CORVALLIS, Ore. – The powerful Pacific Ocean not only carves a spectacular coastline, it regularly decorates it with natural debris and the flotsam and jetsam produced by humans. The stories of how some of those pieces came to Mile 157 on the Oregon coast are the subject of a new book published by the Oregon State University Press.
Author Bonnie Henderson joined the CoastWatch volunteer organization in the mid-1990s and “adopted” the one-mile stretch of beach between Reedsport and Florence. Her observations of what washes ashore are fascinating enough, but she takes it one step further in her book, “Strand: An Odyssey of Pacific Ocean Debris,” by tracing where certain items originated and deducing how they came to rest on her stretch of beach.
The result, according to a Booklist review, is a book that is “…subtle in its critique of our destructive impact on marine life and lush with delight in the marvels of ocean and shore…”
In her book, Henderson describes the native plants, birds, mammals and fish that occasionally wash ashore – called “wrack” – and the detritus generated by humans (flotsam and jetsam). She routinely found fishing nets, tangles of rope, plastic floats, glass bottles for whiskey, sake, beer and soda. There also were broken ice chests, pieces of plywood, plastic toys, shotgun shells, detergent containers and water bottles – and much more.
She and a friend, who had adopted the adjacent beach mile, began calling themselves forensic CoastWatchers and speculated about the origins of their finds. Her curiosity led Henderson as far away as Japan and China to trace the journeys of debris that washed ashore.
Among the objects of her sleuthing are an unusual Japanese float, hundreds of dead seabirds, an athletic shoe, a dead minke whale, the remnants of a fishing boat, and the egg case from a skate.
“’Strand’ is full of compelling stories that highlight the complexity of the natural world and humans’ impact on it,” said Micki Reaman of the OSU Press. “The author’s curiosity is contagious.”
Henderson is a writer and outdoor enthusiast who lives in Eugene. She is the author of “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Day Hiking: Oregon Coast,” and has published articles in Backpacker, Women’s Sports and Fitness, Coastal Living and Sunset.
“Strand” is available in bookstores or by calling 1-800-426-3797. The 224-page paperback, which retails for $18.95, also can be ordered online at: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/press
The author will give a series of readings and sign copies of “Strand.” The schedule follows:
• Seaside – Sept. 20, 1 p.m., at the Coastal Natural History Center, 2674 Hwy. 101 (sponsored by the North Coast Land Conservancy);
• Florence – Oct. 1, 10 a.m., at the Bromley Room of Siuslaw Public Library (sponsored by CoastWatch);
• Newport – Oct. 17, 7 p.m., at the Newport Visual Arts Center, 777 N.W. Beach Rd. (with her sister, Donna Henderson, author of “Gazpacho” and “Transparent Woman.”);
• Eugene – Oct. 28, 7 p.m., at the Knight Library Browsing Room, University of Oregon;
• Portland – Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m., at Powell’s City of Books on Hawthorne, 2732 S.W. Hawthorne;
• Cannon Beach – Nov. 8, 1 p.m., at the Cannon Beach Book Company, 130 N. Hemlock;
• Portland – Nov. 9, (afternoon time TBA) at the Woodstock Festival at the Oregon Convention Center.
Henderson also will offer observations from her book on Jefferson Public Radio from 9 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 16, and beginning at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 18, on Oregon Public Radio’s “Think Out Loud.”
Visitors to the Oregon coast may also be interested in another recent publication by the OSU Press – the second edition of the Oregon Coastal Access Guide. This mile-by-mile guide to scenic and recreational attractions along the coast was written by Kenn Oberrecht and is available in bookstores or by calling 1-800-426-3797.