Friday, October 26, 2012

Curtis Cove Report - Oct 19, 2012

This was originally going to be a report for Thursday, October 18. But my trip got cut short just as I was getting onto the beach. So I came back the next day. And what a difference a day can make!
Oct 18, 8:45AM - sand, cobbles, a little wrack
Oct 19, 8:45AM - mounds & bands of wrack!
There was no major weather system that moved through overnight Thursday. No massive winds. The tides were similar overnight as they had been Wednesday night. Yet this happened!

So, Friday, October 19th. 8:45AM. Thick clouds, large flocks of migratory birds going past. And a lot of seaweed. Sadly, where there's seaweed, there's plastic. Thursday's sunny skies, birdsong, and images of:
became Friday's gloom:
The waves overnight Thursday night brought both a huge dump and big scour event. In addition to all the seaweed up high, much sand had been pulled back down low again. The 200-lb mass of knotted rope and trap bits that had been buried on the high foreshore all summer was peeking out again.
Kicking through the seaweed (and hundreds of sand fleas still clinging to their warmth) was depressing. You always hope that maybe things aren't really as bad in the oceans as you think. Then you realize that yes, yes they are. Here's what I found:
77 pcs of rope, about 75 ft total
248 pcs of nonrope debris
325 finds:
  • Bldg material/furniture: 5 (plywood scrap, carpet swatch, 3 feet/bases)
  • Foam/styrofoam: 1
  • Fishing rope/net: 77
  • Fishing misc.: 137 (12 claw bands, 112 vinyl trap scraps, trap tag, 2 bumpers, 3 trap parts, bait baggie, 4 bait bags, glove, fishing line)
  • Food-related plastics: 32 (2 bottlecaps, 3 o-rings, fresh McCafe cup and lid, 21 cup scraps, 4 cutlery scraps)
  • Food-related glass/metal: 6 (can scraps)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 25 (6 bag scraps, 1 mylar balloon, 3 industrial bottlecaps, cigarette, diaper, sewage disk, duct tape, 2 cable ties, lg heavy float (?) fragment, shirt tag, stick-on hook, cover/cap, cord, 4 heavy clear plastic scraps)
  • Scrap plastics: 40 ( 19 > 1" , 21 < 1" )
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Non-plastic misc./unique: 2 (fabric scraps)
A little comparison. More than a year and a half ago now, in March 2011, Hooksett, New Hampshire's sewage treatment facility had a major accident. They flushed into the river 4 million "sewage disks" -- little plastic mesh disks meant to be suspended in the tanks and give bacteria extra habitat for growing and breaking down sewage. About 400,000 remain unaccounted for. They'll be washing up for decades. This one came into Curtis Cove on the 19th:
After all that time in the harsh sea, it looks as good as new. Unstained, flexible, perfect. So how long do you think it's taken for this bottlecap/twist-cap to look like this?
Plastic is forever. And while it's all out there in the ocean being forever, it's also getting poked, chewed, and consumed.
All due respect to NOAA, the problem isn't "marine debris." It's plastic pollution. And it will only keep getting worse as long as we keep dancing around it.

Running YTD counts:
  • Total pcs of litter -- 9948
  • Pcs fishing rope -- 2054
  • Vinyl lobster-trap scraps -- 4554


  1. Well isn't that an interesting coincidence - I just picked up a sewage disk yesterday in Hulls Cove (Mount Desert Island) and wondered what it was. Now I wonder if it came all the way from New Hampshire.

    1. Hey Jenn! That -is- quite the coincidence! Yup, it will have floated in all the way. Some have been found up in Lubec and the islands around it. It didn't take a direct route though. Maine's coastal currents flow southward. Any disks that made it from NH up into Maine first flowed out south and east, way out into the Gulf of Maine. Then they picked up the counter-clockwise flows out there and got dragged back north, then finally west, where they spun off and landed in your neck of the woods.

      How did yours look? Worn out or still pristine?

  2. Harry
    Looking forward with interest to your post Hurricane Sandy reports. Might there be enough energy to unite your disparate interests? No fair cheating the photos, but amphora fragments washed from Gaul to Maine would make quite the post!
    Stay warm and keep your head above literal and metaphorical water.
    T Wolter