Storms and floods resurface relics from Gulf Coast

A relic hunter in New Orleans says tropical storms and floods can help uncover historic artifacts along the banks of the Mississippi River.

Video Transcript

SHANE MEARS: That's why we're out here, saving history.

BILL WADELL: Meet the man on a muddy mission.

SHANE MEARS: Shane Mears from Algiers.

BILL WADELL: Searching for Louisiana's forgotten past.

SHANE MEARS: Yeah, I do it for the thrills and the beauty. The treasure.

BILL WADELL: Along the banks of the Mississippi River.

SHANE MEARS: Well, we're looking for old Civil War artifacts.

BILL WADELL: This hobby became a passion for Shane Mears after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.

SHANE MEARS: Thinking about all times passed, and how this river has gone up and down and taken a lot with it. Ends up bringing a lot down with it, too.

BILL WADELL: When the river levels drop, Shane and his exploration buddy, Susannah French, load up and head out with shovels, a probe and this metal detector.

SHANE MEARS: See? That's how we do it.

BILL WADELL: These journeys take them to dirty places.

SHANE MEARS: I started digging privies. That's my real deal. Digging in the toilets.

BILL WADELL: Some discoveries are disappointing.

SHANE MEARS: Oh, it's just some fitting for an old ship.

BILL WADELL: Other finds are tough to put a price on.

SHANE MEARS: We find buttons. We find old coins. Oldest coin I found was a half of a Silver Dollar, old, silver Spanish Reale, 1876.

A Republic of Texas belt buckle. OK? So dated around the 1830s. Pelican buttons, which is really rare and collectibles. And that was Louisiana militia, early to mid-1800s.

BILL WADELL: Shane has a personal collection at home. The rest is shared with local libraries.

SHANE MEARS: Brass. We're going to see what this is. Clean it up. Got a little design on it, might be the stars and stripes right here.

BILL WADELL: He keeps a close eye on the forecast and levee construction projects protecting the Big Easy, to plan each expedition.

SHANE MEARS: It's only because of this shelf, this old levee that they tore down, that protected everything. There's enough for everybody. Yeah.

BILL WADELL: Shane Mears never wants a tropical storm or hurricane to impact New Orleans again. But if that does happen, he expects floodwaters to resurface more artifacts to be discovered. For AccuWeather, I'm Bill Wadell.