Thanks to Barbara @ By the Sea for suggesting this walk. Stop by to visit her, and tell her I sent you.
Click the video above for 2 minutes of background waves while reading.
I like walking on the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
As I seemingly always do, I start my walk following a visual path of shells of other debris left by the high tide. Then again, it seems to be always present, but not always in the same place, nor with the same things.
The beach is active as I walk today. Pelicans are flying above, then diving into the water as if there is a feeding frenzy. Others are floating, possibly enjoying their catch. Other pelicans are flying just above the surface in their search for food in a way that always impresses me.
Sandpipers and sanderlings are pacing across the sand at the waterline in their food search. Gulls are also flying above and floating on the water. As I see several gulls on the shore, I spot a heron far ahead, standing as the solitary soldier I know he is. Yet, my thoughts shift back to the line serving as my visual GPS.
A reader suggested a future topic – a suggestion that confused me enough to seek help. After finding the definition, I smiled because I had already gathered notes about this line I did not know by name for the initial title of Things I See.
Wrack line, drift line, wrack zone, and drift zone seem to be interchangeable identifiers for high tide’s demarcation line of debris. Each day the line is new, so nobody knows what it will offer.
My biology background tells me that the wrack line is a unique ecosystem. With organisms living in the sand, it makes sense that the incoming tide brings organic nutrients to the beach. After all, the emerald green water of the northern gulf coast is rich with algae, so life on the wrack line will be well fed. Those organisms are adapted to a life of being submerged in water part of the time, yet surviving in wet sand when the tide is out. Although I cannot see them, surely decomposers as bacteria are among the living in this environment.
The wrack line also serves a fresh buffet of food for a range of land-based animals. Seagulls are efficient scavengers using the nutrients as dead fish, crabs, or clams. I see small flies and other insects feasting on the wrack line. Ecology also reminds me that others will feed on these insects.
For beach walkers, the shells are a prime component of the wrack line. Shells of clams, scallops, oysters, snails, and whelks display various shapes, patterns, and colors. Many of the shells are pitted from erosion or are just a fragment of what they once were. I must be careful because their sharp edges can hurt my feet.
With so many shells, the wrack line is a sheller’s delight. Although I’m not a sheller, my eyes are on the lookout for the possibility of something unique that will cause me to stop. Some days shellers slowly shift through thick patches of shells that seemingly gathered for them.
The high tides bring a variety of other animals to the wrack line. When the purple warning flag is flying, I watch my step to avoid the bright blue Portuguese Man of War. I frequently see fragments of large sand dollars – even whole small ones. – plus sea stars, slugs, and jellyfish of varying sizes. Keen eyes can spot pieces of coral, shark teeth, and the woven outer tubes of marine worms. Certainly, someone has spotted a pearl!
Plants can also be on the wrack line: seagrasses appearing as a head of a mop; plus kelp, strands of seaweed, twigs, driftwood, large branchings, and even logs wash ashore.
Tides always bring a variety of human debris to shore: plastic bottles, whole and pieces of aluminum cans, glass, gloves, hats, t-shirts, a lens, bottle caps, rubber tubing, pieces of tires, whole tires, beach toys, bits of fishing line, and a pair of cheap sunglasses, which cause me to smile as I remember a song.
After a severe storm or even from the most recent hurricane season, the wrack line debris could include building materials such as lumber, siding, roofing, plastic piping, and fittings. One year, dredging of the nearby channel increased the human debris on the wrack line with more materials that seemed to be buried, but no treasure.
Stones are not common on this beach; but when I see one, its surface is very smooth – polished by the sea. Occasionally I’ve seen lumps of coal that must have fallen from a barge at sea – even whole oranges and a single vertebrae of a mammal.
I do not know what I will see on the wrack line each day. Whether delivering marine treasures to human seekers or bringing trash to shore, the wrack line is very important to the living world. Special thanks to the reader who suggested this topic to ponder. After all, I like walking on the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.
See what other bloggers have posted about a changing beach
- The Wrack Line (a poem)
- Washed Ashore (a photoessay)
- The Wrath of One Seagull (a poem)
- A mysterious fish washed ashore (an essay)
- The Mysterious Wooden Beam (a short essay with photos)
Next Post: Rain – Saturday 23 January @ 1 AM (Eastern US)
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