Somerset coastline hits rock bottom

April 13, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Friday 20th March 2015 was special for a number of reasons. Early that morning saw everyone gathering outside their office buildings or schools with bits of cardboard boxes, strange glasses or at the more technological end of things, cameras and telescopes. 

It was a total solar eclipse, and though unfortunately shrouded by cloud in many areas of the UK, it was still a momentous event that is not due to be repeated for almost 80 years. It also occurred on the spring equinox - the day that the sun is directly overhead the Earth's equator and which marks the beginning of spring. 

But alongside the solar eclipse and the spring equinox, was another, perhaps less talked about, phenomenon. These two astronomical events also happened to coincide with a super moon - an event that occurs when either a new moon or full moon happens at the same time as it makes its closest approach to Earth.

There are actually several super moons every year, but in tandem with the solar eclipse, the pull of the moon on the Earth's tides has been exceptionally strong and resulted in the lowest tides on the Somerset coastline in over 200 years.

Stretches of beach that have not been uncovered by the sea for two centuries were now going to be revealed, along with strange and unusual marine life that never normally sees the light of day. So on Saturday morning, I picked up my cameras and went down to Minehead Beach to see it for myself. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 009Somerset's lowest tide for 200 years, Minehead.

Already present and waiting for the key moment was Coastal Wildlife Officer Ben Bryant of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 019Ben Bryant, Coastal Wildlife Officer for the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Ben was aiming to lead people out to the low tide mark to search for some of the marine life that could only be seen at this unique point in time. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 010Ben Bryant, Coastal Wildlife Officer, leads the group to explore the rock pools that haven't been seen for 200 years.

The group, which covered individuals of all ages, scrambled out across the rock pools and, identification charts in hand, started searching for their first sight of these rare creatures. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 028Searching under rocks in the hope of finding hidden wildlife treasures.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 018Ben Bryant, Coastal Wildlife Officer, helps identify a find using the marine life identification chart.

Success came speedily and all manner of unusual marine life was spotted. 

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 040Whelk eggs revealed at the low tide line.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 037Sun Starfish, not seen on Minehead beach for 200 years, now revealed at the low tide line.

Somerset's Lowest Tide 200 years 045The tide starts to race back in to cover a Painted Top shell again for maybe another 200 years.

It was quite an amazing feeling, both to be standing somewhere that had not been accessible for 200 years but also to be viewing these fantastic creatures firsthand that normally could only be seen in books or on the internet. 


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