One of my fellow bridgetenders, whom I met in my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group, recently asked me if I had ever heard of magnet fishing. I had not. He suggested that I do a search for it on Youtube, so I did. And it opened up a whole new world for me.
What made him think of suggesting it, I believe, was a recent blog post that I wrote about never really knowing what’s beneath the surface of the water, and how easy it is to start believing there’s nothing there. In fact, there’s a whole world down there, just out of sight. It’s both exciting and a little scary to contemplate.
Magnet fishermen know this all too well. They attach a rope to a very strong magnet that’s about an inch thick and the size of your hand, and they toss it in rivers and canals to see what metallic detritus they can find. They’re modern day treasure hunters.
From the looks of the oddly compelling Youtube videos I’ve seen so far, mostly what they come up with is a whole lot of nothing. Cans. Broken fish hooks. Jagged chunks of metal. Lots and lots of garbage. (We humans have been treating our waterways like waste dumps for centuries.)
And yet I can’t seem to look away, because you just never know, do you? They might pull up some valuable historic artifact. Or a submerged safe. Or a murder weapon. Who knows?
They like to look around bridges and docks and places where factories once stood. They assume that with all the human activity, more stuff will have been dropped or disposed of. That makes sense. And it makes enough sense to keep them coming back.
If I were a magnet fisherman, I’d be checking out the ship canal here in Seattle. There used to be so many houseboats floating in Lake Union that you could barely see the water, I’m told. And there are several sunken ships down there. I’d also go to London and check out the Thames. Or the canals in Holland. Centuries of history there. I bet it would be fascinating.
I think this obsession with finding something amazing, in spite of the fact that we keep coming up with practically nothing, is a very strong human trait. Who among us doesn’t wish to change our stars? It’s why we buy lottery tickets.
I’m absolutely obsessed with the series The Curse of Oak Island, which is on the History Channel, and also available on Hulu, for that very same reason. Why do I sit there, episode after episode, season after season, when all they usually come up with is just more dirt? Because once in a blue moon, they find a button. Or a three hundred year old coin. That’s all I need to keep tuning in.
But the thing that makes magnet fishing even more appealing than digging holes in Oak Island is that while these guys are tossing their magnets in there, even if they come up with nothing of note, they’re helping to clean up the waterways. So even on a bad day, their activities are a plus for us all.
Hmm… Maybe I should buy myself a magnet…
(Thanks, David M, for the inspiration for this post!)
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