Thursday, November 6, 2014

Relentless

It started during the early morning hours of October 7th, although I was not awake to see the beginning.   
Rafts of Sargassum drifting in to shore.
More Sargassum seaweed (see my previous post, here) washing up.  But this time it was different - it was full of trash. 
It doesn't look like it amounts to much, except that it just keeps coming.
Hour after hour it accumulated on the shore in overwhelming amounts.
The view of our dock from the veranda.
 It just kept coming ...
The view of the south beach from the dock.
And the north beach.
I could hardly bear to take these photos, but I felt like I should document what was happening.
Floating plastic crap mixed in with Sargassum.
 It was physically gut-wrenching to me to see this.
So much crap.
Sticks and logs were mixed in with the Sargassum and the trash.
The accumulation was several feet deep, 10 or more feet wide and extended as far as the eye could see.
 I learned later that similar amounts were washing up in Punta Gorda, 30 miles to our south, and along the entire Placencia peninsula, 15 miles to our north.  It may have been along the entire coastline of Belize.
These large logs probably washed out of Honduran and Guatemalan Rivers with the floods of the rainy season.  That is probably where the trash came from as well.
An amazing number of logs (called "sticks" locally) washed up just to our north. 
One place in particular seemed to collect plastic.  This looks like a landfill.  
It is almost impossible for me to comprehend the magnitude of this mess.
 It is no exaggeration to say that the accumulation is several feet deep.

And still floating in the water is more Sargassum with small bits of styrofoam and other plastic.
 New accumulations more or less stopped by Oct. 10th, when the next photos below were taken.
The first Sargassum to wash up has dried out and turned dark brown.
We have had 3 people working 6 hours a day to get the mess moved off the beach.
Allen, Matthew, and Lloydie worked steadily using wheelbarrows, pitchforks, and rakes to clear the beach.  
 For almost 2 weeks, the 3 guys worked 6 hours, 6 days a week.  They were able to cut back a little and get back to construction for a few hours a day after that. 
Some of the Sargassum and trash washed back out to sea.
Only to be washed back ashore.
Gradually, they made headway against the overwhelming mass and we could begin to a beach again.
By October 11, the sheer bulk had been dramatically reduced.
 Uncountable wheelbarrow loads were massed in shallow pile on our south lot.
We kept the pile shallow so that the Sargassum could dry out.  The center of the pile had originally been about 3 feet deep and is only a foot or so deep now that the Sargassum has dried.
We will rake through and pull out the largest plastic things like shoes and bottles to bag up and take to the landfill.  But the remainder of little bits of plastic and styrofoam mixed in with Sargassum we will burn on site and then take the resulting plastic slag to the landfill.

Meanwhile, the beach just north of us is still covered with trash. 
This is a spot north of our property where more plastic accumulated than Sargassum.
Lots of little tiny crocs for toddlers in the mix.
To our south, we see little styrofoam bits washing back out into the water from their temporary stranding among mangrove roots.  This, of course, then accumulates on our beach.
 Eventually we will extend our cleanup efforts to the beach to our north.
Our beach, at the left edge of the photo, is pretty clean now, but the north is still trash-covered.
Some of the larger items that will get taken to the landfill.
 It is now to the point where we can walk north on the beach at low tide.  At high tide we have to pick our way through the trash.
Still not pretty.
 One neat thing that washed up is pumice.
Pumice is a volcanic rock that is so filled with minute air-bubbles that it floats.  We think this washes out from the Guatemalan Rivers and originated, perhaps centuries ago, from volcanoes in Guatemala.
Lots of pumice washed up ranging in size from these small pieces (some no larger than cough drop) to football-sized chunks.
The last shots show how our place looks now, 4 weeks after the influx.  We still have trash washing up, but it is manageable.  I can look out at the beach and feel happy rather than sick to my stomach, due almost entirely to the efforts of Allen, Matthew, and Lloydie.
Only 1 errant bottle in sight! 
Once again, the sand calls to us to walk barefoot along the beach.
This is how we like it.
There is still lots of work to do - sorting through the big pile and getting it burned.  Hauling the plastic and slag to the landfill (first by boat to get to our car and then to the landfill), cleaning up to the north and south of our property and staying on top of what washes in from farther away. But it seems feasible and the overwhelming despair is gone.  I've even been swimming again.  Paradise regained.




11 comments:

  1. That's heartbreaking to see Wilma; even more so knowing that there really is no need for any of that either. Sadly humans are their own worst enemy; thankfully, with a few exceptions.
    Those three guys did a fantastic job. Let's hope they don't have to do it again.

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    1. We can expect to get a major influx of trash a couple of times a year, but this amount is unprecedented in our ten years of experience here. I do hope it retains an uncontested title as the "worst ever". As yo say, exceptions not withstanding, we humans are our own worst enemy and even more so are enemies of planet earth. I despair of us at times.

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  2. I found this utterly horrendous Wilma, not to mention depressing. If you'll pardon the pun, this is probably just a drop in the ocean compared to what is out there. All courtesy of humankind.
    I can completely empathise with how you must have felt to have your paradise contaminated in such a way and I take my hat off to you and your team for restoring it to its former glory.
    I hope it never happens again!

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    1. Unfortunately you are correct that this is just a drop in the ocean of all the floating marine trash. And when some of it washes up on our beach there is no choice but to clean it up as best we can. Thanks for your empathy and encouragement.

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  3. The sight of all that rubbish is so depressing, we humans will almost ultimately destroy our wonderful planet.

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    1. Yes, there's a good chance we bury ourselves in our own crap, David. Hopefully earth will recover once humans are extinct. In the meantime, I will do what I can in my little part of the world and enjoy the natural beauty that remains.

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  4. What a ghastly thing to happen Wilma. Hope it gets back to some kind of normality for you.

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    1. Things are very good now, Roy, thanks. Clear sea and sky, delightful weather. I do hope that this event was not a portent of a "new normal", but I am sure we will have other major "trash events" periodically just as we have in the past. We will enjoy these days while they are here!

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  5. I am at lost with words. Anyway, good to know that everything is back to normal again.

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    1. A kick in the gut, it was, Mun. We are quite relieved that it is resolved (mostly) to the time being. Thanks!

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  6. Wilma.
    Looking at that mess is very upsetting, but on the other side of the coin looking at your sunset pictures makes you realise just how beautiful our planet can look especially with a camera knowing that we will always have it to look back on.

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