The first time I heard the phrase, ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’, was when I was first reading The Lord of the Rings, where it is the title of a chapter. At least that is how my memory deems it; I may have known of it before, but it certainly stuck in my mind with that reading. I think I was ten years old, or thereabouts. A long time hence.
It is a beautiful phrase (at least I think it is), adding a lustre to what is essentially rubbish. How I wish I had access to my Shorter Oxford, so as to verify the etymology of the words. I guess the first is from ‘float’ and the second ‘jettison’ – but that would be a guess.
Les Stroud, AKA ‘Survivorman’, frequently makes the point that one can be on any coast in the world, as far from another human as possible, and still find other people’s rubbish. And the vast majority of this is plastic.
I have discussed our ongoing love-affair with oil and its derivatives before; I cannot remember if that was on here, or elsewhere. It is a pet hate. I often try and imagine what this beach or that cove would look like without the garish smattering of plastic items strewn across the tide mark, like so many bright poisonous fruit festooning the seaweed, wood and bones that should be there.
Plastic is an interloper. It takes many, many years to decay. It is eaten by sealife across the globe, and is a major problem we care little about.
And here we return to our title.
Yet, like Mr Stroud, I try and follow the adage the Wombles preach. One man’s rubbish is another’s treasure. And, when you are miles from the nearest shop, and with no way of transporting heavier items anyway, this treasure can become very valuable indeed.
To give an idea of just how much litters our coast I have brought up the following items to the shelter; there are far more still down below on the beaches that fringe the forest.
- Two two-litre fizzy drinks bottles
- One glass 1.5 litre bottle (whole!)
- A plastic spray bottle, such as you may buy containing cleaner, anti-bacterial spray etc (battered but not cracked)
- Two bleached rib bones (deer or sheep)
- A three foot length of six inch pipe
- A plastic barrel, the bottom cut off to make a bucket
- Three large fish boxes (100cm x 50cm x 25cm)
- Two plastic trays, also used on the creel boats (60cm x 40cm x 8cm) – these also yielded ten cable ties
- Part of fish box, cut so as to most likely act as a fender on a boat, with rope attached (150cm)
- Plastic pipe, six inches again, corner section
- Several pieces of driftwood, including a very useful pine pole, fifteen foot in length
- The other half of the seal skull I found last year, canine tooth still attached
- A plastic bucket, the sort used on boats, about 50cm diameter at the top and 50cm deep. This was slightly cracked at the bottom but is now perfectly usable as I wove paracord into it to fix it. Both handles also work fine and are undamaged.
- Two children’s beach toys; a small plastic rake and a plastic spade with a wooden handle
- A milk crate
- A ‘Plastimo’ buoy. 23 x 85. Made in France. Two holes/mooring points at either end of the 85cm. With 90cm rope.
- A flat rock, now used as a chopping board. (Ok – this neither floated, nor was jettisoned, but it was carried up from the beach.)
There are still a few other items I intend to collect, mainly driftwood, but also a selection of netting I am pondering a use for, a steel rod and one or two more fish boxes.
The items I already have, rubbish though they are, have started to prove their worth. The spade is surprisingly strong and has been used rather a lot already. One of the fish boxes is used when I collect moss and leaves for adding to the thatching, another has been sawn in half lengthways to make two shelves nailed to some wood and one of the shelter uprights.
The milk crate and buoy are being sat on as I write; very comfortable they are too.
Other items are already earmarked for a purpose; more shelves, a low table etc. I intend to use everything that I carried up here (buoy was carried by another, but that is another tale, and I mustn’t get ahead of myself).
One item there seems to be a proliferation of here is plastic containers for marine lubrication oil. Unfortunately, beyond the one cut down as a bucket and now catching run-off from my tarp in order to keep the shelter floor drier, I cannot think of a use for these. Unless I make a raft, as was suggested!
So, flotsam and jetsam it certainly is, but I am turning more and more Womble, making good use of the things that I find…
Note: Having thought about it some more, I think the milk crate is probably a lobster crate.