Looking for a different kind of hunt? Itching for a road trip? If you’re just dying to take your metal detectors out for a spin but have nothing lined up in the treasure hunting department, perhaps a benchmark hunt is what you need.
Benchmarking is another hobby great for people interested in hunting and history. In this activity, the goal is to find “benchmarks” or survey markers scattered all around the country. This particular pastime started making waves in the mid-nineties when information about the locations of the marks became available online, growing as a spin-off of another popular, online information-propelled hobby, geocaching.
With over 700,000 benchmarks across the United States, there are likely quite a few near you. Usually, these survey markers are round metal disks commonly but not exclusively, made of brass; inscribed with its own particular information such as the year of installation (or even re-installation for replacement markers), name of mark or the “station” it pinpoints, designation (what type of marker it is, one with a triangle is a “triangulation station disk,” one with an arrow is called a “reference mark” as it points to a principal station that may be a few feet away), elevation, et cetera.
Your metal detector will play a very important role in your benchmark hunting. These markers are roughly just 3.5 inches in diameter and set in various places in different areas. Sometimes, markers are placed in the ground, set into large rocks, or even directly on a particular structure (sidewalks, bridge spans, roads). Metal detectors are very useful tools for discovering these markers especially when layers of earth hide them.
Arm yourself with some tools to discover these new finds and another hobby might be in your horizon: information on the markers you’re hunting care of a survey data sheet which you can get online, a camera to document your find, a compass, a probe, a digging tool and brush for clearing dirt from a marker, a tape measure, a GPS device to make it easier to locate the general area, and a metal detector for finding accidentally and intentionally buried markers.