Friday, March 02, 2007

Flotsam and jetsam

click photo to enlarge
"Don't be a sinner, be a binner!", anti-beach litter slogan devised by a school student

The Irish Sea is an almost land-locked body of water. It is connected to the Atlantic Ocean in the south by the narrow St George's Channel between the Pembroke coast of Wales and Rosslare in Ireland. To the north the aptly named North Channel between the Mull of Galloway in Southern Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland is the linking point. However, these are fairly tight straits, and therefore any item dropped into the Irish Sea has a good chance of circulating in those waters for a long time.

One consequence of this is that the sea and many of the bordering beaches have accumulations of natural and man-made debris - flotsam and jetsam. Nowhere is this more true than between Rossall Point and the mouth of the River Wyre near Fleetwood. Here the tides, winds and currents of Morecambe Bay deposit fish boxes, plastic bottles, tree trunks, fishing nets, and countless other items of detritus from land and sea. Yesterday I saw two gas bottles and three large orange fishing floats! The Marine Conservation Society's annual survey shows this beach to have copious and increasing amounts of debris. This mirrors the general MCS findings that over the past 10 years beach litter in the UK has increased by 80%. The "top twenty" items of beach litter make interesting (and depressing) reading. Interestingly, to the south of Rossall Point the beaches suffer much less. Flotsam and jetsam must pass through these waters, but the scouring action of the sea ensures that it isn't deposited in the same quantities as it is further north. With the exception, it seems, of rope and netting! These droppings from inshore trawlers and other ships frequently snag and decorate the piers, groynes and railings of the Fylde Coast. And, whilst fifty years ago this debris would have been made from natural materials, and consequently degraded quite quickly, today much of it is man-made, long-lasting and luridly coloured! It is, therefore, not surprising to find that rope, cord and net is the second most commonly found litter on UK beaches, accounting for 10% of the total amount.

My photograph shows some of this sea-borne waste wrapped around the chain railings of a Cleveleys "slade" (the local name for a slipway). Now, regardless of the fact that it is essentially "rubbish", I have to admit that the achingly bright orange and the subtler turquoise of the polypropylene, alongside the drab natural hemp, bring colour and interest to this image. In fact they make it! To capture the shot I used a wide zoom lens at 34mm (35mm equivalent) with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f8 at 1/200 second), ISO 100, with -0.3EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen