Full Moon Rising

Full Moon Rising
Silent Cove. Chance Harbour NB - My back yard.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

ALL THAT GARBAGE AND A BAG OF POTATO CHIPS : INVASION OF THE SEAWEED.


July 29th 2014. There was a happening on this date – just shy of over one week ago. A happening that will remain burned into my memory. A lot of emotions in those first few moments ran the gamut from bewilderment, shame and determination.  The day started out as any other normal day. One of our local fisherman and neighbour had joined us for morning coffee. As we sat on our deck soaking up the warmth of the morning sun we took notice of another neighbour riding his ATV, up our kilometre long beach. On the back of his bike was piled high with some very colourful objects. As he drew closer we could see the bike was loaded down with buoys, most of which were coloured red, white and blue.  “Whatcha up to?” yelled our visiting neighbour. The other yelled back, “Just collecting up the buoys that washed in with the seaweed belt and garbage.” He added, “ The seaweed is 3 feet deep!” All I heard was  “garbage” and “beach” and felt immediate concern.  We headed down to the beach to see for ourselves just what was going on. As my husband Eric and I stood on the headland overlooking the beach and cove we were speechless, literally.  I remember whispering, “Oh God, no. No, no, no, no!” Erics' response was, “Holy hell.”  What lay upon our beautiful beach was tons of seaweed and what appeared to be a ton of garbage lying on top of all the seaweed. The debris field was literally from the beginning to the end of the beach.  The seaweed was actually at the very least 3 feet deep and as wide as 12-14 feet across in spots and the garbage that lay across this field of seaweed was all plastics. There were also tree trunks, dead trees and a lot of logs and wood in general.  Even a very old wooden barge or wharf had washed in broken up and held together only by its bolts.  That so much wood and seaweed had washed in wasn’t my immediate concern. It was the field of plastic that alarmed me. The debris field held large plastic bottles of industrial strength bleach, fish bait bags made of nylon, miles of  thick, nylon, heavy ropes that boats use. There were a lot of small plastic water bottles, half deflated helium balloons with ribbons and strings still attached, sandwich baggies, juice jugs, styrofoam, large plastic jugs of what would of once held engine oil but were filled with body waste, urine.  There were jars of mayonnaise, peanut butter, and bottle caps. I could go on and on. All I will say that there were no paper products, only plastic and styrofoam and nylon and helium balloons. The whole beach had been transformed to look like a municipal garbage dump. Oh yes and one more thing – a small bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips that lay on top of the seaweed.
The bag still had air in it as new bags of chips often do to ensure freshness. I couldn’t resist opening the bag. I looked inside – all chips were dry as, well, as dry as … potato chips. I got brave and tasted one. They were factory fresh! Eric and I plunked ourselves down onto the sand and ate the chips while surveying the beach.  Later on, back at home; I noticed that there was an expiry date of August 30th, 2014 and on the back of the bag it said, “Made In The U.S.A.” I did some research and found the factory on the map. The Cape Cod Chip factory is located near the waters of Poponesset Bay in a place called Hyannis, Massachusetts U.S.A. I later emailed the chip factory to tell them of the adventures of their little bag of chips and of how it had traveled up the eastern seaboard, straight up the Bay of Fundy and landed on our beach in my back yard.
Map showing just part of the eastern seaboard that the bag of chips traveled.
I remarked on their great packaging. For this little bag of chips to travel so far and arrive all intact and still edible was amazing to us! They responded in kind saying the story was very interesting and they were passing the story on to their marketing department. 

 
             PUBLIC CALL OUT FOR HELP WITH CLEAN UP.

 

Hot and sweaty but seeing the end in site. This made me smile!
The rest of the 29th of July was spent thinking hard on what to do about the garbage invasion.  I didn’t know where to turn or what to do but, I knew what not to do and that was to not let all that plastic leave our beach via the water. It would have to be cleaned up manually and fast as we only had a small window of opportunity before the tides started to climb. At that moment we were safe as the tides at their highest for the next several days were at a low of 21-22 feet. When the debris washed in it had been a high surf that had tossed all the seaweed and garbage up onto the beach, above the current tide line. So, I spent the next two days calling every level of government of both provincial and federal levels looking for help. I received the same answers over and over no matter which way I turned. It isn’t our mandate, it isn’t our jurisdiction or the federal government has made so many cutbacks our hands are tied. After realizing I was getting nowhere fast I made a call to Atlantic Canada’s top news television station CTV. I asked for one of their reporters, Mike Cameron, to take on the story.
Mike Cameron, CTV News reporter talks with Eric.
He arrived on Friday morning of  August 1st. This day was also Eric’s 59th birthday. Sadly Eric’s day was literally buried beneath the story of the beach.  When Mike arrived he surveyed the beach and said thank you to me for calling him. “What a story!” he said. He also said he’d never seen anything like it. The story aired that evening on the 6:00pm news and took 3rd spot following two murder stories. After Mike wrapped up his tapping, Eric and I began the Herculean task of cleaning up the surface garbage. We were completely alone on the beach.
I think Eric is having second thoughts as he catches his breath.
We lasted 2 ½ hours and couldn’t do any more for that day. The worst part of the work involved getting at the garbage that sat strewn on top of the 3-foot deep bed of seaweed.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like that before and never want to ever again. I can only describe that it felt like trying to remain upright, walking on a waterbed mattress. It took every muscle in my body to try to not fall flat on my face into the seaweed. I know I came close twice and my screams revealed my reaction to the close calls. It was creepy and gross at the same time. I knew beneath the field of seaweed was more garbage and heavens knows what else, a dead body perhaps? Don’t laugh at that because among all the debris and over a 3 day period a dead baby seal washed in, the next day, another dead baby seal and on the third day a full grown dead seal. They probably died of natural causes but still not a nice site to see and my fears of what was under my feet were not unfounded!  On Saturday, August 2nd, two of our neighbours Kathleen MCNamara and Gary Vincent helped us out with garbage bags and clean up. They put in two hours and made a noticeable dent. One of our other neighbours brought down his ATV for us to use to haul the bagged garbage off of the beach and also his trailer to haul it away to the landfill. Saints, all three of them for all their help. That particular day Eric and I had hit the 2-½ hour mark and I still had to make the trek home. I was barely able to stand up when my neighbour with the ATV took me home.
Many emotions on my face, none of them good.
I wasn’t in good shape and I was so grateful for the lift. On Sunday it took everything we had in us to walk back to the beach and pick up where we left off. We still had half the beach to clean. It was very slow going that day. Two hours into it, we went home. Monday was the long holiday
Post clean up.
weekend so whether we wanted to or not, we took the day off. We were physically suffering to say the least. We returned on Tuesday and 1-½ hours into it moose flies and hot blistering sun were assailing us. The bugs put the run to us. Even coated with bug spray, they were relentless.  On Wednesday we returned at the beach once again. We only had about ¼ of the beach left to clean.  Another neighbour came driving up the beach on his ATV with his young son riding shotgun.
Eric carries the last bag off the beach.
They stopped to talk to us when the child started to ask a lot of questions about what we were doing and then came the ‘but why’s – I explained we were cleaning the beach and the main reason was because of the marine life. I pointed toward the water and asked, “What’s out there?”, “The Bay of Fundy!” he answered. “Do you know what Whales are?” he shook his head, yes. “Well, at this moment, for the summer and fall months, the Right Whale lives right out there in the Bay of Fundy.” His gray-blue eyes, which strangely matched the color of the bay, scanned the water. I continued, “There are only about 300 of the Right Whales left in the world and they are all out there right now. Should anything happen to them then they won’t be around any more at all, nowhere on the whole planet.” I could see the wheels turning in his little head as he digested what I was saying. I picked up one of the thick, heavy, nylon fishing ropes and said, “See this rope?” He shook his head in acknowledgment. I continued, “Should this rope and all the other ropes and garbage float back out into the Bay of Fundy, and a whale was to accidentally swallow one while he is feeding, it will go down into his stomach, get all twisted in his belly and the whale will die. So, that is why we are cleaning all this stuff up to go to the dump so the whales don’t get hurt, it’s up to you and me and everyone else to take care of them.” He shook his head once again and then said, “Would you like us to help you clean up the garbage???” “I would like that very much!” I said.  Bless his heart I thought as I choked back a lump in my throat. Him and his Dad stayed with us until we were finished. I was sooo happy they helped. Then, the Dad piled me and his son and 4 more bags of garbage onto the back of his ATV and drove it all to the trailer to add to the growing pile of garbage.

We all went back to our house and I made coffee for us grownups and handed a nice refreshingly cold orange Popsicle for the boy’s reward. Eric also slipped a movie into the disc player … WALL-E. If you’ve seen the movie then I need say no more. I think this boy could become one of the world’s youngest activists!

 
So in the end of the cleanup we did a modest calculation of the amount of garbage we collected. We had used the lawn and garbage sized industrial garbage bags and each holds about 50 lbs each at the maximum. We had at least 12 of those bags and did the math. Approximately 600 pounds of garbage and that is not including the miles of heavy fishing rope …so, up that tally by another 150 lbs or higher. At the cost of the one of neighbours, it will be hauled off to the local landfill. 

 

While all this was going on I contacted a Facebook friend of
mine, Kevin Shaw, a fellow weather observer who lives in Gaithersburg Maryland, U.S.A. He is also a cartographer and oceanographer with the NOAA- Federal in the U.S.A.  and I asked him for his help. I needed to know if he could find out about this seaweed belt that was coming up from the New England states. He sent out a mass email to his co-workers asking them for their opinion or if they knew about this. They were not long in coming back with an answer. It turns out that every summer, in the Gulf of Maine, that large amounts, or rafts, of seaweed sloughs off after reproduction in the spring or after storms. We are thinking if a storm had anything to do with it coming this far up the coast then we are pointing the accusing finger at Post Tropical Storm Arthur, which several weeks ago paid New Brunswick a visit. So, there is the answer to the mystery of the Invasion of the Seaweed! Sounds like a title out of a Stephen King story doesn’t it?  It kind of wraps it all up nice and neat doesn’t it?   Well, not quite. While walking on the beach today inspecting for garbage Eric had called out to me, “Hey Nat! Come here and see this!”  As I drew closer to him I followed his gaze to the ground in front of him. “Look what I found!” he said, while pointing to the ground and grinning from ear to ear. Well blow me down! It was a message in a bottle! 
Message in a bottle.

 . 
It had traveled from Long Island Nova Scotia and was sent by a young lady
This just all happened this morning and I’ve yet to try to contact her. Actually I’m having a hard time deciphering her contact information.  The reporter, Mike Cameron, is going to be calling us back for an update on, Invasion of the Seaweed and I will give him this part of the update as well. Matter of fact, I can’t wait! How cool is all of this!!! I must confess though that this isn’t the first message in a bottle that our family has found. There was another about 6 years ago that one of my sons had found on our beach at that time on the Kenebacasis River. The KR is a tidal river that flows in and out of; you guessed it, the Bay of Fundy. This message was inside a wine bottle. The label had read Blueberry Wine, Nova Scotia Canada. That message was completely different. A young woman had poured her heart out about a love that didn’t work out. She had expressed how he had made her feel and how she would never forget him. There was one thing odd about that whole letter. The writer mentioned how she wanted to be “Peter’s right eyebrow.” Go figure!

 

So all the thanks we owe I’d like to place right here and not at the very end as an afterthought. These people were all instrumental in their own ways of giving of information, education and connecting us to their connections. So, a huge thanks goes out to a special person on the inside of things…this person will know that I am referring to them. I think I’ve found a kindred spirit in them as we are on the same wavelength. Wish I could say their name! Thankfully I know when to be discreet. Also a huge thanks to Kevin Shaw and his co – workers for solving the mystery of the Invasion of the Seaweed.  So thank you to; Kevin Shaw - NOAA Federal; Brian Beal, Richard Okulski - NOAA Federal; Kathy Mills; Leyden, Kathleen; Paul Dest; beth bisson; Chris Bartlett; Dana Morse; Esperanza Stancioff; Keri Kaczor; Kristen Grant; Mike Pietrak; Natalie Springuel; sarah redmond
Subject: Re: Seaweed infestation

 

Thank you to our neighbours, all five of them for their contribution to the cleanup of the beach.

 

Thanks go out to ACAP(Atlantic Coastal Action Program) for all their help and offer of gloves and bags and advice!

 

Thanks to ECW(East Charlotte Waterways) for educational information and offer of assistance. Next time this happens to our beach, and I’m sure there will be a next time, ECW is the first phone call we will place the call out for help!

 

Thanks goes out to CTV News Atlantic for airing our story on the 6:00 evening news. Also a huge thanks to CTV reporter, Mike Cameron who drove all the way out here to Chance Harbour to help us tell our story. You did a great job Mike!

 

Also a big thanks goes out to Weekend Mornings Radio Show on CBC Radio One. Stan was the greatest and gave me airtime to tell our story and put a call out for help within the community. Thanks for squeezing us in Stan!

And last but not least, Matt Abbott, The Bay of Fundy Keeper. Thanks Matt and hope to connect with you in the future!

 
And last but not least all our friends and family on Facebook! Thank you all for ‘sharing and liking’ our story! I really do love my facebook family!

It is now, Friday August 8, 2014 and it is almost the 11th hour of a long day. I've been fighting like a bagged bobcat with my lousy dialup internet speed of only 26.4bps all day trying to put this piece together. I am getting nowhere fast. I feel my blood pressure climbing and frustration building faster than a rising tide. Yet I can smell the bay and this somehow calms me. This evenings high tide was about an hour ago and we are now at ebb tide. She is quiet. Silently sliding out as she sliently slid in. I look out into the blackness of the night through my open window. It is a muggy night and all I can hear is the soft murmuring of the surf. A very soft breeze floats in through the window off the bay and cools my skin and my temper. I think back over the past week, no, the past year and realize how much this little spot on the bay has saved my sanity more than once.  The past year has brought so many challenges for us. Last July 4th, Eric had a stroke that hopitalized him for 11 days. He endured surgery and was let loose and sent home with only half his problems being addressed.  The reason I even mention all of this is not for sympathy.  But more to tie in the story of the seaweed invasion into our lives. You see, we are always under stress, we worry about keeping the roof over our heads and paying power bills and buying food.  In the bigger picture we are not very different than a lot of New Brunswickers. When we first moved here it was love at first sight. I will never forget my first morning waking up in our little cottage and seeing the view of the cove and the Bay of Fundy. I became so overwhelmed that it made my heart ache and literally took my breath away - I wept. To say it felt like destiny had drawn us here is an understatement. The tide was in high that morning. The surf softly sliding in just like tonight. The sun was rising in the east and filled the sky with soft streaks of pink light that reflected in the still, mirrored water of the cove. I felt at the time that the quiet pull of the tide was whispering, "We've been here the whole time waiting for you to come home."  I've never felt like I belonged anywhere in my life as I do here, living on this cove, on the Bay of Fundy. When the going gets rough in the everyday scheme of things and I am feeling lost and hopeless the bay always has a way of grabbing my attention be it through the scent of her, or the sounds of the crashing of her surf upon the beach, or even the call of the gulls or the eagles - it's as if she taps me on the shoulder and says, "You are not alone, I am here for you always. Toss your cares onto my waters, let me carry them away for you." She has saved my sanity more than once. I owe it to her to try to save her back. The disaster on the beach was extemely difficult on us physically. The hard reality was as two people with limited physical abilities we had no business taking on such a difficult job. I knew that at the time but, I feel such a debt of gratitude toward her. I always will. When we reached the last day of clean up, as I rode on the back of the ATV that carried me home I turned in my seat to look back at the long stretch of beach behind me and couldn't believe that we had done it. I was overwhelmed. Later that afternoon, after a long nap I made myself a much needed restorative cup of tea. From inside the kitchen I could hear the call of an eagle floating in through the windows. I took my cup of tea and stepped out onto the deck. My eyes scanned the tree tops in my yard and there he was.
We had a nice chat.
Sitting atop one of the highest trees in my yard. Such a beautiful, magnificent eagle. I said, "Well hello." he looked down at me over his beak, completely unfazed by my presence. I sat my cup of tea down, went inside the house and retrieved my camera. I got off about 50 shots. I think he rather enjoyed the attention.
He never paid me no mind, as they say.
I sat the camera down when I was finished and picked up my cup of tea and looked out over the cove and the beach. The two of us just kind of sat in this comfortable silence listening to the waves of the cove as they stretched up the beach. I wondered if he was saying, "Thank you." I had two words for him, they were , "You're welcome."
I continued to sip my tea as we both looked out over the cove. It was a comfortable silence.


July 29th. Before clean up.
Before clean up.
So dear reader. I have opened up parts of my personal life to share with you the human will and spirit and what it can accomplish. Nothing is impossible. Sometimes improbable, but never impossible. To be honest we are still recovering from all that mountain of work. I think we will feel the affects for a while yet to come. But it matters not in the bigger picture. I think my husband was a hero to take it all on knowing there was always a risk. `If I am to die of a heart attack I`d rather it happen doing something worth while than sitting in front of the tv.` We just couldn't let it go and I'm glad we didn't. I am proud of what we did even if some people thought we were half out of our minds. I never did dance well to the beat of someone elses drum. I have my own drums to beat afterall. And when I follow my heart I am at my happiest, even if it drives others crazy. Thank you again dear reader. I hope you enjoyed this long yarn of a tale of the one that never got away, in this case the garbage. Think twice before you toss anything anywhere other than a garbage can. You may think even picking up a piece of someone elses garbage won't make a difference. Think again. Take responsibility for our land and water. We, you, owe it to the planet. I thank you in advance, the eagles thank you and the whales thank you as well. And while you are at it, thank yourself.


You can always catch me at the next high tide ...

Natalie