The inhabitants of the Baltic coast have treasured the gifts of the sea - amber - equating it to gold since ancient times. Many believed and still believe that amber has a magical power that can protect against evil and heal. Smoking amber was used to treat respiratory diseases and ear pain. A sore throat that begins with the flu can be treated by hanging a white amber necklace around the neck.
Coastal inhabitants until the 13th century. he usually collected amber washed ashore, later he learned to catch it in the sea with grapples. Various methods of amber extraction were used; the main ones are still in use today. These are amber grappling and amber harvesting. Nowadays, we can collect and catch amber as much as possible. But this was far from always the case. For example, in the 13th century amber mining was monopolized by the Crusaders. Local residents, who had collected and traded amber for many centuries, no longer had this right - all collected amber had to be handed over to the authorities. It was also forbidden to walk on the beach - a passer-by who was caught, even if he did not have amber, was punished. Later, in Prussia, even until the beginning of the 19th century, there was a specially established Amber Court, which severely punished the embezzlement of amber: an amber thief was chained to a pillar of shame, whipped, banished forever from the country, hanged, even broken in a circle.
Later, the Curonian barons gained the right to exploit the coastal peasants and fishermen, forcing them to collect amber and hand it over to the authorities. The coast guard had to drive peasants and fishermen to the beach to collect amber and made sure that no outsider walked on the beach. A foreigner caught on the coast, regardless of whether he had stolen amber or not, was to be punished. Peasants were forced to swear that neither their children nor their wives would take a single piece of amber openly or secretly.
Nowadays, with a good shot, an amber hunter on the coast of the Baltic Sea (in Lithuania - mainly at Karkle and Melnrag) can collect and catch several hundred grams of small pieces of amber in one go. Larger pieces weighing several hundred grams are less common. But happiness only smiles on the patient.
Amber is thrown away only together with polished sea sticks (the larger the sticks, the more likely you are to find a bigger amber), shells, different remains of sea plants and animals. The biggest drop is after the big storms, when the currents have moved the "gold" deposits lying in the depths of the sea, but the sea has already subsided - the waves reach about one meter.
The currents of the sea and the Curonian Lagoon bring amber to the deposits-pits near our shores. Also, during the continuous dredging of the Klaipėda port fairway, the amber layer is also touched, which contains about 112 tons of amber. It is believed that the amber layer covers an area of as much as 3000 ha. The excavated soil, which also contains amber, is unloaded in the open sea. This is one of the explanations why we can still enjoy the "gold of the sea".
Amber hunters, trying to trace the direction of the wind, which water currents depend on the casting of amber, even write diaries, but no one has ever been able to fully understand that mystery. So, generally, an amber hunter comes to the beach, dragging with him and all the equipment for catching: grab, rubber boots, waterproof clothing...
However, there are signs that amber may soon be thrown. For example, if you notice a dark, seething patch of grass and sticks in the water near the shore, over which gulls fly, and if there is still a favorable wind, you can wait patiently for the spot to approach the shore. As the spot approaches, the fight with the waves begins and the big "hunt" has its own characteristics. When catching amber, you can stand with your back to the sea. Then, as the wave returns, it spreads out like a fan, and you can see and "touch" the amber. But when the waves are big, it's not worth taking a risk and wading deeper, because you can not only be well washed away, but also pulled into the depths of the sea. When the waves throw up a lot of marine debris, a more suitable method of catching is when the trapper blindly throws the grapple into the waves, hoping that the ambers will be caught along with the marine debris. After that, all the caught property is shaken out on the shore and the catch is collected. If you see a large amber in the water, but you did not catch it immediately, the amber will return to the sea, and if you stand still, you will not see it again. Catching amber is a risky process. You hit the wave, amber "goes" - you don't feel cold or hungry, pleasure overshadows everything. For many amber hunters, it is a hobby, a kind of communication with nature. There are also people who profitably sell the amber they catch or the jewelry they make themselves. So, both the process is pleasant and there are benefits.
After a few hours, the wind changes, the current changes, and the sea debris disappears along with the amber... until next time. And usually, when you come to the same place the next day, you don't catch anything anymore.