New York City is about as far away from beachcombing as I could imagine. It’s non-stop stimulation and sensory overload. So when a new friend from last year’s International Beachcombing Conference invited me to comb with her on Staten Island, I jumped at the chance. While my daughter shopped with friends, I headed to the least-populated of the five New York Boroughs.
I haven’t been beachcombing for very long. But with a friend like Dr. Beachcomb, it’s easy to get hooked. While I love combing for pottery shards, sea glass, heart-shaped coral pieces and shells on our Hawaiian beaches, I’m eager to comb beaches along a continental shelf and with a longer history. So I headed to the Staten Island Ferry terminal with much excitement and anticipation. This ferry runs 24/7 and is free! Many of the hundreds of people waiting for the boat to arrive were clearly tourists just taking the ferry for something to do. It motors past the Statue of Liberty along its route, so if you just want to take close-up pictures, this is your ride. I stood on the back deck, watching the seagulls that followed the ferry across the bay. They appeared to be hoping to catch some tidbit churned up in the ferry’s wake.
Barbara picked me up and we drove about 40 minutes to Bella’s Beach. Two kids on loud motorbikes left when we showed up, and then it was just us enjoying the quiet and solitude with the seagulls and ducks in the shallow water. Barbara explained that the gulls pick up clams and drop them onto the shore rocks to crack them open. Clever little guys. We saw a seal basking on a large rock fairly far out. Seals in New York City waters!
This beach had everything a novice beachcomber could want. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was seeded with glass just for beginners and little kids. There was treasure everywhere I looked.
The beach was especially abundant in green sea glass, though I also found quite a bit of white and aqua in many shades. Barbara said that this beach sports aqua glass in the spring. Well, it was 60 – 70 ̊ F most of the week: must be spring.
The only common color that seemed to be missing was brown, though I did find one piece. Even the white pieces were exciting because more than half of them had markings on them, as I discovered when I looked later.
Early on I found a cobalt blue piece of glass. I remembered from the talk by Mary Beth Beuke at the IBC ’15 Conference that it is more rare than the standard bottle colors. Then I found two smaller pieces. I will always cherish this beach as the place I found my first blues. I even found what I thought was a piece of red – very rare – but later discovered it was a piece of plastic. Easy come, easy go.
The shells, too, were different from what I’ve seen at other beaches: beautiful shells swirling white and purple, black and white striped shells, baby blue shells that first looked like pottery shards, and very thin iridescent shells in several colors.
I even found a horseshoe crab shell. When Barbara drew my attention to the quartz, I noticed it everywhere. Who knew that one could find such a rich beach in New York?
I also found two shards of pottery. The seafoam-colored one was the more-weathered. I was thrilled with everything I found. The only thing that could make this an even more fabulous day was to find a marble. Ever since the IBC ’15 Conference, where I saw lots of pretty weathered marbles, I’ve wanted to find one. Prior to that, I never thought much about it. Now I kept trying to “Think like a Marble,” a talk by Mary McCarthy at that conference. But everywhere I looked, there was something pretty or interesting to pick up, so my mind kept wandering. Then I’d remember again, and try to think like a marble. Was it too much to hope for on this dream beach?
Time passes quickly when you’re absorbed in what’s at your feet. We reached the end of the beach and Barbara suggested we walk to the beach on the other side of the rocks where we first came in. This beach would have been an extension of the first except for the rocks, yet it was so different: far fewer stones and rocks, more sand. Neither side had much in the way of litter, another surprise.
The sparser side still had plenty of sea glass and shells. I even found a corn cob holder from some long forgotten beach BBQ. But no marble. Our shadows grew longer and we both finally admitted that it was time to go.
I didn’t even have time to sort through and cull what I found, and had to wait until I got back to the hotel to do that. (As it turns out, I didn’t discard anything. But I did ship it back home before resuming the rest of our trip.)
As we approached the rocks where we had come in, Barbara exclaimed, “Look! Look down. Look there!”
“There. Pick it up.”
It was a marble! A beautiful multi-colored marble with white, blue black and orange swirls.
“But Barbara, you found it. It’s your marble.”
“Nope, you picked it up. It’s your first marble.”
She’s such a sweetie. I can’t wait to reciprocate at the 2016 International Beachcombing Conference in May on the Big Island. You should come; you’ll learn a ton and make new friends, too.
For more posts related to this trip, see:
For more essays on the 2015 IBC see Be a kid again, The passionate Beachcomber and Blown Away – Damon Point and Ruby Beach. To enjoy a beachcombing trip with Dr. Beachcomb in Hawaii, see Beachcombing with Dr. Beachcomb.
For tips on successful beachcombing, see Beachcombing “tools” to the rescue
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