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Finding Seashells on Port Phillip Bay

Updated on March 16, 2014

Fossicking, Finding and Recording Seashells

Sea Shells fascinate me. I've been picking them up since I paddled as a child with a bucket and spade on the beaches of Port Phillip Bay..

Every beach has different shells, every shell has its own story.

The Bay is huge, a tidal lagoon over two thousand square kilometres, 773 square miles, almost an inland sea, with lots of flat, shallow beaches. I love to walk along the sandy beaches, the pebble beaches, the swampy wetlands, the ti-tree and the mangroves on the foreshore.

Once I used to collect seashells to carry home but now when I find them, I record the details for an important Shell Survey. Then I put the shells back where I found them!

Lazy Afternoons

I carry a survey sheet around with me and make notes on different seashells.

I take my time, strolling along, looking out over the vast grey water in the direction of he mouth of the Bay.

The Shell Survey

Why are the Seashells important?

And not just on Port Phillip Bay

Seashells tell many stories.

To look at a shell is to look at a miniature world of wonders. This was once a home! What little creature lived in here? What kind of life did it have? What did it eat?

The pint-sized animals in these seashells once ate other tiny creatures or minuscule plants.They digested their lilliputian meals and excreted back nutrients which kept the water healthy. They were mini recyclers.

By recording what seashells I find, and where, researchers can monitor the water in the Bay.


Shaking, Raking and Rummaging

Fossicking is a very popular pastime in Australia.

As a rule, we fossick for gold or gemstones, sifting through alluvial deposits or earlier goldfields on the lookout for tiny grains of gold or chips of topaz and zircon. But I look for fossils.

A 25 million year old fossil was picked up on Torquay, a beach on Port Phillip Bay. I missed that one but there just has to be more.

There are three fossil beds at the appropriately named Dinosaur Cove to the west of Cape Otway, along the Great Ocean road. I dream of finding my own dinosaur that's been lying around for 106 million years too.

In the meantime I pick up seashells and keep an eye out for shark teeth.

Middens along Port Phillip Bay

Kitchen refuse from earlier inhabitants

Shell middens tell us a lot about Aboriginal activities in the past.

Many of the beaches have middens, you find them on headlands, the sandy beaches and on dunes. The shells in a midden can show the type of marine environment that was used, and the time of year when Aboriginal people used it.

One thing I've noticed about middens is they're in the best possible spot! In a pleasant place that's easy to get to on a level, sheltered surface. Almost always they are in the perfect position to hang out and have a spot of lunch now.

You need a good notebook - For your notes and journaling

This excellently made notebook has cream coloured paper so there's no glare when writing in bright sunlight and the pages won't fall out!

It has a great feel to it with a hard cover, a bookmark for saving your place, and a rubberized strap to hold it closed when you're clambering around or sitting on a park bench.

Victorian Shell Boxes

I often think of those Victorian ladies who spent their time making pretty boxes decorated with shells. What time they must have had on their hands!

While women like my foremothers were working, these wives and daughters of wealthy men had nothing better to do than play with craft, glueing shells onto boxes, books and haiirbrushes while their servants took care of the house.

These shellboxes are antiques now and worth a very pretty penny indeed, but you can still make lovely items decorated with shells.

Jane Lake, who runs what must be the free crafts site on the web, shows us how to make a Seashell Shadow Box. There's a good little tute at eHow as well, on how to make a Shell Keepsake Box.

See the Seashells?

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Did you see a seashell on the seashore?

Do seashells appeal to you?

See results

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    • mariacarbonara profile image


      5 years ago

      Its amazing to think that the saltiness in the sea actually comes from millions of years of sea shells!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I once lived in a coastal area, where shells called "sand dollars" were abundant. Now I live a little over an hour from the east coast, and about the same from the west coast. Love the sea, and seashells!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I live in the mountains of Colorado so I do not have a beach nearby. Fascinating lens! I didn't know about these little recyclers.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Well, I have been collecting sea shells for years ... and finally overflowed my pots ... hubby "put" them in the marsh out back as filler material. But, before he did that, I picked out some basic shells that I will use for "jewelry" ...

    • The-Java-Gal profile image


      8 years ago

      What an informative lens! I have a collection of shells, but never realized they had research value. 5*s

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      9 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Love seashells! When I was a child we spent every summer on the beach. Now I don't live quite close enough so any time I'm by the ocean I look for shells, and bring a few home.

    • mistyriver profile image


      9 years ago

      Even though I currently live in Kansas, USA, nowhere near a beach, being from California, I love the beach and seashells. I had to use Google to find out what middens are, so I learned something new today! Thank you for the great lens!

    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      9 years ago from New Zealand

      One day we will have to come across and see if we can find seashells on beautiful port phillip bay. Interesting lens. thanks.

    • GonnaFly profile image


      9 years ago from Australia

      Ah yes. Love looking for shells on the beach. We are blessed here in Australia with sime great beaches :-)

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wow that's a lot of shells! Very cool!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      So nice, living in New Jersey in the US we are close to the "Jersey Shore" and love to walk the beaches looking for shells. You have made me appreciate the life that they once carried more. Very nice lens. ~claudia

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      9 years ago from Canada

      I've never heard of fossicking. Cool!

      I don't live near the beach but I do vacation at beaches on a regular basis (and we have boxes of shells!)

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      9 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Nice lens.

    • seashell2 profile image


      9 years ago

      I live within an hour from the ocean... and grew up 5 minutes from an ocean too! I loved collecting seashells as a child! Now I would rather photograph them! Nice lens!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Nice lens. I pick up at least 1 or 2 shells every time I walk along our beaches here in Huntington Beach, CA.


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