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Metal detecting skates

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It seems that there are some parts of the world where there are known to be valuable, gold-carrying shipwrecks. Finding them, however, is tricky, due to the fact that they are almost all under water.

Submarines, even ROVs, are expensive, and the ocean floor is known to be large, making this sort of operation non-viable unless you have a very good idea where to look.


MaxAqua, Inc. is shortly launching its first fleet of metal- detecting skates. The fish, that is, not the wheeled footwear.

We have already caught over 1000 live skates from a promising part of the ocean, and are in the process of fitting each one with a secure, lightweight harness. The harness incorporates a GPS receiver, metal-detecting loop, battery pack, and a small high- speed, high-power transmitter. A tiny turbine mounted on the back of the skate trickle-charges the batteries as the fish swims.

When released, the skate will follow their normal behaviour pattern of slouching on the seabed for long periods of time, interspersed with brief bouts of swimming. As soon as the GPS detects that the fish is stationary, the metal detector is switched on for a couple of seconds, sufficient to determine the presence or absence of metal in the immediate vicinity (ie, beneath said fish). Because boring metals corrode very quickly in seawater, most of the detected metal is likely to represent a wreck (bronze cannon, gold bullion), with the occassional piece of copper pipe or other non-corrodable lagan.

Every so often, the transmitter is activated and a short, high- power squawk is sent to a bouy tethered in the general vicinity. All data is stored there, until one of the Buchanan yachts passes by and downloads the harvest.

Over a period of several months, a detailed map is built up, plotting the density of metal objects over a wide area of seabed. Areas frequented by the skates are mapped in extreme detail (even allowing the outlines of large metal objects to be seen), whilst less visited areas are peppered with dots which, with luck, will cluster around significant wrecks.

The Buchanan dredger then moves in to explore these sites in more detail and, after recovering our haul of bullion, we all celebrate with a dinner of fresh skate.

MaxwellBuchanan, May 20 2010

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       //The fish, that is, not the wheeled footwear.//
Oh no! I really like the idea of metal detecting skates, for rollerblading along the beach.

       Nevermind - back to the piscine idea...
(bun/fish pending)
Jinbish, May 20 2010


       During WWII, British scientists actively investigated the possibility of breeding flat fish, skates, and small rays in large quantities in capitvity, attaching small but powerful bar magnets, and releasing them in estuaries at risk of attack by German magnetic mines, the plan being that during their normal feeding behaviour they would hopefully approach close enough to a submerged mine for the field from the bar magnet to trigger the mechanism.   

8th of 7, May 20 2010

       Yes, there's definitely something fishy about this idea; and skate don't have much of a sense of direction, they just spent their time swimming from plaice to plaice.
8th of 7, May 20 2010

       //This underwater GPS receiver of yours wouldn't be bad science would it ?// You wouldn't want to argue with our investors, would you?   

       As for detecting metal on the move, the problem is one of distance - my understanding is that a skate-mountable detector will have very limited range, and will therefore be most effective when the skate has decided to have a rest and maybe snuggled itself into the sand a little.   

       And can we *please* stop the fish puns? It's making my haddock.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 20 2010

       sp. ’ed hake
pocmloc, May 20 2010

       A predatory seabird swallows two small flatfish, one male, one female, whole, undamaged and alive.   

       In the bird's stomach, the male fish says to the female fish, "What's a nice Plaice like you doing in a Gull like this ?"   

       <Effect of Borg Cube making hasty departure from Sol planetary system, while engaging cloaking device>
8th of 7, May 20 2010

       We could tell you, but then we'd have to kill you.
Actually, that sounds like quite a promising approach ...
8th of 7, May 20 2010

       //harness// On a skate? This requires more explanation.
mouseposture, May 21 2010

       Finding gold this way wouldn't be a total fluke.   


       "Come with us if you want to live ..."   

8th of 7, May 21 2010


       [ratpoise], It could be sturgically attached.
MikeD, May 21 2010

       Step 1: Feed rare-earth magnets to a school of small fish.   

       Step 2: Release in the general area of the Titanic.
DrWorm, May 22 2010

       // school of small fish. //   

       This would be a training school, right ?
8th of 7, May 22 2010

       Found while looking for a category in which to post a robot metal detector. (+)
Sunstone, Feb 28 2013

       What if the metal detector triggers a small explosive charge which inflates a small balloon? When the skate encounters metal, it will be wrenched to the surface by the power of explosive floatyness. Then, your fish will be vulnerable, Floundering at the surface. This will attract sea birds which will take their Terns at eating the fish. Now, perhaps one of these seabirds will have a GPS transceiver attached (GPS works on birds), because you've been steadily releasing them on a massive Scale. Your automatic tracking software will then Trawl through the data looking for statistically anomalous clusters of seabirds developing over time (the explosive skates will encounter metal in proportion to the amount of metal present). You can subtract known positions of fishing boats and bouys and things, leaving you with a map that gets progressively more interesting.   

       Then you just go cruising out to any statistical clusters that arouse your sus-fish-ion, or seem a little fishy.
bs0u0155, Feb 28 2013

       I don't think you're taking this seriously.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 28 2013


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