How to Look for Lost Items on the Sea Floor


It’s amazing how something can get lost so easily underwater, especially if it has been dropped from the surface. Divers have developed some simple methods to look for lost items on the sea floor.

A difficult task

A pair of designer sunglasses, or some other valuable item, that falls overboard from a boat seems to disappear completely. This happens because even a moored boat swings in a large arc. As a result, objects do not necessarily fall through the water in a direct line to the bottom. Looking for a small item in this way is equivalent to looking for something on the ground that has fallen from an airplane. It doesn’t help that even the best visibility underwater is equivalent to a fog on land.

The seabed is usually fairly cluttered. Even in harbours, there are rocks and weeds that will hide a small object, and sometimes even a big object, from view.

Going in circles

A diver may have a good idea of where to start a search, but to be sure of finding a lost object, the diver will need to look for it in a systematic way.

One simple method is to do a circular search. The diver should mark the epicentre of the intended search area with some form of stake or fixture that the loose end of a winder reel line can be attached to.

The diver should then move a suitable distance from the epicenter, unwinding a length of line on the way, and mark the point where the line reaches in some way. This mark will be the starting point of the search. Using the stake as the centre of the circle, the diver swims around in a circle, searching the seabed within the circle.

When the starting mark is reached, some more line is unwound to make the radius of the search circle bigger. The diver marks the starting point again and swims around in another circle at the end of the line until reaching the starting point once more. By doing this, the radius of the search gets bigger and bigger and more ground is covered. In this systematic way, the seabed is searched in ever increasing concentric circles.

Search teams

Bigger areas can be searched using disciplined teams of divers who are spaced along a movable line. The line is used to keep their position relative to each other as they swim and search. One diver is put in charge of the search. Searching for valuable items that have been lost by third parties is really the job of professional divers.

Sometimes, divers search for things that were lost a long time ago. There used to be a tradition among diving club members of finding and recovering the brasswork from wrecks that lay forgotten. Some divers still like to do this. Items such as a ship’s telegraph are regarded as the ultimate prize by some of these ‘wreckers’ (although the one in the photograph, left, was actually bought from a shop that sells material from scrapped ships).

But divers shouldn’t just take what they find on the seabed. Many famous shipwreck dive sites are protected from plundering by divers. These include the wrecks of the fleet of Japanese supply ships sunk at Chuuk Lagoon (Truk) in World War II. Another is the fleet of ships sunk by the atomic bomb ‘Baker’ at Bikini Atoll.

If you are asked to look for something underwater by a third party, to do so could put you in breach of the law. Most countries have strictly adhered-to regulations regarding any sort of underwater work.

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About the Author: Cody Riffel is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo. She likes to write on variety of topics, whatever interests her. She also likes to share what she learns over the Internet and her day-to-day life.

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