Saturday, February 05, 2011

I wish it were all about coconuts.

I promised you coconuts. And I'll deliver. But first ...

Shorelines reflect the dynamics of water currents and the characteristics of the adjoining land. Sandy, like Centennial Beach, protected from "outside" waves, just upstream of tall sandstone cliffs, and always gently watered by small creeks and slow tidal waters. Rocky, like Kwomais Point, sticking out into a less-protected strait, washed by strong currents from two sides. Or deeply muddy, like the inside of Boundary Bay, especially Mud Bay. Two rivers bring silt from the Delta; the outflow joins with the retreating tides, curving southward, hurrying to sea; the waters dredge a deep canal, but leave the inner end in a backwater.

On this shore, high tides and the occasional storm toss up great masses of debris. It stays there, and rots into the mud; a strange variety of objects and materials, stranded among the weeds. This is not what people leave behind. This shore does not attract beach-goers. What shows up here either grew here, or was brought by sea.

We have found the most unexpected items here. A few round stones, foamy like lava, the size and shape of marbles; they float. I don't know where they came from. Rabbit pellets, coconuts, balls and boat floats. For a couple of years, a fiberglass skiff, barnacled and badly in need of paint, but still watertight, lay wedged among logs. It's gone now, maybe crumpled and buried under the last season's logs.

Two-seater, with outboard shelf.

This Wednesday, I took photos of items I found for about a dozen feet along my path, just a few steps above the mud. Here's a sampler:

These - except for the lumber and rocks - grew here. And notice the new growth coming up. Tansy, I think.

A chunk of styrofoam packing material. It's been shedding pellets for a long time.

Styrofoam, from marine uses, protective packaging for our electronics, cheap ice chests, disposable dishes, "peanuts", and so on, turns up too frequently on our shores, especially this one. It is highly dangerous to marine life, birds and critters alike, and won't disappear for centuries.  One of the problems with it is that it disintegrates into bite-size pieces, even for the smallest animals. And once it has crumbled even more, to microscopic dots, it still retains its dangerous properties.
What is clear, however, is that polystyrene is a widespread contaminant in the world's oceans. Samples taken off the coast of Malaysia and in the northern Pacific all contained styrene monomers and other products of styrofoam breakdown, according to Katsuhiko Saido of Nihon University in Chiba, Japan.

Until recently, research into the harmful effects of styrofoam and other plastics in seawater have mainly focused on damage to marine life from ingesting visible chunks or from getting caught in plastic nets. The new research adds to fears that this line of research may be missing significant amounts of plastic that are in particles too small to see. (From Yahoo, via Gary Partain.
Look closely at these next photos. Can you find the styrofoam pellets in them? (They're in all but the last two.)

One sandal. With styrofoam pellets.

Polyethelene wrap, and plastic food bag. And styrofoam pellets.

Shampoo bottle. This has been exposed for a long time.

And here are the coconuts:

Coconut, from some far-away shore. And styrofoam, of course. At least the coconut is edible.

Another coconut, with styrofoam pellets. This is the first one I've found that was cracked open.  Something has eaten most of the innards, recently. (There was no mud inside.)

And a third coconut. No styrofoam, visible, at least. Whatever ate the meat, also nibbled on the inner skin.
A fourth coconut, half eaten. And I think the white specks are coconut meat.

And no, I didn't collect all the plastic. It was just too discouraging; I would have needed a team and a truck to make a dent in it.

In the storeroom at home, I have the cartons that things come in, held while the warranties are still in effect. They're full of styrofoam.  Now I'm wondering; how can I get rid of them, when the time comes?


  1. For a short time, immediately after Christmas, the city of Richmond accepted styrofoam at their recycling depot to be reused as packing material. I likely will be holding onto any I collect until next year so that I can recycle it then.

  2. Thanks, Tim. That's good to know. I'll save my stuff until then.

  3. There are many things I love about living at the bottom of the world and taking a plastic bag when I go to the beach and picking up bits of rubbish is one of them. If I fill my bag I get a bit stressed. Thankfully I rarely find styrofoam - or maybe I should start wearing my glasses?


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