Friday October 04, 2013 | 11:06 AM
Posted by Harold Johnson

A week ago I visited Drake’s Island Beach in Wells. As I mentioned in Monday’s blog, this beach is a true study in contrasts.

Along much of its stretch, the waves roll in unchecked, unslowed. Any debris brought in by one wave is washed back out by the next. The sands are left smooth & clean.

That’s actually the experience you get at most of the popular tourist beaches. Those beaches are popular precisely because the ocean leaves sand behind -- and nothing else. After all, few people will travel long distances to lie out amid seaweed.

So people flock to the sands of Old Orchard Beach:

or the huge expanse of Popham Beach:

or even the wide vistas of much of Drake’s Island Beach:

(Photo linked from source: copyright Ted Whittenkraus)

Any beachgoer to these shores would be forgiven for assuming the ocean lapping at their toes was clean too.

Sadly, they would be wrong.

One tiny section offshore at Drake’s Island is rock-strewn. It buffers the incoming waves & saps their energy. In this one section, the waters behave much more like they do at my weekly beach, Curtis Cove in Biddeford. The debris trickles in slowly & gently, and is left behind on the sands after the tide recedes.

Instead of clean sand, there’s this:

And amid the wrack, there’s this:

(Yellow scrap of vinyl lobster trap coating, Drake’s Island)

And this:

(Vinyl upholstery scrap, Drake’s Island)

And this:

(Foil, Drake’s Island)

Walk another 50 feet and you're back onto clean sand again. You can stroll the rest of Drake's Island amid a clean beach. While doing so, your mind can wander to the image of a clean, timeless ocean. But in 2013, that image is now just an illusion.

The question is, how long are we willing to keep living an illusion? Are we the generation of the red pill or the blue pill?

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About the Author

Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.

Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.

Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.

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March 2014

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December 2013

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