I received a phone call from the mother of a friend of a gal that had lost her ring in the Apple River. For those that are unfamiliar with the Apple River, its about a 3.6-mile meandering river through the Wisconsin countryside. It has a couple of tubing companies that rent out tubes and will bring you back following your floating adventure. The summer weekends are always busy with floaters from all around. When floating it is always possible to drop something along the way.
Its not uncommon for people to get separated from some their possessions while enjoying a leisurely float down the river. If what you have lost floats you might be able to recover it quickly. Many people wear sandals and one gets knocked off, you can yell to a buddy to grab it or keep and eye on it and you will be able to recover it. Other times people may drop jewelry and not know where on the river it came off. When I received a phone call saying that a person had dropped a ring, I thought it would be almost impossible to find without a known location. Even with a location it is exceedingly difficult to find something like a ring. I mentioned to the mother that without a known location there is no way to find it.
Later the next night, I received another call, this time from Colton the fiancé of the Maria that had lost the ring. He said that he did have a known location and it happened to be where everyone gets out of the river following the ride. In the process of getting off the tube trying to get her feet under herself with the current and slippery submerged boulders under foot, she saw the ring slip off her finger and fall into the river. She was also trying to stay upright while catching some tipping coolers and contents. That night the group of friends ran to a local store and bought some snorkels and masks. They searched well into the night without finding the ring. That’s when they looked up Ring Finders and came across several of the Ring Finders in the area. They did call Ring Finder Darrin Gray. Darrin has been in Ring Finders the longest and has the recoveries to prove it. This one was further away for Darrin and he suggested them to call me Paul Nolan being closer to the location of the missing ring. I must give a shout out to the Minnesota Ring Finders and Darrin in particular; he works very well with the other Ring Finders in the area to help facilitate successful recoveries.
I arranged to meet Colton, Maria’s fiancé out on site to go over the particulars about the location for this recovery. I started out getting acquainted with the flow of the river and trying to determine how far out she was into the river. In the middle of the river the current is much swifter and moving quite a bit faster than near the edges. So the difference in 8-10 feet makes a huge difference on where the ring would end up on the bottom.
I jumped in with my Garrett AT Pro metal detector in hand and my pro point pin pointer. Both are water resistant up to about 10 feet. I start out generally making a primary search of that covers the area most likely to have the lost item. In this case there were all kinds of obstacles that were going to make things much more challenging. The current, other tubers coming down tied together in a big flotillas. The river is about 3-4 feet deep with a lot of large boulders hidden underwater. These boulders are covered with a slippery surface so walking in the river becomes incredibly challenging. Searching between the scattered rocks and with small debris from years of floaters like, rivets from jeans, bathing suit zippers, pop tops, and parts to glasses scattered about. All these metallic objects set off a metal detector. So I worked the area from a semi standing position, slipping and falling many times trying to locate the ring. My chins and legs where getting banged up by slipping on rocks. I think I spent 4-5 hours out on site the first day. The only reason I left that night was it was getting dark and I was the only one left. I decided it was just too dangerous being alone. So I packed it up for the night.
I went back out again the next day changing my approach slightly and brought goggles and a handheld pin pointer but now I switched over to a secondary search. This is a more methodical search of a grid area. You start out with 4×4 blocks and you search it and move over and search the next 4×4 grid. One trick I did was to turn off all other metal from what I was looking for. So knowing I was looking for a Gold ring turned all the other metals off and was running a very tight band. I did this for about 3 hours when my gear started getting waterlogged. A little water seeps in past some rubber o-rings and causes your equipment to become erratic. I also broke the plastic armrest on the detector fighting the current was putting so much pressure of the armrest. Adapting to the changing environment I spent the next 3 hours diving with goggles searching between rocks a looking in all the places that a ring might get lodged in. I had searched and area about 18’ x 40’ with some very strong current over half the area. Still nothing. I packed it in for the day and would go home and heal my legs and figure a way to modify the equipment to best work for the environment I was searching. So I dried everything out and went to work on making a new much shorter handle. I also switched to a smaller coil “the end of the detector that picks up the metal signal” The smaller coil allows me to separate out multiple targets that are close together. With the newly designed detector in hand I went back out for a third time. The detector with the shorter handle worked out OK. I could read the detector while operating it, it could be shortened a little more.
At this point you change again to searching the grid with all discrimination turned off and pick everything within reason. When you get a hit of a target you can read some information on the detector like type of metal, and how deep it is. If it is 4-5 inches down with a hard base you can rule those out. But if it is close to the surface you may have to dig those. I again worked for about 4+ hours and came up with nothing. This last day of searching was on a Monday morning when fewer people would be out. When I did show up I was met in the parking lot by a guy that had been around while I was searching. Only this time he was is in a wet suit with mask and snorkel. He had been searching for the ring and was telling me that it was not there…
A lot of people were finding out about the lost ring from various sources. This is not a good thing. You just never know if someone had come out and found the ring on you. About this time all kinds of questions start entering your head, was the ring really lost in this area? Did someone else find it? How am I missing it? Is it an equipment setup issue.
I heard from the Darrin and we were consulting about maybe having him come out with dive gear and search using scuba. I had also heard that Maria and her father were going to go out and searching for it on Wednesday. So I planned on meeting up with them on site and give this another go with information from the person that lost the ring. When I arrived Maria and her father were on site in the river with wet suits metal detector and snorkel and masks. I brought out a another ring and had Maria drop the ring in the same location and follow the ring. We did tie it off with some lite fishing line to help follow it to a resting place.
After locating the ring – Now this is where I had the search, so again I methodically started going over the area and picking everything that came up. The more targets that I removed the better it is. After about an hour and half I was picking up targets that needed to have hand sized rocks moved away to get to those targets. It also had about 3 inches of sand on the bottom. With the water current moving past you could wave your hand over the sand and could get it to wash away. After clearing an area I would move 3-4 feet and do it again. First wave the detector over the area and find locations of targets then go try and locate each target. The last target I waved my hand and thought I had seen a pop top pull tab circle. Whoa, it was to shinny for that waved my hand past it again and there was a shinny ring laying on the bottom of the river. Was this a bling ring that had been tossed earlier by Maria and her dad? Was this the ring we were looking for? I popped up and asked her father, he was trying to look at it and tried to take it off my finger still in the river. I clinched down and said not until we get to shore. Maria had meet us at the shore and could not believe what she saw. It was her ring. The ring held a lot of sentimental value being it held her grandmothers diamond that could not be replaced. She was in shock. What a happy reunion. She gave me a big hug. So thankful. I didn’t have my camera with because I didn’t want it stolen while I was in the water. So I asked that they send me a couple of photos later, and I would let them enjoy the moment. Maria was on the phone right away “ I cant believe he found it” That was music to my ears as I turned and walked back to my car gear in hand. Some finds are very fast, and some take time. This one was one of the most challenging finds I have ever had.