Anyone can become a sand collector. Children to seniors, even people
with disabilities have enjoyed this pastime for many years. There is
however, one important factor in becoming a psammophile and that is the
ability to observe and wonder. This is key. One must learn how to look
closely at not only sand but of the surrounding area in which one is
collecting. Whether a beach, lake, river, desert, etc., the surrounding
area will tell you much about the sand beneath your feet and how it got
One of the myths about sand collecting is that once you have
collected a sample from a given area, there is no need to look further
as all sand will be exactly the same – not true.
Often one will discover that sand can be quite different sample to
sample within just a few yards or even feet of each other, so it is very
important to observe and wonder.
Some of the equipment one will need:
Plastic baggies, film containers or nearly anything that is damp
proof, easy to carry, and inexpensive. One should keep a supply of these
containers in one’s car, luggage, tote bag, etc., while traveling,
camping, or hiking. One never knows when one will come across an
interesting sand sample. The size of your sample bag or container will depend if you wish to collect only for yourself or if you
might wish to exchange your samples with others. One should also have
handy a permanent marker or some other writing instrument to record its
location on the bag, container or note pad. Never assume you will
remember where your gathered sample is from, especially if you are
planning on collecting more than one sample.
A spoon will be useful in digging sand particularly if the ground is
hard packed or frozen. Though plastic spoons will work, and especially
recommended if traveling by air, they do tend to break.
A magnifying, hand held hand-lens or eye-loop is also wise to carry
and one can see their sample close-up for differences within samples
from the same locale. Those items are about all one needs in the field
to collect sand.
Once home, your samples should be logged into a logbook, file card
system, computer, etc. Try noting as much information you can about the
location that sample comes from, e.g. date collected, state, town, park,
river, beach, etc. Try to be as specific as you can as to where on the
beach you gathered your sample, low tide mark,high tide mark, upper
beach area, left of pier, etc. If you have taken more than one sample
from the same place, mark it as such (variety #1, variety #2, etc.).
Record asmuch information about that sample’s origins as possible. It will be important.
After logging in your data, you will want to contain your sample,
either in a smaller baggie, bottle, jar, etc. The container you display
your sample in will be of your choosing but one should keep a few things
in mind. If having to purchase this container, what costs are you
willing to bear? Be aware, a sand collection can growquite rapidly, so weight, expense, and the amount of storage or display room you have should be a consideration at the onset.
Once a container has been selected, you may wish to attach an outside
display label for others to read. One can also add a paper label within
the samples itself in the event the outer label falls off; however,
before ever adding paper into a sand sample, that sample must be
perfectly dry for the slightest moisture will penetrate thepaper and make it unreadable in little time. One can make sure a sample
is dry by airing it out on several layers of old newspapers or in an
Other items one might wish to make or purchase are:
A sieve with a grid size no larger than 2 mm
At least one good road atlas and a world atlas to track down where samples come from and their correct spellings
A funnel for pouring sand from your gathering bags into your display containers
Again a hand-lens or eye-loop (10x is fine)
And a microscope (again10x-20x is good)
Other items might include a magnet to test for magnetite in a sample and white household vinegarfor testing for carbonate sands.
I cannot stress the point strong enough. Begin with a good record
keeping system, record everything, people who donated samples to your
collection, those people you have made trades with and what samples you
exchanged with them, etc. Also, your display containers will generally
be your biggest expense. Find a container that will fit your needs and
finances, and be sure these containers will be available whenever you
need to purchase them. Consider their size and weight with sand within.
Many beginning collectors either do not realize these considerations
early or choose to ignore this advice and then start to rethink their
situation some years later. It is time consuming and expensive to change
one’s mind afterwards. Do it right at the beginning. That is about all
one truly needs to become a full-fledged sand collector and with that,
one can indeed discover the world, grain by grain.
Important Note: One should be mindful about the area in which they
are exploring and if that area is privately owned. Also, there are areas
on federal, state, and city/town lands that restrict people from
collecting items. Be aware of where you are and if you may take sand
from that area.