Divers want to further explore local rivers

Published 12:03 pm Saturday, November 17, 2018

One of the divers that RiverGuard Jeff Turner referenced in his article today is Daniel Pinnock of Virginia Beach. Pinnock said that he and a buddy have been ocean and wreck divers for well over 20 years, and only now just looking into exploring local rivers. The recent dip into the Blackwater was their first.

“I got a copy of the ‘Blackwater, Nottoway, Meherrin Rivers Atlas,’ and saw Jeff’s name mentioned.” [Turner cowrote it with W.E. Trout III for the Virginia Canals Association.] I reached out on Facebook and we got to chatting. My choice of this site [South Quay] was from a conversation with Jeff Turner, as he thought it may yield some interesting artifacts.”

Pinnock, a native of Cornwall, England, said the process of getting chartered boats out to sea for day trips has become laborious and expensive, and the river exploration could be less so.

“The legality of this activity is covered by the Virginia Marine Resource Commission permitting department,” he added. “You basically request a permit to explore Virginia waterways with a metal detector and/or utilizing SCUBA, and then submit a detailed report of where you have been and what you found.”

But whereas the ocean can provide what he called a “neutral buoyancy,” meaning a diver can better control his depth to float over things, “when it comes to rivers, it’s quite a bit different. You’re moving with the current and can’t see very far.”

The Blackwater, case in point, has a tea-like coloring because of the tannic staining from trees. He and his friend were able to see about two to four feet.

The Meherrin, added Pinnock, has a lot of silt owing to the dam in Emporia, and thus could not see more than a few inches.

“You’ve got to be patient,” he said.

Going down the Blackwater for 500 feet or so, the divers came across catfish, a tractor tire, other junk such as Sprite bottles and broken china before finding the pan mentioned in Turner’s column.The smaller broken piece was found a short distance away, and all together measures about 16 inches in diameter.

At first, Pinnock thought it might be a wash basin. He sent an image to a woman in Maryland familiar with such objects and confirmed it was a milk pan dating to the 18th century.

After a lot of elbow grease to get it a little cleaner, Pinnock is going to take photos and send them to another specialist.

“I’m willing to donate it to a museum,” he said.

The other diving partner has a metal detector, and there were indications of other metal objects in the riverbed, but that will have to be done at another time.

Pinnock thinks there’s a rumor of a cannon in the river, but again, that’s a different search.

“We will likely give this another go,” he said. “We’ve really just scratched the surface.”