Types of Metal Detecting Activities, page 28

Wreck Salvage Laws, Safety in Scuba Diving & Underwater Metal Detecting

It is extremely important that you make yourself aware of the laws that govern the finding of lost treasures and artifacts underwater.

Around the U.S., it is unlawful to dive for and keep any discovered salvage within a 3 mile distance from the coastline.

If you plan to search for shipwrecks and their concealed treasures, you need to complete quite a bit of research and paperwork.

Any waters further out than three miles off the US coastline are governed by the Admiralty laws.

Any operation to find and rescue a shipwreck has to be performed voluntarily.

The ship and its cargo have to be shown to be abandoned by its rightful owners, and what is recovered has to have been in peril. Many times a sunken ship may not be legally abandoned by the owner, and removing artifacts from this vessel would be illegal.

Each of the coast states has its own law governing the waters in which you treasure hunt. Research what the salvage laws and antiquity protection laws are in your area before making any attempt to retrieve lost treasure. Laws pertaining to the recovery of artifacts that fall into the antiquity classification may vary greatly.

For example, it is illegal to take anything from a U.S. government owned ship. It is also illegal to remove anything from protected wreck sites and vessels that are considered war graves.

Safety in Scuba Diving & Underwater Metal Detecting

First of all, NEVER GO SCUBA DIVING ALONE! For your own safety, always treasure hunt with a group or a partner. Professional underwater treasure hunters never go out alone.

No matter how excited you can be during the hunt, always be aware of the environment which can be potentially harmful. Jellyfish, sharks, and stingrays should be avoided at all costs. Also sea snakes, eels, stone fish, sea- urchins, and cone shells can hurt you if you bother them.

The latter can harpoon from a couple of inches away; and their venom may cause a respiratory failure. However, they are fine if left alone. Same goes with the stone fish. Its dorsal fin has venomous spines that can harm you.

Your other concern should be boaters if you treasure dive in close proximity to the coast line. Always put up a dive flag and follow safe diving procedures while looking for underwater treasure with your metal detector.

Also be aware of the strong open ocean currents, up-draft and down-draft currents, and know how to deal with them.

Remember to drink LOTS of water to prevent dehydration and make sure you do not dive hunting on empty stomach.

When ascending to the surface, take off the headphones to avoid accidental hitting by a boat (the odds are too small but you never know). In any case, you should never ascend or descend while wearing headphones because this may cause a problem with equalization.

Equalization refers to keeping the air pressure in your inner ear equal to the pressure of the water around you. The water pressure will increase when you descend, and decrease when you ascend, in each case, causing the opposite change of air pressure in your inner ear.

If you do not use the equalization technique during your dives, your ear drum may be permanently damaged. Common techniques include pinching your nostrils while gently blowing your nose, swallowing, pinching your nose and swallowing, wiggling your jaw from side to side - you should choose a technique that works for you.

Start to equalize before you go down. It is better to descend feet first. Head first descents can only compound the equalization problems. And never dive when you are congested - this will make equalization extremely difficult. If you take decongestants, and the medication wears off while you are on your dive, you could run into equalization problems when you are trying to ascend.

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Sources: "Shipwreck Diving", "New Jersey Beach Diver", and "Tropical Shipwrecks" By Capt. Dan Berg