16 Strangest Things That Have Washed Up on Beaches
Shipwrecks and fossils and giant Legos—oh my! You'll never guess the odd and incredible things these people found on the beach.
180 million-year-old fossil
Professional fossil collector Tony Gill discovered the bones of a prehistoric fish lizard, also called an ichthyosaur, buried on the English coastline. The 180 million-year-old fossil is 40 feet long (its skull alone is seven feet!), making it one of the largest ichthyosaur fossils ever found. It is now on display at Charmouth Fossils, which showcases a collection of similar specimens found on the nearby beach. But the coast isn’t the only place you can discover rare and valuable things. Check out the most incredible undersea treasures ever found.
Giant Lego man
Back in 2012, employees were opening a beachside bar for the day when they noticed something out of the ordinary. “We saw something bobbing about in the sea and we decided to take it out of the water,” an employee told Reuters. “It was a life-sized Lego toy.” Oddly enough, nobody knows where the eight-foot-tall Lego man came from. Don’t miss more of the strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.
World War II fighter plane
A World War II-era aircraft showed up on a Welsh beach in 2007, more than 60 years after it crashed off the coast in 1942. Known as the Maid of Harlech, the plane’s engines died during a training exercise, causing it to plunge into the ocean. Luckily, its pilot walked away without a scratch. If you’re looking into beaches for more recreational purposes, check out these beautiful beaches in Hawaii.
Eight-year-old Charlie Naysmith stumbled upon a chunk of rare ambergris—also known as “whale vomit”—on a British beach in 2012. Ambergris is often used to make perfume, and it is highly valuable; experts estimate this particular rock is worth a whopping $65,000. But you don’t have to leave home to make an incredible discovery. Here are 12 bizarre things homeowners have found in their own backyards.
Civil War-era cannonballs
Seventeen Civil War-era cannonballs were found fused together on a South Carolina beach in 2016. A local bomb squad was called to remove and destroy the relics, just in case they were still dangerous. However, two of the cannonballs were preserved and are now displayed at Fort Moultrie, another military base in South Carolina.
Clumps of palm oil
Nearly one dozen beaches across Hong Kong were closed to the public in August 2017 after clumps of congealed palm oil appeared on the shore. Days earlier, two ships filled with oil had crashed near mainland China, causing their cargo to spill into the sea. You’ll never guess the craziest things garbage collectors have found in the trash, either.
Olympics marathon platform
An official Olympic starting platform, built for a marathon swimming event in 2016, washed up on the Brazilian coast two days before the competition started. Practices had to be canceled—and the beach area closed—while officials tried to recover it.
It’s not every day that you wake up to a 40-foot humpback whale lounging on your local beach. In 2016, Californian beachgoers watched as a bulldozer attempted to return the dead whale to the ocean, where it could decompose in peace without disrupting the locals. Authorities did not know why or how the whale had died.
In 2014, a Danish cargo ship ran into hurricane-force winds off the coast of Northern France, dumping more than 500 containers of cigarettes into the ocean. Later that day, an estimated $4 million worth of Marlboro cigarettes washed up on beaches in the United Kingdom. The boxes of cigarettes were later burned to make electricity.
Ancient walrus skull
At the end of the last Ice Age, melting ice uncovered areas that were once buried deep beneath the sea. The new beaches contained hundreds of age-old fossils, making them gold mines for archaeologists. One of the unique discoveries included an ancient walrus skull, which was found in Norway in 2012. Experts say some of the bones are at least 10,000 years old.
Thousands of tires
An estimated 10,000 tires were spotted on a North Carolina beach after a hurricane in 2010. The tires were part of a decades-old project by the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries, which used them as an artificial reef to protect the shore. However, “we don’t use them anymore,” Louis Daniel, the director of Marine Fisheries, told Wilmington Star News. “This is the primary reason.”
Aboriginal sandstone carving
Nearly 50 years ago, a large sandstone rock was discovered on an Australian beach. But this wasn’t just any old piece of rubble—it was Tasmanian Aboriginal rock art, one of the oldest in the world. This particular carving most likely marked the location of a meeting place or campsite. After archaeologists studied and photographed the art, they donated it to the Queen Victoria Museum.
Known as “Lady Liz” by the locals, this rusty iron ship was once a proud vessel that hauled cargo around the world for over 30 years. But after running into some bad weather, Lady Elizabeth was too damaged to continue sailing. She eventually retired to the Falkland Islands in 1936, where she has remained ever since.
Spine of a whale
Millions of sea creatures washed up on British beaches in March 2018, thanks to high tides and strong winds caused by a hurricane. The most interesting discovery: An enormous (and intact!) backbone and tail of a whale.
Fake dragon skull
British beachgoers were surprised to discover a 40-foot dragon skull on England’s Jurassic coast, which is famous for its dinosaur fossils. If you think this massive skull belongs in a fantasy film, you’re not far off—it was actually a creative ad for “Game of Thrones,” a popular television series. A team of three sculptors spent more than two months designing, constructing, and painting the skull.
Did you forget your beach bag? Just stop by Aberdeen Beach in Scotland, where a shopping cart washed up on the sand back in 2011. Lugging around your umbrellas and towels just got a whole lot easier. To get started on your own coastal treasure hunt, check out these real-life treasures that haven’t been found yet.
- Charmouth Fossils, current home of the ichthyosaur.
- Reuters, “Giant Lego man found in Dutch sea”
- Daily Mail, “Buried by a Welsh beach for 60 years, the World War II fighter that has emerged from the seas”
- BBC, “Boy finds rare whale vomit on beach at Hengistbury Head”
- Chicago Tribune, “Civil War cannonballs on S.C. beach unearthed during Hurricane Matthew”
- Reuters, “Hong Kong closes 13 beaches as stinking, congealed palm oil washes ashore”
- Independent, “Rio 2016: Open water swimming platform collapses just off Copacabana beach”
- The Guardian, “Dead whale towed off California beach and back to sea after big stink”
- Daily Mail, “Cigarettes galore! Millions of Marlboros washed up on British beaches after Danish cargo ship lost containers during storms will be BURNED to make electricity”
- Wilmington Star News, “Old tires invade emerald isle”
- Queen Victoria Museum, home of the Aboriginal sandstone carving
- Atlas Obscura, “The Shipwreck of Lady Elizabeth”
- Adweek, “Giant Dragon Skull on British Beach Is a Game of Thrones Ad”