Happy Beach is blissful. Warm sunny days, calm, crystal clear sea – which is heating up but still below 20 degrees, so only few swimmers venture in. Of course things still get washed up, and left behind, but overall the beach is pretty peaceful.
Apart from an experience a couple of weeks ago. A car had driven onto the beach and was parked right by a long plateau of volcanic rock facing the sea. The driver was very laid back, and nodded as I passed him. As I reached further down the beach I turned to see he had been joined by another car, and the two men were exploring something on the plateau. As I returned they drove off and I saw what had been occupying them: Four long, wooden boxes wrapped in some thick rope. They were painted green and had some army-like looking markings. I tried peek inside one that was upside down and ajar, but it wasn’t possible to see the content. For some reason it felt wrong to try and open them. A car with four men approached, and as I had my dogs, I hurried off. The men removed the boxes but obviously opened one, as later I found the lid discarded on the beach.
From Happy Beach mysteries to global awareness: Today is Earth Day, and great events are taking place all over. To join in the movement we did a Happy Beach clean, and I decided to carry a sign on my back everywhere I go during the day. My remote living doesn’t offer many options of participating in protest marches, so I’ll just have to make up my own.
In Washington D.C. the core of a significant global rally is taking place: the March of Science. Sadly political trends worldwide seem to be subscribing to the dumbing down of people through applying pop politics and comfy, soundbite “information” and fobbing them off as truths. Experts and voices of experience are being pushed aside by those who merely can shout louder. Fortunately there are many who believe knowledge is the only real way forward – for the planet, the oceans and for the human race. For this reason I join the march for science too.
This spring is proving particularly fickle. Gorgeous, calm days with turquoise waters are quickly replaced by thunder and hail storms, with tempestuous waves to boot. The heavy rains form streams that transports reddish soil downhill from nearby fields directly into the sea – creating a strange looking cocktail as the meet. These fields are used for crops and I regularly see the famers spraying them with pesticides – needless to say these toxins are also being carried into my beloved bay.
And of course there’s plenty of plastic still added to the mix. Recently I stubbled across a disturbing video on the consequences of this problem created by Olio. It claims that 1 in 4 fish contains micro-plastics. This is nothing short of a disaster. But looking over the history of Happy Beach findings – it’s sadly not surprising.
On this gloomy note the collection includes:
* 5 plastic bags
* 3 cigarette ends
* 1 shoe (blue Micky Mouse)
* 1 vodka bottle – complete
* 1 Ouzo bottle 12 – top only
* Assorted plastic bits
* 1 rusty spray can
* 1 plastic plate
* 1 yogurt tub
* 2 syringes
* 1 medical bottle
* 3 fishing floats
* 1 pen – blue
* 1 straw
* bottle tops
* 5 plastic water bottles
* 2 lighters
* 1 knife handle – blue & white
* 5 water bottles
Spring must be my favourite season on the island. Everything is juicy-green from the rain, and fields and hills are dressed in coats of yellow flowers. Pink tinted almond blossoms make you sigh as you pass the delicate trees.
The sea is warming up too – still only 16 degrees C, but I venture a dip, when she permits.
But my ambition is to get even more confident with local waters, so I decided to take a powerboat certificate to get started. It felt good to get to know my way round a small engine driven boat, and touch upon the basics of navigation, as I’ve never mastered anything more powerful than a bicycle!
My instructor took us out to the local nautical attraction: The Blue Lagoon – in the UNESCO protected Akamas area. The lagoon is truly blue, the nature undisturbed by human dwellings – but still we saw upsetting amounts of trash bobbing around in the water – from soft drink cans to plastic fuel canisters to florescent light strips. We salvaged some major sinners, allegedly dumped by local fishermen.
As there haven’t been any big storms for a long while the amounts of plastic drifting onto Happybeach are manageable – nevertheless it all adds up. And this little lull doesn’t trick me into thinking that things are getting better.
This very disturbing article in The Guardian explains some of the damage done by the 8.000.000 tons of plastic dumped in our seas: Plastic Seafood/ Guardian bad news for Moule Frites lovers and Fish ‘n’ Chips addicts. But worse news for marine life and the balance of the ecology…
Lastest collection includes:
* 22 fishing floats
* 1 toilet roll holder
* Plastic bag
* 18 plastic bottles
* A pink boat – broken
* 2 child shoes
* A broken deer (plastic)
* 4 lighters
* A carton of soggy cigarettes
* A small plastic bird
* A Styrofoam box
* Assorted plastic
* 2m black pipe
* Bits of Styrofoam
* 2 small medical bottles (glass)
* 8m sheet of plastic
* 3 raw plugs
* 3 straws
* Rope 2m black, 3m blue
* 2 blobs of engine oil
* A broken garden chair (white plastic)
* 1 filler foam tube
Summer is refusing to loosen her hot and very dry grip of Happybeach this year. October is seeing high temperatures and still not a single drop of rain. Pleasant yet disturbing at the same time. Gardens are thirsty and every little gust of wind kicks up clouds of dust. Still it’s great to be back after my travels and exploring the beach with Molly!
Island life carries on as usual. The trees are filling with avocado, olives, lemon, pomegranate, figs, pomelo and bananas – soon ready for picking. And October means the start of hunting season, so sounds of gunshots and howling dogs are to become a fixture of Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.
Happybeach has changed radically over the summer. In addition to the endless piles of rubbish (no big surprise there) the continuous heavy waves have totally restructured the beachside by shifting the sands and bringing out the rocky surface below.
These photos show the same stretch of beach with a year between.
And of course the collecting must go on. It’s discouraging to discover that local tourists are adding to the pollution problem much more than visitors from abroad. One would think that they care for their island and the image it projects when the beaches are covered in trash. But the litter left on the seaside after barbecues and picnics is appalling. Everything from towels to plastic food containers to countless cans and bottles get discarded without a second thought.
Tempestuous storms have dictated the mood of Happy Beach for most of 2016. Possibly just reflecting the turbulences taking place in the rest of the world. We see a few days of calm followed by breath-taking roaring waves, high winds, rain and unusual cold.
Naturally the beach is strewn with all shapes and sizes of litter. The largest was the top of a wooden cable spool (1m diameter), and a heavy rope/ fishing net tangle.
The smallest were sadly thousands and thousands of nurdles, shaping the contours of the waves along the beach after the sea settled. These little demons are toxic, dangerous and impossible to collect.
On a lighter note the storms have brought new creatures to the beach. As of yet they are friendly but you never know…
2016 made a tempestuous entry on the island. The New Year rolled in at midnight on heavy rains and meter high, roaring waves. As usual the storms bring in plenty of debris from near and far, which calls for wellies, a warm scarf and a good sense of humour.
I’m still amazed, and disheartened, at the sheer quantities of rubbish drifting onto these shores – forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but the problem remains. As long as we base such a vast amount of our daily consumption on disposable items made of plastic, styrofoam and aluminium it will only get worse.
Every day I’m confronted with things we use and throw away… why? Because we can just purchase a new one, and another new one, and another, without giving a thought to “the old”. The old doesn’t exist as soon as it’s discarded. Like magic, right? Wrong. It’s very wrong. And the planet is rapidly changing because of this collective material blindness.
New Year is a time for new beginnings – we could begin 2016 by keeping the old.
Collection of the day:
* Assorted plastic bags (all sizes, pink, white & transparent)
* 2 shoes
* Broken bucket (red)
* 1 tube of toothpaste
* 2 toothpaste tops
* 1 letter F
* 25 plastic bottles
* 2 fishing floats
* 1 fish shaped fishing tackle
* 8 straws
* Assorted pieces of styrofoam
* 4 yoghurt pots
* 3 aluminium can
* Assorted pieces of plastic
* 4 pieces of rockwool
* 1 water blaster (broken)
* 1 table leg
* 6 plastic cups
* 12 pieces of string (multi colours)
* 3 balloons
12.2kg of litter lifted off the Happy Beach point today!
It’s a joy to revisit the coves and rocks, pools and dunes of Happy Beach after a long summer up north. In my absence the beach has been cared for by our kind housesitter, who discovered a struggling hatchling from one of the turtle nests. He cleaned her up, and helped her take her first little strokes in the welcoming sea.
photos courtesy of Leif Weston Andersen
Over the last couple of weeks a fair amount of debris has been washed ashore due to turbulent waters as the island approaches Autumn. Collection of the day included:
1 bottle of bleach – empty 😦
1 bottle of dish soap – 1/5 remains
4 fishing floats
Big piece of blue plastic
1 metal bottle top
4 bits of pipe (black and white)
Odd lid-thingy with dots
3 plastic bottles
2 broken bits of Lego