Taranaki sea dog Dave Chadfield thought he had stumbled across a human skull among the seaweed on New Plymouth's Ngamotu Beach yesterday.
But once he stuck his fingers in the "eyes" to pick the object up he discovered it was a triple deadeye, a piece of equipment used on sailing ships until the end of the 19th century.
Mr Chadfield's example is believed to come from either the sailing ship Australind, wrecked in Port Taranaki in 1882, or the Star of the Mersey which suffered the same fate in 1886.
"This is as good as finding a porthole. It is the last thing to go when the mast comes crashing to the deck and the waves are washing over and all the men are jumping off aghh, aghhh," he says, lost in a past he can only wish he belonged to.
"I'm an old sea dog and every man who works on the sea has a great respect for anyone who used sails to power their vessel."