What’s the Wrack Line?
In the marine sense, the wrack line is the line of debris left on the beach by high tide. The wrack is usually made up of eel grass, kelp, crustacean shells, feathers, bits of plastic, and all kinds of litter. You will also find bird and mammal carcasses and things like pallets, boards, branches and small logs, and pieces of crabbing and fishing gear and and things that have fallen or been thrown from boats.
The more substantial wrack accumulates above the main beach on a shelf at foot of the foredune or in the cobbles at the base of a cliff. No shelf, no accumulation. Up above the main beach is where you’ll find the biggest logs and stumps and timbers. The big stuff, mostly big wood, gets deposited when surf and high tides combine for a big push up the beach.
Drift line is another term people use for debris left behind at high tide; I use it myself. I use wrack line and drift line somewhat interchangeably, but I lean towards using wrack line for higher, drier, possibly bigger material associated with the higher tides, and drift line for smaller wet material left by any old high tide; but I’m not strict about it. This page, for example is called Wrack Line; it’s an umbrella for all things drifting in on the tide.
The composition of the drift line varies a lot over time and space. Sometimes the contents are very specific.
I love checking out small stuff in the drift line.
Here are a few bigger items.
You never know what you’re going to find in the wrack line. It’s make-up varies beach by beach, with the seasons, and year to year. The links below are to year-by-year compilations of all kinds of things that have drifted with the tide onto my home beaches.