Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Washed Ashore

"Henry" the giant fish
a closer look at the fish's "scales"
If it looks like this artistic fish was made out of trash . . . that is because it was.  Actually, the more appropriate term, and the one used by the people at Washed Ashore, is marine debris.  While walking around Old Town Bandon, Oregon we stumbled upon these interesting and colorful statues of marine animals that summoned us to take a closer look.  The insensible pieces of marine debris that these sculptures were made out of sprung to life in the form of whimsical sea life telling a desperate story and sounding a call to action. 

Around the corner from the outdoor fish and seal sculptures was a large indoor exhibit gallery where more debris creatures were on display.  We were totally blown away with the creative art work and powerful message that this conservation minded non-profit organization is telling.  The mission of Washed Ashore is a simple one: “to educate and create awareness about marine debris and plastic pollution through art” yet their mission is worldly important and challenging.  The organization fulfills its mission by producing large sculptures of sea life made from marine debris.  The public is encouraged to join in by helping collect marine debris that is the building blocks of these sculptures, by holding workshops, and inviting people to help in the creative process of constructing art from trash.  This in-your-face style of conveying their message is highly effective and we were stunned by the types and amount of debris that brings to life these reminders of why our oceans are so important. 

"Whale Bones" is an impressive sculpture that is constructed from a recycled steel frame covered with plastic bottles, jugs and other items.  As the exhibit states, whales are some of the most endangered creatures but they are threatened by the amount of marine debris that is in their ecosystem.  The stomach contents of dead sperm and grey whales along the coast have been found to contain garbage bags, duct tape, sweat pants, netting, fishing line and golf balls.
Sadly, this incredible sculpture is made from objects that include netting, plastics, ropes, and even a leather jacket.  The curious nature of sea lions has them constantly exploring unfamiliar objects and often they become entangled in them leading to their demise.  
Why is it so important to rid the oceans of marine debris?  The myriad of reasons include the aesthetic to lethal.   The first reason being obvious, but the second much more complex.  To many marine animals, debris is mistaken for food.  Floating plastic bags look like a tasty jelly fish to a hungry sea lion.  Shiny metal objects can be mistaken as shimmering little bait fish to an opportunistic finned predator.   All too often, we see disturbing images of marine life entangled in nets and plastic 6-pack rings.  Isn’t that the reason why most of us cut up our six-pack rings?

Just remember, decomposition of commonly used items often takes more years to decompose than we have left in our lifetime.  Just a few examples are . . .   

·         Fishing line  - 600 years
·         Plastic grocery bags – 10-20 years
·         Styrofoam cups – 50 years
·         Aluminum cans – 200 years
·         Cigarette butts – 1-5 years

So next time you are walking the beach near Bandon and wondering why it is so clean you can thank Washed Ashore and their 1000+ volunteers that have cleaned approximately 20 miles of coastline in 18 months.  All that work amounted to 7,000 pounds of marine debris which was transformed into 18 gigantic  sculptures that are traveling the country bringing awareness to this reoccurring problem that treats our oceans like garbage dumpsters.  The project has impacted over 1,000 public schools and over 1 million people have viewed the exhibition and participated in projects or workshops.  Pretty impressive for a fledgling organization.

Believe it or not, this was all constructed from marine debris.  Only 4-7% of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced worldwide are recycled.
The impressive "musical sea star" .  Look closely.
"Tula" the green sea turtle informs visitors that floating garbage bags are often mistaken for jellyfish but when a turtle ingests these bags it has lethal consequences.
This exhibit represents a gyre which is a naturally occurring vortex of winds and current that rotate in the worlds oceans.  It is estimated that 11 million tons of marine debris get trapped in the North Pacific Gyre from Asia to North America.  The exhibit encourages you to imagine how hard it would be to find food in this polluted mess. 

I encourage you to click on the link to Washed Ashore and check out the great work they are doing.  The website has fascinating statistics and interesting pictures of how the sculptures were created.

After a great stay in a town we quickly grew to love, it was time to move on.

It wasn't 17 miles south of town and not quite 11 a.m. when we came upon Langlois Market.  I had read this place was famous for their hot dogs and was certain we had to stop when it was obvious we could park our monster rig in front of this establishment.  Never too early for a hot dog.

What makes them famous?  Well, the lively ladies working in Langlois told us it was the combination of the dog, the homemade sweet mustard spiced up with a kick, and the pickles lying softly in a cradling bun. As we sat at the counter eating, we were puzzled when the ladies started peeling the skin off the hot dog. Isn't that sacrilegious?  There goes the pop when you bite into the skin.  We were informed this is the way they have always done it and I must say it works.  So keep on peeling.

The hot dogs were made World Famous when an Indonesian energy minister who tried the hot dog loved them so much he had a bunch shipped back to Indonesia.

Now, we are off again . . . this time in search of a treadmill.


  1. Very clever way to make the public aware of the ocean debris problem. I've seen so much floating plastic in my Coast Guard sailing days, it makes me sick.

    Did you ever wonder where helium balloons end up when they are release into the sky? Yep, I've seen dozens and dozens of them floating on the ocean when the helium leaks out. It's maddening. :c(

    1. Oh, those darn balloons. When I worked on the Chandeleur Islands we found an amazing variety of debris. And yes, many balloons.

  2. We saw the outside sculptures but didn't go inside because we had the dogs with us. Fascinating and depressing at the same time! I get so mad when I see trash that people just discard when we're on hikes and walks - it's shocking how many people out there are so disrespectful and lazy.

    We stopped in that Langlois market too - what a great little place!


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