About those Electroscopes®
By Dave Rendina
There is something new and challenging on the treasure hunting scene. Something which has rekindled my lagging interest in what once was an exciting activity for me. I am talking about Electroscopes® by Thomas. We have all seen the ads for instruments claiming to find gold and silver at a distance. I decided to find out for myself if this instrument really does what the advertisers claim.
First off, let me say that I am writing to you as a treasure hunter with 18 years field experiences using conventional metal detectors. I am the author of the book Eastern Treasure Hunter, and have written articles for leading treasure magazines. The following statements and opinions are my own, and I am not connected with the Electroscope® Company.
Late last spring I began using a Model 20 Electroscope® and have been working with it, weather permitting, ever since. An Electroscope® is an instrument that is supposed to sense gold and silver at a considerable distance. The instrument is used by holding it as you would a pistol and sweeping it right to left and left to right in front of you. If a good target is sensed during the sweep, the antennas which protrude from the front of the instrument should "lock on" as you attempt to sweep past the object. Since this apparatus is housed over a swivel handle, correct balance is critical. By using the methods of intersecting and boxing as explained in the instructions, you narrow the target area down to within a few square feet. Your conventional metal detector is then brought into play to make the final search and recovery.
The two most asked questions from local treasure hunting friends are, does it really work and it is a dowsing rod? The answer to the first question is yes. I believe the instrument does work. However, the degree to which it works is determined by the skill of the operator and certain other factors. For example, balancing the equipment while sweeping and walking with it can take some time to accomplish. Learning to properly tune the scope was a matter of guesswork for me during the first several months because the basic instructions that came with my unit were not as detailed as they should be. Let me say here that during those first, often frustrating months, many telephone conversations took place between me and Thomas the president of Electroscopes®. His long distance cooperation helped me over many rough spots during that period.
Fortunately there are video tapes now available on balancing and tuning the scope. These tapes provide detailed instructions which I consider vital to anyone trying to learn proper use of the scope.
At first when I would track a positive signal on the scope and failed to make a gold or silver recovery, my reaction was to blame the scope for not working. Since then I have learned that other factors unrelated to the scope will hamper ones efforts and why it's unrealistic to expect to recover worthwhile targets to within a few square feet but fail to locate it with your conventional detector because it's just too deep and out of range. During this process you may find other coins, not gold or silver, that are within normal detector range at this spot. Your only alternative here would be to screen sift several cubic feet of earth until the good target is found. Not many people I know would be willing to do this even to recover a silver coin or gold ring.
A good target may lie buried close to a piece of junk metal and if the discrimination setting is being used on the conventional detector, it can bypass the good target as well as the junk. If the detector is being used in the all metals mode, a lot of junk signals might have to be eliminated by digging them before the good target appears.
When I first started to make valid finds I was inclined to credit luck or coincidence instead of the scope for the successful recovery. However, as these coincidences of "good luck" began to add up, I was forced to consider placing some of the credit elsewhere.
While I can't detail everything that has happened in connection with using this instrument, I will tell you what has occurred on my own property and at one other site.
I have lived on this property for 20 years. I have been using metal detectors here for 18 years, testing new models throughout that time, burying clad coins during informal hunts for my children to find with their detectors while they were growing up. Friends have also used their detectors in my yard at different times. To my knowledge, no silver coins were ever found with a metal detector on my property during that 18 year period. Likewise no pennies older than wheatbacks were ever found on this property. During the relatively short period of time I have been using the Electroscope®, testing it in my own yard, I have found 4 silver dimes, 3 Mercury, 1 Roosevelt. I also recovered 1 Indianhead penny and 1 Large Cent. The scope signals that led to the pennies produced no silver or gold finds. Perhaps the gold or silver targets in these areas are too deep and may never be found. I don't mind accepting the old coppers as consolation prizes. The initial response on the scope began 20' to 50' away from each target source. The coins were found individually at average depths and the target area boxed down to an approximate 5' square before I switched my metal detector on to make the final search and recovery.
I asked my wife to bury a plastic bag containing 20 silver dimes 4" to 5" deep anywhere along a certain 500' section of our property line within 2' either side of the line. She did this one day while I was away from home. When she told me the bag was hidden, I waited 10 days then I began my search. The way I hunted was to stand about 15' away at right angles to the property line. I didn't want to position myself too far away since I didn't know how strong the signal from the dimes might be after just 10 days in the ground. I would make a 40 degree sweep with the scope toward the line and if I got no response, move 10 paces down the line, make another 40 degree sweep, etc. If I got a response I would box the signal area down to a 4' x 4' square then move in with my metal detector to try for a recovery. When I got my first signal on the scope and attempted to locate the source with my metal detector, I got no response. My second signal gave similar negative results. So far I had metal detected 32 square feet out of a possible 2,000 square feet with no results. On my third hit with the scope, I boxed it down to a 4' x 4' square, closed in with my metal detector and easily found the dimes. Was it luck or did the scope help? If you're handy with numbers, you can figure the odds. I'm just telling you what happened.
A religious summer camp is located not far from my home. I have hunted the site with conventional metal detectors during the off season for many years. Coins I've found there have dated back into the 1930's. Nothing very exciting. Wheatbacks, Buffalos, an occasional silver coin. It's convenient and peaceful back there. Nobody bothers me.
Last winter I bought a new conventional metal detector. I took it to the campground to give it a good workout. I hunted into late spring and found a few hundred coins. Of the total, 4 coins were silver, 1 Washington quarter, 2 Mercury dimes, and 1 Roosevelt Dime. Shortly afterward, when I began using the Electroscope®, I took it there and recovered 2 additional silver Roosevelt dimes along with no more than a small handful of clad coins in the process. These silver finds were made on different days at average depths. They were not located close together. I found the first one not more than 15' from where the scope initially picked up the signal. I tracked the second one at least 60' before digging it up. I realize while the two hunting situations I've described resulted in finding just 6 silver coins, what's significant to me is this. The time spent using my conventional detector to make the final recoveries was a small fraction of what would normally be necessary using just a metal detector alone.
As to the question of this instrument being a dowsing rod, I don't think so from what I know about dowsing. Yes, I know it looks like a dowsing rod and it's used in a similar fashion but there are other things to consider. Among those who believe that lost or hidden treasure can be located through dowsing, most agree that the person doing the dowsing needs a detailed picture in his mind of exactly what he's looking for. No such detailed information is needed when using an Electroscope® . If a good target is out there, the scope will react regardless of what the operator is thinking about at the time. Although hoping for a particular target of gold or silver can't hurt, (don't most of us do that anyway when using conventional detectors?) Concentration on correct tuning and proper balance is what's important.
I don't know what makes an Electroscope® work. I do know that I have increased my silver to clad ratio of finds dramatically while using one. The old slow process of covering a large area with a small searchcoil has been largely eliminated saving more field time that I can calculate. For those who insist on trying to figure out the precise technology of what does make the scope work, I suggest starting with Webster's Dictionary. Yes, you'll find the word electroscope in there.
For me, developing new skills for tracking down treasure with an Electroscope® has been an exciting new challenge and I look forward to learning more and finding more as I continue to work with it.
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About Those Electroscopes®
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