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Unusual Beach Debris

I’ve been seeing some unusual debris on our beach lately.   It has on some days, changed my morning beach walk from uplifting to rather somber.

It started November 30th, I stumbled across buoy, a rare find on our beach, and I was rather excited to bring it home to use for our own crab and prawn traps.  Tsunami debris at that point was not on my mind. It wasn’t until I got home that I noticed the Japanese name on the buoy. Admittedly, I did become more sensitive.  It reminded me of how small and connected our world is.  That day I was also surprised by the coloured planks of wood I saw (reds, blues, greys).  Our beaches in the winter are covered with all sorts of driftwood and other wood pieces but they are always brown in colour.  You never see wood building planks with coloured paint.  In fact, most of what our family finds on the beach is organic in nature, with the exception of sea glass and odd bits of garbage that locals go out of their way to dispose.

One day last week, while on a family beach walk, I decided to use my iphone to document of all the debris I saw that day. Plastic beverage bottles with Asian logos,  the sole of a fishing boot, curtains attached to wooden panels, an insulation sheet which looked to be from the inside of a boat, a ton of foam and Styrofoam bits (large and small) everywhere, in some areas small bits creating Styrofoam pools, coloured bits of plastic shrapnel, large pieces of foam and remnants of foam fishing buoys, wooden building planks with coloured paint and/or nails/screws/glue/marine latches, soles of shoes (some quite small) . . .  I have never felt so sad and somber on the beach.

My personal feeling is that what I am seeing is tsunami debris, but of course I am not a scientist, I’m merely an observer.  What I can say, is that in the 7 years I have spent on these particular beaches, what I am seeing is very unusual. 

Emotionally, this has left me with an overwhelming sense of sadness and compassion.  Thinking each piece of debris could have it’s own tragic story. The day I documented with my iphone, tragedy seemed to be strewn all over the beach.  We’ve all seen the images and video footage from the Japanese tragedy and it was almost too much to fathom.  Seeing possible pieces of flotsam from that disaster actually wash up on our shores is equally difficult to fathom, but it brings with it an entirely new sense of reality.  We are not immune, we are all connected.

I think scientists might argue it’s unlikely we are seeing tsunami debris at this stage.  And although I would have to disagree, that argument really isn’t important.  The concern I have (from what I have observed), is are we prepared for the debris we do know is still on its way?  Does our city have a plan to clean up our local shores and are we prepared for the emotional impact?  What can we do as individuals to help?  How can we take action while remaining sensitive and respectful to all of the lives that have been impacted by this tragedy?

These sand beaches are a playground for my kids, my family, my dog, a sanctuary for me . . . What is our plan to keep them clean and safe over the next few years as debris washes in?    

NOAA is a science-based agency working on collecting information about debris and prediction patterns.  They can be contacted with debris sightings –                                     

A Journal of Unusual Beach Debris


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