A Sandy Beach Almanac

You've landed at Sandy Beach, NSW, Australia: Lat. -30.15331, Long. 153.19960, UT +10:00 – local map & zoom Google map. I live in a cabin on this beach, 25 kilometres north of the traffic and shops of Coffs Harbour, 600 km north of Sydney. My intention is to post observations of Nature and life within 1 km (1,000 paces) of my South Pacific home.


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Monday, February 21, 2005

Sandysiders, is this what we want?

I'm told that these days, on beaches on the world's remotest islands, you can find Bic cigarette lighters, probably tossed overboard by people on fishing boats and cruise ships. And hundreds or even thousands of miles from remote islands, you can find all sorts of creatures, from turtles and dolphins to pelicans and albatrosses, dying because they have eaten, or been caught in, plastic bags, drift nets and long lines from the fishing industry.

Neither is Sandy Beach immune from the folly of our species, as this picture shows.

In Summer's last hurrah, with the tourist season well past, I was feeling great and free as I mounted a dune beneath a bright blue sky and hot sun, pondering how so many pebbles and shells came to be at such a height above the high-tide mark. At the top of the dune, as I headed south, out the corner of my eye and on the edge of the dune and the frontal dune forest, I saw a tawny glimmer from the south that somehow I thought might be a female koel, a beautiful migratory cuckoo that we discussed here before.

Trying to make myself as small as I could, I slowly and quietly stalked the wild koel. But as I got closer, I saw that it was something else. A plastic wrapper from a six-pack of Castlemaine XXXX.

Uttering an immoderate imprecation (because Four X tastes like cat piss), I stuffed it in the pocket of my stubbies, and headed south again along the dune's ridge. Several paces in that direction, another glint caught my eye and I found that it was a shard of brown glass forming a small pinnacle in the smooth, windswept sand.

Like friends of mine, I usually take a plastic bag with me for picking up pieces of litter (one for me, one for Mother Nature, and a few for the idiots), but today I'd forgotten. So I was lucky that a considerate beach user had provided one for me. I scooped out the nasty shard, which could have caused very serious injury to me or any adult or child walking barefoot on the beach, and placed it in the beer wrapper. Very gingerly, I ran my fingers through the fine, parched, white sand, until I found another, and another. After ten minutes I had more than 100 shards in my bag.

Tonight at 7.30 I'll be attending the public meeting about the Coffs Harbour City Council's intention to have 1,400 extra people living here. That's a lot of people, plus their relatives and friends visiting for holidays, a lot of people wanting to break the law and drive on the beach, and a lot of beer bottles. Let's face it, those consequences will be inevitable. It will be another case of thousands of people coming to be a part of the things that population growth will eradicate.

Such things, I hope, will be on the mind of Sandysiders over the next weeks and months, including those who hope to make a great deal of money when the place "opens up". There are big things at stake. Over the next few hours I'll be reading more fully the council plans, and looking forward to the meeting.


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