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Sea Glass Collecting Tips and Techniques

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There are several tricks to successfully hunting sea glass.

Collecting sea glass can either be something that you do now and again when you find yourself at a beach or it can truly become a full blown hobby and fun thing to do on a regular basis.

The pull to head on down to your favorite sea glass collecting site when you know the weather's right, the position of the moon is correct and everything suggests that there are treasures to be found, is quite real.

It's no good arriving if the tide is high and the waves are crashing onto the beach and you can't reach that little bay at the foot of the cliff where you have collected so much loot before! The secret to a decent find is to be well prepared before you go.

If you are new to sea glass collecting these tips will be a great help and for those of you who have been collecting for awhile now, there just may be something new that may help you find more treasures.

As your collection grows and you 'get your eye in' as it were to be able to spot a treasure, I guarantee that you are going to want to find out more about your treasure finds, well as much as is possible.

Do You Have Questions like ...

  • What is the best time of the day to collect sea glass?
  • What is the best time of the month/year to collect sea glass
  • Do I need any tools to collect sea glass?
  • What sort 0f weather is best to collect sea glass in?
  • What do I wear to collect sea glass?
  • What sort of beach is best to collect sea glass on?

These and more questions are answered here on this page. If you do have another question, please pop over here and I will endeavour to answer you asap.

"Time will bring to light whatever is hidden
It will cover up and conceal what is now shining in splendor"
Horace

Top Tips and Techniques

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MONTH OF THE YEAR
What is the Season? Is it Summer, Winter, Autumn or Spring and are there any special weather conditions for each season that may have some bearing on where you are collecting the sea glass?

Here in Melbourne, for instance,  the windiest time of the year begins in July. There may be several days in succession of strong, cold north to northwest winds, often with cloud and some light rain. These winds may be onshore or off shore. Strong onshore winds and a high tide should yield a decent find once the tide goes back out. If you are lucky enough for the wind to turn to an offshore wind, what treasures could be dislodged as the water recedes further out!

Wherever you intend to hunt for sea glass, use this link to check out the weather through all the months of the year. You can check the rainfall, the temperature, the humidity, the wind strength and the wind direction.

  • Strong off shore winds create more movement of water exposing more sand on the foreshore with the possibility of exposing more sea glass.
  • Strong onshore winds stir the seas and the sand deposits and bring more treasures to the foreshore.
  • Heavy rains can also help expose embedded sea glass, so don't become overly concerned with bad weather predictions.

TIME OF THE DAY
Early morning or early evening is not the best time to fossick as the shadows produced are stronger/darker. However in saying this, shades of green blue and purple will intensify in shadows and sea glass collecting on an overcast day is actually better then, than in strong sunshine.

Tides and Moon Cycles

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High tides and low tides are caused by the Moon. The Moon's gravitational pull generates something called the tidal force. The tidal force causes Earth—and its water—to bulge out on the side closest to the Moon and the side farthest from the Moon.

LOW TIDE: This is when the tide is at its lowest level at a particular time and place. The lowest tides reached - the spring tides, take place when the Moon and Sun are directly aligned with respect to Earth. Low tides are less extreme when the Moon and Sun are at right angles (the neap tides).  

Here is an excellent explanation of  high and low tides and the effects that the sun, the moon and earth have on the size of these tides. 

The lower the tide the better chance you will have at finding some great specimens. Arrive around an hour before or after low tide to increase your time searching at the site. Note also that most beaches around the world experience 2 high and 2 low tide times.

sun, moon and earth positionsThe position of the Sun, Moon and Earth all has an effect on the size of the tides the sea glass beach will experience

Now, Before You Hit The Shoreline, Have You Got Everything You Need?

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Getting the basics together will help make the experience of sea glass collecting more pleasurable.

You don't need all these bits and pieces if you are only dropping down for a quick visit to your local collection site but if you are in for a fairly decent stretch of time 'stooping' then these items will be of use.

  • Pack a few easy snacks, some fruit, nuts and maybe a sandwich. Maybe a packet soup if its a cold day!
  • Cold day - thermos of hot water and a spoon to stir the soup
  • Warm or cool day, always have water on hand. Use a thermal flask or a disposable water bottle (make sure you throw it away - no littering)
snacks of fruitSnacks to eat
thermal water bottlesThermal drink bottle
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These little extras will help you keep your sea glass collecting experience dated, logged and recorded for future reference.

Where you have found your treasures, what was the time of day, the month, the weather, the tide and any extra notes that are of importance.

  • Notebook and pen
  • Camera or mobile phone with camera to capture some great photos of your finds, the scenery, in fact anything that will add to the experience. I remember when I was sea glass collecting on Glass Beach in Robe, S.A, there were large pieces of well worn sea glass that were naturally cemented firmly into the rocky platform and there was no way that I could dig them out! Next best thing, a photo of my finds.
mobile phone cameraMobile Phone Camera to catch the moment
notebook and penNotebook to record sea glass collecting details

And find a special bag to carry everything in that you keep especially for this sea glass collecting adventure. Keep it only for stooping and make it preferably a back pack as this will keep your hands free to collect, take photos or dig out your treasures.

Don't make it too heavy to carry though. Over time you will cull what you actually need to take

sun, moon and earth positionsOld bag used to carry everything you need when sea glass collecting.

Clothes and Footwear For Sea Glass Collecting

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You probably are going to get a bit grubby, so wear comfortable clothes that are casual. Depending on where you are collecting, you might like to consider wearing 'layers' of clothing that you can take off as you get warmer or put on as you get colder.

As most collectors search the beaches in the winter months, I've found a jumper and padded vest is great gear to wear, toss in a beanie to keep my head warm, some finger-less gloves for my hands and maybe a scarf depending on how chilly that wind is. Warmer weather sees me out stooping in a t-shirt and cut off jeans.

Footwear: Important part of your attire. As you are going to be walking over uneven and possibly quite rocky terrain, shoes with a decent sole is my suggestion. Something that will grip and not slip if walking on wet rocks. The older the better as sea water tends to rot fabric. Shoes, that you perhaps can pop into the washing machine to freshen up. Lace ups are best to wear as they tend to support your foot and make it less likely for you to twist an ankle. Please, DON'T wear thongs/flip flops, they are too dangerous for this activity.

old sneakers to collect sea glassOld shoes for sea glass collecting
layers of clothingLayers of clothing

If you are out in the sun, please wear a sun hat of some sort. An old straw hat maybe, decorate it with some raffia, some sea shells and nautical stuff - have fun putting together your sea glass outfit.

As regards sunglasses, yes use these as much as possible however when you are actually collecting your treasures remove them as they tend to restrict what you can see when you are hunting. As your back will be to the sun, its glare won't effect you too much.

sunglasses and sun hatSunglasses and sun hat

What's The Weather Like Today?

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As I mentioned before, collectors love doing so in the Winter months. And it can get quite wet out there on some days, don't let a bit of rain put you off your hunting though. These days you can pick up a cheap disposable, plastic, hooded raincoat from the cheap shop. These can be popped over what you are wearing and the hood can be tied if there is a strong wind. 

Large enough for you to wear bulky warm clothes and backpack underneath. When you take if off, give it a good shake and roll it up and store it away till it's needed next time.

Gumboots or wellingtons or galoushes, can also be worn to keep your feet dry. If you are inclined to be a collector who likes to wade out into the water to get to that little cove around the corner, these can be handy. Of course in Winter, thick, warm socks can be worn underneath to keep those feet warm! These days gumboots come in all colors and patterns, wonder if there are any ocean themed ones out there?

rain jacketRain Jacket - preferably lightweight
gum bootsKeep your feet dry with gum boots

Slip - Slop - Slap - Sun Protection

aerogard insect repellentInsect repellent

Down here in Australia, we have an abundance of flies, mosquitoes and flying insects. On many of our beaches we also have a fly called the March Fly that likes to sneak up and bite us In the Summer months these are more prevalent.

A decent spray of insect repellent onto your clothes will suffice in keeping these pests at bay.

No matter what time of the year or daytime hour, the old slip, slop, slap application of a sunscreen is highly recommended. Because you are close to the water and at times in the water, along with the salty air around you, the sun's rays are stronger.

Cover all your skin's exposed areas to protect it from getting burnt. The southern hemisphere's sun can be quite dangerous even in Winter.

sun screen lotionsSun screen lotions

Tools To Use When Sea Glass Collecting

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If you don't know the sea glass collecting site, keep these few tools handy. Once you are there, you can gauge as to whether they may be needed.

The older the tool the better, I like to visit garage sales or trash and treasure markets looking for things that I might use for collecting. 

  • Little hand digger/trowel
  • Poker, maybe an old screwdriver, to loosen up the rocks
  • Small metal hand rake to rake over a rock pile or dig out some treasures in the cliff face

Make sure that whatever you carry, that it's not too heavy.

trowelTrowel to dig in sand
poking implementImplement to poke under rocks with
small rack endSmall rake end for raking rocks and pebbles

Where Are The Best Sea Glass Collecting Yields To Be Found?

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SHORELINE:

The shoreline is the stretch of land at the edge of water. On a beach this stretch will most likely have shells, sea drift and sometimes sea glass and sea pottery and various curiosities that have washed in with the tide.

The ebb and flo of tides, produces 'lines' along the foreshore known as tidal drift. These are the places where most collectors of sea glass gravitate to first off. If there has been a big onshore wind along with a high tide, the chances of there being some decent treasure to find on the stretch is good. 

There can be several tide lines on the beach, a high-high and a low-high tide line. Most of the time, the top of the low-high tide line seems to produce the best finds. 

ZIG/ZAG:
The best way to actually comb a beach is to wander in a zig, zag pattern, back and forth whilst moving forward slightly. Try to keep out of your shadow as you do this keeping the light falling on the spot before you. Keep you back to the sun if possible. If there is a stretch of beach you want to search through and you are walking into the sun, walk a way ahead and then turn around and retrace your steps. Takes a bit longer to do but well worth the effort.

tidal drift linesTidal drift lines, perfect place for sea glass collecting

What's a Dirty Beach?

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I have found over the years that a 'dirty' beach is far more rewarding that a stretch of pristine, clean sand. 

Most beaches have well worn rocks and pebbles that help trap the sea glass and also weather it smooth. Look for rocky outcrops near a populated area.

For you to be able to find sea glass on any beach, there needs to be some sort of human intervention. Whether it be a ship wreck site, a tip or dumping site, an industrial area, in a shipping lane or the site of a community having lived nearby, chances are there will be a few bits and pieces to add to your collection.

rocky shoreline frankstonThe southern end of the Frankston foreshore where there is a rocky outcrop beneath Oliver's Hill

What to use to carry your collection?

You can use just about anything to drop your treasures into. A coat pocket, scarf, glove fingers, a small bag, a plastic bottle, a jumper sleeve (yes, I've used all of these and more) but the thing that I have found that is the handiest to use is an open weave laundry bag. These can come with a draw string or zipper.  Fruit sometimes comes in a netting bag. Just thread some cord/rope through the top of it and voila', you have a sea glass collecting bag!

The fact that these have this open weave means that your collection can be washed clear of sand debris before you take them home. Even at home you can wash everything in clean water and then sort everything out. Pick one up at the local supermarket or cheap shop. Dry it off, fold it and store it away for future sea glass collecting adventures.

laundry bag used to collect sea glassNetting laundry bag used for sea glass collecting

The southern hemisphere beaches are in no way as generous as those in the northern hemisphere. So finding such a site is always exciting. Where have you found your sea glass treasure? Like to share with us all?

YOUR Sea Glass Story

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Where did you go?

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I hope these tips and suggestions will be of use to you and that your collection grows in leaps and bounds. 

If you need another question answered. Pop over here and ask away.

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