in the 80’s looking for Gaspsrellas treasure to that weird little island and all we found were lots of deep chest sized holes dug in the sand! Thanks! Bro!

    • Hi Bro! Actually I did remember it, Doug, but I had gone way over the line as it was with the narrative. As I recall we sailed with you, your pal George, and my long-passed friend and colleague, Ed Pfau. We left Sanibel Island, not Ft. Myers (but close) and headed up Pine Island Sound for Cayo Palau. And we hit the freak storm on the way back for almost 22-miles that almost capsized and sank us, as I recall. Yea, I did an article on that way back in 1980 for Lost Treasure, and I found some of the old color 35 mm slides of that trip. Thanks for the reminiscences, Doug. We were lucky we were not all drowned on that one! No more haunted islands for me; I’m way too old for that kind of thing nowadays! Peace out!

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