Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Pegwell Bay whale bone collection

As many followers of my blog will know that I have been salvaging bone from the Sperm Whale stranding in Pegwell Bay in March of this year. Following six weeks of assessing what can be achieved, I am posting the collection as it stands. Every piece of bone pictured has been salvaged from bone splinters that remained on the Pegwell Bay hoverport slipway after the Whale had been cut up with a chain saw and pulled to pieces by a JCB.
The bone shapes created are not out of choice but are dictated by the splits and fractures in the bone caused by the disposal process. I have made a few arrow heads and a few needles, but the collection will remain as it is until I can get some idea the legal position of owning the bone. In the meanwhile I hope to get the collection on public display in the coming week.

A guide to Thanet beach glass (updated)

A day on the beach often involves picking up sea shells and the unusual bits and pieces that have become weathered by the sea. One such item is the worn and weathered beach glass that almost resembles a flat pebble which many people do find fascinating.
Beach glass can be found in many colours, shape or size all around the Thanet coastline in every one the Thanet Bays. So what do we know about beach glass and its origins ?
Beach glass comes in many colours and thickness and this helps to determine the date of the piece of Glass. In the majority of cases 99.9% of the beach glass is no older than the 1870's as that was the period when glass manufacturing and the production of mineral water bottles went into mass production. Following the invention of the Codd mineral water bottle and the internal screw top glass bottle in the early 1870's, and the changes to bottle production by Dan Ryland the glass mineral water bottle and other bottles became a disposable item.
Glass from the 1870's up until the first world war was thicker than it is today and in the majority of cases the colour was either light green aqua or light blue aqua. The reason for these colours was because in those days every drink was made from natural ingredients which in turn produced sediment which in turn would make the drink cloudy and could be off putting. So a bit of colour in the glass made the drink more attractive
In hot weather the Victorians would take a drink with them like we do today when we visit the beach and breakages would often lead to glass ending up in the sea. In most cases this is the origin of the thick green aqua or light blue aqua pieces of worn glass we find on beach today.
As time progressed into the 20th Century glass become clearer and thinner and mass production created the disposable society. Glass had also changed in colour with the use of chemicals and additives the range of colours changed with light green, amber and clear becoming abundant.

So there is a basic rule with beach glass the thicker the glass the older the bottle and if it is green of light blue aqua it is pre first world war. However, there are rarities in beach glass in the thicker varieties such as dark blue glass which is created by adding cobalt to the molten glass, then there is thick yellow glass which contains Uranium or Sulphur, then thick amber, dark amber and green glass containing iron and various measures of sulphur, and the rarest of the rare which is Ruby Red which is achieved by adding gold to the molten glass. Any of these colours in thick glass found on the beach I would consider to be a challenge.

So where are the hot spots ? The answer is simple as all three towns Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate each have Victorian beaches with further historical evidence of finds dating to the mid 1700's. Keeping to the Victorian era all three main beaches do turn up smooth thick pebble shaped Victorian glass which can be found below the high water mark .
The beach adjacent to the East Pier at Ramsgate is very volatile and the movement of the coarse beach sand always responds to changing weather conditions, so the beach is always on the move with aggressive action on glass. Therefore all beach glass found on Ramsgate is smooth and weathered and has this sparkle to it when held up to the light. Broadstairs is more or less the same as Ramsgate but it is possible to find pieces of glass with the original embossment and even possible to identify the original type of bottle as the abrasive action of the sand is not as aggressive.
Margate main sands on the other hand does have the same beach glass as Ramsgate and Broadstairs. However, below the high water mark the sand contains silt like sand under the surface which does not easily respond to changing weather conditions and remains very settled. Because of this the action of the sand is not as aggressive on glass so it is possible to find broken Victorian glass in shards which are only slightly worn with a smooth sheen with the original embossments readable. In fact it is possible to find complete Victorian mineral water bottles worn by the action of sand in the same texture as the small pebble shape pieces of glass . This is a unique and in some cases the oxide in the glass has also changed the tone of the bottle which is due to a reation buried under the sand.
Building a collection of beach glass from the Thanet coast is so easy as it abundant and with a seaside history dating back to the 1700's there is so much variety to be found.

In the Photograph above is some beach glass I found this afternoon (24/04/11) with the more later 20th Century glass being more predominant. I did find a thick piece of weathered dark blue which is very attractive when held up to the light, it was this piece that prompted me to write this post.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Tally Ho ! it is election time.

What is it with some people when it comes to election time. A few days ago I received some literature through my door and to my surprise I saw the word "scum" in reference to opponents used in Independent election literature. Then on page 11 in the Thanet Gazette (22/04/11) there is a Independent quote "other candidates from political parties aren't worth voting for" . Call me old fashioned, but I always thought that all candidates are worth voting for and it is what they stand for and represent and will do if elected is what elections are all about.
Sometime ago the government did some excellent adverts how people behave when under the influence of alcohol quoting that they would not behave like that if they were sober. Well the same behaviour I think does apply to some people and candidates when it comes to politics and election times, they behave badly.
Even blogging has this infection, a fine example being the way Cllrs Clive Hart and Sandy Ezekiel have been personally attacked over the years. Personally, I would love it if the authors of the blogs Bignews and Thanetlife were not elected to TDC. On the other hand I hope blogger Dave Green gets in with a thumping majority, but then I would say that.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Open beaches

A few months ago I mentioned the unusual and interesting items that can be found on the Thanet coastline this time of year. With this unseasonal warm weather and more people enjoying the coastline I am sure this weekend there is every chance that some good finds will be made on the shore. A few days ago I was emailed this photograph of what maybe a piece of Amber or Copal resin found by Pip Wheelwright on her favourite Thanet beach. Pip is one of the growing band of Thanet Amber hunters who enjoy looking for the elusive pieces of Baltic Amber that appears on our shores. Amber hunting has gone on in Thanet for years and there has been a lot written , however it is not easy stuff to find and I do like it when people take up the challenge and I get to see the results.

If anyone out there has found a piece recently and would like me to put it on my blog I will happily do so, just email me a photograph.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Urgent message for coastal wardens and volunteers

From the Thanet Coast project

Hello Volunteer Wardens,


Sorry this message is late call, but earlier today we were made aware of an urgent call to help save some of our shore life from a neglected fixed net near Epple Bay, Birchington. This email is a call - as we could do with about 3 or 4 volunteers to help with this urgent rescue task! The task is to cut out live crabs and dead fish from the neglected net. Please just turn up at the top of the slope to Epple Bay if you are able to help!

MEET:Top of Slope Epple Bay (park on Epple Bay Road)

TIME:We're moving onto the reef at 9:30am Friday 22 April 2011 (as low tide is around 10:44am; so the task should only last just over one hour!)

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:- Bring secateurs ...or sharp scissors!

WEAR- Wellington Boots, as a bit sticky with silt on the shore here.

LOCATION- Fixed net is at lower shore on reef towards West Bay (from Epple)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


The opening of the Turner Center certainly attracted a full house at the weekend judging by the figures published in the media (Thanet Times 19/04/11) , was a huge success, going a long way to boost the business confidence and development in the old Town Cultural quarter. Elsewhere the knock on effect did have an impact on the Margate Museum and Tudor House with the Museum pulling in over 900 visitors and the Tudor House pulling in 800 visitors on the Saturday opening. On these figures I would think Thanet District Council should be feeling pleased with itself as the cost of opening the two venues was absolutely minimal thanks to the use of volunteers. Even Councilors contributed to the event with Harry Scobie manning the Museum as a volunteer and a recent cash donation to the Friends of the Margate Museum of £200 from Iris Johnston helping towards the friends group to function.
Politically, I think the opening of the Turner Center has certainly taken negativity out of the debate regarding local history and heritage as something is now being done. Therefore the debate should be how history and heritage can be done better, made to work by whom and how and at what cost. The use of volunteers has definitely proved a point and now that Turner has established a different type of visitor to the town the new TDC administration will have something to think about. I did make general observations in the Margate Museum at the type of people that visited the Margate Museum on the opening day to get some idea of the appeal. I found they fell into two main categories one being interested in Art and the other being nostalgia. The TDC art collection in the Museum is awesome and that alone can form a gallery in its own right and the Arty people did appreciate it. On the nostalgia side the seaside memorabilia was a big hit then it would be as for many people this is a day at the seaside after all.
Finally I should mention the third smaller group, and that was local people whos council tax pays for these venues taking time out enjoying a look at their history and heritage something they do not get to see very often.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The big dig Margate Harbour and the sea defence work

Standing on the end of Margate Harbour arm looking towards the shore there is this massive expanse of sand that has silted over centuries of Margate's history in the harbour area since the 1920's. Deep down the sand is more like a heavy silt which in its anaerobic state has sealed layers of history in a time capsule. In fact if Margate Harbour was to lose over 3 metres of sand and silt the site would look more like the banks of the River Thames in miniature. It is not very often that these historical layers are ever reached except when mechanical digging has taken place. On rare occasions by some quirk of nature in certain areas items some items from 17th and 18th century do make their way to the surface which is exceptionally rare, this in the past has been the only other indicator apart from mechanical digging as to what lies buried beneath the sand.

At the recent AGM of the Margate Historical Society the proposed sea defence work to protect the old town was a discussion item and to be honest I just could not help rubbing my hands with glee if the project goes ahead. As the works will require deep digging in a area where the history of Margate's sea bathing began in the 1730's .

It will be a bonanza for the metal detector users and on other similar occasions in the past so many items will be found that will go unrecorded. In most cases there is no real value attached to the items except historical . However, I think and hope something could be set up in advance for volunteers to record what is found and the data to be added to the records of Margate's seaside history. Perhaps such items could even be displayed.

Above are items found on the Marine Palace site destroyed on the great storm 29th November 1897 close to where the current day Turner Center now stands.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

A day out at the Turner Center

Today was a day when it was bums on seats as today was the day when the Turner Center opened. Everywhere around the harbour right through to the old town was busy, there was even a 20 minute queue to get in to the Turner Center.

I was really taken by the Turner Center and it was nice to be reunited with a old friend, that being the painting of Margate from the Jetty by James Webb that was once on display in the entrance at Margate Library now on loan from Thanet District Council.

I liked the spaciousness of the Turner Center and I liked most of the art on display especially the work of Ellen Harvey. I took a few photographs of the sea view from inside the Turner Center and in the one pictured the tidal gauge that now occupies the site of the former Margate Jetty can be seen. Out of interest the reading from the tidal gauge can be picked up on the Internet on the Port of London Authority web site.

The old town was vibrant and there was a buzz in the air with shops full of people. The Margate Museum was open and manned by volunteeers and in the morning the attendance had already past 500. It particularly nice to see a former curator John Williams doing what he does best at the Museum.

Overall today was a day when a lot of peoples eyes were opened as to what Margate is really about and long may it last.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Sea bones.

Now that all remants of the winter are behind us and the May water starts to appear, the strandline around Thanet changes significantly as the weather becomes more settled. As the water temperature rises there are very few deaths of marine life, resulting in really not much to found in way of marinelife. However, there are still other things to be found from the sea such as bone that has come ashore off the sea bed and I am not talking about last weeks KFC thrown off the Margate Harbour Arm. The bone in question could be bone from whales, dolphins or seals. Also from sea birds, humans and mammals that has found its way into the sea and in many cases is many years old. Each winter all around the coast bone comes ashore off the sea bed and is deposited on the beaches only to be buried then uncovered again and so on. This March the stranding of the Sperm Whale in Pegwell and the operation to dispose of it left many Sperm Whale bone fragments around the old Hoverport slipway. I do have some in my possession and for anyone who follows by blog on a regular basis will know that I am awaiting the outcome as to whether I can keep it. This does not mean everything has to come to a halt as I am experimenting carving it and researching old bone carvings. I am now looking into collecting other bone types from the sea to carve and to collect out of interest which is going to be my project for this summer. Perhaps I mat even be lucky enough to find someone who can do something artistic it with it.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tracey Emin's cave

Sometime ago (Nov 2009) the Guardian ran a article by Tracey Emin about a "cave" in Margate where she would seek solitude as a teenager. The cave in question was at Fort Hill just along the premenade from the Turner Center and it was more or less a hole that went into the cliff under the pavement at Fort Hill. It was small with barely enough room to stand up in and its seclusion was a ideal spot just to see the world go by. However, all good things come to a end and eventually it was dug out and bricked up by the Council. In the photograph above, the yellow bricks in the photograph are the exact location of the cave. I can remember at mate of mine hiding some porno mags in the cave and "that goby bird has ripped them up" as he put it. Time has moved on, and that "goby bird" is now Margate's greatest ambassador.

For the history buffs amongst us, the brickwork to the left of the cave below the Gina Mallick garden is the last remaining feature of the Marine Palace that was destroyed during the great storm of 29th November 1897. In the brickwork are small cut outs that once housed part of the structure of the switchback railway which was a early form of roller coaster.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Countdown to the Turner Center

Working on the railways and talking to so many passengers as I do on a daily basis I reckon I must have heard every imaginable opinion on the Turner Center . Then I suppose like art, everything is open to interpretation on how we see things. However, I do see one common denominator in the opinion with the opening of the Turner Center and that is the way Margate is seen in a different focus . For many years there has always been this cultural gap in the History, Architecture, Heritage and of the Coast in Margate. It has almost been like some sort of Taboo and the door always seems slightly ajar on these subjects. The introduction of the Turner Center has thrown this door wide open as everything about Margate is viewed differently with a more artistic eye like some sort of Renaissance. These changes have been gradual to anyone living in Margate but to someone not living in the town the changes can be felt. Each time I come over to Margate I am starting to find I meet a least one interesting person to talk to and the following for the Renaissance of History , Heritage and all things Margate which was hard work many years ago has become a passion . Margate reminds me so much of Havanna, it is time locked with so much hidden in the top draw waiting to be discovered of which the artistic eye has now opened like a genie in a bottle. This is all down to the Turner Center.

Friday, 8 April 2011

REAL Whaling, in Moby Dick (1956)

Researching into Whaling with great detail as I do, I came across this exciting clip on Youtube of a enactment of a 19th Century Sperm Whale hunt from the film Moby Dick 1956 to study the background detail and Whaling customs. In the film the use of Whale bone is well detailed in the scenery with even the ships tiller made from the jaws of a Whale and the cleats made with Whale teeth. As you can see 19th century whaling is full of ritual and superstition and I often think how many people from Thanet that were involved in 19th century Whaling . When the Bleak House Maritime Museum was open in the 1980's I could recall a collection of Scrimshaw in a cabinet which according to the information on display credited the pieces of Scrimshaw to local smugglers who escaped the law and joined the Whaling fleets until the hue and cry died down. As to whether this is true or just folklore it does make a good story. On a more local front I expect most localy produced Scrimshaws or bone craft originated from strandings of Whale, dolphins porpoises and through trading. Often on the shore I have come across many pieces of bone and to be honest I have passed it by unless I suspect it to be human. However, I have been collecting animal teeth for years and with the interest surrounding the recent Sperm Whale stranding I am starting to pick all bone up. Last night I finally gave up on traditional methods of "boiling out" the Whale bone I have, by putting the large piece I have in the dish washer taking out the dishes of course. It did the job alright resulting in a nice and clean lily white piece of Whalebone which is now drying out on my shed roof in this exceptionaly warm weather. The inside of the dish washer was a different story as it was dripping in smelly whale oil and fat. I soon remedied this by using a all purpose cleaner and degreaser which removed the evidence. Today I received a email from my MP's caseworker telling me that my MP is going to take up my case with the Receiver of Wrecks as the recently beached Sperm Whale is a Royal Fish and is Crown property, so I need to know the legalities of ownership.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A coastal collection

The first three months of this year have certainly provided us with some interesting events on the Thanet Coast. Starting with the mass death of the Velvet Swimmer Crabs, a dead porpoise washed up a Broadstairs and the jewel in the crown for any coastal area being the stranding of a Sperm Whale. Other beach finds have been pretty consistant with other winters such as interesting pieces of driftwood, Amber, sea coal, weathered beach plastic, baby scallop shells, pacific oyster shells by the bucket, plus a list of interesting items as long as your arm from the strandline. On the theme of new life, there has been an abundance of empty Dogfish eggs sacs and empty Thornback Ray mermaid purses all pointing to a good breeding season. With the change of season comes a complete different collection of finds as the strandline becomes weaker. Although I still expect we are in for a few North Easters before the May water arrives which can still bring up a few surprises. Depending on wind direction I do have my different walk about areas on the Thanet Coast and I have now merged Pegwell Bay to the Western Undercliff which I will intensify as we enter summer. Excluding the pieces of Sperm Whale bone that is still on the Hoverport site I have now got a collection of 39 pieces of bone fragments from the Sperm Whale. All the bone pieces are a result of the clear up operation when the Whale was cut up with a chainsaw making identity of the bone very difficult. Only one part can be identified, that being a part of the Vertebrae. Seven pieces are as found including a large lump that weighed in at 5 kilo when I found it, however since then a considerable amount of whale oil has been drained out of the bone and I am still draining it . The rest of the bone I am now shaping into various shapes and into items , I am finding the bone is getting harder to work as it become drier even though it still has this lovely waxy feel about it. Above is the Maritme Cabinet in the Margate Museum with some items that were found on the beaches, for the Margate Museum watchers there is in the bottom right hand corner the Gold RNLI badge awarded to Bruce Fleet for services to the RNLI that was donated to the museum,

Monday, 4 April 2011

It's election time.

Over the next four weeks I expect the political content of the local blog scene will intesify as we enter the local elections. As for myself I will be standing as a Labour candidate for Central Harbour Ward for Ramsgate Town Council and for the first time since 1987 I will not be standing as a candidate for Thanet District Council.

For the first time in a generation local government in Thanet is facing its toughest period since the end of the Second World War and for those brave souls who do get elected I would think "challenging" would best describe the task that lies ahead. I am sure taking into consideration what has being going on around us all recently most people have do a fair idea which way they are going to vote.

However, I have added onto my bloglist a summary of the Labour TDC manifesto for information and the details of the Thanet Labour Blog for those interested.

I can assure regular readers of my blog that I am not going to ram politics down peoples throats as I feel elections are all about meeting people and doorstep canvassing. Plus my blog is about the Thanet Coast, its environment and history. My Blog is not local politics in general.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Seaside Safaris - my view

Sometimes I often think here in Thanet we just cannot see the wood for the trees then I suppose in my job having to deal with so many thick opinionated ignorant people it really does not come as a surprise. On our doorstep here in Thanet we have perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of coastline in the UK backed up by a lot of undiscovered history all untapped which does present a huge tourism marketing potential. This latest attempt to ridicule Seaside Safaris really does come across as Thanet ignorance at its best without even looking into the facts. Seaside safaris are based on the successful Roc Doc walks by Alistair Bruce and seaside safaris are part of the award winning Thant Coast project. Which with the aid of many unpaid dedicated volunteers this is raising Thanet Coastal awareness on both a national and international scale and does put Thanet on the map for the nicer reasons. There is a lot of interest out there in the Thanet coast and even on my stats on my Blog, Uk page views come third behind France and the USA on coastal stories. In the summertime seaside safaris are open to both visitors and locals alike and they are very popular and it is important to keep this momentum going. As a tourist package the coastal awareness does need to broaden its horizons yet in reality it is free, low cost and still people moan.