Saipan, in the chain of Northern Mariana Islands not far from Guam, has many attractions and the residents enjoy island activities like snorkeling, diving, hiking and caving. Saipan surely can’t be unique to this but treasure hunting is also a common activity . When I first got to Saipan, I couldn’t believe the way people talked about various trinkets and antiques that washed up on the shores. But after a couple months I also started to dream about finding a light blue Saki bottle or a Japanese-blown glass fishing float. There are two strains of treasure on the island. The first is a result of the intense World War II fighting on the island.

The Americans and Japanese had a great stand-off before the Japanese were finally backed up towards suicide cliff and beyond.Many Japanese hid in caves and grottoes for months after the fighting. As a result the whole island is littered with a variety of goodies. There are old tools, clothing, grenades, batteries, weapons, armour, bombs, shrapnel, human bones and many other interesting finds.

Treasure in one of the caves south of Banzai Cliffs
Treasure in one of the caves south of Banzai Cliffs

A second type of treasure might have been swirling around in ocean currents for 50 years only to wash up on a beach today!  Some die-hard hunters do weekly surveys of their favourite treasure spots. It was one of these routine Saturday morning visits that led us to a hidden rocky crevice called Lobster Lagoon.  Calling it a beach would be an overstatement – it was solely a network of jagged rock formations perfect for nabbing ocean garbage. Why anyone would want to go to such a place is questionable.

Japanese glass fishing floats are at the top of the list for desired booty.  Before plastics became ubiquitous,  hand-blown glass balls were used as floats for fishing nets.  It is hard to believe that these are still swirling around in currents and randomly turning up on beaches.  There are also many different kinds of floats. Some are blown in a single session (with no seams). Some have special markings signifying the artist.  Some have non-circular shapes.  Some are tiny and some are the size of a basketball.

Descending into Lobster Lagoon

On this particular visit, it was evident straight away that no one had been into the trench for quite a while.  After several minutes of searching through the refuse, I held it up. It was a glass float of the ‘rolling pin’ variety. My comrades shrieked with delight.  This was followed by bitter envy.  I was not yet considered a long time resident and this was not the way of things.


Adapted from original post from 2003 – Saipan Treasure