Alison Walker, a metal detectorist from Ontario, Canada, has been on my radar for some time to interview. I have followed her from afar and felt she could have a lot of knowledge to share for budding and advanced metal detectorists.
Alison does recoveries along with metal detecting at beaches, lakes, streams, parks, woods, yards, and farms in and around the Greater Toronto Area. She just started her fifth year as a registered metal/scuba dive detectorist with TheRingFinders.Com. Her detectors of choice are the Minelab Excalibur II and the Minelab Equinox 800. As I was researching Alison, what really impressed me about her was that she was the first female to be certified as a Journeyman Power Lineman with Etobicoke Hydro/Toronto Hydro. Currently, she is a Traffic Signal & Street Light Inspector with the City of Brampton.
The following are Alison’s replies to my interview questions:
How did you get into metal detecting and what was your first detector?
I attended a charity golf tournament for the Kelly Shires Breast Cancer Foundation and a metal detector was on the auction table for bids. I won the bid on the detector which was a beginner Minelab X-terra 305. Within 6 weeks, I quickly moved onto a Minelab E-Trac and then after that, onto my top machine, the Minelab Excalibur II.
Can you share one of your most interesting recovery stories?
I have so many interesting, and unique ring recoveries but I think one recovery I completed last year in 2020 tops them all. I drove over 2,700 kms (1,700 miles) in 16 hours – one way – to a very special location near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Another registered Ring Finder, Anne, came along for the ride and to take turns driving as we had special permission to attend the site.
We were looking for a young lady’s, late grandmother’s heirloom 750/platinum, diamond-filled engagement ring that was crafted in Italy. It meant the world to this young woman as she and her late grandmother shared the same name. Boy, did I make her cry when we found it. It was an awesome adventure traveling with Anne. I’d do it all over again if I had too. (The video of this find is on YouTube)
What was your oldest metal detecting find, and how did you discover it?
My oldest find was a large silver medallion that I found on an island in the St. Lawrence River. The medallion was a “Bostonia Candita A.D. 1630” I am still researching the history of it. It has the words, SICU? PATRIBUS SIT DEUS NOBIS CIVITATIS REGIMINE DONATA A.D. 1822 engraved on it. Around the outside of the medallion, in navy blue enamel, it reads N.B.M.A. SEVENTENTH ANNUAL CONVENTION (not seventeenth but sevententh which I found odd).
Oh – I just remembered that in early March, I found an 1820’s Lower Canada Colonial Bust & Harp Token from an old farm field in Hamilton, Ontario area.
Your Ring Finder profile states that you use a Minelab E-Trac and Minelab Excalibur II. Do you have a handheld metal detector and if so, which one and why did you choose it?
My main detectors are the Excalibur II and the Equinox 800 that I now own. As of early spring 2021, I have added the Nokta PulseDive PI to my arsenal but I haven’t used it as of yet. I chose these new machines because they are the newest technology in metal detectors in hopes that I gain more depth to help locate the targets.
Many of us do map overlaying to find old locations with land detecting. How do you map out a body of water when doing underwater detecting?
I haven’t mapped out any historical maps for water. I do, however, have a gridding system that I use for land and in the water. When detecting underwater, I use a new custom gridding pole to conduct circular gridding along with a secondary orange fiber rod. When I get to the rod, I move it out 4 feet and continue on my circle. I always overlap my swings.
Besides using powerful scuba diving lights, what other tactics do you use to locate items in difficult visibility conditions?
I hope to update my scuba dive lighting, but I only use the tone of the Excalibur II underwater detector. I continually ask questions of the lost ring finder client because many times the item is not where a person thinks it is. Narrowing the location or knowing a landmark are huge pluses to make the job easier and quicker.
For those looking to get into doing paid recoveries, what are some of your tips on negotiating a price and/or bringing up the cost of recovery?
Every situation is different. The Ring Finders CEO, Chris Turner, always suggests using a contract so everything has been negotiated prior to going out to the location. Clear communication is key. I base my price on the distance to travel and what equipment is needed to recover the item. The new DIVE BLU3 NEMO with the 10’ hose has brought the cost down especially for items lost off docks. I won’t attend some call-outs if I feel they are unsafe.
After finding the lost item, I do not take a reward but instead, I have a ‘pay it forward’ program. The client has to donate 10-20% of the value of the item (or more) if they choose as my reward. The client receives a tax receipt for the amount donated.
What other advanced tips can you share on how to improve your metal detecting underwater and land finds?
In my opinion, heavy grid searching is the key in addition to low and slow swing and sometimes cross-gridding. You also need to have lots of patience and persistence. Lastly, I also recommend clients not posting the location of the find on social media in order to allow The Ring Finders detectorist a higher chance of locating and returning the lost item.
Thank you Alison Walker for your detailed responses. To learn more about Alison, please follow her at: