Tag Archives: Beach

A Puzzle About Bones

Just after New Year (Jan 2014) we went for a walk in Shadmoor Park and ended up on Ditch Plains Beach.  That is where I found two vertebrae still stuck together by ligaments.  They were larger than human vertebrae, measuring 3-4 inches in the largest diameter.  A quick phone call to my biologist friend, Marguerite W, confirmed that these were mammalian bones and not from a large fish, like a shark.  Fish vertebral bodies (called the centrum) would be biconcave, as shown here. These were not.  Then, I had a phone call with a friend, Annie Sessler. She is a well known artist out here who makes beautiful fish prints!  Her husband Jim, is a Montauk fisherman.   ‘Some kind of whale’ or marine mammal was their opinion. Now I was really intrigued!photo[6] photo[5]Then I got this rare book from the Cornell Vet School library called “Whales of the World” by Spencer Wilkie Tinker (1988).  It describes in detail all 77 species of living whales on this planet and also a bunch of extinct species based on fossil records.
It was a stroke of luck that we could identify the vertebrae (which were stuck together) as C7, T1.  That’s the last cervical and the first thoracic vertebrae.  The thoracic vertebrae have an articular joint surface for a rib on either side.  All mammals have 7 cervical (neck) vertebrae.  Giraffe’s have very long ones.  Some animals have very short ones.  And sometimes the cervical vertebrae are fused together!  However, C7 in our case was not fused to either of its neighboring vertebrae, T1 or C6. The “common dolphin”  has fused C1-7, according to “Whales of the World”.   Therefore we did not think that these were vertebrae from the common dolphin.  In the same book, there is a photograph on page 39 of a side view of a cervical spine of the common dolphin.  To my astonishment T1 looked just like the T1 vertebra that we found!  So, we were thinking of a close relative of the common dolphin.

The size of the vertebrae we found suggested an animal slightly larger than a human (approx 75-200 kg).   Using this as a guide, I then focused on 8 species listed in the whale book, that live in the North Western Atlantic, at our latitude 40 N .   I googled which of these species had recently been spotted in the waters around Long Island. The list was now really short:

  • bottlenose dolphin
  • common dolphin (unlikely because of the fused C spine)

In particular, there were lots of sightings and on-line reports about bottlenose dolphins around Long Island.

Apparently there has been an epidemic due to a type of measles virus and it has killed hundreds of bottlenose dolphins in our waters (in the Long Island sound and around Montauk).   This species has apparently been migrating northwards as witnessed by the larger numbers spotted since about  2007.
Here are some links which I found interesting:

800px-Bottlenose_Dolphin_KSC04pd0178

Having been introduced to this species by their bones, I noted that these are in fact very interesting animals!  Bottlenose dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror!  They can use sponges as tools and transmit cultural knowledge across generations. Their considerable intelligence has driven interaction with humans.  I am now an official dolphin fan!

Happy New Year!

My kind of New Year “greeting card”

Beach Treasures and Treasure Beaches

~~~

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How to set Beach Glass

Glass is fragile. You drop it and it breaks, you drill it and it breaks, you hammer a metal setting around it and it breaks, you force it in to a bezel and it breaks…   No wonder that some of us would rather not work with glass!  There are however some techniques that are used extensively.  Here is a discussion of these techniques. I am sure the list is not exhaustive.

Wire wrapping techniques

Glue Glass Pendant

Blue Glass Pendant

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

Fine Silver Earrings with Intricate Wire wrapping

These are really common.  They are easy.  You don’t need to work the glass itself.  Note that wire techniques are not specially good for rings or for jewelry that is likely to get banged around.  Some of these techniques are a bit flimsy and the piece of glass can come out of the setting.  There are numerous different wire wrapping techniques. I refer you to just one website.  There are also YouTube videos.  Just google “wirewrap beach glass”.  The “Blue Glass Pendant” shown here, was wrapped by myself with a homemade technique using fine silver wire, which is nice and soft.  The earrings were wrapped by an unknown artist in Cusco, Peru.

Wire solder technique

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

Light Green Beach Glass set with 18 Gauge Sterling Silver Wire

You can use thick wire that is not easily formed or wrapped.  I like to use gauge 18 Sterling silver. The idea is to create a “basket” with prongs, place the glass in the basket, and bend the prongs around the glass to hold it in place.  I have attached an example.  Here the prongs are the same in the front and the back so that is does not matter if the pendant flips over, as the front and the back look identical.

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

Blue sapphire set over light blue beach glass (pendant in Sterling silver)

A variation of this technique allows for a smaller stone (blue sapphire in this case) to be set on one of the prongs!

Bezel setting

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

Bezel formed by hand with thin (gauge 32) soft silver.

This is more serious.  You will have to cut your silver, solder it together and form a bezel that is shaped after the irregular piece of glass that you want to frame.  It has become my favorite method because the bezel protects the piece of sea glass.  If you shape the base of the bezel, you can accommodate a rounded piece of glass, such as a piece from the neck of a bottle.  Here are a few examples.

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Purple glass from a bottle top with silver bezel and brass base formed to fit the inside curvature of the glass

Drilling the Glass

If you really want to make a hole in your sea glass, you can do so.  Drill with a diamond bit, under cool water, carefully and slowly!  I found out the hard way: it is easy to crack your piece of glass.

One can insert a silver grommet in the drilled hole for added stability, as shown in the last picture. But you will have to tap the grommet with a hammer to close it.  That is tricky and can crack your piece of glass too! Best to use very soft and thin metal tubing for this purpose.  Have fun.

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Drilled beach glass (heart shaped) with silver grommet

Beach Art

I spent the summer on different beaches: the Pacific coast of Northern California, the Maggia river in Switzerland and our home beaches of East Hampton.  Everywhere there is art on display.  Not by famous artists but by common people that pick up stuff from the beach and put it together to make a “work of art”.  It is playful.  It also is testament to the beauty of nature.  Often not much is needed to beautify the scene.  Other times the objects are small (a pebble), or common (litter), or unnoticed (drift wood) and the artist wants to draw attention to their unique beauty.   Here are some specimens I found.

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Beach Dragon (Arcata CA)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Decorated Roots (East Hampton NY)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Beach Wood and Iron (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Display (Maggia Tal)

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA)  Art?  Why not?

Elephant Seal, Big Sur (CA) Art? Why not?

Christmas in East Hampton

This is a special Christmas and Holiday season 2012.  At least for us.  We are travelling for a family gathering and there is no need for a tree and all the usual sparkly decorations.   But on my walk this morning in the dog park (in Springs East Hampton) I spotted a little lonely evergreen which looked quite adorable in the morning mist, better than any tree that we could have purchased.

Christmas Tree "in the rough"

Christmas Tree “in the rough”

There were twigs with red rose hip and a rainy morning had left glittering rain drops as sparkling decorations.  Who needs  a Christmas tree with such natural splendor?

Red Rose Hip and Raindrop Sparkles

Red Rose Hip and Raindrop Sparkles

My daughter Yelyi agrees that raindrop sparkles are festive. Here is her picture taken through the car window.

Rain Drops

Rain Drops (Yelyi Nordone)

There are other reasons to be thankful. Mother nature with all her might taught us all a lesson just weeks ago, see my earlier post.  Families right here on Long Island are still struggling with major damage to their homes and cars.   Our beach is now back to “normal” but a small flag serves as a reminder.

Flag on our Beach

Flag on our Beach

Our beach (Maidstone Park Beach) has other treasures and keeps on surprising me.  There is a lone couple of Great Blue Herons that have stayed “home” this year. Occasionally these majestic birds do not migrate and take their chances.  According to Cornell University’s ornithology site, Long Island is apparently in the zone where  Great Blue Herons can stay all year round.  I have been observing them for the last few weeks. They hang out at the same place every day known for an abundance of shell fish.  One of them stays close to shore but usually scatters when I appear with my German Shepherd!  It is beautiful to watch them fly just a few feet above the waters of 3 Mile Harbor.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Our beach has other treasures such as stunning views of the sunset.

Winter Sunset over Maidstone Park

Winter Sunset over Maidstone Park

Who could ask for more.

BEACH GLASS & SEA GLASS

“Do you have beach glass jewelry?”  That is a question I often get when I am exhibiting at an Arts & Crafts Fair.

So, yes, I do work with beach or sea glass, terms which are often used interchangeably (see the images in this post).  As any beachcomber knows, a nice piece of glass is a good find.  An uncommon color, a well worn piece (which is old), a recognizable lettering or name that can help date the piece, these are features we all look for.

Green Sea Glass pendent in Silver

I have learned that beach glass is very popular.  A search on the etsy.com website for “beach glass” got 12,484 hits and a search for “sea glass” got 22,050 hits.  Those are items for sale, either handmade jewelry, vintage pieces or supplies (such as bundles or bulk lots of beach glass).   Even with so many buyers and sellers, there is surprisingly little knowledge on this product.  So I tried to educate myself and researched the web on beach glass and found some interesting stuff.

Sea Glass Pendent in Silver

The Wikipedia page on “Sea Glass” is informative.  It is particularly strong on the colors that are sought after and links each color to the possible source: for example red sea glass from old Schlitz beer bottles (1900-1982).  Schlitz was a brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which became Stroh Brewery and is now Pabst Brewing Company.  As with red glass of Schlitz bottles, there are many examples where the particular color helps to date the glass.

Much of this information comes from a book written by LaMotte, who is referred to as the “Godfather of  Sea Glass”.   LaMotte together with Charles Peden founded the North American Sea Glass Association (NASGA).  Their website has news about the Sea Glass Festival in October.  A very useful page compares natural (genuine) sea glass, versus “craft glass” (or artificial glass) tumbled in drums rather than by the action of waves over many years.   You can also find information on antique bottle collecting and a link to Antique Bottle Collector’s Haven!  On this site you can appraise your antique bottle and date it.

Blue Sea Glass pendent

An interesting article describes the amethyst color brought out by sunlight over the years.  It is due to manganese dioxide that was added to glass prior to the 1920s to produce colorless glass by counteracting the natural green hue from iron.  Manganese when exposed to UV light over the years turns to an amethyst color.

Green Sea Glass Pendent in Silver

A frequent query is about which beaches have sea glass.  It turns out that old dumping sites are where you need to go.  There are a few well know ones such as Glass Beach in Fort Bragg CA.   But also many others world wide.  Storms are supposed to unearth old sites of beach glass.  But I think you are better off asking locals about where the town dump used to be 50-100 years ago!  A how-to-method for walking the beach and scouring for beach glass can also be found on the web.  I have a page on the 40 Beaches of East Hampton town.  Some of these beaches contain lots of sea glass, in particular around the ‘Promised Land’!

Finally I found an interesting story about Louise Rogers who made a fortune with her hobby of collecting sea glass.  She has over a million pieces that she found personally.

For now,  take care and happy beachcombing.  David

Genie, is a dear friend.  She reminded me of this piece I made for her a few years ago.  It is a glass bottle neck with a sapphire in silver.  I had forgotten about it!  (photo courtesy of Genie Posnett)

Genie’s Sea Glass Necklace

I have also got some new sea glass pieces listed in ETSY.