Keep your eyes on the prize
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What are those people doing with their heads facing down, walking up and down the beach, instead of looking at the ocean? No, they’re not texting — most likely they’re beachcombing.
Beachcombing is a treasure hunt for all ages. Whether it be a child looking for rope to make a homemade fishing pole or a person looking for glass floats, the elation is the same when an object is found. Typically the best beaches are those that contain driftwood and sand dunes, creating pockets for objects to be trapped in.
Particularly prized to find in our area are Japanese glass floats, which are extremely rare, appearing mainly after major storms. These floats were used to keep fishing nets afloat. Once they wash up on shore, they may still have netting around them, and pending on how long they stay on shore, the float may become etched by the sand.
Beach glass, which is broken glass tumbled by the waves and etched by the sand, is another prize beachcombers look for. While some take the pieces home for jewelry-making, others may make mosaics or simply place a collection in a jar for viewing. The color of the glass can be indicators of its age and what it was originally. Common colors are white, brown and green, while grey (from antique stemware and tinted glass), depression glass colors (white milk glass, delphite, jadeite, pink, peach and green UV) and turquoise (glass insulators or ink bottles, canning jars and kitchen canisters) are some of the rarer colors found.
With the presence of tsunami debris heading our way from Japan’s earthquake in March, 2011, beachcombers will perhaps find more glass floats, in addition to a new variety of objects.
Chuck Wallace with the Grays Harbor County Emergency Management Department urges those who may be sifting through the tsunami debris to be first and foremost safe. He notes that there may be boards with nails in it, possibly chemically treated, and therefore unsafe for burning.
If something is suspected to contain hazardous materials, such as drums, fuel tanks and containers, gas cans and cylinders or storage totes, Wallace says to call 911 and either stay with the item or mark it clearly so officials can find it. It is particularly important to report it right away because of the tide changes and the safety of other people in the area.
Personal belongings found in tsunami debris should be reported to Wallace at (360) 249-3911 e-mail DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. For more information on the tsunami debris, visit www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/japanfaq.html.
However, beachcombing isn’t limited to man-made materials. Agates are a variety of chalcedony quartz, which appear in a variety of colors and transparencies. Moonstones are gemstones in the feldspar family and are named for its shimmer of light they give off, caused by tiny albite inclusions that reflect and scatter light, much like the moon’s glow.
Bleached shells of all sorts are collected and can be used in many craft projects. Remember with sand dollars, those that look grey, or reddish-grey are most likely still alive. Leave those on the beach, or your car may be smelling like the beach long after you return home.
Remember to leave the beach just as you found it, if not better. Don’t leave any trash behind, pick up after your animal and fill in any holes dug to ensure a welcoming experience for future visitors.