Sunday, May 02, 2010

Additional Implicit Desiderata

Saturday, May 1. Saturday forecast mostly cloudy but not rain, Sunday forecast wet, so this is the day to go to the outer coast. Already from the parking lot, skeins of geese were passing by now and then, heading north; and they kept on intermittently all day. I couldn't get a good look, they were quite high up. Their noise did seem sort of honk-ish, but not entirely, so maybe they were ducks. Nah. Do ducks fly in big v-shaped flocks, and lines and skeins?

Also a couple of eagles, one cruisin' around very high up. One sitting out on a snag in the middle of the Quileute River, not moving.

In theory all I wanted from the day was to sit and fill my shirt pocket with flat smooth stones of a certain quite small size. In truth, there were a couple of additional implicit desiderata: that the light would be good for taking pictures of these perfect stones, that it would be dry enough weather that I could read a library book. (I'm desperately bored with Anchee Min's Pearl of China and hoped to finish it.)

But no. It was rainy on and off. Sound of waves, washing foam, layers of clothes and raingear on and off, damp sandy hands, sound of waves.

There was a baffling lot of trash on the beach. Many plastic bottles, often of unfamiliar sizes and shapes and with Chinese or Japanese labels. For a while I thought some passing ship had dumped its trash— but some of the stuff had barnacles growing on it so it had been out at sea a while. I fetched a trash bag from the car and trotted around through rain showers, gathering up about half a sack of mostly plastic, a large square whiskey bottle, some bits of rope, a piece of pipe.

Plastic bottles (Click for larger image.)

A ranger in the parking lot said that at this time of year and when the swell is coming in from the southwest, we get a lot of trash; and the origins are quite international. And, he said, we get the little blue/purple jelly fish, Velella velella, another thing that happens in these conditions. I got sidetracked right there, thinking about Velella which blows in from the middle of the ocean,

('Oh I've never seen Velella here,' sez I. 'Saw some just the other day at Kalaloch,' sez he)

and didn't follow up— but I think he must have been saying that all the bottles and other pieces of plastic were coming out of the Garbage Patch. Aiiiiieeee. Rialto Beach is not usually an accumulation zone, and despite the frequent visits I've made, this is the first time I've had a personal encounter with the garbage conveyor in the North Pacific Gyre.

Barnacles on whiskey bottle, barnacles on plastic bottle. (Click for larger image.)

Oh, Velella velella, by-the-wind sailor. According to Ed Ricketts, they are thought to occur in mixed populations in mid-Pacific, their diagonal sails set either northwest to southeast or northeast to southwest, and they are "sorted by the action of the wind," so that on our side of the ocean one form arrives, on the Japanese side, another. Oh, Velella, oh.


Miriam Sagan said...

Mir--did you see Nancy Sutor's glass on my blog? Anytime you want to send me sea glass or flotsam or jetsam..
the other Mir

Rocco said...

The friend I was heading off to see when I left your house in October coauthored Flotsametrics with Curtis Ebbesmeyer and gave me a copy, which you can read on your next visit if you haven't already read it.