LOOKING FOR TREASURE ON JEKYLL ISLAND
In the 1900s, East Coast fishermen used glass floats to mark their nets. These are hand-blown, hollow, glass balls. Occasionally, the floats detached and floated to the beaches to be found by lucky beachcombers. By the 1950s, these glass floats were highly prized treasures for hobby collectors.
To commemorate that unique piece of island history, the Jekyll Island Authority commissions hand-blown, one-of-a-kind glass floats from glass artists around the country. They are numbered, signed, and stamped with custom stamps to commemorate the year of the hunt. Annually, from January 1 until February 28, volunteers, known as beach buddies, hide 2-5 every day, double that on weekends. They are hidden only in safe places, and never on the dunes. The finders take their treasure to the JI Authority who photograph it, verify it, and give the finder a certificate of authenticity and a bio of the artist.
Laura, who lives here, found one last year. Her sister-in-law loved it, but didn’t find one when she came to visit; so when Laura drew her name for Christmas, she gave it as a gift.
Laura and I began our treasure hunt at 7:30 Saturday morning, determined to be the early birds that find the worm, or the glass ball. The Island face book page shared four pictures of four treasure hunters and the balls found that day in places we had searched, but we weren’t in any of the pictures! We tried again on Sunday afternoon.
Whether one finds a float or not, the treasure hunters have an up-close-and-personal encounter with the island, seeing parts and places that might otherwise have been missed. And think of the exercise factor! Would we normally walk five hours on a visit? I wouldn’t. We had a wonderful time walking the seven-mile island. I hope to return again before February 28.
We toured the historic district, saw the Grandfather Oak, and the phone where the first trans-Atlantic phone call originated, and a pure black squirrel. We walked the beach where Glory was filmed many years ago, when my Girl Scout troop was there. We saw the “cottages” owned by the early 20th century industrialist millionaires who owned the island as their private hunt and party preserve. We walked and talked, laughed and enjoyed. That was our treasure.
For the treasure hunter who can’t bear to go home empty handed, glass floats can be purchased in select island gift shops. They are pricey, and well… it wouldn’t be the same as discovering one.