Seaweed collecting was a brief craze that gripped the daughters of the Victorian well-to-do. Even Queen Victoria herself had a seaweed album when she was a little girl. As with pressed flowers, you placed the seaweed onto a page and weighted it down. Gelatinous matter oozed out, sticking the seaweed to the paper as it dried.
Hobby shops sold specialist equipment: pliers, scissors, a stick with a needle in the end, wash bowls, blotting paper.
For really lazy daughters ready-made seaweed albums were available. Like egg collecting and butterfly collecting, seaweed collecting caused the depletion of species - several still haven't recovered and the weird-looking Green Sponge Ball (Codium bursa) was one of the must-have species for mid-19th century seaweed collectors. Green Sponge Ball is thought to be extinct in Britain as a result.
The seaweed fad contains the Victorian story in microcosm: people with time off work (labour laws) access to the seaside (railways), an interest in science (improved education) and affordable paper became a generation of scrapbookers.
By the 1840s, several books on identifying and preserving seaweed had been published, including ‘Photographs of British Algae’, by Anna Atkins, which is considered the first-ever book of photographs. She used cyanotype prints to document various species. Seaweed was placed onto photo-sensitive paper and exposed to light, resulting in a negative image of the plant.
Words today are like the shells and rope of seaweed which a child brings home glistening from the beach and which in an hour have lost their luster.
Love is like seaweed; even if you have pushed it away, you will not prevent it from coming back.
There are thought to be between 200,000 and 800,000 species of micro algae, making the vast majority of seaweeds microscopic and hence invisible to the naked eye.
Seaweed is increasingly important as a renewable fuel, or ‘energy feedstock’. Tens of millions of tons are produced annually.
The leading nations are China, Japan and South Korea, but seaweed farming is also part of the UK's Renewable Energy Strategy, with farms being started off the Scottish coast. It's used to produce ethanol and methane. The Sangou Bay seaweed farm in China stretches for 10km out to sea and is visible from space.
Products which may contain seaweed include ice cream, chocolate, toothpaste, beer, and baby food, as well as sexual lubricants.
The extract carrageenan is very effective at preventing the spread of genital HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection, and the source of most cases of cervical cancer. It is also effective against HIV and herpes.
The red marine algae Pyropia tenera has been prized as food since ancient times in both Japan and Wales. In Japan, it is known as nori and used to wrap sushi; in Wales, it’s called laver, as in laver bread.
For centuries it was a scarce, luxury food, because it could only be harvested from the wild, not farmed. Then, in the 1940s, botanist Dr Kathleen Drew-Baker (1901-57) worked out the life cycle of laver and how it reproduced. In Britain, nobody took much notice, but her findings were taken up in Japan, kick-starting the gigantic modern nori industry and thus the worldwide sushi craze.
Although she never visited the country, Dr Drew-Baker is famous in Japan. She's revered as ‘the mother of the sea’, with an annual festival held in her memory, where they sing songs to her at the Drew-Baker Monument.
Some years ago, an anthropologist asked Welsh youngsters why their generation didn't eat seaweed. The three most common answers were: it's slimy; it's poor people's food; it's old-fashioned. She then asked them to name a food that was fashionable - and the top answer was 'sushi'.
The best way to keep a lobster alive at home is to put it in the fridge under a damp cloth or some moist seaweed if you have some to hand.
You can get seaweed flavoured icecream in Japan.
Sea weed is reported to have anti-cancer properties.
About 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from seaweeds and other microscopic algae.
The giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera, can grow nearly a metre a day – attaining lengths in excess of 50m.
Seaweeds assimilate minerals directly from the sea and are thought to be the single most nutritious foods that you can eat.