Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Collection Report Aug 10-12, 2011

(It's already strange looking back to the pre-Irene world. We in Saco, Maine were spared the worst. My heart breaks for VT, upstate NY, New Jersey, and elsewhere. Yet, as I've fallen behind again in collection reports, I must revisit the lazy and carefree days of mid-August. They were interesting.)

I went to beach Wed afternoon, Aug 10 just to log some old debris in the "Debris Tracker" iPhone app (a must-have for all flotsamologists). But when I got there, this is what I saw:
What the hey?
Southern Maine, had gotten a little drizzle, a little gloom the previous week. But no storm or wind. So what on earth happened here?

Turns out, Downeast Maine got hammered by a major hailstorm (YouTube clip here) the week before, on August 2. Millions of chunks of ice pummeled coastal towns, as well as seaweed & kelp exposed at low tide. Normal currents then swirled the broken mass southward over the next week, until arriving in Saco Bay on Aug. 10.

And of course, an army of seaweed collects the ocean's tag-alongs before reaching shore again. A few examples:
Fishing rope on its way in
Lobster trap tag
Antifreeze bottle, repurposed
Another sewage treatment plant disc
from the March Hooksett, NH release!
Sadly, I didn't arrive with either the time or the bags to do a full cleanup. So I grabbed what I could, and made plans for a return. Which didn't happen until two days later, Friday, Aug. 12. By which time the scene had changed:
So much gone already
More than half the seaweed -- and its plastics -- had been dragged back out into the Bay, and then the wider Gulf of Maine. Maybe to beach again near, maybe far. Who knows?

Still, I did what I could, and collected what I could. And made a strinking haul. Here's Zone N:
249 finds:
  • Building materials: 1
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 29
  • Fishing misc.: 43 (20 rope bits, 7 claw bands, 4 trap tags, 7 rope twine, trap hinge, bait plastic baggie, shotgun shell, bait bag, makeshift buoy #9739)
  • Food-related plastics: 36 (bottle, 10 bottle caps, 14 food wrappers, 4 straw wrappers, 2 straws, 4 bits old cup lid, gum)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 15 (2 cans, 2 bottles, 5 bottle caps, metal fork, 5 foil wrappers)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 52 (15 bags/scraps, 3 balloons, jug cap, 3 bandaids, 2 strappings, plug cover, Hooksett disc, 2 bits tape, plastic clamp, fitting, 10 scraps >1", 12 scraps <1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 56 (53 filters, 3 cigar tips)
  • Paper/wood: 12 (9 paper scraps, 3 wood firecracker sticks)
  • Misc./unique: 5 (tar/rubber chunk, cord, 2 flipflops, piece of fabric)
Much more of a winter "signature" on this debris. Just look at all the fishing debris! But an interesting mix. Because clearly there was plenty of local stuff:
Summer sunbather debris
As well as ocean-borne goods, like this makeshift fisherman's float.
#9739, I've got your antifreeze jug!
And then this:
Not local, not recent
That discolored and extra-brittle cup lid has a story to tell. Wonder where it started its journey. And when.

With that, on to Zone S:
53 finds:
  • Building materials: 1 (tile)
  • Foam/Styrofoam: 12
  • Fishing misc.: 11 (3 rope, trap part, 3 claw bands, 3 shell waddings, 1 urchin tag)
  • Food-related plastics: 5 (wrapper, 4 bottle caps)
  • Food-related metal/glass: 1 (foil wrapper)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 20 (2 bags/scraps, caulk nozzle, yellow plastic lumber chunk, Liposan tube scrap, rubber sleeve, 2 wet-wipes jug lid bits, 2 firecrackers, 1 scrap >1", 9 scraps <1")
  • Cigarette filters/plastics: 3
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Misc./unique: 0
Must have been a big event to raise Zone S's finds above 50 for a week! And as proof of some long distance travel, a couple fascinating finds:
Faint "Oct 24" written in. What year?
Still want to find out how long
it takes barnacles to form on plastic
So, a very "wintery" collection on a very summery week. And yet more proof of three things: (1) What happens 150 miles away doesn't stay 150 miles away; (2) The Gulf of Maine is a plastic wasteland, 365 days a year; (3) The ocean is trying hard to rid itself of our debris. It will get clean again, if we stop force-feeding it.

Can we do that?

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