Wednesday, 27 January 2021


Ring finder, Mark Earle, to the rescue

Whitianga resident, Mark Earle, saved the day for young couple, Sam and Aimee Cowley, when Aimee posted on the Cooks Beach Community Facebook page on Thursday last week that Sam had lost his titanium wedding band while they were making one of their frequent visits to Cook Beach.

Sam is a keen swimmer and lost the ring while in the water three days earlier. Since then, he had spent every day looking for the ring at low tide. “The ring meant everything to us as we are both quite sentimental people and had we needed to replace it, it wouldn’t have been the same or have held the same emotional value to us,” says Aimee.

In total, there were four posts on local community Facebook pages last week looking for lost rings or jewellery. Three of these were in Cooks Beach the other was in Whitianga. 

Enter Mark and his wife, Sue, who are keen metal detectors. Mark had been looking for treasures for 37 years and is part of a large nationwide group called New Zealand Ring Finder who assist with the recovery of jewellery and other lost items. 

Mark frequently keeps an eye out on Facebook for lost items and when he sees a local post, he’s always keen to jump in and help. One of last week’s posts was by someone wanting to borrow a metal detector. Aimee posted in the same thread that if that person found a titanium ring in their search, it may belong to her husband.

The person asking to borrow the detector was lent one by someone else and they found their ring, using Mark to provide technical advice on how to undertake the search. Mark conducted the two other Cooks Beach searches himself. Sam and Aimee’s search was successful, but the other was more difficult.

The Whitianga job was for a ring that was possibly lost in the Taputauatea Stream (Mother Brown’s Creek) while a man was tossing his kids in the deep part. The man thought that’s where his ring came off and Mark spent quite a bit of time neck deep in the water with his detector, without success. The story does have a happy ending though, with two brothers finding the ring later in the grass next to the creek. Their mother had seen the Facebook post and the man was reunited with his ring. He rewarded the boys generously. 

Mark originally became involved in metal detecting because of his interest in history, coin collecting and preserving historic items, a passion which endures. While belonging to a detecting club in Auckland, he did a lot of museum work and made several memorable finds with the club. Among the finds are Bishop John Patteson’s silver pocket knife, now in the Auckland Museum, a printing press, now in the Te Awamutu Museum, and Mark himself finding a set of manacles off a shipwreck south of Dargaville, now in the Dargaville Maritime Museum. 

These days Mark and Sue clean up the local Mercury Bay beaches as often as they can, picking up everything they find or see, from bottle tops and tear tabs to fish hooks and broken glass. If they pick up enough coins for an ice cream on the way home, it’s a treat.

Mark suggests the best thing to do if you lose an item of value on the beach is to take a photo of the location with some landmarks and, if possible, use the GPS function on your phone’s map app to pin your location. You can then contact Mark or New Zealand Ring Finder on Facebook.
When Mark found Sam’s ring, Sam and Aimee offered him a reward, but Mark asked them to rather buy wool for Sue to crochet blankets for their chosen charity, 4theKids. The charity applies a community-based approach to provide comfort and assistance to the victims of child abuse. Sue has made hundreds of blankets for them. 

Sam and Aimee were happy to make the donation. “We were beyond impressed with Mark’s skills and his generosity to help us,” says Aimee. “We are also beyond grateful to him for finding Sam’s ring. With my husband being such a lover of the ocean and the ring having spent three days in there until Mark’s rescue, it had almost added more significance to his ring. We are very happy people!”

Mark says the hug he received from Sam will stay with him for a very long time.

Pictured: Whitianga resident, Mark Earle (left), and Sam Cowley after Mark had found Sam’s lost wedding band. Sam and his wife, Aimee, were on holiday in Cooks Beach when he lost his ring.


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