Archive for December, 2010
Amidst the white sand and turquoise blue surf moving in and out with each tide along the Tropic of Cancer beach on Little Exuma, strange and unusual things, mostly made of plastic, come ashore in the Bahamas.
Sailboat bumpers and mossy green fishing floats, some with the shredded rope attached, find their way in, escaping their nautical past.
Mountain residents turned vacation beachcombers, we're searching for shells or bits of sea glass. Yet we find a baby's shoe, shoestring still tied; a single rubber sandal, a Converse tennis shoe and a child's Mickey Mouse sandal. Never two of the same shoe, just one, its mate no doubt washed up on another island.
We find a lot of plastic containers in all shapes and sizes. White aspirin and Advil bottles, black and green boat oil motor bottles, water and juice bottles. Plastic bottles clearly float very well, sailing along effortlessly thousands of miles.
After a few days of December winds, the evening tide delivers small treasure troves of shells for our morning hike. I find a large irridescent pen shell, which, of course, I thought was a piece of plastic at first.
The colorful Bleeding Tooth Nerites are exciting to find. Polly's calls them Baby's Bleeding Tooth, and remembers when her aunt would bring them back to Pittsburgh after trips to Florida. We find several shiny yellow shells of bi-valves, but just pieces of the popular conch, the meaty mollusc that divers search to meet both Bahamiam's and tourist's appetite for deep-fried conch fritters or fresh conch salads.
You tug aside globs of dried seaweed, sometimes finding tiny gorgeous shells buried beneath, mingled with sponges and broken sand dollars. And you find more pieces of plastic … pink, white, blue, red and yellow. You wish they were smoothed out sea glass but really they're just parts of everyday life that never made it to the landfill.
In a way these beautiful beaches are a junkman's dream. Rubber parts, broken wooden boxes and undistinguishable warped and water-logged objects come ashore.
On our first walk down the beach, I wish I had brought a trash bag. But then you realize, inspecting where the tide has pushed the sand up into tiny carved-out cliffs, there's more things than one person could ever carry out.
It's almost Christmas, and we find pastic toys. While fishing along a small flats, Polly brings me a blue plastic crab, suggesting I try it as a lure.
Instead of bonefish, I start thinking about the multitude of tiny plastic toys manufactured in China to meet the world's never-ending demand. How many toys do you think are made every day? Then, somehow, the plastic animals and doll heads escape into the oceans, some finally finding their way into a sandy cay.
You could build quite a bit from all of the things washed up on the beach. Slowly but surely, you'd find just about everything you'd need for a tropical shelter. You'd catch rainfall in the plastic buckets and fish with your choice of nets and line. You could build your own small boat, with no shortage of buoys, robes and metal parts for an anchor.
You'd build a small crusty fishing shack, nailing odd pieces of driftwood and the brighter pastic odds and ends to the walls for decoration. As tides deliver more building materials, you'd add another room or two.
I'm not trying to make a big environmental statement or deny that the Bahamas has some of the nicest beaches I've seen. There's not a beach in the world I've visited, whether it's Mexico, the U.S., or the Caribbean that do not collect the washed-up pieces, parts and stuff of our modern world. Look around, how many plastic things would float out of your home in a flood?
The tiny cartoon heads of my Pez collection stare at me as I write this. Several of them, I'm sure, would like nothing better than a long ocean cruise to the Bahamas.