Hurricane Sandy caused much devastation to our area, but for metal-detecting hobbyists and sea-glass hunters, the storm also left behind some great finds.
"It's like Christmas morning for a metal detectorist," said Edmund Peckiconis, of North Cape May, chairman of the Cape May Metal Detecting Club.
The excitement of a post-storm search, especially a storm as powerful as Hurricane Sandy, comes from the idea that the storm has churned the sand and eroded several layers of beach, exposing new, under-explored areas, and with hope, bringing some buried treasures to its surface.
Cape May Point residents Ned Hood and his wife, Carol King Hood, are sea-glass hunters. The couple has been searching the Cape May County beaches for sea glass for the past 10 years. It's their mutual hobby, Carol said, and a friendly competition.
The Hoods spend several hours each week scanning the beaches near their home for the colorful sand-and-wave smoothed fragments of old plates, windows, bottles and more. On many occasions, they have returned home empty-handed. But other times, they've filled their buckets with more than 200 pieces of colorful sea glass.
"Whenever you want to stop, you think to yourself, 'There may be an amazing find just a few feet ahead,' so you keep going," Carol said.
Their most prized pieces are displayed in a glass-cased coffee table in their home, created by Carol who is a professional artist. The sea glass is arranged in sections by color, with a bed of beach sand underneath.
Each piece tells a story, Carol said, and some pieces have been tumbling in the surf since the mid-1700s.
Some of their favorite pieces in their collection are fragments of smoothed-edged ceramic pottery with intricate European shell-edged patterns, extremely rare colors like dark red - possibly from an old lantern - and bright yellows and a few small glass bottles that are still completely intact.
Carol said she and Ned prefer to go sea-glass hunting in the winter, when there is less competition, but if there's a storm, they go, regardless of the time of year.
The Hoods rode out Hurricane Sandy in their Cape May Point home and were combing the beaches the morning after it made landfall.
"It was difficult, because it was so windy and cold, but we really wanted to go," Carol said. They were unsuccessful the first time, but plan to try again soon.
Peckiconis said he was eager to get to the beach post-Hurricane Sandy. He also tried to get on at 7 a.m. the day after the storm, but the police had already set up barricade, he said. He finally made it on Oct. 31, two days after the storm made landfall.
Settling on an area of beach at Broadway and Beach Avenue, Peckiconis began to glide his Minelab E-Trac 70 model metal detector back and forth over the sand in wide, rhythmic strokes.
Behind him on Beach Avenue, a crew of workers was busy removing about a foot of sand from the center of the street and pavement, swept there by the storm, but Peckiconis paid them no mind.
Instead his eyes were glued to the ground, the roar of the bulldozers behind him muffled out by the headphones pressed tightly over his ears, alerting him of the potential treasures buried in the sand.
Every few minutes, he stopped his machine mid-sway and, depending on what he heard in the headphones, either started to dig or continued on his routine.
Peckiconis said he believes metal detecting relies heavily on luck, but a storm like Hurricane Sandy simply increases his odds of finding stuff.
After about an hour of searching, he had accumulated a decent stash: a handful of oxidized coins, a small gold flip-flop pendant and a small metal plate with the number 109 etched on one side.
He said he found three silver rings, as well as more coins, during a post-Hurricane Irene hunt. What he's really looking forward to is metal detecting on the Atlantic City beaches post-Hurricane Sandy, he said.
"People have been going to those beaches since the 1800s," Peckiconis said. "You're looking at layers and layers and layers of stuff."
Carol said whenever she is searching for sea glass, there's always this fantasy in the back of her mind that at any minute she might stumble upon a treasure chest full of gold. As a child, her brother used to tell her tales of pirates burying their treasures at Higbee Beach.
"I'm always looking for that gold glint sticking up from the sand," she said.
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