Thursday, 15 March 2012


What follows is the first portion of a charming and learned article I discovered in the Boys Own Paper of 1879. It is written by a naturalist who was based in the South of England and contributed regularly to the paper. It gives good advice on rock-pooling much of which still would apply today. The piece is aimed at boys aged approx 10-20 years. Read thoroughly and you will be enlightened in many ways. I shall post one instalment a day in the coming week or so. The image you see is from the paper and introduces the piece with its initial letter "T".


BY THE REV.  J.  G.  WOOD,  M.A.,  F.L.S.

I.                  – THE SEA.

To judge from the number and tenour of letters received on the subject, the love of Natural History in some form is possessed by almost everyone who is not devoid of intellect and observation. But very many of  those who try to give practical effect to their wishes seem to fail at the very outset, and then are discouraged, and leave the study to others whom they believe to be more gifted than themselves.

Especially is this the case with marine zoology. A boy sees an aquarium, is struck with wonder and admiration of the beauty of its inhabitants and determines that as soon as he goes to the seaside he will stock an aquarium of his own.

So he persuades his parents into buying an aquarium at one of the shops, builds up some imitation rockwork in it, and, if he follows the dealer’s directions as he ought to do, he will fill the aquarium with fresh water and let it soak for some time. Then he will empty and rinse it several times, so as to leave it quite clean, and will feel sure that all will be right when he fills it with the abundant harvest which he makes sure of reaping.

He takes with him a supply of nets, cans, baskets, and other appliances. As soon as he arrives at his new lodgings he procures various basins and pans, has them filled with salt water, and off he goes exultingly to the shore, nets, cans, baskets, and all.

Then there gradually settles upon him a cloud of bewildered disappointment.

Perhaps the reader will remember that in my notes on “Pupa Digging” I remarked that the novice is afflicted with the sudden discovery that the world is a wide place, and that pupae are very small objects to find in it. Such are invariably the sensations of the novice at his first essay in “Shore-Hunting.”

Perhaps he goes to some seaside place where the shore is composed of shingles, as it is at Dover, Brighton, etc. Now, a shingly shore mostly has very clear water, and is therefore very pleasant for bathers. But nothing can be worse for the naturalist. A rolling stone gathers no moss on shore, and much less can it gather seaweeds in the water, where every tide rolls it up and down, and grinds off some of its surface by friction against its fellows.

The most prolific of all coasts is a rocky shore, such as that of Devon; and sand, interspersed with chalk rock, like the shore of Margate and Ramsgate, is quite good enough for most purposes. Indeed a beginner can need nothing better; and if he will give a month to a thorough exploration of the shore from Ramsgate to Margate, he will enrich himself with a treasure of practical knowledge which will never desert him, and can always be found useful even among shores of a totally different character.

(to be continued)

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