Amongst the normal type of storm debris such as dead birds, old toys, rope, and rusty metal, hundreds of packets of cigarettes were an unusual kind of flotsam to find on the strand-line. Tubs of creamy blue cheese even more so. They were scattered along the shingle at Ringstead Bay in Dorset, England, yesterday afternoon. This type of flotsam has been turning up on lots of seashores in southern England as a result of shipping containers becoming dislodged from the deck of a ship and falling overboard just off the north coast of France.
It was still very wet and windy last Sunday on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis. Waves crashed with white surf. The shore was strewn with driftwood of all sizes. People had been out cutting the larger tree trunks for free firewood or maybe something more creative. Piles of smaller branches and detached ivy vines were stacked on the strand-line by high tides; while neat piles had been gathered in other places higher up – perhaps to dry for kindling. The cliffs were even more dangerous than last summer with rock falls and mud slides apparently imminent. I saw material tumbling down the soft cliff face in clouds of dust from behind the safety of the barrier with warning signs. Some people disregarded the warnings of the potential threat to life by venturing into the danger zone to search for fossils.
Mostly the keeled calcareous tubes of the Serpulid marine polychaete worm Pomatoceros triqueter with a few empty acorn barnacle shells and seameats or Bryozoans. These epibiont organisms had colonised an old plastic car hub cap that eventually washed up as flotsam on the beach. The animals themselves had long vacated the shells and tubes that remained encrusted on the plastic.
I really want you to have a look at the fantastic work of Thierry Alexandre. He not only paints and makes wearable art but also creates performance art. On his website you can see both still images and videos. The seashore provides him with much of the inspiration for the creations, often incorporating seashells and other flotsam for the costumes. The video at the top of this post shows a costume made with oyster, mussel, whelk and slipper limpet shells, adorned with cuttlefish bones and spider crab carapaces – to mention just some of the strand-line items. Incredibly innovative work. I particularly like the images where he is on the beach coated head to toe with glutinous clay to which gravel is adhering – rather like the clay ball from Ringstead Bay which I photographed some time ago.
A study of a single seal humerus bone, from the upper proximal part of the forelimb, shown from various angles to demonstrate the different appearance of each facet. Probably a Grey Seal bone. See Lisa Maye Hodgetts, PhD Thesis 1999, A manual for the identification of the post-cranial skeleton of the North Atlantic Phocid Seals (Appendix B, B.4 Humerus, B.4.1 Adult Humerus, in “Animal Bones and Human Society in the Late Younger Stone Age of Arctic Norway”, Vol.2 of 2, p 321).
The next stage of Nature’s recycling process – not a pretty sight! These two images show a decomposing carcass of an adult Grey Seal washed ashore at Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula. The soft tissues are disintegrating but still holding the bones together except for the loss of some small end bones from the flippers. The skull is partially exposed, showing the characteristic shape of cranium, mandible and teeth that are diagnostic and distinguishing features for this species.
An assortment of summer flip-flop sandals, trainer shoes, sturdy lace-ups, and a yellow wellington boot – all washed up onto the strand-lines at Rhossili and Whiteford on the Gower Peninsula in Christmas week 2013.