Thursday, August 23, 2012

Clay Babies from Fox Island

What do these interesting looking rocks look like to you?

These are clay babies (sometimes referred to as claybabies).  When you take clay and tidal waters in just the right circumstances you get these fabulous one-of-a-kind formations.  Over time the water swirls around the clay banks and creates shapes that eventually pop off and float away, to be discovered by eager beach combers.  They are also known as "concretions" which are defined as "a rounded mass of mineral matter found in sedimentary rock".  I think they are the cutest little rock people, animals or shapes.  They are whatever your imagination sees!

I grew up seeing clay babies and had no idea how special they were.  Besides being cute they are only created in two places on this entire planet (the other being New Zealand) and my grandmother's house in Washington State just happened to be near one of them.  So I saw them at her house frequently or would find them on the beach in front of her house.  My parents live there now and my mom has baskets full of them.

My niece and baby-girl sorting through the baskets.

This summer when we went out for a visit I learned about their uniqueness.  My girls were also interested in these funny looking "rocks".  My 4 year old was oh-so-happy to add them to her existing rock collection.  My baby was thrilled to have something else to put in her mouth. ;)  

This is where the magic happens on Fox Island.  There are often people walking these beaches looking for clay babies, they make the perfect trip souvenir.  I also found a woman collecting them to be sold on eBay at $5 a pop!  I've heard that they just recently closed this beach to the public though, and you can only get access through a group permit.  Hopefully this is only temporary because this beach is such a gem!

Here are a few of my mom's.  I think the one on the right looks like a dachshund and the one on the left resembles a really big turtle.

I read about a marvelous Indian Legend to explain where clay babies come from.  This is from the Fox Island Museum:

According to an old Indian legend, an Indian maiden used to play there in the sand, many many years ago and shape the mud into various forms.


When the girl grows up she is sought by Indian men near and far, but none suited her until a mysterious young brave appeared to her as she walked along the beach. Eventually the brave wins her over – the only condition is that she must live with him beneath the surface of the water because he is the son of the old man of the sea. She goes back and forth between her life under the sea and her life on land, but after a while she starts growing kelp on her face, and her parents tell her that she probably should not return anymore. Now when she becomes homesick for her old home, she goes to her former playground and makes the odd shapes which visitors find on Fox Island’s beaches.


My mom and daughter looking for treasures on Fox Island.

We took a few home and I have them displayed in my bathroom.  A fun reminder of our summer adventures at the beach.  

Until next summer! (and yes, my daughter is wearing a sweatshirt and we were there in JULY!!, so different from Phoenix)

11 comments:

  1. "they are only created in two places on this entire planet (the other being New Zealand)"

    I have to disagree, my kids and i have found many of these concretions in the rivers of VT. Interesting that someone is selling them on ebay. I recently visited a local rock shop which displayed a small bowl of smaller claybabies that were not for sale. I was told they were common and easy to find and therefore not of value. I disagreed because i felt they were not easy to find and it takes time and effort which should be compensated for. The more interesting shapes should command a higher price. Valuable or not, my kids and I love them and we look forward to spending an afternoon in Vt rivers searching for more.

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    1. Thanks for telling me Kevin, I wonder if your little "rock" creatures look the same as these ones? Does salt water vs fresh make a difference?

      Enjoy your treasure rock hunting!

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    2. Yes I pick them up all the time in VT. An old timer showed me what they were about 40 years ago, now I am the old timer... Picked a pocket full today.

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    3. Yes I pick them up all the time in VT. An old timer showed me what they were about 40 years ago, now I am the old timer... Picked a pocket full today.

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  2. I went brook fishing in vt yesterday and came back with a dozen cool ones

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  3. I also live in Vermont and I have foudn some of these clay creations as well. Ours do look different. They are darker adn the ones I have found seem to have varying extremely cool patters on them. Some even have perfect circles on them. I have also noticed that in certain areas it seems like simelar formations are made. All of this I find very intriguing.

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  4. Last summer our Camp Kids found a bunch of these on the edge of the Connecticut River in VT.

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  5. My father and I picked these clay creations when I was growing up in a river near my grandma's house in Minnesota. They were on the banks, sometimes half buried in the sand, but also on the bottom of the river, you just had to be careful as to where you were putting your hand, (crawfish, etc), so I disagree that they are only found on Fox Island or New Zealand.

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  6. I love how you mentioned that a women was selling them on ebay. Perhaps that's why the beach is closed to the public. People pick it clean and no one can enjoy thease marvals of nature anymore. If we all take one there is nothing left.

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  7. 2017 ... Update ...
    Fox Island (Public) is still a NO COLLECTION ZONE. There however is only 1 sign to inform you NOT to take these concretions. If you happen to talk to the residents on the private beaches, you may convince them to allow you to collect a few. We got about 30, mostly marble shaped and a few peanuts, but got a few that looked like turtles and a high heel shoe and another looked like a boot. The hunt is almost as rewarding as the finds.

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    1. Hello there, Yes when we visited this summer the beach was easily walked and if you were discreet you could pick up some. Also if you arrive with the low low tide you can see an amazing sand dollar "nursery" on that same beach area.

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