John was out swimming off Long Beach at Russell in the Bay of Islands, and realising he’d forgotten to leave his gold wedding band behind took it off and dropped it inside his wetsuit for security. All went to plan, until, at the end of his swim and while wading ashore he unzipped the wetsuit and folded it down. The inevitable happened, however it wasn’t until he was back at the car and out of the wetsuit he remembered the now absent ring.
He spent some time looking for his treasured gold ring in the grass in the carpark and retraced his steps up and down the beach without luck.
I came into the story three days later and made the journey over to hopefully reunite John with his lost ring.
John was up to getting wet again, so I asked him to take one of my marker floats out and drop it at his best guess for the start point.
Starting initially with a spiral search pattern in the immediate area out to 5m, I then ran parallel sweeps back into the beach in the direction of his travel back to the car – pausing to brace into the occasional larger breaking waves.
Once in the shallows, I took a short break to remove the wetsuit and switch to dry gear for the remainder of the beach, continuing the overlapping parallel sweeps back to the car – With no luck.
I always aim to run at 90-95% probability of detection, and the fact I hadn’t found it irritated me. I explained to John that the chances of missing it were slim, so there was a possibility it had fallen out on the hard sand or grass and been picked up. The search corridor marked out allowed for plenty of space either side of his track, so I was confident it wasn’t there.
John accepted the loss, we shook hands and he headed on his way home.
After packing the gear away, I grabbed a coffee from the nearby vendor and sat in the car looking at the beach with the search grid in the sand… I wasn’t happy about something, but couldn’t pin it down. I needed to have another go on the “Assume Nothing, Believe No-One and Confirm Everything” principle.
What if John hadn’t come in on the direct line he thought he had? Watching the swimmers and kids splashing around for a few minutes, I saw there was a subtle longshore drift dragging them along the beach. I decided to go back in and extend the search corridor.
Didn’t bother with the wetsuit this time, just grabbed the scoop and detector and headed back to the edge of the previous search area and started adding another 10m to it in the direction of the current.
After maybe 15 minutes, I got that solid gold ‘thud’ in the phones, and the scoop picked it up first time.
I headed back to the car and not having Johns number, phoned his wife to give the good news and ask her to get John to turn around and come back. He was a very happy chap when I dropped the ring in his hand.