As I said, he will at first experience a feeling of disappointment. Where are the lovely sea anemones which he has admired so much in the aquarium? Where are the Terebellas, the Sabellas, and the Serpulas, with their beautiful fan-like arms?
Where are the beautiful seaweeds of which he has heard so much? Where are the Cydippes, the Sarsias, the Nudibranchs, and other translucent wonders of the sea? They are all close to him, but he will not see them, or, if he sees them, he will not recognise them.
He will see along the sands a few limpet shells, and plenty of whelk, oyster, periwinkle, and mussel shells, such as may be found in many by-streets of London. These have a curious habit of congregating in certain spots, and after a while the young observer finds out that the inmates of the shells have been consumed on shore, and the shells thrown surreptitiously over the cliff onto the sands.
Smaller shells may also be found, and even in them the observer will find that there is a great difference according to locality. To all appearance, the conditions of the shore are exactly alike at Ramsgate, Broadstairs, and Margate. Yet the pretty little Top shells, which are scarcely to be found at Margate, and are comparatively rare at Ramsgate, except in one or two spots, are exceedingly plentiful at Broadstairs, which lies between them and scarcely a rifle shot from either, as rifles go nowadays.
It is just the same with the Actiniae, or Sea-anemones. The great Thick-horn, or Dahlia Anemone (Bunodes crassicornis), which studs every rock-pool at Ramsgate with its enormous discs of coloured tentacles, is hardly ever seen at Margate.
Similarly, the Snake-lock Anemone (Sagastia viduata) is tolerably common in Ramsgate Harbour, but does not seem to have extended its range as far as Broadstairs. Indeed, it is so local, that I never saw any at Ramsgate except in the harbour.
Then, the rare Peacock’s-tail sea-weed, which is one of the glories of the Devonshire coast, can be found plentifully at Margate; where I believe that I was the first to discover it, and yet, as far as I know, has not been found at Ramsgate or Broadstairs. I have searched for it in both those places at low tide, but never could find it. Even at Margate, by the way, it seems never to be entirely uncovered, and it must be found by touch rather than sight.
Of the varied life which he expects to see, he will find very little. There will be plenty of sand-hoppers jumping about at the edge of the water, and any tuft of seaweed that may be left on the sands will be full of them. The so-called Green Crabs may be seen here and there, and perhaps a stray jelly-fish or star-fish may be lying about on the shore.
This is not an encouraging sight to those who expect to gather a harvest without taking any trouble about it. But as I do not class the readers of this magazine with such lazy people, I will give them a few directions in shore-hunting.
(to be continued)