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Hello all, This is my first posting on the forum, but I have been avidly consuming its contents for quite a while. To start off, I thought members might like to hear of my recent visit to one of England's finest sites for Eocene sharks teeth: Beltinge, near Herne Bay in Kent in the far south-east of Britain. I was born a few miles along the coast and, in my youth, was aware of the possibility of finding fossils at Beltinge, but never discovered much during a few half-hearted teenage searches. My mother still lives where I grew up and I take my family to see her four or five times a year. During these holidays we spend as much time as possible scouring the beaches for fossils and other beach treasures. Our latest trip at Easter coincided with some of the lowest tides of the year. Combined with favourable winds and a fine weather forecast it looked like we might get lucky... Beltinge is famous for its sharks teeth which are eroded out of the 'Beltinge Fish Bed' where it is exposed on the foreshore. As such, fossil hunting is entirely tidal dependent and the best conditions occur when the lowest tides coincide with offshore winds; the retreating sea reveals areas of the beach that are usually submerged. On good days there can be several dozen people searching and it's not unknown for coach loads of Dutch, Belgian or German enthusiasts to descend on the best areas. There is plenty of beach to search but the most productive areas are exposed for less than an hour so competition can get a bit fierce and the tide waits for no man... To maximise my chances of success I had a few tricks up my sleeve. The lowest tides over the Easter period were all very early in the morning so I had packed my high-powered fell-running headtorch. The plan was to head down before sunrise, get on the beach as the tide receded and start searching by torchlight. I assumed nobody else would be as keen, most sensible people waiting until it was properly light. Thus I was rather surprised, when I arrived at the car park at 04:30hrs, to see a small bright light in the darkness, bobbing down the path below me towards the beach. It didn't take me long to get kitted up and fully equipped to set out and follow the unknown stranger down onto the foreshore. The tide was already heading out very quickly and there were plenty of patches of pebbles and shingle to search through. I had not tried hunting by torchlight before and soon discovered it wasn't as easy as I hoped; I needed to keep the beam at the correct angle to prevent it reflecting back off the glistening sand and rockpools and temporarily blinding me. Fossils were proving elusive but the favoured areas were not yet exposed. By the time the sun finally rose at 06:38hrs I had found around twenty small and mostly broken teeth and a fragment of chimaera mouth part; not a lot to show for nearly two hours of searching. Sunrise over Reculver Towers at low tide, 06:38hrs Good Friday 30th March 2018. The only other pre-dawn 'enthusiast' can be made out crouched by the tideline at the left; he has found what is usually the best area. It was a relief to turn off my headtorch and look using natural light. It was now dead low tide. The other person was already sorting through the best exposure and I joined him, starting from the opposite end. The pebble and shingle bank was mostly clear of sediment. Sharks teeth started appearing as if by magic, most of them lying on the surface and very obvious. Quite frequently I would spot one and then notice two or three more as I reached down to pick it up. My collection pot was starting to feel 'weighty' and the buzz from finding so many made me forget my aching back and neck. So far I haven't mentioned the techniques required for finding stuff at Beltinge. Everyone seems to do it slightly differently, but basically it involves crouching or kneeling down and peering intently at the patches of shingle, picking up whatever you spot and popping it into a pot to be examined later once the tide has covered up the beach. There is no point wasting valuable time cleaning and checking every item when the tide is inexorably advancing. Some people use a kneeling pad, others don't. A few prefer to put spoonfulls of shingle into a sieve, rinse them in the sea and them check through the contents. Tweezers, tongs, forceps, blunt knives and other implements can be used as aids to pick up the fossils but fingertips are just as effective although they can get very cold. Whatever method is used you can't avoid getting a very sore back and neck from stooping down. / Can you spot it? A fairly typical find in a pretty standard situation. By 07:30hrs several other people have joined us on the beach, all searching in the best area, but the tide has started coming back in and it's now a race against time. I notice a chap working a little further east along the beach. He is using a large circular panning sieve and concentrating on an area of shelly shingle very different in texture to the pebble bank. His name is Tim and he tells me he has been 'harvesting' the teeth for nearly 40 years. He can no longer look using the usual methods as his back and knees won't allow it and his eyesight is no longer good enough either. He produces a sizeable handful of sharks teeth from his coat pocket and it's clear his method is very efficient; most of them are large and complete! He has also found four bony fish vertebrae and a large piece of chimaera jaw. The advancing waters push us further and further up the beach and the rate of finds drops rapidly as we are confined to areas that have been scoured many times. There are still surprises to be discovered and I'm delighted to stumble across a large, if somewhat battered, Otodus tooth. These are not common at Beltinge and it's only the second example I have ever found. Otodus obliquus, or minimeg as my 12 year old son likes to call it. Before the waters consume all the best areas I put my second secret weapon into action. I have brought along a bucket, a garden trowel and a 1mm metal kitchen sieve. I use these to collect as much suitable shingle and small pebble patches as I can from around the boulders and beds, which I can then sort through at my leisure once we return home after the holiday. There's nothing like being able to continue the hunt when you're 200 miles from the sea and you don't have to worry about the tide coming in! Eventually, all the other fossil hunters depart and I'm left on my own. The tide has covered almost all the foreshore; only The Rand is left exposed. This is the local name for a large raised bank of pebbles and mussels that juts out perpendicularly into the sea. It used to be a prime site for fossils but the building of sea defences, discovery of King Ragworm by bait diggers and encroachment by invasive American Slipper Limpets have resulted in it becoming resistant to wave action and far less productive for fossil hunters. Still, it's the only area remaining and I have found some nice pieces there in the past. I search, mostly in vain, until the tide finally reclaims the last outcrops and I'm forced off the beach onto the promenade. It's now 09:00hrs, the weather is gorgeous - sunny, calm and warm - and the seafront has been claimed by dog walkers, joggers and cyclists so I head home for a well-earned breakfast. Later on in the day I wash all the finds in fresh water and lay them out on kitchen towel to dry before sorting through them. It's been a very successful morning. The break down of finds is as follows: Striatolamia macrota 71 (11 complete) Carcharias hopei 46 (7 complete) Palaeohypotodus rutoti 6 (2 complete) Sylvestrilamia teretidens 2 complete Odontaspis winkleri 2 (1 complete) Chimaera jaw fragment 4 Ray dental plate piece 1 Turtle carapace fragment 1 Striatolamia macrota. A big anterior. Striatolamia macrota. Some very tiny laterals (mm scale bar) So ends day one. The early start was definitely worth it. I have never experienced such a low tide and the potential it uncovers. I still have four more days to go. Can't wait until tomorrow...
G'day all! After three years since my last visit to the UK, i finally returned in December 2017 for another massive collecting trip across England. This was my most ambitious tour of the UK's Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrate deposits thus far, with 20 days of collecting across ten different locations. These were (in chronological order from first visit): Abbey Wood in East London Beltinge in Kent Bouldnor on the Isle of Wight Compton Bay to Grange Chine on the Isle of Wight Lyme Regis to Charmouth in Dorset Aust Cliff in Gloucestershire Saltwick Bay in Yorkshire Kings dyke in Cambridgeshire Minster in Kent Tankerton in Kent. If you went collecting at any of these places in the last month, there's probably a 25.6975% chance you saw me looking very intimidating hunched over in my hooded rain jacket and muddy pants 14 of those collecting days were back-to-back, a new record for me, though it was very tiring! Having just come from the hot Australian summer, winter collecting in England was certainly a challenge at times and my fingers and toes froze to the point i could barely feel them on multiple occasions. Temperatures for many of the days reached 0 degrees celcius or below, with ice on the ground around me and even snow falling while i was trying to collect! I also went out during the middle of the night to collect using a head torch on some occasions (mainly at Bouldnor) due to the tidal conditions and bad weather which prevented collecting during the day. All in all i am certainly pleased with how the trip went, i was successful at all locations with the exception of Tankerton. For some of the locations (Aust Cliff, Kings dyke, Saltwick Bay) it was also my first and only visit, so i'm glad i still managed to do well with no prior experience at these sites and with such limited time at each. I have tried to write this trip report not only as a means of showing you guys my finds but also to provide an informative overview of some of the better locations for Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrates across England for others who might be planning similar trips. Anyway, here are the results! Pictures will be spread across the next 12 posts due to file size restrictions. Abbey Wood - East London (6/12/17, 30/12/17 and 31/12/17) Formation: Blackheath ('Lesnes Shell Bed') Deposit Age: 54.5 million years (Eocene) Fossil Diversity: Sharks, bony fish, chimaeroids, bivalves, gastropods, rare mammals, turtles and crocodiles This was one of only two inland locations i visited (the other being Kings dyke). As i have found, the majority of the UK's easily accessible fossil collecting locations are coastal! Abbey Wood is an excellent location just 45 minutes on the tube from central London. It is situated in a park called the Lesnes Abbey Woods and there is a small collecting area that is open to the public for shallow digging (see my first two pictures below). You definitely need a sifter, shovel and basin of water at this location to have any real success. Be warned though that once you combine the fine Blackheath sediments with water during sifting you get some pretty gnarly mud so expect to come away from this site looking like you've just been rolling around in the dirt. I'm sure i got some interesting looks from people on the tube going back to London it was all worth it though, as every single sift load produced at least one shark tooth across the three days i visited. Very impressive considering the number of obvious holes dotted around the ground from years worth of other collectors visiting. It should be noted though that the mammalian material from this location is of high scientific importance, and collecting here is allowed on the condition that any mammalian finds be brought to the attention of and handed in to specialists like Dr Jerry hooker at the Natural History Museum in London. I didn't find any such material on my trips unfortunately. Here is the designated collecting area. The statue at the front is of Coryphodon, one of the rare Eocene mammals that has been found at the site. The full haul of shark teeth from three days of sifting in the collecting area. Most are from Striatolamia and Sylvestrilamia. I gave up trying to count them once i got past 100 Some of the other fishy bits that often turn up during sifting, including guitar fish teeth on the far left and two dermal denticles (Hypolophodon sylvestris), one gar pike fish tooth in the middle (Lepisosteus suessionensis), one shark vertebra down the bottom and unidentified bony fish vertebrae on the right. I don't typically collect shells, but i picked these up for the sake of adding a bit more diversity to my Abbey Wood collection. These are bivalves and gastropods of various species. The molluscan diversity from this one location is actually quite impressive. Beltinge - Kent (7/12/17 and 29/12/17) Formation: Upnor ('Beltinge Fish Bed') Deposit Age: 56.5 million years old (Paleocene) Fossil Diversity: Sharks, chimaeroids, bony fish, rays, turtles, crocodiles, bivalves, wood This is my favourite shark tooth collecting location in the UK and probably my favourite that i have visited anywhere so far. The shoreline directly opposite the access point at the end of Reculver Drive in Beltinge is loaded with teeth and dare i say it's impossible to come here and walk away empty handed. The shore however is very flat so there is generally only about a two hour window of time that collecting can be carried out here, one hour either side of low tide. Conditions can also vary depending on how sanded over the shore is, whether the Beltinge Fish Bed itself is exposed and how low the tide drops. However even on a poor day you will still find teeth here, just not as many! I experienced this first hand as the first day i visited on December 7th the conditions were excellent. The tide dropped quite low, there wasn't too much sand covering the clay and the Beltinge Fish Bed was exposed. This allowed direct in-situ collecting of teeth from this rich layer and i ended up with something like 240 teeth from just a couple of hours of looking. The second visit i made on December 29 of the same month was almost the exact opposite. It's amazing how quickly these coastal locations can change! The shore was largely sanded over, the fish bed was covered and the tide didn't drop anywhere near as much. I was out about the same amount of time as the first but only managed 69 teeth (only ). Keep these things in mind if you are planning a visit. Luckily though i didn't just find shark teeth, i also managed to locate some of the other less common finds as you will see below! Here is the area of shoreline that produces teeth, photographed on December 7th. It was quite cold and rainy! Three teeth sitting next to each other as found. More as-found shark teeth. This one made me quite excited when i saw it. It's a large piece of chimaeroid fish jaw and mouthplate coming straight from the Beltinge Fish Bed itself (the darker, dull-green sandy clay in this picture). Beltinge is continued in the next post.