31 -Wrack Line

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.

Photo by Free Creative Stuff on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Pexels.com

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

Next Post: Rain – Saturday 23 January @ 1 AM (Eastern US)

Follow Beach Walk Reflections

  • Facebook (BeachWalk Reflections)
  • Instagram (BeachWalk Reflections)
  • Twitter (@ReflectionsWalk)
  • WordPress (Follow or Subscribe)

112 thoughts on “31 -Wrack Line”

  1. A lovely scene you paint For us, I like to investigate the wrack line when combing the. Beach. It’s fascinating, one never know what might wash up there. I enjoyed the background music Frank. Have a great day.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Frank I’ve explored wrack lines since I was old enough to find and collect some of. the oddities that wash up and form it. The Best wrack line In my explorations is along Sanibel Island’s beaches. I also love tide pools. 🐚

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Not surprising …. so you have also known the term for a long time whereas i learned the terms only a short time ago … and others here just learned it. … Nonetheless, even those of us who didn’t know the term understand the joys and wonders it offered. Thanks for sharing!!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I have mixed feelings about the wrack line , and it’s good to see your positivity. It seems increasingly to be dominated by human debris, especially and upsettingly plastic debris. So these days I’II often have a bag with me to remove what I can, which rather undoes the purpose of a soul-cleansing walk.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The North Sea here delivers some lovely sea glass for us to collect on the line, I’ve made wind chimes and mosaics with them, so it’s my favourite thing to do with the grandkids. But not last year sadly. Love the pelicans, we don’t get them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fraggle,
      I don’t think I even mentioned about making various things from the objects on the wrack line. Shame on me!!!! I don’t think I’ve seen sea glass on the beach I walk, but I’m aware of it. The pelicans are interesting … so I have to do a future walk on them! … Did you find anything on the Topics List for a possible collaboration?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shoes. The west coast of Canada often finds shoes with feet still in them on their shores. A grizzly discovery but most have been identified over the years. What a tale those shoes could tell. What stories could be found in the wrack line…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would have visited today just to find out what a wrack line is, Frank. I had never heard the term. I have had the experience of walking in and around the debris, and wondering what stories could be told about the origins. Great post.

    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. One morning we woke up to a wrack line filled with the remains of a twelve-man lifeboat. There was the shattered hull but also rations, water pouches, milar blankets, and assorted tools. The line was more than 100 yards long. What had happened is a ship lost power and hit an oil platform. The only damage was the lifeboat on the ship. It was a surprise, though, since those boats are not expected in the line.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great subject and thread of comments! So much history in that wrack line walk! Each piece is a story in itself. And it’s really quite amazing how many artists create with this ‘found art.’ Sea glass is very popular, which I discovered through reading a series of novels, Carolina Heirlooms, by Lisa Wingate. (Inspirational, light women’s fiction). Just think of all the stories the wrack line holds!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mary Jo,

      One of the best things about these walks are the comments. Whether supporting, expanding, and adding missing pieces to my thoughts, the readers have added a lot for me and for those who take the time to read them. I actually have several walks coming in early February that are written solely based on reader comments – not mine. … and now you have added to my story here.

      The stories within the wrack line is something I totally missed … probably because I was concentrating on the what …. but you stated what I miss so well – “Each piece is a story in itself.” Thank you!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the shout-out, Frank! Of course the post currently sitting on my blog has nothing to do with the sea. 😉
    There’s a whole book on the wrack line that I loved when I read it several years ago: “Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts & What Remains” by Barbara Hurd. A quote from the book…
    “Even driftwood twisted into wooden ghosts, overgrown worms, gnarled and craggy, appeals. The final arbitrator of its form has been friction with the world. It becomes what it is through long travel.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’d never heard the term ‘wrack line’ before, Frank, so thank you for educating me this morning. You’d better keep your eyes open if you’re finding things like whole oranges, shells, and building materials on that beach!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I leaned something new and I am thrilled about it because it is something I can look at more richly on my next beach trip! I think we have all noticed that line without knowing the name. I enjoyed reading how uniquely life happens in that merging line of water and sand. I have never been a sheller but always bring home some smooth, colorful or unique rocks that I just love from all my beach trips.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for teaching me what a Wrack Line is – I walk on it whenever possible, but never knew what it was. I always enjoy Barbara’s posts. Her walks and hikes and bird watching soothe me, just like your walks on the beach.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Janet,
      There’s no doubt that beach walkers know this line – but I also have the feeling that many – maybe even the majority – do not know it by name. I didn’t until a few months ago. You didn’t until now. Others commenting on this post have also joined us. So hey – learning something new is a good thing.


    1. Ju-Lyn,
      Don’t worry about not knowing the term because you are in good company here. Although we don’t know the term, anybody who has been to the beach knows this line. Yes – although the video carries a message, I enjoy the song and photography in it.


        1. Ju-Lyn,
          Your comment got me thinking about how the term “wrack line” came to be. Line is obvious, but wrack? To me, it’s a verb, but one of its definitions as a noun is a shipwreck. Thinking back to the days of wooden ships and those that met their doom at sea, I presume the name comes from the pieces of the wreckage would ashore – but that’s a guess on my part. What do you think?


  12. I have come to love to walk on beaches. It’s not a natural thing to do from where I come from, simply because we don’t really have beaches of any length. But I have learned to appreciate beach walks along the west coast of northern USA, in particular. And do enjoy these beach walks you invite us along for.


    1. Otto!
      Great seeing her on the beach. Glad you enjoyed this walk and appreciate the USA’s west coast. When I get to the beach, I go to the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve got the feeling that the beaches in Norway after stony with sandy beaches being smaller. Am I close?

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Interesting word(s)… wrack line.
    Sounds like after a big storm, and what it brings to the wrack line, it could be called a wreck line.
    The closet thing in the city would be when the snow melts along the curb, after months of build up. There is a long line of litter and soot. Could that count as a wrack line of sorts? Probably just another wreck line.
    I saw rat lines once. It was at sunrise on the porch, just like at the beach, but not.
    I heard a weird crying noise, and looked up to the roof of an old coach house that was beside where I lived. There were lines of rats, pouring over the eaves, dispersing into the city as they hit the ground. The sight made my blood freeze!
    Anyway, cheers! I just poured a wine. AHHH….. the wine line!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Resa,
      First of all, cheers … I also have wine … clink!

      Wrack line is a unique world that sounds a bit odd – but hey – we humans have our share of oddities. Here I am writing a post about something that I never heard of until a reader suggested it for a future walk. Once I looked it up, I realized I already had a draft in progress about the topic – but without the term.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Cindy,
      Welcome first-time beach walker on my private gathering of sand. The format here is normal … opportunity for beach sounds while reading – the opening and closing lines in concert with each other … music video at the end …. and calm, reflective prose hoping to stimulate thoughts in readers. So – where in the world are you located? I’m Cincinnati Ohio … Oh …. that’s not on the beach. This explains. https://beachwalkreflections.wordpress.com/2020/10/20/1-introducing/

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Dale,
      Jack Johnson and water absolutely go together. Then again, I think the sea inspires his songwriting. Meanwhile, thanks for joining the growing number of us who didn’t know the term until this post. Yep – the presence of humanity on the wrack line is sad, but sometimes I wonder of laugh at what I see.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. “Wrack Line”… is new for me. I learned now. What amazing coast/beach stories, events and terms… I can’t believe how rich… Thank you dear Frank, Love, nia

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I don’t think I’ve really been familiar with the term “wrack line,” and now I’m going to feel so smug using it! 🙂 I certainly recognize what it is, though, and I enjoy watching the birds dig for breakfast at that spot, and the little holes with tiny burrowing crabs. So much life at the wrack line!


    1. Debra,
      Join the crowd about the term – me included. I haven’t done an official count, but my sense is that more than half of the respondents didn’t know the term. If it wasn’t for Barbara who requested it, we would still be in the unknowing camp. The odd thing is, I had drafted a post initially called “Things I See” that I transformed into this walk. 🙂 Thanks for walking the line. (and for some reason I keep hearing Tommy James and the Shondells in my head.)


  16. Hi Frank, This is the first time I’ve heard the term wrack line, so I guess I’m with Dan Acton and I’ve learned my one thing today. I’m linking this post to Story Chat tomorrow, too. I love learning new things. 🙂


    1. Marsha,
      When Barbara requested Wrack Line as a topic, my first request was WHAT? Then looked it up, then realized I had a walk drafted about it but without its name – so I worked from there. Then I discover, more than half (I’m guessing) of the readers never heard of the term either! …. so you are in good company! … Thanks for linking me (soon).

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.