Monday, January 28, 2013

Curtis Cove Report - Jan 11, 2013

Friday January 11, 12:55 PM, ~2 hrs before low tide. Gray and windy. Two weeks since last visit; lots of the same plus a little change. The wrack from Dec. 24 was still there, now smeared up and down the backshore. No new goop in the mix. It seems the past two weeks had been relatively low energy, just a reshuffling of the deck.
With the old seaweed spread about, more of its plastic load lay now on the surface. And it was fearsome. There are at least 9 pieces of plastics in this square foot:
And of course, the ubiquitous balloons.
Launched from miles -- or hundreds of miles -- away, to end up here.

It was a depressing week for plastic garbage. But I did see something kind of fun:
This is a slipper shell (a kind of snall) upside-down attached to a small stone. A seagull was lifting and dropping this stone over & over, trying to shatter the shell against the cobbles of the low foreshore. Except, this week there were no cobbles on the foreshore! December's storm reshaped the beach, burying the low ground under soft, fine sand. The gull, clearly used to a rocky shoreface, was doing what he always did in order to break open a shell. And he was clearly confused why it wasn't working!

Ecology in action.

I'll be interested to see how long it is before the sand washes back away and the shore is "healed" to its more usual form. In the meantime, this was a busy week of collection, especially for rope.
232 pcs of rope, about 550 ft total
203 pcs of nonrope debris
435 finds:
  • Bldg material/furniture: 0
  • Foam/styrofoam: 0
  • Fishing rope/net: 232 (~550 ft)
  • Fishing misc.: 90 (49 vinyls, 6 bumpers, 4 trap tags, 14 bait bags, 4 trap mesh, 2 parts, 2 vents, 7 clawbands, shotgun shell, buoy handle)
  • Food-related plastics: 32 (3 bottles, 3 bottlecap rings, 9 cup scraps, 10 tops/scraps, salad dressing packet, 6 straws)
  • Food-related glass/metal: 4 (4 can scraps)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 42 (13 bags/scraps, 2 mylar balloons, latex balloon, balloon string, golfball, 10 cords/cable ties, big wingnut, 5 upholstery scraps, 4 pcs tape, crate seal, pen cap, Victorinox knife handle, tubing)
  • Scrap plastics: 27 ( 10 > 1" , 17 < 1" )
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Non-plastic misc./unique: 8 (5 fabric pieces, 3 gloves)
Just a mess. No other word for it. So much that could be discussed, but I'll point out just one bit. All of this food-related debris originated somewhere else:
Whether a fishing boat, pleasure boat, beach up the road, seaside in Nova Scotia, or city drain in Portland. All from somewhere else, and most of its spent a long time in the ocean. Note the marine-life bite/poke marks on things like this remnant of red Solo cup:
Or this blue cheese salad dressing packet:
When your life is packaged in plastic, it never really goes away.

Running YTD counts:
  • Total pcs of litter -- 12271
  • Pcs fishing rope -- 3313
  • Vinyl lobster-trap scraps -- 4742

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Call to Service

Today in the US it's Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Crowds are already gathering in Washington, DC to hear the President's 2nd inaugural speech. Many around the nation have the day off thanks to the holiday celebrating the late civil rights leader.

A Washington, DC Tweeter snapped and posted this image at a DC intersection:
And it just had me wondering...

Today we celebrate two huge things. First, the fundamental idea of democracy, freedom -- the idea that a people can and should have the liberty and rights and responsibility to rule itself.

Second, we celebrate the memory of a man who gave his life for the idea of justice for all people. His call to service helped lift our national discussion about who we are and what we can be.

We grow up being taught that freedom isn't free. That service to each other and to our nation is a noble goal. An essential goal.

And yet on this day, where those ideals are front and center, we can't even be bothered to crush our used single-use coffee cups so that they take up less room in the trash can. (Or in the recycling bin, where they actually don't belong in the first place.)

It seems to me, there is much work still to do if we're going to become what we say we want to be.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Curtis Cove Report - Dec 24, 2012

Monday, December 24, 1PM. Bright sun, mid-30s, strong land breeze, about an hour before low tide.
A very different world from December 15. The past week had seen a lot of rain, and one day was kind of blustery. But still didn't expect this mass of wrack. The whole foreshore was a brown goopy mess. In places 2 1/2 ft thick!
Feels like squishy quicksand underfoot
Lower on the foreshore, all of the once-exposed pebbles & cobbles lay buried under thick, soft, yellow-ish sand/mud.
It takes a lot of energy to turn a beach from cobbles/pebbles to smooth soft sand overnight.

All of this washed-in seaweed means one thing to a Flotsam Diarist:
and more debris
Everywhere I turned and stepped. So much debris that there was no real hope of collecting it all. In the end, I had to treat the seaweed as I do sand -- collect the debris lying on top and visible, don't bother digging. Most every kick would have brought more for my garbage bags.

In the end, after much mucking through the goop, this was my haul:
190 pcs of rope, about 350 ft total
177 pcs of nonrope debris
367 finds:
  • Bldg material/furniture: 0
  • Foam/styrofoam: 0
  • Fishing rope/net: 190 (~350 ft)
  • Fishing misc.: 60 (3 bait cleats, 15 vents, 3 parts, 6 bait bags, 4 bumpers, 2 vinyl scraps, 15 trap tags (2 from the 90s), 2 shotgun shells, 3 shell wadding, 6 clawbands, buoy scrap)
  • Food-related plastics: 36 (5 bottles - old, 1 bottle base, 3 cutlery, 5 bottlecaps, 3 cap o-rings, 1 cap seal, 3 cup tops, 10 cup scraps, 4 food wrappers, fruit cup - uneaten)
  • Food-related glass/metal: 2 (2 can scraps)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 42 (7 bag scraps, 2 mylar balloons, 3 latex balloons, 4 string, 4 nonfood bottlecaps, golf ball, cigarette tip, lid, tupperware container, diaper, lip balm, toy house mold, Javex bottle bottom scrap, 4 sewage disks, record scrap, 4 caps/plugs, tent peg, 2 vinyl upholstery scraps, hospital ID tag, large crate scrap)
  • Scrap plastics: 29 ( 15 > 1" , 14 < 1" )
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Non-plastic misc./unique: 8 (7 fabric scraps, glove)
This was a true cornucopia of debris. Everything from Canadian bleach bottle scraps to part of an old vinyl record. You can find close-ups of some of the stranger debris at my new "Undercurrents" blog for the Portland Press Herald.

A couple that I didn't post there:
Et pourquoi pas?
Two 3/4" caps to some kind of bottle -- probably from Canada given the French/English -- washed up. One was just the cap, the other appears as though the whole top of the bottle was sliced off. Anyone ever see these?
Canada, so wild that even its lobster claw bands roam 150 miles from home!

Anyway, thus ended my Flotsam Diaries collections for 2012. Most definitely with a bang, not a whimper. Happy New Year!

Running YTD counts:
  • Total pcs of litter -- 11836
  • Pcs fishing rope -- 3081
  • Vinyl lobster-trap scraps -- 4693

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Sea of Possibilities

As some of you may know, I've just become the newest writer for the Portland Press Herald online!

My column, "Undercurrents," runs in the Press Herald's Environment-Outdoors blog section. It's very exciting to be part of the team. It'll be nice both for me to reach a new audience, and hopefully to be able to bring some Flotsam Diaries fans to have a closer look at Maine's issues & stories -- and its impressive writers.

For me, it's also exciting -- and poignant -- to know that the sea will always provide plenty of grist for the Undercurrents mill. Here's just a bit of what washed into quiet, deserted, "protected" Curtis Cove, Biddeford, Maine on December 24:
Hope to see you at Undercurrents, and hope to continue seeing you here as well!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Curtis Cove Report - Dec 15, 2012

Digging out from the Christmas deluge -- figuratively & literally -- to wish you all a Happy New Year! And to publish my last beach reports for 2012.

Saturday, December 15. 1:45PM, bright sun, mild offshore breeze, ~37 degrees. Shortly after high-tide, so I followed the waters down & down as I went back & forth.
The high-tide waters were incredibly calm. They lapped placidly with barely a ripple against the soaked sands. Small wonder why such fine muds and silts drop out of this water -- as well as so many tiny bits of plastic when the conditions were right. Curtis Cove is an amazing place.

Today was a day of velvet sand:
Tumbled & rounded beach stones on the high foreshore:
A totem from a vanished visitor:
And the coolest find, sand volcanoes:
A sandy beach isn't solid, of course. There's actually a lot of space between the sand grains. Water trickles through, organisms make homes, and air percolates -- lots of air. On this morning, the thinnest veil of ice had formed on the sand's surface. By noon, the rising tide with its ~two million gallons of water was squeezing the air trapped within the sand, trying to force it out. Usually this results in thousands of tiny little dots in the sand, "nail holes," where the air rushes out. But this day, the icy sheen resisted the onslaught. Finally the air pressure built up so much that it bulged the sand up in hundreds of pockmarks before finally exploding through and out the top.

Nature is amazing.

Though I spent an hour+ watching the tide slowly recede, I couldn't get down to the lower foreshore where so much plastic gets left behind on calm pleasant days like this. So my haul was light:
81 pcs of rope, about 90 ft total
28 pcs of nonrope debris
109 finds:
  • Bldg material/furniture: 0
  • Foam/styrofoam: 0
  • Fishing rope/net: 81 (most found amid the high wrack)
  • Fishing misc.: 12 (4 bait bags, 3 trap bumpers, 3 trap vinyl coating scraps, 1 trap part, 1 trap tag)
  • Food-related plastics: 3 (bottlecap, skewer, cup scrap)
  • Food-related glass/metal: 2 (aluminum can bottoms-modern)
  • Nonfood/unknown plastics: 7 (3 packaging scraps, endpiece/coverplate, strap, plug/cap, brittle tube)
  • Scrap plastics: 3 ( 2 > 1" , 1 < 1" )
  • Paper/wood: 0
  • Non-plastic misc./unique: 1 (small fabric scrap)
I'm not sure how much more I would have found at the low foreshore. With low-tides running before dawn and after dark this week there wasn't much hope finding out.

Still, this turned out to be very much the calm before the storm. Wait til you see the photos from December 24.

Running YTD counts:
  • Total pcs of litter -- 11469
  • Pcs fishing rope -- 2891
  • Vinyl lobster-trap scraps -- 4691