Thursday, December 18, 2014

A rescue and a rant

The tides are at their peak for the year in Boundary Bay, reaching to over 14 feet at high tide, in the middle of the day, and dropping to as low as 1.5 feet around midnight. Compare that, for example, to last July, when the high tide was around 12 feet, and the low just over 7. (And in the daytime, for our wading and exploring pleasure!)

The king tides occur when the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned at perigee and perihelion, resulting in the largest tidal range seen over the course of a year. So tides are enhanced when the Earth is closest to the sun around January 2nd of each year. They are reduced when it is furthest from the sun, around July 2nd. (Wikipedia)

That's still not an extreme rise and drop, as tides go, but the water has to race in over a mile of flat beach, so the current is strong. Even on a calm day, the waves pound hard on the shore at the high tide line, bringing a load of vegetation, critters, driftwood, and unfortunately, junk with it, and then scouring the sand clean again, as the water roars back out.

A few days ago, at the boat ramp, a tangle of eelgrass was tumbling back and forth, just within the reach of the highest waves. And rolling with it was an unlucky hermit crab, caught without his shell, and unable to get his footing before each new wave caught him and tossed him back onto the cement. I waded in and caught him, and deposited him gently on the wet eelgrass in my bag. I couldn't find a shell for him, but he'd be safe there.

He was hiding under the eelgrass in the bag when we got home, and very jittery; I let him rest in a bowl under a piece of Turkish towel until I found him a selection of shells. A couple of hours later I transferred him, in his chosen shell, to the tank. And he immediately attacked the nearest hermit, a big, no-nonsense male twice his size, and wouldn't let go. I separated them, and he jumped on the next in line, and bullied her out of her shell, which he appropriated.

Not the mild, agreeable hermit behaviour I was used to seeing!

Put it down to panic. By the next morning, he was fitting in fine, sharing food, taking his turn, allowing others to ride on his back. He'd found his spot in the pecking order and all is well.

Other animals weren't quite so lucky. We found this dying nudibranch, still plump and glossy, dumped at the high tide line.

A mid-sized Melibe leonina, with her hood spread out, the teeth still firm at the rim. She's been eating something red or pink.

On the last two trips, I passed dead gulls. No, I didn't take photos; they were a disgusting mess. Maybe I should have. Because I was also collecting bags full of plastic, the stuff that kills seabirds.

There were the usual bottle caps, bits of broken toys, abandoned water bottles - "Pure Spring Water"! - one flip-flop (did the owner hop home?), and candy wrappers. Birds' guts end up full of that stuff; it looks bright and appetizing, and is swallowed too fast for them to realize it's inedible.

But what was worst was the plastic film, the transparent food wrap that, drifting in slow water, looks exactly like a lazy jellyfish. Appetizing, if you're a duck, or a gull. And deadly; it either chokes the bird outright, or clogs up his digestive system so that he can starve to death in the middle of a feast.

I got a full bag of that wrap, along with a few disposable gloves; their fingers fill with water and they wash to and fro, looking juicy. Sort of like that nudibranch above; about the same colour, too.

Why do people leave that sort of stuff on a beach?

A woman saw me dumping my load in a handy garbage container, (put there for that purpose, people!) and thanked me. Good; but wouldn't it be better if everyone put their junk in the barrels in the first place?


  1. We need a sonnet about how
    the bottled water industry spends the winter
    strewing its product and their husks
    along the roadsides of Lyn and Limerick.

    We need a sonnet about this spring wonder
    of casual and heedless litterbug consumerism,
    a multi-armed little plastic god
    worshipped under the umbrella of the economy.

    We need a student to pursue bottlers and strewers
    To find out why the product is so often
    strewn unconsumed until picked up
    by environmentalist recycling wonks.

    We need a couplet that tries to comprehend:
    "What message is the litter industry trying to send?"

  2. well they dont leave it all on the beach

    stuff falls off boats
    it washes down rivers and out to sea
    it falls out of garbage cans shoreside
    it blows out of the back of trucks

    My last beach clean at Long Beach ( washington) I found a flat screen TV, Stuff like that falls off cargo ships and yes, we are still finding tsunami debris

  3. Great rant. The mess we human makes is seriously mind boggling and depressing. Lovely hermit crab story.


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