Danger on the Beach
When most of us head out to the beach, the worst thing we might risk is sunburn, getting our feet wet, or coming home with beach hair. The following stories show what can happen when you come across extraordinary beach finds, wild animal beachcombers, and rogue waves.
By Sharon Boon
On a crisp bright November day,the first thing we saw on hitting the beach was a large “Danger Area” sign that had been washed up. Little did we know how pertinent that would turn out to be! The recent rough seas and high tides had uncovered lots of metal from the old “dump site” and the beach was littered with metal everywhere.
As we searched amongst it for fossils and bits for my art, a lady stopped and asked what we were looking for and why was there so much metal on the beach. After a brief explanation my husband added that last year a hand grenade had been found on this stretch of beach. A little surprised, she continued on her walk.
Literally ten minutes later my husband called me over in a very excited way. What was this amazing discovery he had made, clearly a great find? Only a hand grenade! It seems he had talked that one up! We snapped a quick photo and made a hasty retreat, telephoned the Police and Coastguard and gave them a description of the object and our location. Thank heavens for technology; the what3words app and coordinates from a “pin” on Google Maps confirmed our location and we sent the photo to the relevant authorities.
We stood guard for some considerable time, warning people on the beach ensuring no one got too close until the Police then Coastguard arrived. The object was quickly assessed from our photo and a quick visual inspection. Then the beach was closed while we awaited the bomb disposal unit, as there was no way of telling if it was safe to do anything other than a controlled explosion.
The ensuing loud “bang” surprised all in attendance as the grenade was most definitely “live” and had gone off with a much bigger bang than had been anticipated. We were thankful that no one was injured and for the authorities who swiftly dealt with the grenade, and also for my husband who recognized what he saw. The beach is normally a destination for families and fossil hunters. Luckily the beach was quiet, as it was a weekday during COVID lockdown, but the outcome could have been so very different and does not bear thinking about.
It’s not the first time that ordnance has been found on the beach, and I suspect it’s probably not the last. It definitely wasn’t a “bucket list” find, but it made for an unforgettable birthday.
Grin and bear it
By Lydia Justice Kimball
On a sunny day this past summer, my mom, two friends, and I loaded up to go to a popular sea glassing beach here in Kodiak, Alaska. It is on a Coast Guard base with limited access, and I like to share the beach with friends that I bring on as guests.
On this particular day, there were about seven people scoping the beach for their finds, mainly looking downward towards the sand. A man from the parking lot kindly came down to the beach and warned each sea glasser that a bear was on the end of the beach. The bear had exited the base plane runway that runs perpendicular to the beach and playfully charged down the beach headed towards all of us. He was massive! Without hesitation, we all quickly exited the beach. I say quickly...one never runs from a bear so we took brisk and large steps and got off fast. In retrospect, he was probably not trying to hurt us, but it could have been bad had he gotten to us before we escaped. And if we had not left the beach, we would have been in his direct line of view. One never knows what a bear will do, but bears generally want to avoid humans. In the end, he went to the opposite far end of the beach and disappeared into the woods. (Probably looking for lunch).
Making plenty of noise is a good bear deterrent. So I like it when there are at least several people on that beach...even playful noisy children help the most. There are bear bells that help to warn bears you are coming, or bear spray that can be used if you are in a dangerous encounter.
Thankfully it all turned out well, and we had an adventure I’ll never forget.
By Lori Christofferson
I was at Davenport Beach, north of Santa Cruz, California, on a Saturday in January 2021. When I got there, there was a lot of gravel visible, which meant the waves had washed away the sand that often covers the beach, hiding the sea glass. The tide was on its way in and was taking a lot of the gravel away.
I knew this was going to be the day I found some amazing pieces. Davenport Beach lies downstream from an art glass studio and the beach is filled with sea glass from multicolored glass scraps discarded into the water over 50 years ago. Hunting here is difficult, and beachcombers must be strong swimmers, wear wetsuits, and watch out for the dangerous surf here.
There were deep piles along the cliff, so I got my scoop. I was sure there was a good piece in there! I checked the water and it was all clear. I ran and got a good scoop of gravel. As soon as I started to get away from the cliff, the wave water came and was waist high. As I started to run, I felt my right foot bend inward at the ankle and I heard/felt a snap. The water right then went over me, and I did a few tumbles and had to let go of my sifter.
When I was done tumbling, I sat there and my friends rushed to me. They asked if I could walk, but as I couldn’t, they carried me to the dry sand and called 911. Paramedics arrived, checked my ankle, and asked me to try to get myself up off the beach and onto the first part of the sandstone cliff. Then the back board came out. Three paramedics and three strong guy friends carried me up the long cliff to the parking lot. An ambulance took me to a local hospital and confirmed that I had broken my ankle.
Worth the danger?
With dangers like these and more, many beachcombers have asked themselves, is it worth it? And, again and again, the answer comes back as yes. The enjoyment, exercise, and beautiful finds keep us coming back. It’s just important to be aware of the dangers and plan accordingly. Know the beach and any possible hazards, let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back, be aware of your surroundings, and never turn your back on the waves. And, if things seem like they’re too much for you to handle, be ready to call it a day, and make plans to come back when things are safer.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2021 issue.