Hunting for Treasure With Diver Jake Koehler

Jake Koehler comes up for air after a dive.
Jake Koehler comes up for air after a dive.Courtesy of Jake Koehler

JAKE KOEHLER is in Helen, Georgia, clad in full scuba gear, dead-man floating in a shallow section of the Chattahoochee River. He’s hoping to strike gold, preferably in the form of a wedding band. But the host of the popular YouTube treasure-hunting channel, DALLMYD—pronounced D-Almighty—would settle for just about anything. Even a lost cellphone would suffice.

In warmer seasons, this stretch of the Chattahoochee is crowded with tubers. But today, Koehler hasn’t seen many people on the water aside from his cameramen, Beau Darkens and Joseph Talerico. With their camouflage wetsuits, bug-eyed cameras, and metal detectors, they look like a band of misfit superheroes.

Just when it seems like the morning might be a bust, Koehler emerges, victorious. “You’re never going to believe what I just found!” he says, pausing to heighten anticipation. “A penny!”

Koehler might be playing up this mock find, but his enthusiasm over even the tiniest discoveries is contagious. During his waterborne expeditions—which are as likely to take place in drainage ditches as actual rivers—he’s discovered gold, human remains, diamonds, tombstones, a Rolex, knives, megalodon teeth, laptops, and drones. “You never know what you’re going to find,” he says. “It’s the not knowing that pulls me.”

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Koehler, 27, began posting videos to YouTube in 2011, mostly about gaming. But one day as he was paddling down the Chattahoochee on his surf board, he took a pair of goggles along and found himself amazed at the universe of detritus he saw below the river’s surface. Soon after, he found a working GoPro in the river and began filming his adventures, changing the focus of his channel. In 2016, he came across a pistol and called the police to report a potential murder weapon; later the cops informed him that the weapon’s serial number had been scratched off, furthering his suspicions that it might have been involved in a crime. The related video—featuring meditative underwater sequences and fist-pumping moments of discovery—went viral, transforming DALLMYD into one of the top-ranked sports channels on YouTube. Koehler now boasts a library of more than 500 videos and nearly 10 million subscribers.

Koehler with a scooter he found while diving with the Navy.
Koehler with a scooter he found while diving with the Navy. Courtesy of Jake Koehler

DALLMYD is about dogged pursuit of the unexpected. And Koehler is a perfect guide for the journey—the sort of person who can spend hours scuba diving in icy, knee-deep water, looking for gold but knowing that he might only come up with a penny. Both onscreen and off, his enthusiasm is hard to resist. In 2018, Columbus, Georgia, declared Jake Koehler Day. In 2019, the U.S. Navy, calling Koehler a “treasure-hunting guru,” invited him to join them in a search for explosive ordinance in San Diego. He has accepted viewer invitations to Canada and the Bahamas. One fan even took him on a boat trip down the Amazon. Along the way, Koehler has earned enough from the YouTube platform to buy a condo in Columbus, overlooking a wide section of the Chattahoochee.

Back on the river, time passes slowly. A few feet from where Koehler is floating, the two cameramen have hunkered down in a wooded area, waiting for him to emerge with something, anything.

Suddenly, Koehler hollers: “I did it!”

The cameramen hop to attention, trotting up the river toward Koehler, who is holding up a wedding band. He turns enthusiastically toward Talerico’s camera, saying: “I braved the cold, and I got a ring!”

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He runs a finger along the band’s smooth interior. Be it nickel, steel, or gold, it’s obviously an item that, at some point, the owner intended to keep forever. That alone makes it a banger, enough to anchor an entire nine-minute video. Koehler slips the ring into a bag secured to his waist. “OK,” he says. “Let’s get back down there.”

THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER flows through the center of Helen, a tourist town in the Chattahoochee National Forest, about 90 miles northeast of Atlanta. As the crew approaches a public river access leading to their next search, a man flags them down in front of a hotel. “Hey, wait a minute!” he shouts, pointing at Koehler. “I recognize your face! You find guns and stuff in the water!”

On hotel balconies above, people begin to emerge from their rooms to hang over rails. A small crowd soon forms along the riverbank. “Everything’s personal with Jake,” Darkens says, as Koehler presses small finds—lures and coins—into children’s palms. “He’s all about positivity in a world where negativity and drama tend to rule.”

Koehler spends the afternoon facedown in the water with oxygen tanks on his back. Onlookers cheer as he periodically surfaces with scratched sunglasses and other detritus. It’s only later, in fading light, that Koehler decides to call it a day. As the trio begins the walk back to their hotel, the driver of a pickup truck stops and motions for them to jump in. A mile down the road, in the parking lot of Koehler’s hotel, the driver jumps out and says, “We thought that was you. Can we get a picture?”

Despite the incessant recognition—whether on riverbanks or roadways—it’s still striking when, later that night, the 15-year-old cashier of a restaurant practically tears up when Koehler walks through the front door. “I’ve been watching you since I was 10,” the kid says. “I can’t believe you’re here!”

Exploring a spring in Florida.
Exploring a spring in Florida. Courtesy of Jake Koehler
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As a new breed of YouTube celebrity, Koehler has no studio, no label, no team. If fans run into him, they know there’s a chance they’ll become part of his recorded narrative. “It can get a little weird sometimes when people I’ve just met start talking like they think we’re family,” Koehler says. Then again, that’s how he tends to treat them.

Back outside, the night has cooled. Koehler says, “I think I’m going to go back and give that kid something. I mean, he was crying.” In the cab of his truck, he sorts through the finds of the day, but he’s already given away most of the items he found. Unsatisfied with what’s left, he starts going through his equipment bags. “I think I’m going to give him my vest,” Koehler says, holding up a black life jacket
with his name embroidered on it.

“Your vest?” Talerico says, incredulous. “I can always get another vest,” Koehler says. “I think it’d really mean something to him.” Ten minutes later, they’re back in the restaurant, cameras rolling.

To those who are unfamiliar with DALLMYD, the gift Koehler is carrying wouldn’t be worth much. But to a YouTube-loving kid like the one manning a cash register on Main Street in Helen, Georgia, it’s a true treasure. The superfan seems particularly delighted that the vest, featured in some of his favorite videos, is still soaked with river water.

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