Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Does the Sea Mean to Me?

My friend Lucy is running a project about 'what the sea means to you'...and I thought I'd use this space to try and get my thoughts some bit straight on the subject; it's something that I've been mulling over in my mind since she first mentioned the book project a few months ago.

For me, as a beach comber rather than, say, a diver or sailor, the sea is full of conflicting thoughts. It can bring precious treasures - such as all these sea beans (seeds carried on the gulf stream from the tropics). Each one has been measured, photographed and documented and will be on the Irish records.

At the same time, the very same storms and currents that bring treasure also bring marine litter - mostly plastic based and sometimes from the other side of the world too.

I think it's my nature, as a beach comber, to try and find the interesting, the intriguing and the mysterious in amongst the plastic junk that comes to these shores.

At times it is over-whelming: especially when faced with a scene like this...
 ..or this...
...or even worse...this...
But you either just look at it and shake your head and tut-tut about modern society and how wasteful we all are or else you decide to try and do something about it - and that is what I have done.

Last winter I collected over 150 bags of rubbish from the local beaches! It really is a never ending battle as each tide brings in yet more rubbish but as long as I am physically able I am determined to do my bit and collect it up.

One good thing to come out of my time picking up rubbish on the beach has been making connections with people on the other side of the world - I guess that's another thing that the sea means to me -- it really does unite us from one side of the Atlantic to the other.

Something that has ended up in the ocean off the US/Canadian coast can wash up on the coast here in Waterville and through the wonders of social media and the internet, I can trace it right back to the company who made it or in some cases, the fishermen who lost their gear in storms.

 A fly swatter from New Jersey, found in St. Finan's Bay, Ballinskelligs!

This is part of a stone crab trap from Florida, which I will soon be posting back to the fisherman's widow. He had etched his name and port onto it, which is how I was able to start tracing it backwards.

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