Then comes a morning like Thursday, August 26.
You see, for weeks -- months -- my part of the world coasted through one of the sunniest, warmest, most peaceful summers on record. We had an incredible run of beach weather, which came to an end on Wednesday, August 25. It rained all day, the winds whipped the trees, the heavy clouds dimmed the skies.
The storm system dumped several inches, and only finally moved out to sea after nightfall. When I arrived at Bay View beach at 7:30 Thursday morning, for once I wasn't looking at a vista shaped by beachgoers, but by the forces of nature.
this, and this, and this, thanks to modern life and modern products, the sea is no longer just home to marine life. It's home to the refuse of our life too.
Zone N. And this one blew the usual curve to bits.
- Building material: 6 (including various waterlogged burned bits of unknown provenance)
- Foam/Styrofoam: 17 (inc. chunk of painted pot? and Sam's Club coffee mug scrap)
- Fishing misc.: 28 (21 rope bits, 5 claw bands, 2 bits of flare shell)
- Food-related plastics: 26 (inc. Swiss Chard twist-tie, Twix, Butterscotch, Coke bottle cap, Turkey Club Wrap wrapper, M&Ms, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Slim Jim, and Quaker Caramel Nut granola bar)
- Food-related metal/glass: 3
- Non-food/unknown plastics: 65 (inc. ancient bit of duct tape with kelp growing through it, 20 shreds of brittle hard plastic bits, 4 balloon pieces, security bar from a book, plastic seal reading "Hygienic Protection" (eww), tire valvestem cap, plastic sleeve to deck chair or railing, 2 badly worn & abraded bandaids)
- Cigarette filters/plastics: 65 (52 local, 13 likely floaters)
- Paper/wood: 15 (including Dunstan School Buffet brochure, Worcester Dunkin Donuts receipt dated 8/20 (which survived the storm intact), 2 bits of Clorox bleach label, tag from some kind of textile/pillow, London Underground ticket scrap dated June 16)
- Misc./unique: 7 (bungee cord scrap, little bouncy ball, dog's waterlogged tennis ball (probably washed in), firework bit, flipflop, 2 mismatched socks)
Plus, I have no illusion that I got everything. I spent a full hour and a half in Zone N, kicking & picking through the kelp. I tried my best. But Wednesday's storm had tossed up over a foot of new sand, burying kelp and everything that rode in with it. Who knows how much is still there, or when it will come to light.
On to some of the standouts.
|Maine's lifeblood has its downside|
|Out of one, many|
|Left - maybe local; Right - not local!|
|Event balloons from another day, another place|
|Duct tape w/ kelp running through it|
|Brittle, battered, old, and likely seaborne|
|Who doesn't love a bright yellow starfish|
|An Englishman in Saco?|
(Probably -not- washed in!)
|Oh yeah, because it was coated in plastic|
Still, this was the wake-up day. Sure, litterbugs foul the beaches they wander. But the problem is so much larger than careless beachgoers. It has become a plastic world, nourished by a plastic ocean. And it just takes a bit of a storm to bring that point home.
Speaking of the storm: how bad was it? Well, the tide charts showed a 9-foot high tide. The high-tide mark on the beach Thursday morning was typical of an 11-foot high tide. The "squall of the summer" barely brought a two-foot surge. Countless plastic scraps were hurled up and down the shore by a pitiful rainshower that barely made news in Thursday's paper.
As I write this, Hurricane Earl is a Category 4 monster down near the Caribbean. It's expected to reach New England by the end of the week. You want to know what's in the ocean? We may all know soon.