Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: What Goes Around, Comes Around

I attended the International Sea-bean Symposium this weekend in Central Florida. It was so crowded, I couldn't even find a seat at several lectures! For those who don't live near a beach, sea-beans are wanderers of the sea, a type of flotsam that can eventually grow on a far shore. In our area, they are mostly seed pods and plant bits from the Caribbean and South America, which come up to us via the Gulf Stream. It's a fun hobby to collect them, and a very popular hobby, too, it would seem.  In addition to talks on sea-beans, there were several lectures on flotsametrics, the science of where flotsam starts, and where it lands, and what that reveals about our changing seas and currents.

Some sea-beans
I attended a lecture on what is happening to the flotsam from the horrific Japanese tsunami of March 11, 2011. A sentinel patch has come ashore on the West Coast of North America already, but the biggest part of the mess, about 2000 miles by 1000 miles in size, is about 500 miles offshore, and should be hitting us very soon. Most of it is styrofoam, yuck.  But there are also personal items, such as a basketball from a middle school that was destroyed. It came ashore in Washington State, and the girl who found it is going to Japan soon to return it to the school, which is being rebuilt. I was really touched by that. Fed Ex pilots are flying many personal possessions back to Japan to reunite the items with their owners. Sadly, many of the owners are dead or missing. But there have been some amazing successes. People can be wonderful.

The strangest part of the talk was the revelation that about 10% of the flotsam will be arriving on Atlantic shores. That's right, the Atlantic. Wrong ocean, right? But now that the Arctic has melted to such an extent, whatever floats from the Pacific Ocean into the Arctic Ocean eventually comes out the Atlantic Ocean. It travels, after a long while, via the Gulf Stream and is deposited on our beaches. Unbelievable. So Japanese tsunami flotsam should be arriving here about 2015 or thereabouts. Most of it will be styrofoam. But not all.

So my pensive thought from all this is that we really have just one big ocean, and just one long beach. What comes around goes around, and what goes around comes around.

This the left sole of a child's shoe, mineralized by its many years in the ocean. I found it about a month ago, along with about a dozen other shoes, all for the left foot. Go figure.... 


  1. "We are all interlinked. All rivers flow into the ocean." -DI Barnaby, Midsomer Murders

  2. Very interesting post Marla! Glad to enjoyed the conference, I would have enjoyed it too. Cute little things, the sea beans. So massive & with so much life is the sea, we sometimes forget about it because we don't live in it (yet)[not a funny joke I know]. Very pensive indeed... On a lighter note, I love Midsomers.

  3. Sea beans really are fun, and it's good to remember that the ocean is the principal environment on Planet Earth!