Pete McGhee, Author at The Ring Finders

Silver Wedding Ring Lost in Sea at Tutukaka – Found

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

On Boxing day, Tahiroa was enjoying a summer swim at Whangaumu Bay, near Whangarei when he lost his silver wedding band.
He messaged me to see if I would be able to help, “I’m getting some strife…”

Unable to meet me on site, he sent a Google Maps pinned location. Not ideal as it is always preferable to have the person there to give a start point but you have to take what you can get.
When you’re chasing an item that’s only 3/4 inch in diameter, the search area can get very large, very quickly.

On arriving for the initial search, I slalomed down the beach past the holidaymakers to the waters edge – Where there was the distinctly fresh scoop mark of a metal detectorist.
Just one scoop, and the location matched Tahiroas description of beach location
Had someone seen the commotion as Tahiroa tried to find his ring, or had he put it on social media and a less altruistic sort had ‘sniped’ it?

You always have to assume the ring is still there though – until a comprehensive and methodical search has been completed.
I headed out into the water…

Unable to carry out regular gridding patterns due to more people being in the water than on the beach, I relied on the GPS to keep track of coverage.
I would clear one area, then as a spot opened up in the water, I would relocate and work that, and so on.
The GPS track was messy, with multiple dense ‘blobs’ of scribble connected by zig-zag lines as I moved from spot to spot.
Snorkelling children were becoming a nuisance. Every time the scoop went in they would dive down to try and grab whatever was coming out !
The repeated requests to keep clear had no effect, then I hit on the concept of camoflage.
I would dig a ‘dummy’ scoop next to the target, but rather than clear the scoop near the bottom – I lifted it right up to the surface for a good shaking…
The cloud of sand and silt spread all around me, reducing visibility to nil. As I operate on sound, I could safely retrieve the targets while the opposition were temporarily blinded..
The snorkelling terrors quickly lost interest and drifted away.
After four hours, and a no-show, I messaged Tahiroa the news and suggested that it might have already been found.

The next day, I made the two-hour drive again – I hate walking away from a no-find and I always need to prove to myself that it’s not there.
The approximated Google Maps pin meant I had to extend out along the beach, beyond the indicated area already searched.

At 6am, other than a few dog walkers, the beach was deserted and I could run my search lines without interruption.

Picking up from where I left off, I cleared a few ‘weak spots’ in the GPS track and then started nice long, straight lines.

I gradually extended the search area out…and the beach started to fill with people.
After a an hour or so I got a bright tone at the edge of the drop off.
As I lifted the scoop I heard the jangle of a ring – Gottit!

Back at the car, I could relax, and messaged Tahiroa the good news that his ring was now safe and secure.

It was about four weeks before we could both be in the same place at the same time, and yesterday I was pleased to finally be able to hand Tahiroas ring back to him.

Precious Gold Ring Found in Kamo Paddock

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

How do you find a ring in a paddock?
You call an experienced ringfinder.

Kareen was tidying up the house paddock with the scrubcutter and after returning to the house, she noticed the necklace her late mothers wedding ring had been threaded on was broken and hanging loose around her neck.
As you do, she headed straight back to the paddock to try and find the tiny gold ring.
And as you do, she had to give up after realising the area became impossibly huge when looking for a thin 3/4 inch diameter ring.

A work collegue later suggested she contact me.

Kareen needed to head south shortly after I arrived, and although she was happy for me to continue after she had gone I aimed to try and ensure she had the ring before she left.
She showed me the paddock, routes in and out and key locations, then left me to it as she headed back to the house to continue getting ready.

With the rare luxury of virtually no background interference, I was able to run the machine in an extremely sensitive setting and whip the big coil back and forth much faster than usual.
The chatter in the headphones was incessant with variations in ground mineralisation, the coil clipping a dead branch sent the headphones into a frenzy.
I ordinarily wouldn’t run in this mode, but it did have the great advantage of speed in this situation. A surface target would not be missed, although many loud subsurface signals each needed to be quickly verified.

An hour later, as the headphones filled up with ‘scribble’ due to a nearby underground powerline, a regular signal surfaced amongst the noise.

I parted the grass and revealed the ring, already flush with the soil surface, likely trodden on by Kareen.

Kareens face lit up with relief when I told her, and she asked if a hug was permitted.
Back at the house, her father came out and with an enthusiastic handshake explained the significance of the ring.

Job completed, I headed away and left them to finish preparing for their trip.

Car Key Lost at Whangarei Stables, Found.

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

This particular recovery was quite the ride.
Ilona asked me if I was able to find car keys? “Yes, I certainly can”.

She had taken her child to horse riding lessons and on returning to the car, realised with dread that the key was missing. Without the coded key, she was unable to start the engine – and it was the only ‘chipped’ key she had.

People scoured the area around the car park, and where she had been sitting but the key remained elusive. With the only spare key she had being unchipped, she could lock and unlock and open/close windows but not actually start the car.
Ilona had no option to have the car recovered back to her house.

She messaged me and I headed down the next morning.

At the riding school, Ilona gave me a very detailed and accurate description of her limited movements on the day. A quick sweep of the high probability areas gave nothing.
Suspect number two was the car itself.

Ilona habitually put the key on the dash, and had already searched the car. What if the key had slid forward and down between the windscreen and the dash molding?
She had to leave shortly though, and was pressed for time.

We left the riding school for now and went to check the car at her house using my remote camera.
The ability to sneak into places the eye cannot reach can be invaluable. In this case, after going all ‘CSI’ on her car, including inside the dash and centre console tunnel, I was confident the key was not inside the car – No need to remove the windscreen or dash, as was her next (expensive) plan of action!
While the family headed out, I returned to the riding school.

Shortly after arrival, I located the wayward key where it had fallen end on, incredibly into a key-sized slot between two rocks at the edge of the farm track.
Plausible scenario was that, for whatever reason, she had taken the key with her. Keeping it in her hand while she took the umbrella from the back of the car for shade from the aggressive New Zealand summer sun.
It was likely she had swapped the umbrella between hands – and that was when the key fell from her hand, landing end-on in the smallest of gaps!.
I texted her that I had found it and drove out to meet her.
However, on seeing the key – she was adamant that it wasn’t her key.
Wait, what?

The odds of two recent loss Toyota keys with yellow tags being on a private property were beyond astronomical.
Did the key actually belong to the riding school, or another patron, and coincidentally lost without their knowledge, yet?
Only one way to find out – I again drove back to their house where the forlorn Toyota sat immobile in the drive.
The key unlocked the door, but I needed more proof.
I started the engine.

It WAS the key! My brain could now relax in the knowledge I didn’t need to return to the riding school to take it apart … bit by bit!
The good news was relayed, I tucked the key somewhere safe and I headed home.

A stressed memory can definitely be the enemy with recoveries, second guessing and distorted perceptions are commonly encountered in these stressful situations.
If you have lost something, make written (or photographic) notes where you think you lost it as soon as you can. Your recovery specialist will thank you for it 🙂

Lost wedding band in Sand at Taupo Bay – Found!

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)
 Taupo Bay is a beautiful surf beach, and whilst the bigger waves can be powerful, the shallow runout wash into the beach shallows is an ideal place to play with the kiddies while on holiday – As Michael was doing with his 2yo daughter this morning.

As he lifted her up out of the water though, he felt his platinum wedding ring of 7 years slip off his finger – and vanish.

Rings sink almost instantly in mobile sands, and efforts to locate it were fruitless.

This afternoon, Michael posted on the local Taupo Bay social media group asking people to be on the lookout for it.

Word filtered through to me, and knowing the ring would already be under the sand, I got in contact with Michael.
The tide was approaching full, and a similar tide state to when Michael lost his ring, so I dropped everything and headed up – Worst case, I could work the last of the rising tide, and then follow it back down again into the night if necessary.
On arrival, I asked Michael to mark a line down the beach as his best guess as to the alignment the ring might be on, “We’ll see how good you are”, I said with a grin.This would be my reference for the grid extending out either side.With the tide rising, I started in the water and worked my way ashore.
Aside from a few ‘teasers’, likely deep fishing sinkers or pulltabs off drink cans, the beach was pleasantly clear of trash.

I emerged out of the shallows and continued the grid into the edge of the waters reach.
As I passed Michaels line in the sand, I got a nice low ‘double-hit’ of a shallow target.
I dug my hand in, and from about 2 inches down, emerged the ring – Smack in the middle of Michaels line!

I’ve often had rings up to 30-40metres, or more, away from the “It’s Here” mark, but never actually exactly on the line. Definitely one for the books.

With the ring handed back, a handshake and a few photos, I was on my way back home.

And Michael was out of the ‘doghouse’🙂

Watch Lost on Russell Lifestyle Block – Found

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Timely engagement of an experienced Ringfinder using state of the art equipment will always give you the very best chances of recovering your item, and all the irreplaceable memories and sentiment it holds.

Last weekend, Nathalie was dismantling an old chicken run on their rural lifestyle block near Russell. Having already snagged her gold watch that day, she thought it prudent to remove it and place it in the overalls pocket for safekeeping.
And forgot all about it.

Later she realised she hadn’t put the watch back on, so went to the overalls only to find the pocket empty.
One lost watch.

She recalled that at one stage, her friend had picked up the overalls and slung them over her shoulder as she headed away from the house and across a marshy area to where the new chicken run was being built. In doing so, a pencil fell from the pocket which her friend picked up before carrying on along the track through the marsh.

Had it fallen out when the overalls were thrown over the shoulder? Along the narrow overgrown track through the marsh? Or even before that?

They all had a search around the property before Nathalie called me. She wasn’t ready to engage the services of a Ringfinder at this stage, so I gave her some tips as to where it might be, and how she might find her lost watch.
She headed straight out into the rainy night with a torch to try and locate it, and tried again the following morning.

The watch remained missing.

Nathalie contacted me again that afternoon and conceded defeat – Would I please come and find it for her?
Of course.

The next morning, I boarded the car ferry to Russell to conduct the search.
On arrival, Nathalie went through the timeline and actions. The areas involved were quite overgrown with dense grass, scrub, and reeds in the marsh. Complicating the issue were numerous metal structures, odd buried bits of metal and chicken mesh being reclaimed by the grass.

I initially did a cursory sweep of her travels with the large coil, however there were too many conflicting targets. I had to switch to the tiny 6″ coil in order to pick my way through the background chatter. Also focussing on my Search & Rescue tracking and scene processing skills to assess where people had actually travelled in each area.
Not too easy given the disturbed grass was already springing back to it’s natural position, enhanced by the previous days warm and heavy rains accelerating regrowth.

I systematically covered each of the three key areas: Where the overalls had been slung on the shoulder, the subsequent path through the marsh, the newly built chicken run, and the original site of the old chicken run.

It was at the latter, when I started expanding the search area away from the centre, that I got a positive tone in the headphones.
I couldn’t see anything, so fired up the pinpointer and pressed it into the grass – It chattered away…as it had done many times that day (so many times…. only to be a nail or shotgun pellet).
This time though, I parted the grass to see a glint of gold, the shiny surfaces reflecting the yellow-green of the grass as though it was actively trying to camoflage itself.

I marked the location and wandered back to the house, ” Would you like to come for a walk?”
I led her down to where the watch lay, and pointed to where it was. She couldn’t see it.
A few hints were needed to guide her to it, and she was amazed at how invisible it was. Nathalie took a photo before she pulled it from the grass where it had lain for three days. “Four of us searched this area!”.

Without the SAR tracking skills and solid experience in recoveries, this could have been a very long search, and probably even unsuccessful for an inexperienced person, given the huge potential area, extensive background noise and multiple interaction locations.


Diamond Ring and Necklace Lost in Russell – Both Found!

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

This one is a little different.

The story below was written by the owner of the found items and sent to me as I made my way home from the recovery – Really unexpected, and a very nice gesture on her part.

Sally writes:


Nearly 17 years ago, on our 3rd date, my now husband bought me a diamond necklace. I have worn it almost every day since then … including our wedding 12 years ago.
A week before Christmas we came up to Russell for a holiday. On our first swim my husband remarked I had not removed it or a ring before coming down on the beach. He took them off for me and ran up to our bach with them and then we had our swim.
Afterwards we went to Kerikeri to visit friends for Christmas and came back to find the lawns had just been mowed by the local contractor.

The next day my husband remarked that I wasn’t wearing my necklace and I asked where he had put it? He thought about it and then made the dreadful realisation that he had put it on the car wheel while we were swimming.

Then we both realised that we had driven off and the mower had been and in all likelihood it was gone forever. He searched the lawn several times during the rest of our holiday. Nothing.
Feeling resigned to losing it we came home to the Waipa and thought it would be an insurance claim in the New Year.

Today I saw a post on The Russell Noticeboard about someone having lost earrings and I was interested to read comments. That is where I saw the reference to Northland Jewellery Recoveries. I thought it was worth a try and called Pete McGhee and what followed surpassed my hope or expectations.

He said there was good reason to be hopeful and he set off from an hour away, and within 30 minutes of arriving he texted me the photo of the two items he had found: the pendant and ring… right where we had searched thoroughly.

I can’t recommend him more highly. Thank you so much Pete.


Unfortunately, the very fine gold rope chain was not located. It is likely the mower effectively ‘vaporised’ it. However, the thin chain being so fragile probably saved the key components enabling them to be recovered unscathed.

Night Search to Find Lost Engagement Ring in Doubtless Bay

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

I had just returned from an ongoing search for an elusive sentimental earring in the sea at Paihia and was sitting down to dinner when the phone rang.

It was Sally, and she had lost her engagement ring at Cable Bay earlier in the day. She was very concerned as they were due to finish their holiday the next morning and head south.

This time of year the beaches are popular hunting grounds for the summer ring ‘collectors’, and time was against us.  I said I’d head up straight away.

I arrived a few minutes before Sally, and on the last vestiges of twilight started hunting under the trees where I understood they had been seeking shade – Turned out I was at the wrong trees, which highlights why it is almost essential to have the person involved on site if at all possible.

Sally and her husband quickly put me onto the correct location, and what could have taken hours – or even a no-find, was over in a matter of minutes with the wayward ring quickly returned to the rightful hand.

They were most apologetic about dragging me away so late in the evening, and very thankful that I was able to drop everything to ensure a positive outcome.  “I can reheat my dinner, you couldn’t replace your ring…” 🙂

An hour later, I sat down to my dinner, again.

Urgent Search for Whangarei Ring Lost in Surf, Found!

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Late yesterday afternoon, Vega contacted me for help to find her lost ring at the beach.
She had been boogie-boarding at Ocean Beach, a beautiful surf beach on the outer coast of Whangarei – and had lost her ring in the sea.
After some google searches, her daughter suggested that Vega contact me.

Shortly after I had been given the circumstances, I was asking my long-suffering boss for the day off, again.
He agreed (I could imagine the eyes rolling), and so I was able to call Vega back and tell her that I would travel down first thing in the morning.
Marine recoveries are always against the clock – Never more so than when the person is on the last day of their holiday, and the ring has been lost in the intertidal zone on a surf beach!

I met Vega and her husband onsite, and I was very pleased to see they had pushed a stick into the sand yesterday to give me their best guess as to where it might be.
The dry fluffy sand where they had been sitting was the first search. Five minutes into it I dug a loud tone in the headphones – A flash of gold emerged…only to be a ‘kiddy-bling’ butterfly ring.
With a big grin, I jokingly asked Vega’s husband if this was it.
Dry sand cleared, and the tide approaching low, I returned to the car to get kitted up to head out into the surf.

This is where ringfinding experience, dedication and discipline come into play – careful tracking of coil coverage is critical to avoid missing even a ring-sized patch of sand. Not an easy task with surf breaking on you.
I wanted to cover the difficult section in the deepest water first, as this would be the first to be out of reach after the tide turned. It’s physically demanding fighting the waves, currents and pushing the detector through the water for several thousand sweeps.
After clearing the deeper water, I was glad to be able to start moving into the shallows for some respite on the arms.

Some time later, I heard a distinctive quiet tone in the shallows.
It took three fast scoops of sand to get to it, the shelly sand was very light and mobile and flowed straight back in the hole as fast as I could remove it.
The hole was quiet after the third scoop, and I lifted it out confident that there was a ring inside.
After sluicing the sand through, I was left with a few shells – and a gold ring.

Vega was further up the beach, standing in the shallows watching the sea. She looked up as I approached, I held the ring up with a big smile.
Her eyes lit up as she put the ring straight onto her finger and vowed it wouldn’t come to the beach again.


Lost ring in Garden, Found after Two and a Half Years…

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Two and a half years ago, Mary was doing some gardening at the retirement accommodation where she lives in Whangarei. Some time after weeding, gardening, and repotting a fern, she noticed her gold wedding ring of some forty years was missing.

Staff members at the time searched through the garden and fern, with no success.
As is often the case, the ring was given up as lost.

Recently on hearing about my recovery service, one of the staff members contacted me to see if there was any chance of finding it.
Mary was apparently sceptical about a recovery given the time that had elapsed though.
Her confidence was boosted when shortly after the enquiry, I successfully recovered a ring lost in a farm paddock that had been missing for an equivalent period of time.

I duly arrived at the accommodation and was met by Mary, who talked me through the loss.
Constantly assessing the different locations I was shown, I shifted them up and down my mental list in order of probability as we went.
After a few further questions, I had a good idea of the likely scenarios that might have led to this lost ring and got kitted up.

A quick reconnaissance sweep of the garden yielded only the usual decomposing nails, bits of brass and plumbing that are the usual background in urban searches.
Molesting the poor fern with the pinpointer was only met with silence from the probe. Cross that one off the list, which meant it wasn’t where it was supposed to be – they rarely are.

I returned to the car to get the ‘big guns’ out, time to get serious.
10 minutes later, in the lawn, a beautiful gold signal sounded in the headphones. I parted the grass and moss and after wiping the surface mud off, there was the shining edge of a ring.

It must have been lost while Mary was gardening then knelt or stepped on, into the soil surface. This would have prevented it from being found by the many searchers and almost certainly saved it from death-by-mower.

I left it there and tapped on the door of the unit.
When Mary came to the door, I simply said, “I’ve got something of yours”.

I let Mary pick it out of the soil where it had fallen two and a half years ago.

Had it not been for a caring staff member who took the initiative to contact me, it would still be lost.

Many rings lay in gardens, lost but not forgotten.  Waiting for an experienced Ringfinder…



Lost Wedding Ring Found in Surf Two Days Later

  • from Paihia (New Zealand)

Two days ago, Scott had been fishing from a remote beach in Doubtless bay. While packing up, he noticed he had lost his white gold wedding ring during the day.

Thinking he had lost the ring while gutting and cleaning the catch in the water, he spent some time looking for it. With light failing and the propensity for rings to sink quickly in mobile sands, he was unable to locate his lost ring.

Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to tie a small orange fishing float to some grass at the edge of the dunes…and contacting an experienced Ringfinder as soon as possible meant that the chances of recovering it were as good as they get.
So, a little after 4am this morning, I pulled out of the driveway and started the 2hr drive north to meet Scott at 6.

Given the remote location, it was likely we would only get one shot at this and I wanted to maximise the lower half of the tide in case it became a protracted search.
Big thanks do have to go to Scott for making the effort to meet me on site at ‘daft o clock’, it is so invaluable having the ring owner present at searches to discuss the circumstances of loss.

Our little convoy bounced up the rough road up onto “Puwheke” – not an insignificant hill on the Karikari peninsula, and a prominant landmark visible from many kilometres in all directions.
Once parked up, Scott pointed far into the distance…distance being the key word! The route we would have to take around the hill and down to the beach looked like one of those that somehow always feels like it’s uphill in both directions with gorse, steep slopes and wet, slippery rank grass growth.

The beach itself was very pleasant though, the sort of sand you see on deserted tropical islands – nice flat hardpacked white quartz sand (The quartz crystals actually ‘squeak’ with the friction if you scuff your foot in the dry sand).

One and a half kilometres from the cars, we arrived at where he had lost his ring. A small dayglo fishing float glowing orange in the grass.
While I got setup, Scott marked out some boundaries and I made a start in the dry fluffy sand. At least, in the middle of nowhere there was no trash or background chatter to mask any signals. A rare luxury with recoveries.

The first search line went straight down the beach and out into the shallows. Unsure how long I’d be searching, I was trying to stay dry at this stage of the exercise, the ocean waters not yet warmed from summer.
I turned and started the return line back to the beach. Three paces – and I got a clean tone, the sound was either that of a deep lead fishing weight, or a relatively shallow gold ring. I knew which it would be! Time to dig.

The white sand easily flowed out of the scoop, leaving Scotts ring nestled in the corner.

The ring safely back on Scott’s finger, we started the long walk back to the cars.

Uphill all the way…