I recently met a very cool woman who is helping us look to the stars by sifting through beach sand. Her research is called Project Stardust and has caught the attention of NASA, who have invited her to come and share her findings in person.
What she is looking for are magnetic remnants of meteorites or stars that are mostly about the size of particles of sand, so she is using magnets, but there are still plenty of cool things to find on the beach with your eyes.
Agates are the most popular beachcombing prizes, but central coast combing also wields fossilized shells, petrified wood, jaspers and jade.
Though agates are easy to spot, you may want a guide to help with special scores, such as the round rocks with fossilized scallops hidden inside. A perfect tap on the correct spot can reveal the fossil of an almost perfectly preserved shell.
Laura Joki is one such guide, a Lincoln City-based rock star, I'll call her, with a very popular YouTube channel, leads free beachcombing clinics every few weeks.
I joined one of the walks on a very wet and windy day. And in spite of the weather, not a single participant chose to turn back to her nearby, warm and dry shop, Rock Your World. We all were mesmerized by the way Joki brought pebbles to life in her presentation.
Guiding the group toward a large stone outcrop she uses as a good example of the unique geology of the area, Joki stopped to pick up something at her feet and interrupted her own tour, saying, “This is zeolite. It can only be formed in the presence of sea water.”
This led Joki to an explanation about one of the things that draws rockhounds to the area – agates.
“Agates are mainly silica,” she said. “This is why you don’t find agates on Hawaii, for example. They have very limited silica there.”
Joki’s presentations include both way-back geologic history and recent findings by current scientists in the field.
“All of these scientific suppositions,” she said, concluding with a quote from the beloved Cohen Brothers film, The Big Lebowski. “They are really starting to tie the room together.”
Her Beachcombing Exploriences, she calls them, begin with a brief orientation in Lincoln City, at the 33rd Street beach access just north of the Sandcastle Beachfront Motel. Public parking lots are located at 35th and 32nd Streets. Parking is also available along SW Anchor and at the beach access. Plan to be out for up to two hours, and bring a warm rain jacket, rubber boots, gloves and container for collecting your findings.
Upcoming dates include:
Saturday, March 7 | 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 15 | 10 a.m.
Saturday, March 28 | 8 a.m.
Wednesday, April 1 | 12 p.m.
Saturday, April 4 | 2 p.m.