I wandered along the tide line this morning. To find shells and bits of driftwood. It bothered me that there was so much debris washed up by the sea, and started snapping it with my phone. Plastic mainly, in one form or another. Do you know that plastic constitutes 90% of the the rubbish floating on the surface of the sea?
It doesn't biodegrade. It photo degrades with sunlight, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Plastic doesn't ever really disappear - it gets eaten by marine life, washes up on our beaches or becomes microscopic plastic dust. Plastic also gets swept away by ocean currents, landing in ocean gyres. These are swirling vortexes of which the largest is off the coast of California. A swirling mass of plastic rubbish twice the size of Texas, that will never be cleaned up. It poses a significant threat to sea life. Millions of ocean animals and sea birds due to ingesting plastic.
I recently read Strands by Jean Sprackland. She spent a year recording discoveries made on her local beach in the North of England. She writes:
"Over the years, I've made many finds on my walks which sparked my curiosity. But I rarely followed up. I was busy; I forgot; something else grabbed my attention and the moment was lost....now I want to honour this place by looking more closely and recording what I see. I want to take the time to search for answers to my questions, and to follow wherever that search might lead."
What follows is a moving account her various finds. This includes the rubbish washed up by the tide. There are other discoveries too. Not everything on her beach is grim. The same can be said for my beach. I have found beautiful shells and feathers. I have watched different sea birds pecking at the Spider Crabs that have been flung onto the sand. I have hop scotched through jelly fish washed up by a high tide, marvelling in their gelatinous beauty. I pick things up and put them in my pocket. They are scattered throughout the house. A reminder of my time there.
So to whom did those shoes belong to? Did the blue flip flop escape a holiday makers foot while she paddled with her child? Did he try to get it back, but it was swept away from her by the capricious waves? Or did it get washed into the sea by one of those rogue waves that sometimes breaks onto the shore line when the tide is coming in? And the Frisbee (whose other half was at the other end of the beach). Did it get broken in anger? Did it split in two after being badly thrown and hitting a rock? Why wasn't it picked up and taken home?
What was in the polystyrene carton? Fish and chips? A Kebab? Why didn't it get put in the bin after the contents were eaten? And the light bulb. The most interesting one, in a way. How did a piece of glass survive intact like that, filament and all? It must have been bobbing around in the sea for a while. I was amazed that it had survived, something so fragile and 'disposable'.
But survive it has, along with all the other crap.
Another dog walker must have seen me taking pictures, and approached me. She pointed to an old fishing crate in which he had been collecting rubbish from the beach. So I started to help her. Just the big stuff - the plastic bottles. I didn't really want to pick up anything with my bare hands. Not after what I'd seen. She told me that over the past few weeks she had become obsessed with the rubbish on the tide line. She was making enquiries into who manages the beach, and how often it was cleaned up.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Lelant is filthy. It's not. But the tide continues to wash up some extraordinary things onto it. A legacy of sorts. A social commentary perhaps? A message in a plastic bottle?