Sunday, January 16, 2011

Collection Report Jan 6, 2011

Happy New Year!
After the "Christmas Storm," the weather of Dec. 30 - Jan. 6 was uneventful. What would it be flotsam-wise? It didn't take long to find out. For starters, any beach that looks like this...
Organic mush recording a receding tide
...will contain plenty of this:
Glove for scale, lines point to plastic debris in situ
along just one small section
Plus, this withered & sunbleached menu suggested that Mother Nature was still in the midst of serious detox.
Withered & sunbleached, but intact, because
it's coated in plastic!
What's the big deal about a seaside restaurant menu lost in the sea? Because The Pier Restaurant is (or was - it seems to be defunct now) in Bar Harbor, 125 miles to the northeast.

Anyway, the previous week I collected 478 finds from my utterly deserted, frozen beach. I was hoping that would come back down a bit this week. Did it? Here's Zone N:
360 finds:
  • Building materials: 0
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 0
  • Fishing misc.: 94 (35 claw bands, 2 band fragments, 35 bits of rope, 20 lobster trap coatings, bead, bumper)
  • Food-related plastics: 58 (28 bottlecap seals, 13 silverware scraps, 6 polystyrene (#6) cup scraps, 7 random cup scraps, slotted spoon, 2 sauce packs, label scrap)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 7 (can + can scraps)
  • Non-food/unknown plastics: 187 (everything, just... everything)
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 3 (2 cigarettes plus wrapper)
  • Paper/wood: 1
  • Misc./unique: 10 (6 fabric scraps, 2 bits of cord, 2 other)
As with last week, no commentary needed here. Just a few pictures will do:
The confetti of life
The day of the bottle-cap seal;
and how does a slotted spoon get lost?
Another Jul 19 tag?!
Some of the fishing rope is very old
And then down to Zone S:
136 finds:
  • Building materials: 0
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 1
  • Fishing misc.: 52 (12 claw bands, 21 rope scraps, 18 lobster trap coatings, shell wadding)
  • Food-related plastics: 13 (2 bottlecaps, 2 #6 cup scraps, 3 bread tags, knife, wrapper bit, sauce pack, 3 scraps)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 4 (can scraps)
  • Non-food/unknown plastics: 54 (inc. weatherstrip, tent rod segment, duct tape, shovel fragment, Clorox cap, 2 bits of red/white/black vinyl scraps like those found in Zone N last week)
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 4
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Misc./unique: 8 (glove, 4 fabric scraps, 1 hand warmer, 2 bits of string/cord)
Even in winter Zone S stays lighter than Zone N. Does this mean Zone N's waters are filled with remnants of busy summers, slowly regurgitated back in winter? Does it mean that the micro-currents around Zone S lend themselves to less garbage? The shore at Zone S is a bit narrower than Zone N - does that matter? Don't know -- but I'm working on it. I do know that the kinds of debris at both are very similar. Here's a few closeups:
Zone S's colorful confetti
Mmmm, toxins
And much more fishing debris
Including this ancient piece; yes, that
furry loop has a heart of rope
And there you go. The find count did come down. From 478 finds to 476.

In two weeks in the heart of winter on a quiet Maine beach, I've plucked up nearly 1,000 pieces of manmade garbage. Along 500 feet of tideline. Some may be remnants of summer's revelry; some has clearly washed in from many miles away. And it just keeps coming.

A parting thought for this week. I pulled up 242 pieces of fishing debris in the past two weeks. What's missing from this picture?
Surf, Isle, ...
That's right, fishing buoys, fishing boats, fishermen. To the edge of the horizon at Saco Bay I have never seen a buoy, trawler, lobster boat. There is no commercial scale fishing in Saco Bay as far as my eye can make out.

To reach my shore, each claw band, shotgun wadding, coating from a ruined trap, or fragment of rope has to travel for miles. When you think about the vastness of the Gulf of Maine, and the tiniest of my bit of shoreline, each scrap in my hand is an impossibility -- it's hitting PowerBall. If I've hit PowerBall this many times, how much else is still out there?


  1. Harry -

    That last part was great, "If I've hit PowerBall this many times, how much else is out there?"

    I think your pictures, and diligent collections tell us the answer. Down by only two fragments of garbage is not the decrease you were looking for. I went to school in NH for a year, and visited my best friend in Portland many times. I am POSITIVE that your beach is deserted and cold, and yet like you said, "it just keeps coming." Like it doesn't matter what day it is when I go out, it is looking like it doesn't matter what beach either...

    thanks for your hard work

  2. Hey Sara. I forgot you'd done the east coast swing back in the day! It's pretty amazing having the beach mostly all to myself; I'm going to miss it a bit when summer hits again.

    You know, when I started this back in the spring, I still thought that garbage in the ocean was about patches and areas -- a problem that was here & there. It's dawned on me since then that it really is everywhere. Maybe that's a good thing; if more people see it, maybe more will fight to change it?