Treasure Hunting

One of my fellow bridgetenders, whom I met in my Drawbridge Lovers Facebook group, recently asked me if I had ever heard of magnet fishing. I had not. He suggested that I do a search for it on Youtube, so I did. And it opened up a whole new world for me.

What made him think of suggesting it, I believe, was a recent blog post that I wrote about never really knowing what’s beneath the surface of the water, and how easy it is to start believing there’s nothing there. In fact, there’s a whole world down there, just out of sight. It’s both exciting and a little scary to contemplate.

Magnet fishermen know this all too well. They attach a rope to a very strong magnet that’s about an inch thick and the size of your hand, and they toss it in rivers and canals to see what metallic detritus they can find. They’re modern day treasure hunters.

From the looks of the oddly compelling Youtube videos I’ve seen so far, mostly what they come up with is a whole lot of nothing. Cans. Broken fish hooks. Jagged chunks of metal. Lots and lots of garbage. (We humans have been treating our waterways like waste dumps for centuries.)

And yet I can’t seem to look away, because you just never know, do you? They might pull up some valuable historic artifact. Or a submerged safe. Or a murder weapon. Who knows?

They like to look around bridges and docks and places where factories once stood. They assume that with all the human activity, more stuff will have been dropped or disposed of. That makes sense. And it makes enough sense to keep them coming back.

If I were a magnet fisherman, I’d be checking out the ship canal here in Seattle. There used to be so many houseboats floating in Lake Union that you could barely see the water, I’m told. And there are several sunken ships down there. I’d also go to London and check out the Thames. Or the canals in Holland. Centuries of history there. I bet it would be fascinating.

I think this obsession with finding something amazing, in spite of the fact that we keep coming up with practically nothing, is a very strong human trait. Who among us doesn’t wish to change our stars? It’s why we buy lottery tickets.

I’m absolutely obsessed with the series The Curse of Oak Island, which is on the History Channel, and also available on Hulu, for that very same reason. Why do I sit there, episode after episode, season after season, when all they usually come up with is just more dirt? Because once in a blue moon, they find a button. Or a three hundred year old coin. That’s all I need to keep tuning in.

But the thing that makes magnet fishing even more appealing than digging holes in Oak Island is that while these guys are tossing their magnets in there, even if they come up with nothing of note, they’re helping to clean up the waterways. So even on a bad day, their activities are a plus for us all.

Hmm… Maybe I should buy myself a magnet…

(Thanks, David M, for the inspiration for this post!)

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How We Can Stop Drowning in Plastic

One of the things I love most about this blog is reader feedback. I enjoy reading the comments on the blog itself, and also on my Facebook Group Page. Often I learn quite a bit, and I do my best to respond to everyone.

In my recent post about Ghost Fishing, James suggested I watch a documentary entitled Drowning in Plastic. I was very excited to see that it was available for free on Youtube.

Even so, I have to admit that I was hesitant to watch this documentary. It was fairly obvious to me that it wasn’t going to be upbeat or lighthearted. We have a huge problem with plastic waste on this planet, and this film was going to shine a big old ugly light on it. Did I really want to bear witness to something that I feel so helpless to combat?

But in the end, watch it I did. And yes, it was heartbreaking. And sobering. And scary. But it was also really fascinating to see all the innovative ideas people are coming up with to combat this problem. I can’t possibly do those ideas justice. I suggest you watch the documentary for more details.

But I can share with you some of the many scary facts that I learned while watching.

  • Every minute, around the globe, we buy a million plastic bottles, a million disposable cups, and two million plastic bags. Every minute.

  • Every minute, an entire truckload of plastic ends up in the ocean. Over a year, this adds up to 8 million tons.

  • The vast majority of the plastic that has ever found its way to the ocean is still there.

  • By the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is currently 3 times the size of France, and it’s not the only garbage patch on the planet. It’s just the most infamous one.

  • By 2050, annual production of plastic will have increased by 500 percent.

  • Every time you wash synthetic clothing, more than 700,000 microplastic fibers are released into the environment, and these fibers have been found throughout the food chain, from plankton to walruses in the most remote parts of the arctic. (And if that doesn’t get your attention, this article states that “the average adult consumes 2,000 pieces of microplastic every year from salt alone.”)

But there really are some simple things you can do to reduce your plastic usage:

  • Use a reusable water bottle.

  • Use reusable grocery bags.

  • Use a reusable coffee cup.

  • Stop using straws entirely.

  • Provide your own container and cutlery for takeout food.

  • Pack your own lunch.

  • Choose ice cream cones instead of cups. (No cup waste, no spoon.)

  • Avoid buying synthetic clothing.

  • Don’t buy plastic toys for your pets.

  • Use bar soap and bar shampoo rather than liquid soap and shampoo from plastic containers.

  • Refill printer cartridges.

  • Get a water filter and drink from the tap instead of buying bottled water.

  • Don’t chew gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, which is a plastic.

  • Encourage manufacturers to reduce plastic packaging for their products.

  • Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.

  • Buy detergent and soaps that come in cardboard boxes rather than plastic.

  • Use matches instead of a plastic disposable lighter. Better yet, don’t smoke at all, as cigarette butts contain plastic.

  • Buy food from bulk bins, using reusable bags, to avoid packaging.

  • Participate in river and shoreline cleanup efforts.

  • Recycle.

  • Shop locally to reduce plastic packaging.

  • Talk to your friends and family about our plastic problem.

Together we can make a difference. We can, and we must.

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Secret Revealed: Everyone in the US Owns Land!

Real Estate is without a doubt the best investment one can make. People fight wars over land. The song “This Land is Your Land” makes all of us proud. And it should. Just by virtue of being a US citizen, each and every one of us owns 84 million acres of land. Yup. That’s million with an M. We’re rich! Most people don’t even realize that.

And check this out: you don’t even have to mow a single blade of grass on all this land that you own. You don’t have to pull a single weed. The National Park Service takes care of all the upkeep for you. All you have to do is go and admire and respect it.

Long before any other country on the planet set aside land for its citizens, our national parks system was created. As a matter of fact, the 100th anniversary of the system will be rolling around pretty soon. According to their website, the National Park Service was created by an act signed by President Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916, and our first park, Yellowstone, was established by an act signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. So this land was your land before you were even born!

Even more exciting is that this land is broken up into 408 different pieces and is scattered throughout the 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Chances are, you can visit some of your land without venturing very far from the place where you live. How cool is that?

And no two places are alike. The website also mentions that they include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. That’s a pretty impressive portfolio you have there, American! Don’t take it for granted!

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of spending 5 days in Yellowstone National Park, and it was magical. I’ll be writing several blog entries about it, but for now I will share pictures I took of some of your land, just for you. I wish they did it justice.

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