Pretty Trash
September 1, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that a rubbish dump being created would, in the space of a century, become a protected area. Yet that is exactly what happened to what has come to be known as Glass Beach, just outside Fort Bragg in California."

Tourist information, and a wiki link.

Another glass beach, from the comments (hyperlink added):
There's a beach like that round my place, in Asturias, Nothern Spain. It's called "El Bigaral" o "Playa de Los Cristales". There used to be a glass factory nearby which used the beach as landfill. The pieces of glass were mixed with the sand material, being eroded and polished by the sea. I really find it a big irony of nature, because as you already know, glass is made of silica, in the end, sand.
Sea Glass Journal provides locations for more sea glass hunting.
posted by codacorolla (20 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I don't see how grinding down glass is nature 'correcting our mistakes'. Humans had to come in and remove the cars, appliances and other shit. So really, let's not pretend that nature can just heal whatever shit we do to it. Pretty pics though.
posted by spicynuts at 9:55 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I used to collect drift-glass as a teenager. I would love to be able to collect a few of those pieces. Who am I kidding? A lot of those pieces.
posted by Splunge at 9:57 AM on September 1, 2011

Given enough time nature would have converted those cars and appliances into something beautiful as well.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2011

This brings to mind:
La, la, la, la-la;
Can you see-ee any clearer from a glass shore?
Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm . . .
-- Iain M. Banks, Against a Dark Background.

(And that glass had no better origin than this glass did.)
posted by jiawen at 10:02 AM on September 1, 2011

And now you're actually not allowed to take what used to be garbage and refuse away from the beach. Because officials want to be sure that other, future generations can come look at the former garbage and refuse.

It's like the perfect mathematical inverse one of those Buddhist sand mandalas, except writ extremely large. Leave everything exactly where it is, which is exactly where it shouldn't have been in the first place! Also the only reason we're letting it stay there is that we find the process of gradual natural decomposition to be pretty on it, meaning that if we require it to to be kept here rather than allowing people to take it away (which is what we would have wanted them to do 50 years ago, before it was pretty), it will eventually all be destroyed and nobody will get to see it!
posted by penduluum at 10:02 AM on September 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's another glass beach at Seaham, near Durham, the site of the Londonderry (later United Glass) bottle factory (closed in 1950). The best pieces of multi-coloured glass are hard to find now, but there's still plenty left to collect.
posted by verstegan at 10:11 AM on September 1, 2011

For every glass beach there are three or four full of plastic.
posted by jsavimbi at 10:12 AM on September 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I grew up about 30 miles from Glass Beach, and my family used to go there when I was a kid. It's totally cool (as is the rest of MacKerricher State Park). In the mid-80s, it was still legal to pick up the glass (I think), and we had a couple jars of it at home, which we returned to the Beach eventually.
There are still some engine parts and such left, particularly a large, buried hulk that I think is part of a ship. You can't quite tell from the pictures, but Glass Beach is rather small and boxed in by cliffs--the isolation from larger beaches was one of the reasons it was chosen as a dump in the first place.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 10:13 AM on September 1, 2011

Given enough time nature would have converted those cars and appliances into something beautiful as well.

Beautiful to whom? You know what kind of chemicals leach out of of cars and appliances, particularly those with batteries? Or are you talking in terms of epochs?
posted by spicynuts at 10:19 AM on September 1, 2011

There is a beautiful glass beach down on the coast below Genoa, too. I took some of the beads away, and they've sadly been scattered by time now. Maybe somewhere in Kyrgyzstan.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:29 AM on September 1, 2011

A pile of glass vast, cool, and unsympathetic.
posted by The Tensor at 10:53 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Beautiful, thanks!
posted by carter at 11:56 AM on September 1, 2011

We tried to go there last weekend. The number of people visiting made it impossible.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2011

I didn't know they were protecting the beach now, but I'm glad. Since I first went there ten years ago, the glass has gotten smaller and less plentiful.

Dumping was shitty in the first place, but since it eventually ended up as a beautiful and interesting thing, I'm glad they're going to try to preserve it. Sort of like petroglyphs, which are nothing more than ancient graffiti.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:40 PM on September 1, 2011

Similarly, see the Leslie Street Spit in Toronto; a dump in the lake large enough to become it's own stable land mass and, eventually, park.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:00 PM on September 1, 2011

If they've eroded this much in such a short amount, they should erode down to microscopic before too many generations pass. But Before the glass pebble should become glass sand. That'll be pretty awesome.
posted by BurnChao at 1:56 PM on September 1, 2011

I'm thinking of sending my next vacation at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:33 PM on September 1, 2011

If you fancy some sea glass, here's a more sustainable approach: The beach glass machine.
posted by Harald74 at 1:01 AM on September 2, 2011

We used to go to Glass Beach almost every summer, when we'd camp near Fort Bragg. I have such fond memories of that place - we used to see who could find the biggest piece of green glass, or the most crystal clear piece of glass. I'd always come home with way too many bits of glass, all rubbed smooth by the sea and stuffed into jars and ziplock baggies. Then there was the time my stepsister found an old dried out weird bit of tubing, and she wandered around waving it at us, saying, "Look! It's a three eyed snake!" We all looked and laughed, except for my mom, who suddenly got very serious and said, "Put that down NOW. That's an old enema tube."

My stepsister scrubbed her hands for HOURS when we got back to town, but my brother and I, we just laughed like crazy.
posted by routergirl at 11:57 AM on September 2, 2011

I have been to several of these around the world, the one in Fort Bragg is amazing especially when it rains. There is one in an industrial neighborhood on Kauai that is pretty as well.
posted by bobdow at 1:17 PM on September 8, 2011

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