Lord of the Rings: Look what he found in murky waters
ALSTONVILLE'S Veronica Silver has made a new vow after her wedding ring, and two other rings, she lost in Ballina's Shaws Bay were returned on Tuesday.
She'll be taking her rings off next time she goes in the water - particularly her 93-year-old wedding band which belonged to her great-grandmother - and she plans on getting them inscribed with her and husband Tom's names.
Ms Silver lost the rings during a social water polo game just out from the Shaws Bay Hotel on February 20 this year, just 11 days after the anniversary of her and Tom's 2008 wedding.
The competitive water polo player said she usually takes her rings off for games.
"But I surf with them (the rings) and they have never come off, and I thought this was just a social game," she said, explaining the reason why she didn't take them off that day.
It was when she got in the car to drive home with her father that she realised she had lost the wedding band, an eternity ring Tom had given her after the birth of their child five years ago and the engagement ring Tom gave her nine years ago.
"I just burst into tears," she said. "I cried for days.
"I said I would pass the wedding band on to my children and I felt like I had let my family down."
But she never gave up hope of finding them and she had a very simple reply to Forster's Nick Richards when he texted a photo of the three rings to Ms Silver on Tuesday: "Oh my God!"
She couldn't believe it.
"I'm flabbergasted," she said after the rings were returned.
Mr Richards is one of four Australian members of the Canadian-based Ring Finders online network, and the only member in Australia who does marine searches.
Ms Silver, who had previously hired another diver who was unsuccessful in finding the rings, found out about Mr Richards through a newspaper article sent to her by friends.
Mr Richards is a former commercial diver who, in the past five years, has located about 300 items on land and in water, most of them jewellery.
The Shaws Bay search, with "zero visibility", took 7.5 hours of diving time - and that meant a fill-up of oxygen for his two tanks each with a three-hour limit.
He worked out a 30m by 20m search area from photos of the water polo game, and marked the area with plastic tent pegs and diving line.
Mr Richards, who has enjoyed metal detecting on land for 10 years, also has a waterproof detector, and had to listen carefully for the specific identifying sound of the yellow gold of the three rings.
Once the detector picked up an object, Mr Richards, using his bare hands, sifted through handful after handful of silt to feel for the rings, at the same time getting bitten by a few crabs and scratched by shells.
He covered about 85% of the search area before finding the rings at a depth of about 4.5m.
Mr Richards completes the searches as a hobby - he is on leave from his job as a maritime compliance inspector with Roads and Maritime Services - but those who use his services generally work out an appropriate payment to cover his costs.
He said he enjoys the thrill of the "treasure hunt".
Ms Silver, still in disbelief, said she was so thankful for his efforts.