About Me

My photo
Just a meandering soul sharing my backyard. Visit my Flickr page too! www.flickr.com/photos/meanderingwa/

Friday, April 27, 2012

Seven Maids With Seven Mops

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

While the Walrus was talking about getting the vast quantities of sand cleared away from their beach, these days our concerns are with the vast quantities of human pollution on our beaches.

Last January I joined a community beach clean in Long Beach ( "Whoopee At The Beach" January 2012) .  Last weekend on Earth Day weekend, I joined 1300 other people with Coast Savers and volunteered to participate in Beach Clean 2012.  For this effort I selected Shi Shi Beach a place we have visited before. Most of the coast, except the most isolated beaches, was well coered.

Shi Shi is remote and has almost a mystical quality.  For folks like myself, it is a wonderful beach that is reachable with reasonable effort.  The two mile hike from the trail head is muddy most of the year.  Usually for the early bird, you can feel like you have the place to yourself. 

I spent the weekend at Bullman Beach Inn, my favorite little place on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  This beach is surrounded by sea stacks and rocky kelp beds.  This weekend held some surprises I had not seen before.  Rock Sandpipers were busy offshore in the rocks.

Those are the mountains of Vancouver Island in the distance.  From my window I watched a River Otter hunting in the kelp beds and further out I had the thrill of spotting and watching a Gray Whale which stuck close for about 1/2 hour.  Last time I visited the beach was filled with a lot of kelp which had washed ashore.  Today the ever changing beach was very clean and only a few collections of kelp were found.

The weather was promising for Saturday.  I was able to fly my kite for a little while but there was hardly any breeze to really send it up high.  The sunset was looking good.

Saturday morning I checked in with the volunteer desk and got some information I would need for the clean.  I was shown pictures of some of the items of interest.  These were mostly types of fishing and boat floats from Japan.  Most of the floats were had plastic, but some of them were Styrofoam barrels.  I found one of these during my clean up event at Long Beach.

I also learned about the mysterious yellow pieces of line I found all over Long Beach.  These uniform 6 inch long yellow lines ( ropes) are parts of oyster growing nets.  The Coast Savers are collecting data on all of these items in hopes to understand the impact of the net design on the environment.  Clearly there is a need for improvements.

I drove down to the beach head and started my hike in.  There were some nice volunteers who offered me some extra bags.  Sure, one should always have extras.

I hiked through the woods listening and watching.  Not much was stirring in the woods.  This Banana Slug was fat and happy in the Skunk Cabbage.

I reached the beach about 845.  Low tide was turning and the beach was full of campers who were just getting started with their day and those who had hiked in ahead of me.  I have never seen the beach so full of people.  Nor had I ever been to the beach with such a low tide.

 I was thrilled to get a quick visit to the exposed rocks on my way down the beach.  I found great array of anemone and starfish, as well as mussels.  I would have loved to poke around further, but the waves were menacing and I had work to do.

I met the gentleman coming up the beach.  He must have been an early bird camper.  I was amazed at his Zen-like ability to balance his load.  The Styrofoam barrel perfectly counterbalanced the sack of junk.

I headed south towards Point of The Arches noting all the footprints and how the beach, so far, looked pretty clean.

After about a mile, I noticed a large white float up in a pile of driftwood logs.  I decided that this was a good landmark and decide to climb up , get the float and work my way back up the beach.  No sooner did I get into  the logs then I knew that I would not be going back up the beach.  Here was a big problem.  All through the logs hundreds of bottles and floats, line and Styrofoam pieces.

I spent about two hours throwing debris down the pile.  I would toss as far as I could then climbed down and tossed again.  I then gathered as much as I could into a sorted pile.

 Bottles and floats

Big floats might serve as markers for nets and pots

the little blue one likely is woven into the top of a net.  This blue float is Japanese, the white one is Korean.

I then went back into the drift pile and collected as much of the broken Styrofoam as I could.

I knew that I would not have enough bag space and decided that I would remove the caps from all of the bottles so they could be easily flattened and placed in bags of those return from further down beach.

This is Chinese but the majority of the bottles I found were Japanese.

Many people reported finding construction timber.  Perfectly clean, unhammered 4x4 timber all of them marked with stamps were found along the beach.  As the wood is organic and will eventually break down, there is no effort made to remove it.

I loaded up all four of my bags with Styrofoam pieces and as many bottles as I could.  I strung floats on some line that I found, and strung all the bags and line on a branch.

I then took a break to eat my snack and drink a lot of water.  I knew I had three miles of very challenging walk ahead of me.

I hoped that my organized pile of remainders would make it out in other volunteers bags.

I carried the garbage like a milkmaid pole across my shoulders.  My little backpack served me well by taking a bit of the weight every once in a while, giving my neck and shoulders a break.  I could not keep it up for long as it would pull against me, backwards.

I was apprehensive about going up the slope from the beach to the trail, but I was surprised at how easily that obstacle passed.  I took it one careful step at a time.

It really isn't this steep, it only looks that way.

My pace could only be described as plodding.  I listed for birdsong and kept a steady pace.  There were very few folks about but I did encounter hikers coming down the trail going to the beach and they are always wanting to know "how much further"?

But I encountered one person and I looked at him and he me...

"Now its my turn" and he whipped out his camera.  It was the Zen Master of Balanced Loads and he took my picture.

 A few days later on a Northwest Hikers forum I saw a trip report for the Shi Shi Beach clean by a member named "Hulkmeister" and sure enough it was he.  His picture above of the slope climber and that of myself he kindly gave permission to use.

My neighbor works for KING TV and they featured some of my pictures on the news Sunday.  I heard from KPLU radio and Coast Savers themselves that media outlets were wanting to use the pictures, and I gladly gave permission.

Coast Savers reports approximately 30 tons of debris was removed from Washington beaches.  Yes much of it is thought to be the first of the tsunami debris.  The light, floating items which will be pushed by the winds as well as the currents.  When I was filling out a data form about the large numbers of bottles I found, another volunteer was talking about a beach she was on (Sooes), about 3 miles north of Shi Shi.  She reported that their beach was covered in the yellow oyster net lines.  In the hundereds she said.  I found only three on my area of the beach. 

Today on the news this item out of Alaska shows that this is the start of a wide spread problem that needs a plan of action


It will take more than seven maids with seven mops.

I doubt I will ever walk on a beach without a plastic bag to haul out a little bit garbage.


  1. Thanks for your effort and eveyone else on this project. Shi Shi is a special place.

  2. I enjoy geting out and volunteering with different projects. it is important to me.

  3. Like the pictures of people loaded down with debris. Very nice post.

  4. Just read this again and enjoyed it as much or more as the first time. Sounds like a lot of fun and serves a good purpose as well. Have you heard any more about tsunami debris and how it's affecting the beaches?

    On another note, on which end of the Old Blewett Road did you see the Mountain Lady's Slippers?

  5. Debris reports continue with Styrofoam leading the way. This product crumbles into small pieces making clean-up more challenging. Small particulate presents a risk for filter feeders.

    There are continues reports of debris coming ashore carrying sea-life which has a potential to invade our native habitat. At the Long Beach WA clean-up on July 5 a bottle was found encrusted with mussels. A very large dock came ashore in Oregon covered with a multitude of Japanese native sea-life. Foreign invasive wildlife has a long history of being problematic to the ecology of a native habitat.