Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Friday, 24 August 2012

The beachcomber exhibition



Tomorrow (Saturday)  the Beachcomber exhibition opens at the Margate Museum.

Saturday 25th August 2012.

" Remember that date! Yes I know that is this Saturday, Tomorrow or Today if you are reading this tomorrow. WHY??? At 11 am on Saturday 25th August 2012, The Beachcomber Exhibition opens at Margate Museum. Come and see what has been found in the sea off of Margate, All the flotsam and jetsam, all the artefacts, see if you can spot The Mermaid’s Hydro Electric Guitar, see a piece of the Old Harbour, a piece of Droit House even some masonry from the famous Hotel Metropole, where Sidney Fox Killed his mother in 1929.
It still only cost £1,50 for adults and free for children under 16 years of age, be one of the first to see this brand new, unique, never been seen before Exhibition – The Beachcomber from 11am Saturday 25th 2012. Also open Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday." Margate Museum Facebook page.



Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A Margate exhibition

All being well this Bank Holiday will see the start of a new exhibition at the Margate Museum. It will be based around flotsam,jetsam, storms and the history of the coast. To be honest I not sure of the exact format the exhibition will take as my role has been just to submit all the items I found during the sea defence works and other finds I have found along the coast over the years for the exhibition. The theme of the exhibition  will be the area around the Harbour and the Jetty and a display team has been set up to work with researchers from the Friends of the Margate Museum to set the whole thing up using Margate Museum resources.

As I gathered up all my finds together and explained where each item came from it occurred to myself that I have no records to the provenance of each item and should I happen to walk in front of a bus the whole collection apart from a few items would then be meaningless.
So giving the collection some thought I will after the exhibition  photograph and list every single item with a special emphasis on the area of the main sands, the harbour and jetty area where Margate's seaside history all began. However I will give the Margate Museum first dibs on any item for their permanent collection once the exhibition ends.This will include all future finds I will make when I resume the digging once the tidal changes next month have a significant effect on the coast. My list of catergories will be (a) Georgian Margate (b) Victorian and Edwardian Margate up until the end of First World War and (c) The 20th century after WW1.

Above is one of my listings found last week. It is a bottle base found in an area where the sand has eroded to the clay base in the bay of Margate main sands. When the effects of sand erosion take place in the bay, glass bottle bases are one of the first things to appear as the sand moves. In a way it does look horrendous to see so much broken glass on the beach. However, I do take two buckets with me and I do pick them all up checking the age of each one. One thing I look for is scarring on the base that is caused when the glass rod used in the blowing process is snapped off, this is known as a pontil mark. Pontil scarring can easily help identify the age of old bottles along with other features like the thickness of the glass and the style of the bottle. Taking all these factors into consideration this bottle base dates between the 1780's and the early 1850's something that is a common find at Margate.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Spermaceti Oil

This time of year things can be very quiet on the Thanet coastline which is probably a strange statement to make considering the diversity of  the 22 miles of  Thanet coastline.
So this time of year I tend to go back on old ground re examining old finds  including  following up unfinished research.
This week I have been going through everything  I have associated with the stranding of the Sperm Whale in Pegwell Bay Ramsgate in 2011. As followers of my blog may recall the stranding of the Sperm Whale was very much a public affair and the clear up operation did leave us with a bonanza of natural history "finds".
In the UK anything to do with endangered or protected species is heavily regulated especially when someone  decides to collect pieces of them. Therefore I had to apply for a licence from Natural England to possess items form the Whale. At the time I built up a collection of Sperm Whale bone fragments of which a gave a large chunk of the collection to the Monkton Natural History collection. I am now going through the process of donating the rest to the Natural History Museum at the Wingham Wildlife Park for scientific and educational purposes.

At the time of the stranding, the Sperm Whale was cut up on the the disused  hoverport slipway. Amongst the debris left over from the Whale were lumps of a white waxy substance that appeared on the strandline over a wide area. At first I thought it was Ambergris from the Whale but when picked up my body temperature in my hand started to turn the white waxy substance from solid to liquid , so that ruled out the Ambergris theory.
 I kept a sample  it in a sealed container and left it for well over a year. Over that period of time the sediment and impurities that had attached itself to my sample had settled to the bottom of the jar and I was able to dispense the top layers into a jar. It soon became clear that my sample was Spermaceti oil  because of the way it reacted to temperature change as it would start to solidify at the slightest drop in room temperature. When put in the fridge it would turn almost solid and at room temperature it became liquid again. This is something consistent with the oil in the spermaceti organ in the head of the Sperm Whale as these changes to the oil in the spermaceti organ gave the Whale buoyancy when diving at great depths diving for squid. The unfortunate thing is that  this Whale oil is one of the reasons why  commercial  explotation of the Sperm Whale  almost led to its extinction.
Due to international regulations this recent sample in the UK is unique and I have notified Natural England I have the sample and I am in the process of donating it to the Wingham Natural History Museum.
In the meanwhile I have the sample beside my computer and watching it act like a crude thermometer until the paperwork and licensing arrangements are sorted out.