Metal detection a magnet for young Australian fossickers digging up history during COVID-19 – ABC News

When Jacob Ure was 13, he asked his parents for a metal detector after a family trip to Egypt.

Little did they know this quirky hobby would become a passion that would eventually be shared with the world.

Now aged 19, the archaeology student at Macquarie University has become the best-known fossicker in Newcastle, NSW.

“A few years ago I found a button from 1818. It was from the British redcoats.

“That one really resonates with Newcastle and its European history.”


Combining his love for local history and filmmaking, Mr Ure has been sharing his discoveries with thousands of treasure-hunting enthusiasts for the past six years on his YouTube channel, Digging Australia.

With 10,000 fans across YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, and more than 250,000 followers on the app Tik Tok, Mr Ure’s worldwide audience numbers have exploded.

“I started the YouTube channel because metal detectorists my age were few and far between,” he said.

“Now, I see it as a way to share the history that is discovered and connect with other fossickers online.”

Jacob Ure has collected a lot of antique bottles and coins.(ABC Newscastle: Laurise Dickson)

While most parents were spending their weekends at local sports games, Mr Ure’s mum, Tara O’Connell, was driving him around the Hunter region in search of treasure.

“We look at Jacob like the [natural historian David] Attenborough of history — he sees the world through these relics,” Ms O’Connell said.

“It’s about sharing that story, so having a big online following has given him the platform to do that.”

Mr Ure is one of the many young Australians who are bringing metal detecting into the modern age and documenting their adventures and discoveries on social media.

Hayley Pamplin with some of her recent discoveries at a beach in Geelong, Victoria.(Supplied: Hayley Pamplin)

Hayley Pamplin, 25, first picked up a metal detector at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.


“My partner gave me one of his metal detectors and ever since then I’ve been hooked,” Ms Pamplin said.

Professor Holloway, a manufacturer of pills and potions, had the coins struck in 1857 as a marketing gimmick.

Six months on, Ms Pamplin has already made her mark in the metal detecting world, gaining several thousand followers on her Instagram page as she uncovers the lost history of Geelong, Victoria.

But female detectorists like her are still rare.

“When I go out with my partner’s friends, they’re all males,” she said.

Metal detectorist Jacob Ure searches for buried treasure at Nobbys Beach, Newcastle.(ABC Newcastle: Laurise Dickson)

Fraser Kendall, general manager of electronics company Minelab, said the rise in popular TV shows such the BBC’s Detectorists had led to a boom in young fossickers in regional Australia.

Mr Kendall said the rise was also driven by advancements in metal detecting technology and COVID-19 restrictions.

“In 2020 we’ve seen the market growing at almost twice the rate than in 2019,” Mr Kendall said.

“They’re certainly not what you would have historically considered to be the typical detectorist.”

Mr Kendall said another trend that had emerged over the past few years was the rise in family metal detecting.

The Young Gun Metal Detectors from left, are Andrew, Hailey and Damien Hepburn, from Rockhampton, Queensland.(Supplied: Young Gun Metal Detectors)

After losing their close family friend, Terry, Mick Hepburn and his three kids, Hayley, 12, Andrew, 15, and Damien, 17, decided to carry on Terry’s love for metal detecting.


Now, they are on a mission to explore every inch of Rockhampton in central Queensland as the ‘Young Gun Metal Detectors’.

“We go as a far west as Gogango, and as north as Marlborough,” Mr Hepburn said.

When they are not running metal detecting lessons in rural schools, the Young Guns are filming their adventures for their YouTube channel.

“Our goal is to try to get families involved, because there’s still plenty to find in the ground.”