Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Beach Plastic

I have received this very interesting email regarding beach plastic and it is something I will participate in. I have put the email on my blog in case anyone else wishes to participate in the project.

I am an artist who comes from and lives in Margate and I have been using Marine Plastic in my work for over 15 years you can look at some of the works My works are exhibited around the world and I have been recently working with, MCS, Surfers Against Sewage, and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in the USA.
I am asking beach combers, foragers and anyone else to send photos and location details of interesting Marine Plastic that they find beached during their wanderings of the shores of the world.
The project aims to document the people, places and plastic that litters our coastlines, maybe along the way it will provide some interesting or useful data, as well as hopefully bringing a greater awareness of the plastic pollution of our oceans and seas.
I ask you if you could please share this information and promote participation. Please link to the web address ( and inform your friends, blog readers, etc; you could also face book or tweet it for me. I want to get as many people from all over the world involved.
Many thanks and I hope that you will also submit images when you can.
Steve McPherson

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Mitten Crab off Ramsgate ?

In between today's showers I managed to slip in a quick survey on the strandline on the short stretch of sand between the groynes of the Western Undercliff , Ramsgate. For the first time since I started surveying the Western Undercliff as part of the Thanet Coast project, I found more mermaid purses (thornback ray egg cases) than dogfish egg cases. Numbering 39 mermaid purses to 19 dogfish egg cases. The strandline had more weed than usual and there was a fair amount of small pieces of sea coal mixed amongst it. I did manage to find three bead size pieces of Amber which is becoming more of a norm than a rarity.

However, I did manage to find a claw from Chinese Mitten crab and it was a fresh one too which in itself a unusual find for the area. The Chinese Mitten crab is an invasive species causing concern over its population growth in our waters. To make the position clearer I have copied an extract from a marine enviromental website.

"The Chinese mitten crab has increased markedly in the last 10 years in the UK. This invasive species can cause serious structural degradation and pose a significant threat to native communities in estuarine systems. As a consequence, it has been placed on the IUCN 100 of the World's worst invasive alien species list. The largest UK population of mitten crabs is located in the Thames region."

"This invasive species can cause degradation of river banks by burrowing and pose a significant threat to native communities in catchment systems. As a consequence, it has been placed on the IUCN 100 of the World's worst invasive alien species list. In England, although the population in River Thames had remained low, recent evidence suggests that it is increasing. It is perceived that increasing numbers of this crab will have a significant adverse impact on the natural balance of the Thames ecosystem. Therefore the purpose of this project is to determine if the population of mitten crabs in the River Thames can be controlled by commercial exploitation
Picture is the claw and next to it is a one pound coin for scale.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Behind the Droit House

These two photographs of which I apologise for the quality were taken in the 1980's. They were taken behind the Droit House, Margate shorty after the first northerly storm had hit the newly constructed breakwater on the site of the old jetty entrance. Looking at both photographs it is clear how much sand had swept away just by measuring the distance between the green seaweed and the water. The depth of the water is about 12 inches and bottom is chalk bedrock.
For the first time in living memory this was the first time the sand had disappeared in the area leaving all metal items just laying on the bedrock. Unfortunately it was impossible to metal detect with a 1980's metal detector and to make matters even worse the water was like ice. The water was cloudy so it was a case of feeling around with my hands at any object that either looked like a coin or something of interest. I was full of optimism as a few years previously (1980) when the sand in that area had dropped a few feet I was able find find some Victorian gold jewellery and other Victorian items of interest. So in theory anything metal would be laying on the bedrock. I was to find coins but it was agony and within 15 minutes my hands were totally numb, the coins I found were mostly Victorian and a few went back to George III.
Once my hands had reconnected with the rest of my body I took some photographs and did a mental survey of the area.
In one photograph some sacks of cement can be seen stuck to harbour wall where a emergency repair had once taken place and they had been left there. In the photograph on the right the blocked up sluice that used to run through the harbour can be seen. When the sluice gate was constructed carts would pass through the sluice full of silt from the harbour to be dump the contents outside the harbour wall. To make it easier for the carts a granite roadway or slipway was constructed and without the sand present it could be clearly seen in the water. There were many large blocks that had fallen from the stone pier in various storms and a few can be seen in the photographs. I did find a large copper pipe that had been seam welded which gives some idea of the date.
As soon as I finished what I needed to do I took the copper pipe to Sam Reid's in Love Lane and weighed it in as scrap, then off toHarbour cafe for a tea to sort out the coins I had found.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The removal of the Jetty entrance

At present we are all witnessing a new chapter in Margate's history with the construction of the Turner Center , Margate. Twenty five years ago another chapter closed with the demolition of the Jetty entrance.
Badly damaged after a storm in January 1978 the remains of the Jetty entrance was being replaced by a sea wall as part of a upgrade of the sea defences protecting the old town. The demolition was swift and clinical and within weeks the site was cleared. It was so trouble free there was even time for the contractors to salvage many of the green heart piles and beams that had stood firm for 125 years.
As soon as the contractors had gone the site was left for a few weeks before construction of the breakwater leaving the upturned sand and chalk exposed to the elements, which in turn unearthed many items of Margate's past. Using a metal detector I was able to find many coins, buttons, badges, lead items and military items on the site. The earliest items came from the George III period around 1790's to the present, to give some idea of the scale of the finds I had to take a large builders bucket each time with me as I was digging there every day for a fortnight. In most cases at lot of the items found were in appalling condition and they were nothing more than scrap even though they were very old. Today from that dig I have very few good items left as most items of interest either ended up in the Margate Museum or in local collections. Fortunately I did take a few photographs, and this one taken behind a rather exposed Droit House and was taken soon after the first concrete block of the breakwater was laid. Please feel free to copy it.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Sea shells, a little story.

Many, many years ago in the Sun newspaper there was a short article about the discovery of tropical sea shells on the low tide mark at Margate main sands. I am not sure if the story was in our local papers, but it did open up some local dabate and national publicity as to where the shells came from . So how did they get there ?
Well I was to find out many years later , the culprit being Terry Purser. At the time Terry had a shell shop in the Arlington arcade and at the beginning of each season he would receive a delivery of sea shells from abroad. One year he received a batch and unfortunately a few crates had been penetrated with water. This resulted in the shells in these crates having a coating of a black slime and going slightly off colour . Obviously he couldn't sell them, so he got his son to scatter them on the beach at low tide under darkness. Within in a few days visitors started coming into his shop with these shells, that after a few tides had been cleaned up by the sea, asking if he could identify them. Well it was obvious he could identify them because they were his shells and how people including myself couldn't put two and two together realising he may have something to do with this I do not know.
However, the outcome was to give Margate some very good publicity and as for Terry, well the sale of shells in his shop increased that season and he was quids in.
The photograph is a sand sculpture taken in Orissa, India. Just imagine if something like that was to appear on Margate main sands.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The draining of the Walpole Bay pool.

At low tide this morning (18th March 2009) the Walpole Bay tidal pool at Clifftonville, Margate was drained for maintenance checks on the sluice gates. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the pool was also surveyed by wardens from the Thanet Coast Project and others with an interest in Marine Life.
My interest was just to see what was there and just take some photographs of this unique event. As the draining of a pool of this size is just like draining a large aquarium most of the marine life has remained undisturbed by mankind or sheltered from the extremes of the elements. Probably the first and most noticeable thing was the large size of the oysters that had bedded themselves all around the pool wall with some being larger than the palm of my hand. Another interesting point was that the oysters appear to be of a different shape than those found at the Western Undercliff and Epple Bay, yet they are all the same species. I did take photographs of the oysters. I also took photographs of the surveyors recording the varieties of sponge growth on the pool walls which seem to be attracting a lot of interest. Not being read up on the subject I was still amazed at the different varieties and colours of the small sponges that could be clearly seen . Many of the rock pools had anemones in them some about 150mm across, there were also many hermit crabs to be found in the same pools. Lifting rocks Velvet Swimmer Crabs could be found, considering how harsh the winter had been on the Velvet Swimmer Crab popualtion these must have been the lucky ones being in the right place at the right time to escape exposure. I expect these crabs must have burrowed into the mud filled cracks in the pool walls to survive.
Scouting around I came across an old cart wheel which was about five feet across, I last came across this wheel thirty years ago and since then the last remaining spokes have now gone. To record the event I took a photograph. Other finds included two diving weights belonging to Kent Scuba which someone must have lost on a training session.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Arlington House

Today's comment in today's Isle of Thanet does highlight a problem most local Historians have with the local press. Obviously people are entitled to their own opinions but to makes quotes of the decline of Margate and using History to back it up, requires some research into the facts and not some made up cobbled up theory. Arlington House was not a result of "past political planners" referring to a past Labour Government it was in fact a love child of a private developer and a Conservative council of the small "c" variety.
At the time it was a marvellous construction, something modern that was totally alien to the old Margate as we all know. However, like everything planned during that period it did not put anything into Margate all it did was take it out of Margate, the only exception being the hard working seafront traders in the Arlington Arcade.
This has been the problem with Margate all along with Conservative councils allowing developments in Margate without properly exploring what's in it for Margate. Therefore this has led to all the money that has been made in the town has being siphoned out ,with nothing going into re investment which has partly contributed to the decline. A fine example being the arcades along the seafront.
The next big step for Arlington does look promising and I hope that TDC will get this right after all the pain full lessons learnt from the past. However, the leadership of TDC does appear to be very much set in the old ways of the 1960's and 1970's town councils and TDC administrations and we shall see.
Love it or loathe it the Turner Center does have the potential of putting more into Margate than it takes out and I think will be a success and will also boost small business's in the area, but the success of the Turner Center will be down to how the center is managed and not the vast amounts of money pumped into it. This maybe a bit hypothetical, but just imagine the effect on Margate if something like Tutankhamen's death mask was displayed in the Turner Center, it would be awesome. Obviously it would not happen, but the Turner Center does have the potential of opening up such possibilities.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

28 Margate shipwrecks

Sometime back time back I was approached by someone who wanted details of 28 Margate shipwrecks for a project. Why 28 I do not know, however it is not a problem as I have a copy of Richard Larn's shipwreck index for the UK for this area and all the backdated magazines published by the Margate Historical Society, so I was happy to oblige.
I have attached one page from Richard Larn's book to give some idea how much research and information there is of the wrecks on the North Thanet coastline in circulation. A maritime history which perhaps 99.9% of the Margate residents do not know about.

Western Undercliff this morning

This morning att Low water on the small piece of beach by the Western Undercliff, Ramsgate was certainly a day for dog walking. The wind was a chilly northerly, the sky was blue and the tide was out which was enough to have the dog walkers out in force.
Today I started my survey in the usual adopted pattern by walking the short strandline then out to the low water mark adjacent to Western breakwater rocks and across the Bay around the three main groynes.
The strandline was generally free of litter with most items being natural to the marine environment. Dogfish egg cases and mermaid's purses (Thornback ray egg cases) were present, I counted 36 dogfish egg cases and 7 mermaid's purses , surprisingly there no whelk eggs cases or dead crabs to be seen which was unusual. On the patches of sea coal lower down the beach I picked up 5 bead size pieces of Amber and a few European Cowries. The low water was a good one and I was able to get out to a fair distance.
Out by the Western Breakwater rocks it was noticeable that many oysters had become detached from the rocks and were now bedded in the sand, some being a big as the palm of my hand. Higher up on the rocks there was some flotsam and jetsom which was mainly wood and a few plastic drums.
Looking across the bay I could the sea birds were keeping a safe distance from the dog walkers by staying on the mussel covered rocks on the low water mark. Walking slowly across the bay over the mussel beds I was able to count 42 turnstones and 27 oyster catchers.
I took some photographs which I have posted, the top left is interesting and it is of a pile of concrete that has been dumped on the low water mark many years ago. As you can see from the photograph oysters have attached themselves to the solid base. The photograph below is of the strandline which is small and easy to survey. The photograph to the right was taken at the low water mark beside the rocks of the Western Breakwater looking towards the shore.