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Seaside Stories

Roaming the Sand for Treasures

November 11, 2012 | by Nate Burke

Life on the Oregon Coast has unbelievable perks, but none are such a part of the ebb and flow of coastal culture as beachcombing.  It can be a meditative adventure if you consider the beach as a special place, the doorstep to an oceanic world larger than imagination.  There is a quiet magic to roaming this sandy limbo – this narrow expanse is the closest we can get to walking along the edge of the world.
One of my favorite things though, is stumbling upon small treasures the ocean has left behind.
My grandma used to tell me that sand dollars were misplaced “whale money” that fell out of whale wallets – most likely when they were purchasing essential underwater goods and services.  Apparently the exchange rate of whale currency was pretty lousy, because my sand dollars couldn’t buy much.  But finding them was a delight and now as an adult I’m astonished that a little sea creature’s exoskeleton can have such charming artistry.
My other favorite finds are the infamous glass floats.  It’s not uncommon to see a suspicious object glittering with reflected sunlight off in the distance.  On approach, you’ll find what looks like a half-buried fortune teller’s crystal ball glinting up out of the sand.  These glass floats were used by fisherman from all over the globe to keep their nets and lines afloat. Popular antiques, floats can wash ashore after extremely long periods at sea, traveling thousands of miles and can range from the size of a grapefruit on up to the size of a basketball.  Some may be extremely old, too (Japan used them as early as 1910).  The best times to go hunting for glass floats are between November and April, usually after stormy conditions.
Beachcombing will often reward you an astonishing array of shells, sea-life, prehistoric driftwood, and of course stunning panoramic scenery.  There was a particular time when I was younger, out wandering the Seaside beach at sunset, and I was lucky enough to witness the venerated “green flash” – an optical occurrence where a green flash ignites the horizon right after the sun goes down.  It was an astonishing display of nature’s shocking beauty.  Sometimes the best things we come away with from beachcombing are the stories of the wonders we’ve seen.
Do you have a favorite beachcombing story? Please share by commenting below.
Editor’s Note: Tide charts can greatly aid a scavenger hunt. Plan ahead and always be aware of your surroundings. Here’s a link to our tide tables

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