Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Insatiably Curious Beachcomber's Reference Library

Are you curious about the things you find on the beach? Do you want to know what that shell is and why it has a small hole bored through it? Have you noticed that barnacles and mussels often live in layers that make tidal rocks look like layer cakes and wondered why the divisions are so sharp? And what kind of rocks are they, anyway? Do you want to know how old that perfectly weathered piece of sea glass is and why so many pieces look slightly purple? Me too! So I've added a new page to this blog, called The Insatiably Curious Beachcomber's Reference Library*, where I will keep a running list of useful resources. You can see it as a tab up there by the header. Here are a few of the entries:

The Naturalist's Guide to the Atlantic Seashore: Beach Ecology from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras, Scott Wesley Shumway, 2008.
The Naturalist's Guide to the Atlantic Seashore: Beach Ecology from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras
If I had to pick one book to recommend, this would be it. Great pictures, comprehensive explanations of various tidal ecosystems. This is the one that answered the barnacles-and-mussels question.

Pure Sea Glass, Richard LaMotte, 2004.
Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems
The bible of sea glass. Really. Everything from comparative photos of different bottle tops with the dates they were in use to an explanation of how manganese turns clear glass purple when exposed to UV light. If you don't care about crustaceans and seaweed and you are just in it for the sea glass, forget the book above, this is the one you want.

The Art of Shelling, Chuck & Debbie Robinson, 2008.
The Art of Shelling: A complete guide to finding shells and other beach collectibles at shelling locations from Florida to Maine
A very useful little book. I actually read about a beach (sort-of) near me in this book, tracked it down, and had a lovely afternoon. More focused on the southern part of the country (remember I am in Maine, so southern is New Hampshire and beyond.) Good advice on collecting and cleaning shells. Hmm, I should re-read this one, it has been a while!

The Sea Glass Artists website
This is a great place to ask questions about things you find. You can post photos in the forums and knowledgeable beachcombers from all over the world will tell you what they think it is. There are also fantastic photos of the amazing things (not just glass) that people have found. Cameos, marbles, a French railroad watch, antique binoculars, and mystery objects galore. And of course, glass. Lots and lots of sea glass. Who knew there was so much out there?!

Flotsametrics, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, 2009
Flotsametrics and the Floating World: How One Man's Obsession with Runaway Sneakers and Rubber Ducks Revolutionized Ocean Science
How trash moves through the oceans of the world and ends up on your beach. An appealing mixture of hard science and colloquial story-telling. The rare book that is both entertaining and informative. Highly recommended!

USGS Bedrock Maps

I usually associate the USGS with the incredibly useful topographic maps they issue, completely forgetting that it is, after all the US Geological Survey. Forgetting, that is, until I get curious about what I am walking on, and then I go poke around on their website looking for local geology maps. The scale is pretty big, but I haven't gotten obsessive enough about geology (yet) to track down something more detailed.

I will continue to add to this list as I run across interesting books. I would love to know what you use for references, so please list your favorites in the comments!
*I thought it was a funny title but it is way too long!