Beachcombing: A Journey of Discovery Along the Shore

Beachcombing— a delightful pastime blending adventure, nature, and treasure hunting— has exploded in popularity in recent decades, not just as a nomadic lifestyle but as a family-friendly pursuit offering complete freedom to explore and learn about our natural environment.

What is Beachcombing?

Beachcombing is the act of searching the beach, ideally during low tide, for valuable or interesting items washed ashore by ocean waves and currents, including the renowned Gulf Stream. 

Beachcombers can find a broad variety of both natural and man-made objects, from mysterious sea beans and the empty egg capsules of sharks— sometimes known as mermaid's purses— to distinctive sea glass.

The Best Time for Beachcombing

The best time for beachcombing varies. While some prefer the calm of early morning, experts like Steve Trewhella and Julie Hatcher, noted marine biologists and beachcombing aficionados, suggest late spring and the first order of writhing worm-like stalks that show up after winter storms can bring exciting finds.

Always check the tide schedule. Low tide is typically the most advantageous time, as more beach area is exposed. 

Also, consider topographical variations like the rocky shores of the Oregon Coast, such as Lincoln City, known for the fun finds of glass floats.

What Can You Find?

Let's delve into the magical properties of beachcombing discoveries, which yield a deep understanding of the lives of marine creatures and the broader marine conservation efforts.

General findings include:

  • Sea Glass
  • Beach pottery, shards of broken and tumbled bits of china
  • Driftwood
  • Beach pebbles
  • Dried seaweed
  • Shells
  • Bone

Natural Objects

Natural objects such as:

  • Sea shells
  • Shark teeth
  • Sea beans (also known as tropical drift seeds)

Even the hard tongue of a wreathed necklace shell may be uncovered. You might spot a predatory sea snail lurking near its shell-covered body opening.

Rare treasures include:

  • Pottery shards from the Pleistocene era 
  • Violet sea snail, a tiny predator that lives its entire life floating on the open ocean 
  • Wind sailors, essentially small surface-living animals
  • Sea slug, bizarre-looking oceanic animals in vibrantly different colours

Man-made Objects

Of course, there are also man-made objects to find, ranging from fascinating to potentially harmful. 

Finds might include seemingly mundane objects with a colourful past - think parts of car windows transformed over time into colourful beach glass or fishing net remnants hinting at long-distance voyages and the sight of land.

However, modern life has resulted in an influx of marine litter, such as disposable items like plastic bags, cigarette butts, or even disposable barbecues. 

These items are not just an eyesore; they pose a risk to small mammals and larger predatory insects, impacting vital food chains.

Social Media and Beachcombing

In the age of social media, beachcombing has found a new platform to reach the masses. Platforms like Instagram offer a place for beachcombers to share their little treasures with small groups. 

Local experts and communities are being formed that help identify unfamiliar objects brought in by ocean currents.

The Dark Side of Beachcombing

Alas, not all beach finds tell a positive tale. The presence of man-made debris— cigarette lighters, sharp glass, and plastic litter— is a growing movement garnering attention towards the impact of our throwaway culture on marine life.

Marine Life Protection and Beachcombing Etiquette

For true beachcombers, respect for the natural environment and sea creatures is paramount. 

Disturbing live shells, sea birds or small, writhing worm-like stalks is a no-no— we must remember that the beach is also home to these creatures. 

Uncaring beach visitors pose a serious threat, and thus, marine biologists like our earlier mentioned Steve Trewhella and Julie Hatcher ardently advocate for responsible beachcombing.

The Wider Impact of Beachcombing

Despite the problematic presence of marine litter like plastic bags, balloon releases, and disposable items, beachcombing also offers a chance to protect our beloved beaches. 

Even just dedicating a few minutes of their time, beachcombers can make a meaningful impact by picking up trash and saving sea creatures.

A Call to Action

Beachcombing is more than a casual stroll along your favourite beaches; it’s an adventure, a treasure hunt, and an exploration into the beauty of the natural and the man-made, the old and the new, and the seemingly ordinary and the utterly extraordinary. 

It offers us a precious window into the world of marine life, a chance to contribute towards marine conservation, and a captivating way to spend a day— just don't forget your sun protection!

So, grab your tide table and join this growing movement. Whether you’re drawn to the timeless allure of 
sea glass in its many different colours, excited by the historical echoes of shards from the past or called by a sense of duty to shield marine life from man-made threats, beachcombing offers something for everyone. And who knows, maybe you’ll make some exciting finds of your own!