Tag Archives: jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam: SOLC #7

The sea was moody today. Thick clouds kept the sun at bay and also kept people at home. That’s a good thing for me–there’s nothing better than an empty beach for walking and exploring.

I love the way the beach is ever changing. Some days the shore is smooth and sandy. Lately piles of smooth beach stones have been pushed up into my walking zone. Low tides, like today, expose stretches of reef, some pieces algae-covered in reds and greens. I’m always on the look out for interesting finds on the beach. Unfortunately, we often find trash on our walks. Pieces of plastic and styrofoam, leftovers of foil wrapped burritos, and all too often straws of all shapes and sizes.

Today I noticed a glow stick on the reef. I know that fisherman often use these as part of their fishing routine, although I’m not sure exactly the purpose. I stopped to capture a photo and then we picked it up to throw away. (Lucky for our local environment, my husband always carries a trash bag when we walk on the beach.)

Next up was the shoe. Just one. Alone. It hadn’t been in the sea long enough to become a home for sea creatures, but it was soaked all the way through with sand inside. I wonder who lost this shoe and when they noticed it was missing. Does this child still have the other shoe tossed in the back of the closet?

Then I noticed the long white structure. Was it trash? No, seems like a bone. A closer examination made me believe that it is the remain of a pelican beak, long and thin and about the right size, washed up onto the shore. This piece we did not pick up–seems best to let it decompose and return to its native environment.

As I was documenting these finds with my camera, I was thinking about that term: flotsam and jetsam. Is one type of debris flotsam and another type jetsam? I turned to Google to check out the definitions. I learned that in maritime lingo, flotsam is wreckage of cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk and that jetsam is cargo or equipment thrown overboard from a ship in distress. I also learned that the phrase flotsam and jetsam has come to mean useless or discarded items. So I’m categorizing the glow stick and the shoe as flotsam and jetsam. The beak bone, just ordinary bird remains.

But what about this?

It seems that Shamus and Marisol decided to create some art on these beach boulders. It makes me wonder, did they bring paint to the beach with the idea that they would use beach rocks as a canvas? Was it made with water-based paint that will dissolve into the sea during the next high tide? Did they make it for their own enjoyment or for others to see? Or is it a call for help? (Notice the S.O.S.) Temporary art is common on the beach, there are sand artists who rake intricate designs into the sandy shore. There are rock tower builders, carefully balancing stone after stone after stone. And of course, the sand castle builders who create turrets and moats on castles adorned by seaweed and shells. All pieces meant to last only until the next tide sweeps it away.

I always leave the beach with questions and something to think about. And I always learn something. Regardless of its mood, the sea and the beach is never dull.