Glass of the Past

The Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea are filled with stuff. Most of it is refuse from coastal nations and tragically pollute the salt water with nasty chemicals; especially toxic plastics that enter the ecosystem and poison organisms large and small. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a preachy post about the benefits of recycling).

But some of the nonsense floating around out there is actually pretty cool. Like Japanese fishing floats, made of glass and sporting hues of blue, green, yellow, and orange.

Walking along the beaches of Port Heiden, there are several spots that seem to attract sea glass. Typically, shards or scraps of floats is all you’ll find. But on rare occasion, intact glass balls will float to shore and winds roll them up into the dunes.

Finding one is a rare treat.

They’re all different. Some have more wear-and-tear, with nicked or stained surfaces. Others bear maker’s marks, the oldest sport traditional Japanese kanji script (a sort of early trademark used by glassblowers and other artisans to mark their work).

No longer used by fishermen, the ones that remain at sea are relics of times gone by. Though replicas are still made in droves by modern glassblowers, they lack the character of seafaring floats.

I’ve been lucky enough to find and bestow some of these to friends and family in the Lower 48 (Alaska lingo for the “mainland”).

Each beach trek has been a wild adventure with many treasures discovered, but I like these glass balls best.

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