Bandon has one of the more unique galleries I have visited in our recent travels – “Washed Ashore, Art to Save the Sea.” Of all things, this organization takes trash that has been removed from Oregon’s beaches and creates artistic sculptures from the waste. Their purpose is to educate the public about plastic pollution in oceans and waterways and encourage positive changes in the use of every day items. Each piece of art is designed and directed by a professional artist and then formed through the united effort of Washed Ashore team members, volunteers and students.
When I visited Washed Ashore there were about 10 sculptures inside the gallery, two located outside and one on the bluffs above Bandon’s Beach. I was told by the staff that they have more pieces than usual as often they are on traveling exhibitions. For example, some of the pieces were recently at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.
All of the pieces I saw were of marine animals, including the whale rib cage (above) which was located near the entrance. Signs at each piece include information about environmental hazards for the particular animal. The organization notes that 80% of marine debris comes from “land based sources – from streets to streams to rivers to oceans.” On the whale rib cage sign there was a list of items found in the stomach of a dead gray whale on the Washington Coast which included plastic bags, towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, duct tape, fishing line, and a golf ball. Each sign also has a “Can you find” section on the trash that was used in that piece. In the whale sculpture it was bucket lids, bleach bottles, buoys, soap bottles and bait traps.
The musical sea star was a fun sculpture because it was made from glass bottles and taking the mallets provided you could gently hit the bottles to create a tune. This sculpture has plastic bottles lining the arms with many from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Steve the Weedy Sea Dragon sculpture requests reducing plastic use to keep more plastic out of the ocean and provide a cleaner environment for sea creatures. Marine animals can mistake plastic for food. Suggestion was to carry a reusable water bottle and reusable bags.
The manager gave me a little tour of the work shop where volunteers sat at tables working on projects for upcoming sculptures. The blue plastic pieces in photo above are being strung on wire to create a sea bed for a fish. When I asked what the cut up blue pieces were from, he went to a back storage room and came out with a laundry basket. Yes, it was easy to see that a lot of plastic pieces can be cut from a laundry basket. Anyone is welcome to sit at a table and do some “crafting” even if they are just a visitor and not part of the Washed Ashore team.
“Bella the Angelfish on a Reef” symbolizes the danger imposed on coral reefs and their inhabitants due to human impact including plastic pollution. Trash used on this sculpture includes toy shovels, toothbrushes, fly swatters, water bottles, bottle caps, buoys and shotgun shell wads. This trash as well as trash from other sculptures was gathered on beaches by volunteers.
Posters on gallery walls show pictures and provide information on the plastic problem. Here is some information noted on one of them: Almost all the rope used by fishermen is made of plastic; broken plastic pieces are the most common debris found; cigarette lighters wash in from all over the world; white is the most common color of plastic found; red, yellow, tan and orange plastics imitate the colors of food for many animals.
The organization is dedicated to the cause of educating the public while at the same time finding a positive use for trash by turning it into art. It sure made an impression on me. I am giving more thought to my use of plastic throwaway containers like bottles and grocery bags.
Bandon calls itself the “Cranberry Capital” and during our stay I was really hoping to see a cranberry bog, something I had never seen but only read about. Bandon supposedly has the sandy soil and coastal climate that is ideal for growing the berries and Ocean Spray has a plant in Bandon. We were coming at harvest time and during one drive I saw a bright red bog with workers in action.
Later, I did some research and read that the night before harvest the bogs are flooded with up to 18 inches of water. A piece of equipment called a reel, nicknamed “egg beater” is used to loosen the berries from the vine. The ripe berries are then able to float and rise to the surface where they can be gathered. While I watched I saw two men raking the berries and moving them to a conveyor belt so they could be lifted onto a truck.
I also watched a worker use something called a “boom” to round up or corral the floating berries. I couldn’t help but think it would be fun to wade in a pond full of cranberries. As I drove back to our trailer after watching the cranberry harvest I reflected on how fun it is to be able to travel the country and see different things being harvested. We were staying in Louisiana during the sugarcane harvest and when we were in Maine last summer it was time for harvesting wild blueberries. This past July we were in Michigan just in time for the cherries.
Cranberries that are wet harvested are processed for juice and sauce. Fresh berries that are sold in stores are dry harvested. A local grocery store in Bandon had fresh cranberries in bulk. Because the growing season is longer in Oregon than cranberry producing states back east, the berries here are darker red in color. I bought some and using apples I got at the local farmer’s market made cranberry applesauce.
Old Town Bandon has a marina and one day when I was there for the farmer’s market I came upon crabbing action on the pier. Crabbing is a popular sport or pastime on the Oregon Coast and people stood along the pier waiting to pull up their traps and see what they caught. I thought it was interesting that chicken legs were used as bait because sea lions won’t eat the chicken. One lady I talked to was there with her husband and two young daughters. When they finished crabbing they were headed to the woods to do some wild mushroom gathering. They weren’t having much success catching any crabs that day. I watched one man haul up his trap but the crabs were too small to keep.
When I got back from my outing I told Mark that it would be a neat experience to get a crabbing license, rent some traps and try our luck on the pier. He looked dubious about this and after we talked about it for awhile I realized that it would be a lot of trouble getting the equipment, baiting the traps, hauling and throwing them in and out and then dealing with those squirming crabs. I think the squirming crabs is what settled it for me. But it was fun to think about and fascinating to watch others doing it.
I hope you enjoyed a look at exploring in Bandon. More to come on our Oregon Coast trip!