Beach Mysteries

By Vladimir Brezina

On the beach on the northwest tip of Sandy Hook, under the skeleton tower with the ospreys’ nest…

On our last kayak trip to Sandy Hook a couple of week ago, after lunch under the skeleton tower at the northwest tip of the Hook, we went for a walk along the beach. And we saw a number of strange sights! Can you help us identify these?


1. Pirate treasure?

2. Crop circles, except in sand? A miniature bikers’ rally?

3. Pill organizer of the ancient inhabitants of Sandy Hook? (Their week—or month?—had 16 days, apparently…)

4. Tiny foxholes?


Updates, May 26 and May 28, 2012: We have solid identifications for at least three of these mysteries!

#1. Jim W. says: “It is the top of a ‘breasting float’, its about 4 feet deep in the sand.  They are used between the ships and piers at the passenger ship terminals.  You used to be able to see them rafted together in the empty slips, before the elevated highway was torn down.” Can’t do any better than that—thanks, Jim!

#2. This actually is one we had a pretty good idea about as soon as we saw it. And a number of our readers have come to the same conclusion. These are classic horseshoe crab tracks. Part of that beach consists of shallow basins that obviously fill up with water at high tide (possibly only an usually high tide) and drain again at low tide. And in these basins the horseshoe crabs clearly had a killer party! Their tracks were all over the place, some with dead crabs lying at the ends of them…

#3. Marcus says: “Number 3 is a section of a composite piling (they probably sawed it off after driving the piling to refusal). The white bits are fiberglass tension elements and the rest is an epoxy / plastic resin. It resists marine borers and doesn’t spall like concrete:”

#4. These are clearly burrows or holes made by animals of some kind, most likely insects or crabs. Fiztrainer suggests sand crabs (see comments).

So crowdsourcing really works! Without our readers’ help, we were completely stumped by #1 and #3, and not really sure about #4…

18 responses to “Beach Mysteries

  1. 1. Door to a secret underworld
    2. Turtle tracks
    3. Ancient sundial
    4. Ant borrows
    What do we win? ;-]



    • Thanks, Gary! I think with some of these you might be on the right track…

      Yes, I should have offered a prize! How about a prime horseshoe crab delivered straight from Sandy Hook? It might be dead, of course…


  2. Some good ideas are coming in through other channels—I’ll post them in due course!


  3. David Gottlieb

    1. Avast – ‘Tis the lid to me Pirate Treasure…. All scalawags beware…
    2. Sandpiper race track
    3. First wheel invented by humans 20,000 years ago with urchin decor
    4. Close up of pimples on a teenagers face (must be a boy because of the green hairs growing out of his face….)


  4. Hmmm.
    No. 2 may be horseshoe crab tracks. Possibly made by dizzy horseshoe crabs or aspiring highway engineers.


  5. Richard C. says: “My guess was that they were remnants of the landing fields from the aliens who invaded us for ‘War of the Worlds’.” :-)


  6. We have made some progress in identifying these mysteries! See update at the end of the main post.


  7. The last one are holes from sand crabs. They are all over the beaches here in Jersey… :D


    • Thanks—that really helps!

      When you say sand crabs, do you mean mole crabs? There seem to be several different animals that people sometimes call “sand crabs”.

      Also, these were holes exclusively in the dry sand above the beach, not in the wet sand. Does that fit?


  8. Number 3 is a section of a composite piling (they probably sawed it off after driving the piling to refusal). The white bits are fiberglass tension elements and the rest is an epoxy / plastic resin. It resists marine borers and doesn’t spall like concrete:


    • Thanks, Marcus!! A perfect and very complete explanation. Much obliged!

      This particular section had actually been cut top and bottom, so it was only about 6 inches high, and not embedded in the sand.


  9. Very interesting pics, full of mystery. #2 looks like a sand Scalextric track. #3 is obviously a clock face for a 16 hour day; something I would love. ;)


    • #2: (I had to look up Scalextric :-)) Yes, very much so! The real solution—horseshoe tracks—is no less wonderful, though… just imagine how (at least in slow motion) they must have been zooming through those turns…

      #3: You know, the clock face never occurred to us! The real solution to the mystery is much more prosaic, unfortunately (see update to main post)…


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