Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Elephant Tusk - my theory

There is excellent coverage in the local papers this week regarding a Tusk found on the shore at Louisa Bay Broadstairs which will invite many debatable theories to its origin and how it got there.

I do have my own theory and looking at the picture I would agree it is an Elephant Tusk, my second thoughts are that it would have been part of a general cargo, perhaps lost overboard from a trading ship in the days of sail. There have been other finds and there are incidents in living memory where fishermen have brought up tusks off the sea bed in their nets around the Kent coast. So such a shipwreck theory cannot be ruled out.
There are records of ships coming ashore around the Kent coast carrying Tusks, for example the "Andorinha" that came ashore at Deal in 1849 had an entire cargo of Tusks.
Looking closer to Broadstairs and where the Tusk was found there is an account of the sailing ship "Emanuel" being stranded in that area on the 2nd December 1794.
Research shows that the "Emanuel" was on route from Mogadore to Amsterdam. Mogodore is the old name for the more commonly known port of Eassaouria in Morroco which two hundred years ago was a thriving trading port with Europe. So working on the theory any trade with a North African port would have included the Tusks, this does add weight to the theory and it is a long shot but there could be a link with the “Emanuel” and the Tusk.

Considering that the low tides we have been having lately have been exceptional there is every possibility there could be more further out.

One of the best references for researching any ship lost or stranded off the Thanet coastline is the Shipwreck Index of the British Isles Volume two by Richard & Bridget Larn. Section four covers all the details of inshore wrecks lost under the heading Kent mainland, listing in most cases the Lloyds list reference or Board of Trade wreck return ideal references for further research. The "Emanuel" is Lloyds list 2,669 02.12.1794 (tue)(R).

Thursday, 15 April 2010

The Chinese Mitten crab invasion.

This photograph taken of this evening "finds" is pretty conclusive that there is now an established population of the Chinese Mitten on the Western Undercliff side of Pegwell Bay. The complete crab is male and the three carapaces and other body parts were also found with it on the Western Undercliff strandline after today's midday tide.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Vodka Mittini

Photographing and recording the Chinese Mitten crab I found recently was definatley the easy part. Preserving the Mitten crab needed more thought and after a lot of thought I decided perhaps keeping the crab in Vodka may offer the best solution of preservation. I mentioned my plan to fellow coast warden Tony Sykes and he came up with the name "Vodka Mittini". So here it folks one Vodka Mittini preserved in a jam jar.
I have been in contact with Willie Mcknight who keeps a data base of non native species on the North East Kent coast and he has replied informing me my find has now been recorded on the data base, also Willie informs me that he found a carapace between the 1st & 2nd concrete groynes a couple of weeks ago when he was checking a Pacific Oyster site. So by all accounts the Western Undercliff will be a interesting place for surveying in the next couple of months.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Chinese Mitten crab (another find)

This complete Chinese Mitten crab was found early this morning on the strandline at the Western Undercliff , Ramsgate. The crab which is female was barely alive and is carrying eggs, a Mitten crab can carry up to 1 million eaggs. I have taken a few photographs so readers can identify this invasive species which is now posing a threat to our native species in rivers and estuaries. If you do come across one please inform myself or the Thanet Coast Project who are collecting data on the sightings.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The origin of the sea coal at Margate Harbour.

Following on from my previous posting about the sea coal on our Thanet coastline, I have attached page 39 from Bygonne Margate " a millennium peep in the past" published by the Margate Historical Society in the year 2000. Which is further evidence of the origin of the sea coal on our coastline.
I have kept the text as it explains the problem coasters have entering the Harbour and the measures taken.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Is it Jet ?

During the later part of this winter I started collecting some of the small pieces sea coal that can be found on the Thanet Coastline.
The sea coal maybe nowhere near the quantities found on the north east coast, but it is always present in small quantities somewhere in every Thanet bay. The coal is generally worn smooth and has a dull grey silvery appearance about it , in the majority of cases sea coal has a nice weathered smooth warm feel like a small pebble but lighter . However, from the photograph I have attached it is obvious the appearance and texture of the coal that I have found is not consistent , which is an indication of the different types that is coming ashore. Further examination of some of the pieces, especially from the Margate and Ramsgate Harbour areas, was to find that some pieces were much harder and could easily take a polish which easily enhances the appearance. My first thought was maybe I could have found pieces of Jet, after all we do find Baltic amber on the Thanet coast, so why not Jet from Whitby. So I started circulating a few emails and then started searching on google.
It did not take long to realise that what I had been finding was not Jet but in fact Cannel coal. Before the discovery of North Sea gas and modernisation , Cannel coal was shipped into Margate and Ramsgate harbours as it was used to produce coal gas at the local gas works. The pieces of coal I have been finding are those pieces that actually ended up in the sea during the unloading.
In Margate the story is different as some of the coal was unloaded or jettisoned when the coasters carrying the coal ran aground in the bay or the harbour entrance. The coal then had to be unloaded in a hurry to allow the coaster to re float by the next tide. This also probably explains as to why I have been finding larger pieces at Margate.
The name Cannel coal originates from the name Candle coal because the coal ignites very easily and can burn with a bright flame and can held like a candle. Also when mined Cannel coal doea has fossilized fish present. In the days when there was little knowledge of the geological formation of the earth. The assumption was that this coal originated from the canal. So I suppose a corruption of the word candle spelt candel with the word canal , has through time led to the word Cannel.
Further identification is nicely put in this definition I found on the Internet."Cannel Coal is a hard dull black coal which breaks with a conchoidal fracture and does not soil the fingers when handled. In some respects it resembles jet. It is easily cut, and will take a high polish. It contains a large proportion of volatile constituents making it suitable for gas manufacture"
A Conchoidal fracture is how flint breaks when it shattered.
Below is a photograph of some of the pieces of Cannel coal I have found along which a miner carved from cannel coal. The larger piece of coal came from Margate and the smaller pieces from the Western Undercliff where I have been carrying out my coastal warden surveys in recent months.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Is it Amber ?

In the past Beachcombing has been without a doubt a solitary past time building up a huge knowledge of how our coastline works and having very few people to share the information with. The internet and blogging has now changed all that and it is becoming more interesting receiving and sharing information and experiences collated by people with a similar local interest over the internet.

I received this email from Steve McPherson following my enquiries about the sea coal and jet .Steve is also a Thanet collector of Amber and his knowledge and experience is a pleasure read. I never realised we have black Amber on our coastline and at last I have been able to properly date and identify the wood resin classed as Copal.

"Regarding the sea coal and jet - I dont think we actually do get jet down here - I suppose a few pieces may wash down form the north east - but as far as my knowledge goes - the black amber is from forest fires with ash inclusion - that's why sometimes you may find a larger piece with one clear end then mud inclusions going from brown to black, maybe where sap has fallen from the tree onto the ground after a fire, and soaked up what it fell on to. You also find pure black pieces with lighter swirls of brown and white (white constitutes a mass of tiny bubbles), and sometimes also with sparkling red parts. These usually smell like pine or amber when rubbed or heated. Will also have the same static properties as other amber (Electron was the original Greek name for amber because of its properties, once rubbed it would pull small objects near to it. This is where we get the word electric from - meaning amber like properties) The other substances we get on the beaches are copal - that is exactly the same substance, from the same trees and time period 30-40million years - but, it has not undergone the same amount of high pressure that turns it into amber. Copal has a usually stronger aroma, is sometime sticky to touch, cannot be polished, sometimes has a purple or pink powdery surface, may have a partly crackled surface, and will crack and shatter once out of water and exposed to the air for a period of time. You can generally break bits of copal in your hands, amber will usually not let you do that. Copal has been used as an incense and varnish material for hundreds if not thousands of years. You can still find copal in all colours and also with all the same inclusions - insects etc. Which is heart breaking when a piece with an insect in crackles then splits. Smoothed worn Coal usually has veins of a silvery type of substance running through them, and will not have any of the same properties - static, aroma etc that amber has. I dont know about how it acts with the floating method. I have attached an image to provide an example of the pieces made up of black and brown (on the right hand side). It is not as easy to find due to its colouring - but still possible. "

Steve McPherson Marine Plastic Web Art Project

After reading Steve's account it does make me wonder how many pieces of black Amber I may have bypassed in my time, but that's life.
I am now starting my second collection of Amber and Copal as from January this year and to date I have found ten small pieces at Ramsgate .
My first collection of Amber and Copal came from Margate at the beginning of the millennium , I donated the collection to Sarah at the Grotto for display a few years ago. So if your are passing the Grotto pop in and a have a look and it give you some idea what to look for.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Oysters galore

Low water this morning was exceptional, in fact the tide went out so far the outfall pipe off the Western Undercliff, Ramsgate was visible.
Adopting a different search pattern I started surveying the base rocks of the Western breakwater.
It was surprising how many oysters had attached themselves to the rocks and how the quantities were denser the further I went out to the low water mark. At the low water mark itself most of the rocks were completely covered in oysters to a point where the rocks were barely visible. I took a few photographs and the one I have posted highlights this point.
Further inshore the wind backed spring tide had pushed everything into one corner of the beach. This had also brought in quantities of plastic mostly bottles and pieces of buoys. Amongst the fine weed I counted 39 dog fish egg cases and 11 mermaid purses. This now brings my total for this quarter to 324 dogfish egg cases and 143 mermaid purses from seven surveys since February 2010.
There were not many seabirds around, probably because the wind was blowing head on into the areas where I normally see them foraging. I counted only 21 Turnstones and for the first time I counted 7 Sanderlings all in the more sheltered areas of the groynes and out of the wind.
As it was such a low tide I paced out the width of the rocks from the bases of the promenade. From the base of the promenade it works out that the width of the Western Undercliff rocks is around 100 paces where it meets the sand. It was also noticeable that ten paces before reaching the sand there are many oysters loosely attached to the chalk , this is visable the full length of the rocks in both directions, which just happens to be the favourite haunt of the seabirds. From where the sand meets the rocks it takes a further 20 paces before the mud/clay is above the ankles. It was at that point as luck would have it I found a scallop shell about 50 mm across for my collection.