from the August 14, 2011 Newsletter
issued from written at Mayan
Beach Garden Inn 20 kms north of Mahahual, Quintana Roo, México
So, Friday morning I looked closely at the trash along the kilometer of beach between Mayan Beach Garden and what I call the Northern Point. Relatively few items bore labels revealing their country of origin, but enough did to provide a general feeling from where the trash comes from. That's a collage of snippets indicating the labels' countries of origin above.
The home countries of 33 items could be identified, and garbage from 15 countries was found. The nation providing most garbage was Colombia, with 9 pieces, or 27%. The next most represented country was Mexico itself, with 5 pieces, or 15%, and then Venezuela with four pieces, or 12%. Countries contributing 2 pieces, or 6%, were Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Honduras. The remaining countries sending only a single piece of trash each were St. Lucia, Haiti, Guatemala, Netherlands, Singapore, China, USA and Russia. I'm guessing that items from the last four countries were dumped from passing ships. Probably the item from the Netherlands entered waters of Dutch-speaking Suriname.
Clearly a one-way trash superhighway operates between here and northern South America. If you consider the island nation of Trinidad & Tobago as part of South America, then 17 pieces, or 52%, originated in South America. A map showing the Caribbean's main currents flowing from northern South America to here is at http://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu/caribbean/caribbean.html.
That map also shows why I've never found trash from Cuba (stiff north-flowing current between Cuba and the Yucatán) and why there's never much from Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua (their Caribbean trash travels in circles).
On a separate issue, Ebbesmeyer -- who has beachcombed here at Mayan Beach Garden -- points out that right shoes and left shoes display such different sailing dynamics that during long floats right shoes may drift one way, left another, eventually causing certain beaches to specialize in catching one shoe type over the other. Here some of us have been pretty sure that on our beach right shoes predominate. On my short walk I noted the dispositions of 57 washed-up shoes and sandals. Of those, 31 were right (54%) while 26 were left (46%). That's not much of a statistical difference, but the exercise does remind us that sometimes we can start believing things for no good reasons.
Why is the color blue so dominant on these labels? It's because most were from plastic water bottles, and marketers know that people associate the color blue with cleanliness and purity.
Behold the irony of it.
By the way, Curtis Ebbesmeyer's "Beachcombers' Alert," with stories about interesting flotsam, and an address where you can share your own flotsam stories, is at http://beachcombersalert.org/.