With a good microscope handy, I've been able to look more closely at what's happening on the White Rock beach. Last Tuesday, I brought home a few small containers of sand and water from the contaminated area. I've been examining them to see what's alive, down there between the sand grains.
|Wet sand, as my camera sees it. The little orange specks are alive.|
I've been taking notes, mostly sketches of what I see, and I've scanned a few pages. I can't identify any of these things, but they give an idea of what's there. Everything I drew was alive and moving. A couple of times, a humongous (or so it seemed) copepod scooted by, at least 10 times the size of the biggest of these critters. The copepod would be about 1 to 2 mm. long.
The images may be pale; I find them easier to see by clicking to get a full-size photo.
|Page 1. "Hamburger critters" like a split bun with something in between, boxes and pen-like things.|
The ones labelled "1" and several similar ones don't quite match each other, but may be different stages of the same animals. # 5 is like them, but was the largest I saw. In the center, I could see something fluttering. They all swim slowly, along the length-wise axis. The "pens", # 4 and three similar ones, moved only their tips as long as I watched.
|Assorted swimmers and jittery stuff.|
#6 looks like a piece of threaded pipe. All the ones I saw were the same size. #8 is sort of like an amphipod, but extremely jumpy and hard to see, even though it was large. The antennae/legs/hair moved constantly.
#9 is one of the strangest animals. These are very tiny, like a balloon on a black thread. The top constantly bobs back and forth, always in the same direction.
And #10 is like a hairy flatworm, always changing shape; it has no features that I could distinguish.
This was another of the larger animals. It lay against one of the sand grains, moving along sluggishly. Occasionally, something would startle it, and it contracted instantly into a collapsed balloon shape. A minute later, it stretched out again. I'm not sure if I saw tentacles at the forward end, or if they were a trick of the light.
|Movers and shakers.|
These were the weirdest of all. #13: a blob with a smaller blobby end. It turned around and around, circling about the narrow "head" end, as if it were attached. To what? It was in an empty space between widely-spaced grains.
#14 is tiny. I only saw the one. A rough pyramid, with a tentacle that I could see inside the body as well as out. It traveled with the tentacle in the lead.
#15. A tubeworm? Long and snaky, it hid behind a sand grain, extending the tip. Closed, it looked like a worm head, but it kept opening wide, showing a circular mouth. From time to time, it suddenly extended itself its full length again, as if to capture something.
#16. I can't figure this one out. A dark oval shape that spins and spins, always in the same direction, very rapidly. I could barely see the connection, but a tiny blob spun with it, sometimes close, sometimes a distance away, but always coming back as if tethered.
#17 looks like a baby sand dollar. #18, like a jellyfish. Many different animals start life as a medusa, a jellyfish shape; this could be any of them.
Besides all these and the copepods, I saw a few larger worms slithering about.
All this is good news: there's life down there. Two of the containers held sand and water from about 100 feet down the beach from the center of the dead zone; they were full of those "hamburger" critters, and others. But the two bottles from the center were basically empty; nothing but sand grains and a tiny worm.
Elva Paulson asked how big the dead zone is. I checked again, on Google maps. From where we access the beach, moving west, we went, the first time, 300 feet before I found anything alive. The next time I measured, the zone had extended and the borderline was 1700 feet down the beach; about 1/2 kilometer.
Tuesday, we began to find beach hoppers and tiny snails somewhere between those two distances. And the first bottles of sand I collected were well within the former dead zone, about 100 feet from the access.
Looking at the satellite photo, I notice that a creek comes down from the top of the hill, just there. I wonder if there's another construction project up top.