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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.

Previous entries

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013


September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

Tuesday February 11, 2014 | 09:22 AM

The story of humanity was turned upside-down last week by a report out of England.

Storms late last year along England’s east coast (the county of Norfolk) eroded back a ton of sediment, revealing ancient footprints. Human footprints. Found in layers dated to some 900,000 years ago!

They probably belonged to an early human known as Homo antecessor, and are by far the oldest ever discovered outside Africa.

And there they had lay at the seashore. Year after year, as the millennia wore on. As fishermen toiled above them, children played in the sand over them, lovers strolled along the beach hand in hand. Unaware of the stories under their feet.

Wednesday February 05, 2014 | 10:55 AM

As the Press Herald reported on January 28, the city of Portland is considering a 10-cent fee on disposable shopping bags.

No surprise, the issue is contentious. The plastic bag industry and its supporters have rolled out the usual bromides about “government intrusion,” “education,” and “recycling.”

These arguments are all baseless, in this writer’s opinion.

Education? Who needs to be educated not to toss a plastic bag on the ground? Of those souls who somehow don’t get this, how many will “education” reach?

Sunday February 02, 2014 | 09:42 AM

Britain and Ireland have had an awful winter so far, with storm after storm battering the coast.

All that energy has brought up and beached a ton of plastic debris, including a cornucopia from the Gulf of Maine.

In the past month or so, folks across the Pond that I’m in touch with have found:

Thursday January 30, 2014 | 08:10 AM

With the weather and various responsibilities, it had been a while since I'd been to the beach. This Tuesday I finally had to get out again. 15° or not.

So a brief break from talk of recycling and plastics, just to relish the beauty of the shore in the deepest of winter.

A brilliant sun, whose blinding light cast no warmth.

Thursday January 23, 2014 | 10:12 AM

As I mentioned in my last post, most recycled plastic just ends up getting downcycled at best, dumped/landfilled at worst.


Simple, really: pathogens & contamination.

When you recycle a glass bottle, or aluminum can, or steel, that material is remelted at extreme temperatures. Bacteria and pathogens burn off, and impurities can be skimmed away. Leaving you back with nice new glass, aluminum, or steel.