of life and of death

posted in: Life, nature | 0

A beach visit this week. We were feeling full of life, warmed by the sun and the sparkling blue sky. When we arrived, we discovered the tide was incredibly low and the beach was completely covered with Jellyfish – for at least a mile it was thick with dead jellies. We also found many dead and dying Northern Fulmar. There has been some concern about a possible dead zone here, after a recent finding of hundreds of dead starfish on the beach, so I called the Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are not sure of anything at this point, but there is a lot of interest in the localized phenomena and they are “watching.”

After a bit of research on my own part, I discovered it is not unheard of to have large wash-ups of starfish after big storms, but this seemed so extreme to me and the timing with the other deaths of animals made it all the more noteworthy. As we walked the beach, amongst all these dead things, watching the plovers run along the shoreline in search of food (they are so amazing!), I couldn’t help but think about the recent massive oil leak. Seeing all these dead and dying animals really affected me. As we drove home that evening I felt a bodily sadness. I love the ocean and all that it sustains in a way that is indescribable. To know that it is suffering is painful.

0 Responses

  1. margie oomen

    they are calling those areas of low oxygen level ocean deserts
    they seem to be expanding and the pacific northwest seems for some reason to especially be affected
    I didn’t know it would be killing the sea birds as well.

  2. jodi

    A couple of years ago around this time, my sweetie and I made our annual pilgrimage out to the Olympic Peninsula to wander among the giant mossy trees, and to camp & play on the beach. We hiked out to Second Beach and immediately stumbled upon a dead bird… and then another… and then another. It was eerie and felt really off. There were other people walking along the beach and it felt surreal as though they didn’t see the death all around them. We continued on, not sure if we would be able to get past it and spend a week there barefoot and carefree. We also wondered if we would be at risk of exposing ourselves to something toxic as well. After deciding to give it a go, we found an amazing fallen tree with upturned roots and all kinds of fort-building opportunities that inspired us to stay. A short while later I noticed a couple of women moving slowly down the beach, pausing to work at something, take notes on a clipboard, and then move on. I wandered over to see what they were doing, and it turned out they were biologists making a record of both the number and species of birds they found dead. They went on to tell me that it had been over a month of hundreds of dead birds washed ashore, and that it was caused by a bloom of a specific algae. It was a naturally occurring algae that in normal quantities wasn’t harmful, but in this case, the birds were getting coated in it and it was causing their feathers to lose their waterproof quality. Essentially they were dying of hypothermia. When I asked the biologists what might have caused the abnormally large algae bloom, they said it was due to a rise in water temperatures.

    I felt compelled to share this story with you because I too was really impacted by coming face to face with this very real reminder of how fragile the balance can be. I have lived on and loved the sea for many years; I can accept that there is no life without death. What I cannot bear is the greed and mindlessness that causes much of these imbalances to occur. The positive thing I can walk away with, is that I do have the power to choose how I live my life. It may seem small, but each and every individual is what makes up the whole. I know you strive to live mindfully, too. Don’t lose hope.

  3. infusionfibers

    Margie, we are wondering if it is a typical oxygen-depletion dead zone type of situation, as I don’t think it would explain the dying birds.

    Jodi, we actually wondered if one of the birds we saw was freezing to death as it was clearly soaked through and shivering like crazy.

    Thanks for sharing this and for your encouraging words. It is comforting to know that I am amongst others who care deeply for life. Sometimes it is really discouraging when you see where things seem to be going.

  4. Citysister

    When I was little in Maine, I went to the beach with my grandfather. The whole beach was similarly filled with dead jellyfish. I remember how odd it was and how he made us avoid the yellow ones (poisonious.) A few years later we had a pogie dieoff (little stinky oily fish.) Every year we’d find bird bones, hollow and bleached by the sun. Everything has come back since, but it all makes me wonder.

  5. kathy

    We spend a week each July just south of you. We will be interested to know what this sad phenomenon is. I cannot imagine the emotional impact of seeing this.


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