Finding Seashells on Port Phillip Bay
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!
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.
See the Seashells?Click thumbnail to view full-size
Did you see a seashell on the seashore?
Do seashells appeal to you?
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