How to Become a Sand Collector

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 there.

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 as
much 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 grow
quite 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 the
paper 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 oven.

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.

The ISCS is not responsible for the actions of any of its members.