9/6/2019 So, this find, was one that I am so proud to have accomplished. Last year almost a year to the find date, but back in 2018, I was called out to the Leesburg Lake Reservoir that feeds into Smith Mountain Lake here in Virginia. It is a lake that while mostly clean for swimming, boating and fishing, has a lot of movement of the water that keeps it dark with no visibility as the lake height changes. Needless to say, it’s very dark down there and there are big critters swimming around in the dark. I spent 9 hours under water that day trying to find a lost wedding ring for a woman and her family who wish to remain nameless. This ring was the Husband’s, Mother’s wedding ring, and to my understanding is not with us anymore. The ring was lost while catching a waterlogged nerf football while floating in the lake approximately 30-50 feet from the dock. The lake was high at the time, higher than most times of the year at the time of loss, and the dock when I arrived was considerably lower as was the lake, by almost 15 feet in depth difference from when they said it was lost. As with most client’s you search where they prefer you to, because they know they lost it in a specific area, but, as it sometimes goes, with the tragedy of losing the item, the view can get a little skewed, as does the memory. To make matters a little worse for the search, the family had attempted prior to my arrival last year, to search for it with two other divers, and a detector, and they were not able find it.
As I said I dove for 9 hours that day, and did not find it. All I was able to come up with was about 40 lbs of trash that individually, if only the size of a quarter, would weigh as much as a piece of beer can that size. Needless to say, it was a minefield down there, and I had to dig every target. After that dive, I was not very happy with myself that I had not found it. The whole ride home and for the next year, this ring plagued my thoughts. “I know it’s there, it has to be”. Its amazing the things that get you thinking maybe it is really gone or not findable. 1) I had a fish grab my fingers when I held them up to my flashlight trying to see if I had found something. 2) I had multiple catfish (bottom feeders) get in my way, could they have moved it? 3) I had a really big alligator snapping turtle run right into my mask as it was swimming, undoubtedly spooked and not being able to see me, colliding with my head and really giving my bell a ring. 4) At the end of the day, she asked me if I thought a fish could have took it, like a shiny lure. I told her, it is there somewhere, and I promise I will find it for you, even though I was starting to wonder the same. 5) We also had the possibility of displacement from the previous divers, which I didn’t even want to mention to her, because a couple of good fin kicks could have seriously moved it.
I was going to enlist the help of my friend Craig in Michigan, mainly because of the amount of trash down there as well as bottom time needed if the lake rose again (which it did by 20 feet). For awhile the plan was going to work, but things came up for Craig’s family with an emergency for his newborn and he was not able to make it, and I had committed to searching again before September 14th of this year. My Wife and I run two small businesses, so lining up a schedule to look again was also a challenge. But I was able to make it out a week prior to when I said, and this time she was not able to make the trip due to work. I told her if I did not find it that day, I would come again the following weekend to search as well. We talked on the phone to review the details again for about 15 minutes. I evaluated the dock and rise of the water for about another 20 minutes from what I could remember the year prior (the memory of mud on the shore last year helped as there was none this year). I suited up and chose a spot a lot deeper and further out than she had mentioned, because my instincts were, this ring has to be further out than originally thought due to the rise and fall of the lake.
As I conducted my lined circle search for every 5 feet, I noticed in this area, I was not coming across any trash, and to my delight, if I was close enough to the bottom with my face (about 1 foot, I could see just a little before my detector stirred everything up and I lost visibility again. I came across a signal, low tone, like a gold ring, and got excited. There was a fist sized rock in the way so I picked it up and moved it, swung back over and, no tone. I couldn’t believe it. I actually wondered if I had made it up in my head. So I stayed in that spot for about a minute, swinging and nothing. I then had a thought, and looked at where my hand would be even though I couldn’t see it, and swung my detector over my hand and the rock in it. The rock to my dismay, made the tone. I carefully laid it on the bottom to reinspect it in case when I picked it up, the ring, any ring, or anything, was stuck to it, or in my hand with the rock. Nothing. Swung over the rock again in my hand and it gave the tone again. I carried it with me in my hand along with my line as I kept moving inch by inch. Another low tone. Another rock, with the same mineral properties. By the time I made it around to start going out to 10 feet, I had pushed almost 40 fist sized or smaller rocks into the inside of my search circle and piled them up.
At this point, I moved to the 10 foot mark of my line, and immediately it got colder due to the thermocline, and the bottom started sloping steeply, right into some big rocks that might have been put there for erosion control in the past. Needless to say, the rocks were going to be another challenge altogether, in the dark, in the silt, about 21 feet down or going deeper, and hard to swing my detector without banging it to pieces, because the only indication I had of these rocks being there was by feel. As I started my search, and was just about to start back up the slope, I got a low tone. I got really close to the coil as I always do to make sure I didn’t drift, and made two swipes with my hand. Just the slightest little glint of light shot back at me from my flashlight, and I knew, I had found it. I laid there on the bottom, thanking God, and staring at the ring just sitting there in the muck for a few minutes, glad I had not lost the perseverance that has driven me my whole life, and that I could give it back to this woman and her family. It was the ring find of a lifetime up to this point, and knowing I was going to take the signature photo I always do with it in my fingers from the water, I held it as tight as I could in my fist as I ascended to the surface, and then put it in my fingers carefully, showed it to the camera, and the shocked look on my Son’s face who goes with me sometimes to help and learn, the slow motion of it all, and your mind racing, it was all worth it.
After I got back onto the dock, their neighbor came over and jokingly asked if I had found it, and when I said I did (in about an hour) he stopped in his steps, looked at me in utter shock and in disbelief. I showed it to him, and he said, “You just made a lot of people really happy today, you have no idea.” I took a picture of the ring in my hand, and sent it via text to the owner, and told her in jest “Hey, look what I found ;)” She couldn’t believe it either, and took a picture with it back on her hand (below) when she received it. (She was unable to meet me due to work about 3 hours away I believe).
I wanted to write as much as I could about this ring find, because the meaning, not just to the family, but to me as well, was so heavy and inspiring. I will never forget this find. I know we can’t find them all, but if we are willing, we can give it one hell of a run, and who knows, you may just find it. Thank you for reading, and I hope this helps inspire the rest of us ring finders, as it does me.