Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sandwich flats - second world war aircraft parts

Since the new year there has been a number of aircraft parts coming ashore at Sandwich bay presumably off the Sandwich flats. Many of the pieces are small fragments of aluminium with the tell tale rivets holes. Now that larger pieces are coming ashore I have now started to collected them as a matter of record. Crashed second world war aircraft is not really my thing so I have posted images of what I have found so far and I have tried researching on the internet. I have come across a Dornier 17Z that belly landed on 31st August 1940 but I do not know for certain if that aircraft is the origin of the pieces as there are other accounts of other loses.
I have posted photographs of the pieces found to date for those who may be interested.

I have now found out that the origin of these parts are from a B17 flying fortress that ditched on the 1st February 1943 on the Sandwich flats.

On this piece I have found some lettering.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Fin Whale stranding Botany Bay Broadstairs October 2015 - the aftermath

Since the stranding of the sperm whale at Pegwell bay Ramsgate in March 2011 I have taken a great interest in the Cetacean strandings on the Thanet coast where I live.
Most strandings are always media event, there are plenty of photographs taken and once the whale has been cleared they think it is all over. That is something that really grates with me because there is no provision to set aside samples as a matter of local natural history interest for exhibition or local study all being a record of our local history.The Fin whale stranding was no exception as it was hastily taken away and disposed of in landfill.

When I arrived on the site  the morning after, the whale had gone and the area where the whale had been was completely leveled. There was a faint smell of whale oil in the air. The crows were picking through the sand finding remnants of whale flesh only to find themselves in conflict with the sea gulls.
At first I thought that was it the area had been totally clear, then I noticed near the waters edge as the tide was coming in a section of the whales upper jaw that had been left behind. It was complete with Baleen plates and there were a few plates scattered around. I gathered up a few plates and took photographs of the top jaw both inside and out. Once that was done I then searched the area picking up a few bone fragments.
I must admit I was pleased because I was not expecting much but I now have an important record of the event for future historical records.

The outside of the upper jaw showing the Baleen plates used to filter food for the whale.

The inside of the jaw showing the mass of Baleen that traps the prey the whale has filtered through its mouth.

An individual Baleen plate.

A group of Baleen plates close together showing how the mass of Baleen traps the prey.

A close up of the Baleen that was used in the whaling days as fibre for brushes.

I tried an experiment with a piece of bone by boiling the oil out of it. In the jar floating on the water is the solidified oil retrieved from the bone.

Finally I must add that all these items are category 1 on the CITIES convention list and are to be added to my  license with Natural England.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Autumn changes,driftwood and porpoise remains

As the autumn changes become visible have been focused on driftwood  as there is clear evidence that somewhere off the coast there is a wreck breaking up on the sea bed . A few weeks ago I came across some skeletal remains of a porpoise, identified as vertebrae from the tail section. I have started the cleaning process and numbering the pieces in the order I found them. During the cleaning process I came across a defect in one part of the vertebrae something that I have informed the Thanet coast project , may not amount to much but the data could be useful somewhere.
In the next few days I will be returning to the site to see if I can find some more remains and carry on with the driftwood search photographing everything as I find it.

The porpoise remains as I found them.

A section of the verterbrae still conjoined.

The defect in the vertebrae is on the right

Cleaned up and ready for numbering, the three pieces on the far right are not part of this section.

One from the archive , a dead porpoise ashore at the western undercliff Ramsgate in February 2014. Its head has been fractured and there are deep cut marks on the other side. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Margate - the 1953 storm and the finds 59 years later.

Margate   December 2011 to March 2012.

At the start of  December 2011 to the spring of 2012 the stone pier at Margate was under pinned. The purpose being to strengthen the foundations of the stone pier to prevent any repetition of the events that happened on the night of 31st January 1953.
The 1953 storm is part of Margate folklore and is well documented on the internet so are the surveys and the detailed history of the construction to 1815 when the pier opened. So armed with all this available information I set of to find any debris from that fateful night that maybe unearthed while the deep digging took place.
Due to the silting process of the harbour since the mid 1930's it was highly unlikely to find any items from the storm in the harbour. Therefore the only viable search area would be where the lighthouse collapsed into the sea and where underpinning took place when the reconstruction took place in 1954 on the seaward side.

All my theories proved correct and using photographs the finds are explained.

Some of these items were later donated to the Margate museum.

Two views of the shuttering that was piled rived to underpin the wall. On the outside is the 1954 shuttering and closer to the wall is the 2012 shuttering.

 Above lead drainage piping from around the base of the lighthouse.

Pieces of smashed balustrade that surrounded the lighthouse 

An example how the balustrade was pegged into the base of the lighthouse

More examples how lead was used to secure the stone and iron work

More examples on how the balusrade was secured

Whitby deltaic sandstone from the stone pier complete with 1930's graffitti.

Finally in 2012 like in 1954 all the large pieces from the 1815 construction were removed. There are some good examples of the sandstone blocks and the granite capping.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Thanet longshore drift

For many years now I have worked the Thanet coastline as a beachcomber and I have run up a tally of finds running into many thousands. All finds fall into three categories, they are found as flotsam and jetsam,  or resulting from erosion of silted areas or are deposited by the longshore drift.
Flotsam and jetsam finds are how most people experience beachcombing, there is a strong onshore wind resulting in an array of finds along the strandline and high water mark that are washed up.
Finds that are found as a result of coastal erosion come from the exposed silted layers under the sand. Most items are found more or less in the vicinity of where they were lost, sometimes centuries ago and are mainly the Margate coastal areas where the metal detectorists search.

Finds as a result of the longshore drift are probably the more interesting and they tend to be more historic as they originate off the seabed brought closer ashore by the wind and tidal movement of sand and shingle. Longshore drift finds do account for many of the Thanet fossil finds that do not occur from winter cliff falls.

 Due to the sea defence system of Thanet with the construction of groynes there are few areas I can say where the finds are attributed to the longshore drift. I have found the better find areas generally fall between North Foreland and Ramsgate and then Minnis Bay on its own.

Since the use of synthetic fish nets began well over 40 years ago, netting has been lost at sea do eventually work ashore as part of the longshore drift often found in a heaps among the sand and shingle in the inter tidal zone When lost netting does come ashore I do make it a habit to pick through the tangled mess looking for wood, metal, ceramic items, pieces of leather and glass that have come from wreckage on seabed that have become  entangled in the netting. In fact this method of searching has more or less accounted for all the aircraft debris I have ever found on the foreshore.

Here are some examples to explain the story.

An example of a lost net that has worked its way ashore with the sand and shingle.

A piece of air craft found in a tangled net.This was determined by the river holes and stamped markings.

Part of a keel , this was brought ashore by netting tangled around the bolt that is protruding

The entrance to Margate Harbour looking towards the shore, the shingle bank is a result of north easterly gales. In this shingle are items that have been found to have come from demolished buildings further along the coast. 

This item was found on Ramsgate main sands,  it is a spitfire part  attributed to a damged spitfire that crashed in the area. The pilot sergeant Guy Chesnut of the Royal Canadian Airforce  was killed. He is buried in Margate cemetary. The item was not attributed to the longshore drift but I thought I should give it a mention. 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Amber hunting in Thanet

As summer turns into autumn the seasonal change bring in with it a new amber hunting season on the Thanet coast. Usually from the end of September to March depending on weather and tidal conditions Baltic Amber can be found. The quantities found can never be on par with the Baltic coast and other part of the British Isles, but nerveless it still can be found.
Throughout Thanet there are Amber collectors each I am sure have their own hot spots and their "patch" mapped out . However, this post is to serve as a general guide lines for anyone willing to try their hand.
The golden rule to successful Amber hunting is weather conditions  and preferable a good onshore wind that reaps the dividends. From Birchington through to Margate and round to Foreness Point it is Northwesterly and North Easterly winds. Foreness Point to Kingsgate it is the North Easterlies. From Broadstairs to Ramsgate  North Easterly to South Easterly and from the Western undercliff and Pegwell Bay it is South Westerly.
Finds are normally found around the high water strandline debris and the other items that are washed up by the tide. For example, where their is sea coal, coal dust , small pieces of beach plastic, small pieces of sea weed, light driftwood and even golf balls present I have also came across Amber.
My favourite Ramsgate  spot is between the groynes at the Western Undercliff  after south west winds. My favourite Margate spot is after a north west gale at Walpole Bay and at Birchington Epple Bay after north east winds.

I have added as few photographs as examples of where to look and what to find.

Above. After a south west gale on the Western Undercliff, sea coal and dust is present. Perfect conditions for amber hunting also ideal for finding small cowries. The same conditions are ideal at Walpole Bay and Palm Bay though to Foreness point

Winter coal dust ideal conditions for picking out Amber when watching the waves go backwards and forwards .

Winter 2013 to 2014 Western undercliff finds. I have never found a piece that measures over 20 mm in any dimension in that area.

Margate and Cliftonville seems to be the better place for finding the larger pieces of Amber as seen from this piece found in Margate harbour.

 Above. Kingsgate and Broadstairs finds. Perfect examples and colours of Baltic Amber.

Clear Amber a Ramsgate main sands find.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Pegwell Bay Sperm whale stranding 2011 - the aftermath .

March 2011

In March 2011 a Sperm Whale was stranded and died in Pegwell Bay Ramsgate . The details of the stranding are well documented and there are numerous photographs and accounts that can be found on the internet. However, there is very little account to what happened to the whale after the examination and autopsy.

After the examination and autopsy had taken place the carcass was dragged to the nearby redundant Hovercraft slipway the other side of Pegwell Bay. It was then cut up with chainsaws and broken up by a JCB. The remains were then placed in a skip for landfill disposal . There was no thought given or intention  to preserve any of the remains for local natural history exhibits to record the event.

I had other ideas and fortunately for myself the disposal process took place during the night under floodlight. This meant the site would not be 100% clear due to the tide coming in and out in darkness. Twenty four hours later I took a look around the site. Everyone had gone leaving me a bonanza of finds. The rocks were coated in whale fat and there were lumps of solidified spemaceti oil on the strand line adjacent  to the slipway. On the hover pad itself there were pools of dried blood and splinters of whale bone. Further down the slipway at the base some internal organs from the whale could be seen in the water.
I hastily collected samples of spermaceti oil as it that melted away when the warmth of my hand came into contact.
Within in 48 hours I had two dustbin bags of whalebone in my back garden for sorting. Some of the bone was very dense like ivory . I selected every the small piece for carving and a few pieces as natural history samples.
I then found out I had to report my finds to the Receiver of Wrecks and Natural England. The Receiver asked me the situation at Pegwell Bay and I reported exactly what I saw. I also reported that other people were taking bone samples from the hover pad area. The Receiver was not happy with the situation as the clear up had not been complete. I told the Receiver it was my intention to keep samples and I would be disposing of what I do not need in the deep water off the Ramsgate West Pier. They agreed to that and told me to register what I had with Natural England as the samples I had were regulated by the CITIES convention. At first Natural England were not happy with what I had done but I explained the collection was for educational and scientific reasons and that once sorted it will go to a Natural England licenced venue. They then agreed to this and I was granted a licence to possess. 
Eventually I was able to hand over samples to the Monkton Natural History reserve and the  HMRC endangered species collection at the Wingham Wild life park. I was allowed under license to keep five examples for my own collection.

I took many photographs which are on file. Here are a few examples

The hoverport slipway after the Whale had been cut up.

Some examples of pieces of fractured whale bone that I picked up.

A container full of partially solidified spermaceti oil.

A whale bone sample that had been cut and shaped.