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Historic Discovery and Technology

Updated on April 11, 2015

The Time Honored Stars

It's been a little over five hundred years since Chris Columbus inadvertently bumped into the Americas. By all accounts, his historic discovery of the other half of the world can be credited to two ambitious ideas. First, that the world was round, not flat, and the second idea was to head west and eventually end up in the east! Good going Chris! Had it not been for north america being "in the way" and the fact that the world was far larger than he envisioned, the plan actually had merit.

For thousands of years navigation was limited to celestial movement. Then, suddenly, things began to change! Small changes at first, Wilbur and Orville Wrights first 12 second flight at Kitty Hawk. The accidental discover of what we now call radar. And so on..........

Fast forward through the years and we now have the ability to look down at our planet from space with high resolution cameras that can read the headlines on a newspaper. We've come a long way baby!

The Exponential Rate of Historic Discovery

Is it any wonder that the rate of historic discovery has increased at the same pace as the advancement of technology. On average, at least one significant discovery is made every week, and we can credit the use of modern technology as the vehicle that made the discovery possible.

As an individual who has spent a good number of years looking for things that need to be found I have nothing but good things to say about technology and the advantages it has provided me over the years. The best part of modern technology is the fact that it's affordable and readily available to any and all who choose to use it. And, believe me, I have certainly chosen to use it!

Let's take a look at some of the equipment that we use every day, and can and should be used by anyone interested in "finding stuff".

Technology - Use ALL of it ALL the time!

There are some out there who use google earth as a mainstay in search efforts. There are others who swear by "boots on the ground" as the only true method of discovery. Still others use computer programs and Gps units for their research.

On the other hand, I SAY USE IT ALL EVERYDAY!

The historical record is chuck-full of information about small historical events. Yet, the exact location of the event is unknown or has been forgotten simply because it wasn't "significant" enough to make it into big-time research. It's a find waiting to happen and technology could be the answer!

Research is a necessary and time consuming evil! Few people realize that 90 percent of a treasure hunters time "on the job" is spent researching their target. With today's available technological resources that means your in front of your computer for hours, days, and weeks in your efforts to "nail down" the target.

With luck, and proper research, the field trip can begin!


It's always good to "hang with the informed locals". Invariably there are individuals within the area you've targeted who have information that may be helpful. Usually they can be found at the local museums, historical societies, or government buildings. It's been my experience that they love to talk about their history.....but only to tourists! As a treasure hunter your a threat! As a tourist who is looking for information about their history they can shine as they relate stories and tales of the past. Be careful! Dress like a tourist, talk like a tourist, act like a tourist! While on recon I show no sign that I am technologically savvy. In fact, I carry an old non-functioning flip-phone for show!

Let the Game Begin!

After gaining as much local information as is available its time to get serious! It's also time to break-out the technology! The most important piece of equipment is a hand held GPs unit. Personally, I stick with the etrex series of units by Garmin. They're small, reliable, accurate within nine feet or less, are WAS enabled, and can "see through" clouds and various other obstructions. I started out using the etrex "legend" years ago and was so impressed with the unit that I have continued with etrex units to this day. Truly, whether you locate something of value or not, making it home at the end of the day is the most important aspect of treasure hunting!

Ahhh memories! My first etrex legend handheld GPs unit. Purchased well over a decade ago and still ready to use
Ahhh memories! My first etrex legend handheld GPs unit. Purchased well over a decade ago and still ready to use

No, I don't own stock in the Garmin company nor do I make money from advertising their products. .....Let's call this an "unsolicited testimonial". I simply believe in them and their ability to to make a product that gets me home at the end of the day. One very important feature of the Garmin etrex line is the ability to interface with my laptop or PC. I have the ability to sit at my computer, lay out a specific route and transfer that route to the portable GPs. At days end I can once again interface with my computer, transfer the days accumulated data from the GPs to the computer topographical program and review every step I took during the day. Occasionally unforeseen topographical situations arise that will block my predetermined route. The obstacle can be way-pointed and avoided on my next trip to the area all from the comfort of a desk chair.

A hand-held navigational compass.
A hand-held navigational compass.

Special Uses for a Digital Camera

For a treasure hunter (or even a deep woods or desert hiker) a digital camera is a must! I NEVER take a good camera with me into the field but I do take a reliable and time-tested camera, 5 megapixel is fine! Since the camera is going to take abuse while in the field (it's unavoidable) use a brand name camera that never fails, but don't take your best camera.

Traveling deep into unknown areas can present a multitude of problems. Not the least of which is getting so far in that you can't remember how to get out! Or, you get disoriented as to your location. Or, your GPs unit becomes non-functional......Disaster can strike without notice but you still need to win the day, your life may depend on it!

Here's where modern technology and age old technology can be used in tandem the save the embarrassment of having to be rescued, or, worse yet, it may save your life!

I call this technique the "point and shoot" back-up method of navigation. The tools needed are a standard, hand-held navigational compass and your reliable and trusted digital camera.

Very few individuals actually know how to use a navigational compass properly. They feel that if the want to head north into unfamiliar territory they simply need to keep the red half of the compass needle pointing straight ahead and when they return keep the red half of the needle pointing to their person......Not so! At the end of a miles long trip north you know exactly what the needle of the compass looks like, but not the terrain you've just passed. Getting lost is almost a sure thing! Let's be smart about it!

The proper way to navigate with a hand-held compass is to take a bearing that matches your direction of travel. Pick a prominent landmark approximately a mile away in that direction (perhaps a mountain peak). At this point take a digital picture of the compass with the needle pointing in the direction of the mountain peak and a picture of the mountain peak itself. It's best to get both in the same photo if possible. It's time to put the compass and camera away while you move directly or indirectly toward your landmark. Once at the chosen landmark take another digital photo of the starting point of your journey along with another photo of the compass pointing in the exact opposite direction that will lead you back to your starting point. You simply need to repeat the process as you move from landmark to landmark.

Should your GPS unit fail, or if you lose the unit along the way, you now have a visual and directional second method of returning to your starting location I've used as many as eight sequential landmarks while traveling through incredibly rough terrain. Naturally, IF your GPs unit doesn't fail, it's always advisable to use the "back-track" accuracy it provides when returning at the end of the day.......When it comes down to being alive or dead it's always good to have back-ups!

Talk to yourself......And Your Recorder!

Carrying a small recorder of any type is also a necessity. Along with GPs navigation, point and shoot navigation, the recorder can be used to provide verbal navigation as your trip into unknown territory progresses. It's certainly not for the purposes of writing a book, but entries concerning headings, abnormalities along the route, as well as latitude and longitude positions provide a third method of navigation to get you back to camp or the dinner table at the end of the day. I continually make verbal notes as the day progresses. Most notes are less than 5 seconds in duration but certainly come in handy on the return portion of any trip, not to mention playing back notes while your reviewing your track on the computer.

My micro-cassette tape recorder.
My micro-cassette tape recorder.

Let's Summarize!

As you may well have guess at this stage of the article I place the highest order of magnitude on the art of navigation. All too often individuals who are lacking in navigational skills require rescue or worse........are never seen again until tracking dogs find their remains. Each and every year individuals simply disappear within the mountain ranges within the United States. All too often disappearances are glamorized by the media and become part of "the mysterious chain of historical events" that occur in a certain area when in fact the death was caused by nothing more than poor planning and lack of necessary skills. Unfortunately, poor planning and lack luster skills NEVER make the "news at 10".

I have always considered myself to be the most dangerous thing to myself! And, we should all think that way! IF we leave nothing to chance, IF we are skilled at what we do, we improve our chances of success ten fold.


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