On even a short beach walk, you can expect to discover pieces enough among the sea wrack to stimulate your imagination and sense of discovery. If you walk a little more, you will find signs of seaweed cycles, floats, and bottles from distant places. In addition to those traces, you’ll encounter lost gear and pelagic oddities. Everything that washes up has something to say. Here are my selections from the 2022 wrack line and their stories as I heard them.
I’ll lead off with a sunrise scene from the foredune when the moments before dropping down to the surf zone overflowed with anticipation and beauty.
Brothers from other mothers
The salp in the left-hand panel is an open water form. On the other hand, chondrophores (eroded gaper clam shell remnants), shown in the right-hand panel, come from bays or offshore beds, though much of the erosion that creates their soft cup-like shape probably takes place on beaches. Throughout this retrospective, you’ll notice that the wrack line represents the meeting of artifacts from sister ecosystems. In a tangle of sea wrack, it’s not unheard of to find intermingled material from maritime forests, estuaries, the subtidal, the open ocean, the rocky intertidal, and sandy beaches.
I loved how the large pebbles (or are they small cobbles?) in the upper left-hand panel framed the empty keyhole limpet shell. On the right, There was so much beauty in a drifted mussel shell. Where is it now, and is its blue flame still alight? And what could’ve been more intriguing than determined tracks disappearing into the surf? (I shortly found, with relief, traces of the return.)
I have yet to meet someone who isn’t thrilled to discover a whole sand dollar.
Late October saw a beachcast of little medusae (left-hand panel) I hadn’t seen before and plenty of sauries, too (middle panel). But the more provocative find was a late September spotfin (right-hand panel) a bit north of its known range as I understand it. You’ll notice by their handiwork that beach hoppers found both fishes before I did.
Beached bull kelp reminds me of the cycle of life and decay’s intimacy.
Jelly fragments (left-hand panel) are commonplace, but this one stood out. It carried fire like an agate. In the right-hand panel, subtidal and terrestrial ecosystems met with this beautifully-sited bull kelp heart. I was grateful for the reminder that love is what matters.
The summer Dungeness molt (upper left-hand panel) is a big occasion on Pacific Northwest beaches. I escaped the worst of a passing shower at the top of the cobbles and found myself at eye level with lovely Castilleja (upper right-hand panel). In the lower panel, a tangle of drifted surfgrass.
Drifters come to rest
Their plastic raft is a sign of the times.
From the central coast (May)
Adula (left-hand panel) is a fragile borer. For the best chance of finding shells, plan a walk near their habitat or chance upon them like I did. Fossils (middle panel) in ancient backshore sediments were abundant; The right-hand panel features a remnant drifted calcareous fragment constructed by Dodecaceria.
People stuff: A collection from the cobbles
Coming to you from the zone of big wood
In the mirror
Reflections of Haystack Rock (left-hand panel) and Hug Point (right-hand panel)
Styrofoam (upper left-hand panel) isn’t nearly the wrack line component it used to be, but shotgun shell wads (upper right-hand panel) are ever-present. Cordage is among the most noticeable large human-made material in the wrack line.
Cobblestone cairns frame offshore rocks.
Here’s to great beachcombing in the year ahead!
If you’d like to see more scenes of washed up things from 2022, go to Wrack Line 2022. In addition, you can find sea wrack galleries back to 2012 on my Wrack Line page.
Note: The header image shows a December trace of tide mainly consisting of conifer needles. Eelgrass Zostera and numerous tiny black seedlike specks are also present.