Sunday, 27 July 2014

The sea weed problem and coastal changes in photographs.

I have been sorting through some of the 3,500 images I have on disc for an exhibition on coastal changes by the North East Kent European marine sites project. I am not sure if they would use any of them but I am sorting out a few anyway and the choice is theirs.
I came across this one of Palm Bay Cliftonville taken by Margate photographer George Philip Hoare in 1914. What I find interesting is the amount of sea weed ashore something that is unusual in any Cliftonville photograph during that era as everything was always kept to a certain standard.

Another George Hoare photograph of the cliffs at Clifftonville I suspect this one was taken from the Fort Steps before the Winter Gardens was built and the lower promenade that was in filled with the chalk dug out from the Winter Gardens construction.

I not sure if I have put this one up before, Botany Bay Broadstairs un dated. Provides a good record of cliff erosion when compared to a current day photograph of the area.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Thanet's conjoined oysters

During the recent Fircroft school trip I was so amazed how fascinated everyone was when they came across an area of large pacific oyster shells, especially those shells that were conjoined. Something I admit I just take for granted when walking the beaches. I often think like with most things Thanet people from outside Thanet look at things more with an artistic eye than us locals. So judging by this photograph I can now see why. Each conjoined oyster is unique with a mixed range of colour and shape leaving them open to interpretation whether it be craft or plain natural.
Pacific oysters have now been on our shoreline in large numbers for over two decades and are now classed as an invasive species by Natural England. Locally there is a local expert on the subject and his name is Willie McKnight, his work can be accessed on the internet for further reading.
Thanet's pacific oysters originated from the spat from the outlet pipes of the North Kent oyster farms and against all odds have bedded down on the chalk reef around the Thanet coastline. In some areas of coast this has had very little impact but in some bays they have formed reefs that is out competing indigenous species. To date Natural England have culled around 75,000 oysters in critical areas in a bid to contain the species. Over the past few winters many of the shells from the cull have made their way ashore along with the batches of shell from the winter kill.
In the photograph are shells from the winter kill that had been bedded on a unstable base like soft chalk, flint or another shellfish. The rough winter sea  has dislodged the mass of shell from the oyster reef and worked its way ashore providing winter feed for sea birds. The shells then break apart and become scattered and buried in the sand close to the strandline and eventually to breakdown naturally. These shells in the photgraph are a couple of years old and have been slightly stained by the natural mineral elements in the sand and I suppose they do have this appeal.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Finding sea shells at Botany Bay Broadstairs

Over the past decade Botany Bay Broadstairs has become increasingly popular for all sorts of activities. One of the reasons I believe is that the headland  of coastline from Foreness Point to Kingsgate Bay that forms Botany Bay is completely natural. Gone are the concrete promenades that form the Thanet sea defence system leaving the area as nature intended with very little evidence of the twenty first century.
Off shore is where the water from the Thames Estuary , Southern North sea and the Northern end of the English channel merge. This leaves the entire shoreline open to all sorts of possibilities for the intrepid beachcomber when the wind blows directly on shore.
The shoreline is incredibly clean and on the right winds and tides many interesting finds can be found on both the high water and low water areas. There are three main types of fossils that can be found, being belemnites, sea urchins and the marble size fossilized sponges. Towards the Kingsgate Bay side of Botany bay the Micraster  heart shape sea urchin can be found. I do not consciously look for fossils in the area as I collect the sea shells but when I do come across fossils I do pick them up. So I do know of their existence.
All the sea shells that are found are common to the south coast and they come directly off the chalk reef that surrounds the Thanet coastline. The area has to be one of the best for finding dog whelk, netted dog whelk and piddock sea shells. Then there are mussel shells, whelk, slipper limpet, common limpet, periwinkles, carpet shells taking the second ranking. Even though cockles, pacific oysters and razor fish shells are common to Thanet they are less prolific in the Botany Bay area giving them third ranking.
There is one observation I have made regarding Botany Bay sea shells  and these are the shells of the common whelk. The whelk shells are bigger, thicker, heavier than those found elsewhere in the Thanet area  and all bear the scars of a turbulent life. This suggests to me that the whelk has completed its live and death cycle and these whelks have not been harvested from deeper offshore and then dumped  inshore after they have been picked like many of the whelk shells that litter the Margate and Ramsgate areas of the Thanet coastline.
In the Botany Bay area I have found small scallops shells, Baltic tellin, thin tellin, prickly cockle, sea urchins and sea potato sea urchin shells and these have been on rare occasions on favourable winds.