3-27-12 Ghost ship

Update on this tsunami debris post from last week. According to Reuters, NOAA has located a Japanese fishing boat drifting off the coast of western Canada, which it identifies as the “first” sign of tsunami debris from Japan. Of course, if NOAA followed Curt Ebbesmeyer’s beachcombers’ network, it would know that other debris has likely already arrived in the form of fishing floats. NOAA is now revising its prediction for debris arrival based on the profile of the debris — how high it sits in the water, which makes it move faster — exactly the modeling that Ebbesmeyer conducted using OSCURS. NOAA modeling now concurs with his — debris should be arriving, well, now.

3-18-12 Washaway beach

Washaway Beach, WA, which has has been losing 100 feet of coast per year for a century, is known for the massive logs and driftwood tossed up by the area’s strong circular current. That means plastic, too. I picked up these bits on the approach to the beach, a few hundred yards from the shore.


Versions of the pastel green cylinder near the bottom center were everywhere. It may be an oyster spacer. There are many oyster farms on this coast. The orange tag next door is from a crab pot that belonged to the fishing vessel MISS EMILY. All crab pot tags have to have a fishing vessel name and a phone number. This one has area code 360, which covers lots of Washington state. I’ll call and try to find out when and where it was lost. A number of these tags from Washington and Oregon wash up on Noni’s beach in Hawaii.

When I came over the rise to the tide line, I knew I had to stop collecting plastic. There was just too much. Instead I took some pictures. We did remove the large foam chunks that may be tsunami debris, and the plastic garbage can.

Notice the tiny bits of microplastic.

Foam packed inside tire, with beach grass.

Jen dragged a net up above the tideline (our dog Quincy thought that was exciting).


3-17-12 Tsunami debris?

Once we got to Grayland on the Washington coast, we checked out the 76 sign view out the motel window and headed directly for the beach, despite the freezing rain.


This is an extremely rural, undeveloped area. But right away I started picking up plastic, including these strange chunks of large-cell polystyrene foam.

That night at the local elementary school, the oceanographer Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer gave a presentation on tsunami debris. Ebbesmeyer is the reason I met Noni in the first place. I read about her in his book Flotsametrics, and asked him by email to put me in touch with her when I found out I was going to Hawaii last year. Ebbesmeyer has used the OSCURS computer model to predict when tsunami debris from Japan will start arriving on the West Coast. OSCURS, the Ocean Current Surface Simulator, was developed by Ebbesmeyer’s colleague Jim Ingraham. They have used it to very accurately track the travels of everything from rubber duckies to hockey gloves.

Ebbesmeyer’s predictions differ from NOAA‘s because Ebbesmeyer accounts for the varying profiles of different pieces of debris, which travel faster or slower depending on how high they sit in the water. Ebbesmeyer’s model predicts that Japanese fishing buoys, which sit high, should be arriving on the West Coast now. “We’re dealing with fast flotsam,” he said. And, indeed, community members brought in samples of each of the types of fishing buoys Ebbesmeyer identified in photos of debris from the tsunami, including cylindrical buoys made of large-celled polystyrene foam like the stuff we found on the beach.

I stopped collecting plastic after the first day in Grayland. There was just too much of it, and that polystyrene foam was everywhere. I took pictures, though. Photo essay post coming soon.

3-17-12 From Ethan

This weekend Jen and I traveled to Grayland on the coast of Washington to see my friend Noni from Hawaii. She and her husband Ron took us to Junk Beach on the Big Island last March, cementing my plastic obsession. Noni comes every year for the Beachcombers Fun Fair and then the Driftwood Fair a few weeks later.

I decided to continue the plastic catalog on the trip. In Elma, WA, we stopped to walk Quincy in an empty lot across from the Olympic View Grange Hall 774. In the field I found this Star Wars valentine with, I just noticed, “From: Ethan” at the top in black marker. So this post is dedicated to Ethan.

3-12-12 800-ICE-BRIX

Plastic catalog, in which I collect all the plastic I find in my daily half-mile walk from my home in Southeast Portland, Oregon, to the dog park at Mount Tabor.

Today’s plastic blew against my fence from out of the foreclosure zone next door. Polar Tech Industries polystyrene foam cooler. 800-ICE-BRIX (empty)

Tag from the daphne plant I bought two days ago: DAPHNE O.’AUREA MARGINATA’ WINTER DAPHNE Dense, mounding shrub with variegated foliage. Intensely fragrant clusters of magenta buds open to white flowers in late winter. 4′ by 4′. Evergreen. Zones 7-9. $ #2


3-11-12 May cause power outages

Plastic catalog, in which I collect all the plastic I find in my daily half-mile walk from my home in Southeast Portland, Oregon, to the dog park at Mount Tabor.

Heart balloon ©2009 Anagram International, Inc., a division of Amscan. Minneapolis, MN E.E.C. Office Amscan International Ltd. Milton Keynes, England MK10 ODA Made in U.S.A. Made with LumLife™ Film from Tora Plastics (America), Inc. Patent Pending. WARNING: Possible entanglement injury. Adult supervision recommended during use for children under 3 years. ! WARNING: DO NOT RELEASE OUTDOORS OR NEAR ELECTRIC POWER LINES MAY CAUSE POWER OUTAGES.

3-10-12: Dreams (registered trademark)

Plastic catalog, in which I collect all the plastic I find in my daily half-mile walk from my home in Southeast Portland, Oregon, to the dog park at Mount Tabor.

‘Dreams® White’ petunia tag

tiny ziploc bag

Orbit bubblemint artifically flavored sugarfree gum FAB NEW PACK DESIGN

MAMA candy wrapper


rubber band

metal-looking part

grey fragment

black fragment curled like a worm

Gummi Worms 7 SELECT Striped with fruit flavor Og Trans Fat Gomitas en forma de Gusanos


Hot poetry week in Portland!

Wow, what a week for poetry in stumptown!

Just look at this lineup:

Saturday, March 10, the Switch series I curate with Jeremy Davis and Paul Maziar hosts Oregon Book Award finalist Alicia Cohen and Brooklyn, New York, poet and Litmus Press founder E. Tracy Grinnell, with music from the ladies of Axton Kincaid and art by Julie Costanzo, 7 p.m. 109 SE Salmon St.

On Sunday, March 11, Powell’s on Hawthorne hosts Julian T. Brolaski of Brooklyn, New York, and Judith Goldman, temporarily of Portland. Each has a fabulous new book out, 4 p.m., 3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

On Tuesday, March 13, the If Not for Kidnap Reading Series hosts Eileen Myles from New York City and Rachel Springer of Portland, with music by Diagonal People, doors at 7:30, 3968 SE Mall St., Apt A

Thursday, March 15, a big group of poets is reading works they wrote as if they were “works by others.” Readers include Donald Dunbar, Sam Lohmann, Jerry Harp, Lindsay Allison Ruoff, Robert Duncan Gray, Alex Behr, Emily Kendal Frey, David Knowles, Joseph Mains, B.T. Shaw, Amy Bernstein, 6 p.m., Place Gallery, 700 SW 5th Ave.
And to round out your week of poetry bliss, on Friday, March 16, the Bad Blood Reading Series hosts CA Conrad of Philadelphia, who also has a new book out, with James Gendron of Portland, doors at 7:30, reading at 8:30, 417 SE 11th Ave.

And I probably missed some. Go reading curators of Portland!


3-7-12: foam antelope

Plastic catalog, in which I collect all the plastic I find in my daily half-mile walk from my home in Southeast Portland, Oregon, to the dog park at Mount Tabor.


yellow antelope




3-6-12 Void-fill snow

Plastic catalog, in which I collect all the plastic I find in my daily half-mile walk from my home in Southeast Portland, Oregon, to the dog park at Mount Tabor.


fountain soda lid that says Sweetheart

packing peanut

the other half of the Connect with Something Better package I found yesterday, apparently for broadband equipment

Once I’ve been collecting items for a while I’ll conduct a formal inventory, but I suspect that among the most common items will be the three I found today: straw, packing peanut, soda fountain lid.

Each is an invention of the 1960s and 70s, though straws as a tool for drinking are apparently ancient. The plastic lid has a byzantine history of forms, styles and patents (the Wikipedia entry for the Sweetheart cup company has been blocked for “Investigation of potential copyright issue.”) Dow Chemical came up with the Styrofoam packing peanut in 1965. It is mostly air, a kind of packaging known as “void-fill.” One author estimated that enough packing peanuts are produced each year to cover Manhattan in three inches of void-fill snow.