Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The essentials for working a site

For a lot of you this information may be old hat but I thought I would write this article for any beginners out there that may have questions. Some of this information I have covered before.

The essentials to working a site will vary greatly depending on where you are working and under what circumstances if you are including such things as fluids, clothing, detectors, first aid and survival supplies, etc. For me, the essentials usually weigh in around thirty pounds and that’s before I add in water and any detectors I may need.

For the purpose of this article I am going to define “essentials” as the things I think everyone should have to investigate a site and these items are strictly for documenting the site itself and don’t take into consideration any special needs items or items that aren’t directly related to helping you interpret the clues and locate the hole.

The first thing to have, in my opinion, is a GPS. These days you can buy a decent GPS pretty cheap and they are invaluable if you are working more than one site and spending months or even years going to a site. With a GPS you can plot the coordinates of anything you find that you think may be relevant. Notice that I said “may think” is relevant. When you are working a site you never want to discount anything until you have good information that tells you that you can.

The second thing everyone needs is a good compass. You can get by with a six dollar compass from Wal-Mart but things will go quicker and easier if you spring for a little better compass. I use a military compass that I paid $50 for at a gun show many years ago. It’s in a metal case and it works very well. You can spend the big bucks on a Bruton or other high dollar compass but you don’t need to. When I find a clue in the field I will take compass headings off of anything that could be a directional like a point or straight edge or a line, etc. You never know when you might need it.

The third item would actually be two things. You need to have a pen or pencil and something to write on. I keep a separate little notebook for each site I work. You can buy a pack of 3-4 at Wal-Mart for a buck or two and they fit right in a shirt pocket. Even though I have the coordinates to the different things I have found in my GPS I always write them down in the notebook with a description of what the clue is and an approximate location to the next closest clue. I know this seems a little redundant but I don’t trust technology so I try to keep hard copies of everything.

With your notebook you can write down the compass headings you get from the markers you find, you can keep an accurate description of the clues/markers you find and you can keep the coordinates and any other relevant information all in one spot where it is handy the next time you go to the site or when you are trying to figure something out while at home. I have worked with some people before that didn’t have any of these first three things and I don’t know how they managed. For the most part I don’t think they do because one in particular was always asking me “where was that again?” People always think they will remember everything when in reality they can’t and usually don’t. Take the time to write things down. It will slow you down a little but it will be worth it in the long run.

Item four should be a camera. Even if it’s a camera phone or a cheap digital, anything is better than nothing. I prefer to have a little better camera just because I like photography but the better the camera the better the photos. With a digital camera you should be taking photos of everything and from several different angles and even at different times of the day. You’re not paying for film or developing so just have at it and don’t miss anything. A lot of people think one photo of the thing they find is plenty but in most cases it’s isn’t. Take several photos from up close and even step back some and get a few with the clue and the surrounding terrain in it. You will thank me later!

Besides these things you will need the detector(s) of your choice and hopefully a shovel.

Keep in mind the type of treasure you are looking for and how it was probably hidden. In general, and there are exceptions to every rule however, in general, most outlaw caches will be less than four feet deep. Spanish caches on the other hand can be jammed back into tunnels or caves that have been sealed up and can be as little as a few feet to 60 feet or more back. You won’t find any detectors that will give you a reading on something that far back in the ground unless the tunnel is running just under the surface which rarely happens.

I should say at this point that out of all of the things I have listed, the most important thing, before anything else, is your mind. Have a clear head when you are working a site and use your head. Think logically, pay attention to those nagging little feelings you get telling you to “look over there” and do your homework before and after going to a site.

Something else that I consider to be essential but may not be in every case is a topographical map and/or a satellite image of the area I am working. This allows me to see the terrain around the different clues and can help in interpreting the clues. I have found that in working Spanish sites these are invaluable as a Spanish trail may take you for a long distance and being able to plot the clues and see where you are heading can be essential.

I should mention that even though I'm not a big fan of technology I prefer to use a good computer based mapping program instead of individual maps. It makes it easier to plot lines and points on the maps more precisely.

I know some of you are thinking that I left out several things right about now but I am only covering what I think to be the essentials. The rest is up to you based on what you think you need for a particular site. Climbing ropes, ascenders, saws, axes and so on might be essential at one site but not at another. This falls under the heading of using your head. Think about what you might need and make sure you have it with you.

Even if you don’t use it, it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

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