By Natalie Strom
Ron Lord is a familiar face on Marco’s beaches. He’s also a familiar face on the beaches of Naples, Bonita Springs and Sanibel. However, it’s probably not his face that you’ve noticed, but rather the large metal detector he carries, searching for lost treasure.
Ron has been combing the beaches of Southwest Florida for 35 years. “I moved to Naples when Marco Island was just a swamp,” Ron explains. “When I got here, you still had to take the ferry to get onto the island.” The then-fishing guide was sent to Vietnam and upon return was in need of physical therapy due to an injury. “I had surgery done on my right hand from a wound during Vietnam and I was in need of something to help limber my wrist,” he adds. Having a choice of driving to Miami every day for physical therapy, Ron, instead, “bought a $60 metal detector, and the rest is history.”
The metal detector proved to be a valuable tool for Ron’s rehabilitation. It has also proven valuable as many of the things he finds are just that. In his 35 years of metal detecting, Lord has found a platinum wedding band, gold chains, watches, an assortment of rings such as a 1989 high school class ring from Ohio and a 1975 Notre Dame class ring. He often times finds cash and other non-metal valuables floating in the water. “People don’t bother to look down. It’s amazing the things you can find if you are looking at your feet,” he adds.
Ron doesn’t limit himself to the beaches of Florida for his searches. Over the years he has hunted in Arizona, California, Georgia, Tennessee, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Michigan.
Of all his travels and all his treasure hunting, Ron’s best find was right off the coast of Marco Island. “I found a three-inch square copper plate. This plate is written in Sanskrit which is the first written language.” According to an Indian archaeologist who examined the copper plate, it reads, ‘In order to reach enlightenment, you must be reincarnated 830 times.’ “I had another archaeologist that looked at it and said it’s roughly 1,000 years old. He said the value is about $100,000 and up. Right now I’m waiting for the British Museum to send me a letter telling me a little more about it because they are the leading authority on Sanskrit in the world.”
Ron found the copper plate just over a year ago while wading in the water off of the Marco beach. Many of his great finds are discovered in the water rather than on the beach. “Ninety percent of the people who lose their jewelry are in the water relaxing on a raft or a noodle. They have a ring that’s a little loose and they are totally relaxed and it just slips right off,” he explains.
If this ever happens, all hope is not lost. Ron is licensed with the County to come out and search for lost jewelry. The Marco Island Police Department and the Naples Beach Patrol both have Ron’s phone number in case a lost piece of jewelry is ever reported. Ron is willing to come out and search for the piece as long as it isn’t at night. “I will look for jewelry in or out of the water, but I won’t go in the water at night because it’s feeding time for sharks. I don’t want anything to do with sharks. If it’s at night, there isn’t enough money in the world to get me in the water.”
Common sense affords Ron this right, but experience is also a factor. Even during daylight, he has seen his fair share of these predators. “You can hear the metal detector for about two miles under water. Sharks and other animals can sense you the minute you walk in. They are curious of the sound and come to check it out. I’ve had dolphins as close as five feet from me. I’ve had a Tiger Shark within three feet of me. I’ve been chased out of the water by sharks a number of times.”
These incidents have not deterred Ron from his daily hobby. Although, “it’s become more like a job,” as he documents and posts everything that he finds. Ron recommends to anyone who loses something of value in, or out, of the water, to put an ad up on Craig’s List or in the classifieds section of a local paper. They should also contact the local police and search different metal detector sites, such as www.treasurenet.com where people often post things they have found.
“I take pictures of everything I find and post it online. There are probably 150 different metal detector sites all over the world.” Ron has, on occasion, been able to return peoples’ lost treasures through these means.
While he has certainly found his fair share of treasures, Ron finds more garbage than anything. “For every gold ring I find, I probably throw away 30 to 40 pounds of junk. Mostly beer caps and pull tabs.” Ron saves the pull tabs from aluminum cans and gives them to organizations who collect them to raise money, such as the Ronald McDonald House. “People don’t realize how important metal detecting really is. We actually help clean the beaches more than anything,” he adds.
Through his metal detecting, Ron has also determined which beaches are cleaner than others. “I have one beach which I call ‘the nastiest beach in Collier County,’ and that’s Vanderbilt beach. If I took three guys down there with metal detectors, in less than four hours we could fill a five-gallon bucket with bottle caps. Every one of those bottle caps equals a glass bottle, which are illegal to bring on Florida’s beaches to begin with.”
Trash pick-up is not limited to just metal. “We pick up plastic bottles in the water all the time. I would like to see clear plastic bottles banned from all Florida beaches because a sea turtle will find it, eat it and die because they think it’s a jellyfish.
“We need to keep our beaches clean,” Ron continues. “The guys out there with metal detectors help keep the beaches clean for our future. All that junk that we find belongs in a trash can, not on our beaches.”
Cleaning Florida’s beaches and searching for lost treasure is a full-time job for Ron, but he doesn’t seem to mind. One final word of advice from Ron is to get out in the water and enjoy it. After all, “we want you in the water with all that bling and gold on because when you get scared or you are relaxing, that’s when it falls off!”
Lost a priceless treasure recently? Call Ron Lord to look for it. He may be reached at (239) 331-1352.