When John Weldon headed out to the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington state for his daily rounds as a volunteer for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, little did he know what the waves would bring in that spring day. His work routinely involves reporting stranded or washed-in animals, but walking the beach almost every day got him quickly hooked on beachcombing.
Getting an early start on his bike, with a milk crate attached on back to collect his finds, John made his way on the four-mile stretch from Ocean Park to Leadbetter Lighthouse. He noticed lots of debris covered with gooseneck barnacles, a sign that the items had traveled a long way before landing on his beach. John found Japanese bottles, small plastic floats, and more trash, which he stowed in his crate. He came across a few washed-in animals, as well, including an elephant seal covered in gooseneck barnacles.
And it wasn’t long before John came across what he had really hoped to find, a round glass Japanese fishing float with a visible Japanese maker’s mark on it. After a quick celebration of this baseball-sized find, John continued north along the peninsula, when he noticed a flash of green tumbling in the waves. He jumped off his bike and grabbed a seven-inch “shark roller,” a long, thin Tohoku fishing float with a bulge in the center and rounded knobs on the end. These floats were used with gillnets to fish for sharks, and are rarely found in Washington, so John was thrilled with his find. Finding a round float and a roller float on the same day exceeded his beachcombing expectations.
Back on his bike, John continued towards Leadbetter Lighthouse, noticing more Japanese debris washing in on the beach. He packed the trash in his crate and then turned around at the lighthouse, before reaching the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, where the mating season of the snowy plover was currently underway.
And, as soon as he turned around, John found another small glass float with netting still attached. He stashed it with his other two floats and then called it a day.
Just when he was picking up speed to head back where he started, he noticed another odd shape in the sand, and when he stopped to check it out, he realized it was another Japanese glass roller float. This one was a Hokkaido roller with parallel sides and flatter knobs at the ends.
In the space of just a few hours, John had collected specimens representing a range of Japanese fishing floats. He had a larger round float with an identifiable maker’s mark, a small round float with netting still attached, a Tohoku roller, and a Hokkaido roller. Not bad for a day’s work!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2020 issue.