It all started a while back when I visited boat harbour near Denamark, I noticed a few small interesting shells at one end of the beach and when I looked a little closer, there was an area at the end of the beach on the low flat rocks where shell grit was collecting. There were many broken bits of shell and corals, rocks and other rubbish in among it, but once you sort through the grit and get out the whole shells and interesting bits, you can be left with something quite beautiful.
So as I’ve traveled around Western Australia’s south west, I’ve been visiting beaches and areas of coast everywhere looking for more and varied shell grits, then often spending many hours slowly sorting the shells, collecting out those of interest from the general broken rubbish. There are always little surprises in among the shell grit, I’ve found a few shark teeth, check the top photo and you’ll see one of them.
To help give you a little context, the image below is an unsorted mix of shell grit. Of course shell grit varies incredibly from beach to beach, these shells are quite large and not very colourful or exciting, yet there’s a high percentage of shells in the mix. Not ideal, I’d prefer more interesting and smaller shells.
Now to give you an idea of size, all of the photos I take of either shells or rocks are taken in small plastic containers. Below is a photo with my phone sitting on the container, it’s a standard Samsung galaxy S4 and these are the only containers I ever use.
As you might imagine a lot of my sorting of the shells is done with tweezers because the shells are so small, sometimes the shells are even too small for tweezers and the only way to get them out of the shell grit is to lick the tip of your finger, then press on the small shells so they stick to your finger.
Yep, that’s a standard match and a collection of really small shells, it took me about 3 days to sort these out of the shell grit. As you can see with this next blown up picture, some of the shells are really tiny, in fact often while sorting the shell grit I couldn’t actually see the shells, they were hard to distinguish from grains of sand an you would have to pick them up and feel them.
Unfortunately once you magnify these tiny shells you start to see there are a lot of broken and imperfect ones, but you can’t see them with the naked eye.
Hopetoun on the south coast had a very interesting mix of shells, an extremely high percentage of pinks and reds. To look at the unsorted shell grit it wasn’t obvious because there were a lot of broken white and brown shells, but once you picked through the whole ones, it was very pink. You can also notice the corners of the container on the left hand side of the picture, normally I’d crop this out, but it gives you a better perspective of the shell size.
Then I began sorting colours of shells, blacks and greys.
The following picture has shells collected at beach where there were large number with iridescence on their internal surface.
The following shell collection came from a beach at green head, about 300km north of Perth. Unusually it was almost all white, and there was a large proportion of one type of shell, I nick named them white rice because each shell was about the size of a grain of rice.
It’s not all about shells either, many beaches around reefs and rocky headlands, have high rock content on their beaches and just like the shells, when you look closely they can be quite beautiful. I spent quite a bit of time collecting and wandering around Point Peron at Rockingham. Not a lot of shells around but the beaches contained many different rock types.
The following mixed bag of shells and rocks came from the Margaret River coastal areas
The great aspect of shell grit collecting is the size. I’ve always been a bit of a collector of many different things over the years but now in the caravan it’s very hard to collect anything because I just don’t have the space. But by collecting such tiny little shells I have one small cupboard for the shells where I can stack the small labeled plastic boxes. I’ll be able to collect for a few years yet before I run out of space and it’s great to get you out and about around coastal areas in search of some good shell grit areas. You can also collect small bags of shell grit and keep them until you have some free time to sit down and sort through finding the good stuff.