THe NAture museum
All images by the ICZ
Collection of the Coast Exploration Society, 1978-1988
In the late 70s, Singapore began a major phase of land reclamation around the Eastern Coast. Before development, the reclaimed land took the form of vast, desert-like sand dunes which were rarely visited by the public.
In 1979, a group called the Coast Exploration Society was formed by a group of enthusiasts drawn to the dunes. The Society eventually began organizing tours and activities like picnics, sand-sculpture competitions, and fishing trips for members of the public. Due to the Society’s efforts, these sand dunes became very popular weekend destinations with Singapore families.
One activity that became especially popular was treasure-hunting in the sand.
Fulgurites are natural tubes or masses of sintered soil, sand, and/or rock that form when lightning strikes the ground. Singapore experiences lightning 186 times a year. Fulgurites are natural hollow glass tubes often formed during lightning strikes, in quartzose sand, silica, or soil. Fulgurites are formed when lightning hits sand or silica with a temperature of at least 1,800 °C (3,270 °F) melts sand on a conductive surface and fuses mineral grains together; the fulgurite glass tube is the cooled product. This process occurs over a timespan of around one second, and leaves evidence of the lightning path and its dispersion over the surface or into the earth. It is believed that Fulgurites are the lightning rods of the God and carry with them warnings of impending disasters due to an upset of a natural order.
The members of the Society would regularly find small chunks of hardened sediment in the otherwise smooth sand dunes. Amongst the collection is the largest fulgurite found at the Tanah Merah sand dune, and reveals the path of the lightning as it entered the sand.
Faces In The Sand : Excerpt from The Coast Exploration Society Monthly. 1 May, 1979.
"Amidst the picnickers and kite-flyers and sand-castle builders, the air of festivity was carried on by the Society’s lusty treasure hunters led by Mr. Gerald Ho, keen to unearth more curios and gems from the pristine sands. The ladies retired as usual from the back-breaking work to sip their coconuts at the breakwater while the boys clawed away with gusto. As usual, trinkets, bits, and bobs were turned up, but also some new discoveries, of a rather different sort. As Mr. Gerald Ho describes it: “today we dug deeper than usual, because we had more men. We dug two men deep with the spades that the ladies brought. We found faces in the sand. Face after face. Faces and small hands.”